Voting for the nominations for the 72nd Emmys officially ended on Monday and now for hundreds of potential nominees the wait beings. And as the initial phase of the first major awards season of the pandemic comes to a merciful end, we’ve learned that celebrating the best in television can be a nice distraction from the madness going on in the rest of the world. Oh, and for an FYC campaign digital ads, podcast spots and outdoor still matter whether voters are at home, on their phone or driving wherever they may be driving. Print magazine trade ads? Well, not so much.
There are many givens, however. Numerous shows, actors, directors and writers that are more than likely to earn a nomination (Hello, “Schitt’s Creek,” “Ozark,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Better Call Saul,” “Dead to Me,” “The Last Dance,” and “Queer Eye”). And yet, because of the stay-at-home orders and so many members not actively working, there is a sense of uneasiness all around. The 20,000+ members of the Television Academy could end up leaning more “populist” or even more “prestigious” than trends over the past decade would indicate. And that brings us to our first big question:
Who are the stay at home surprises?
The world has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic and while some parts of the country have opened up more than others, for the most part, Television Academy members have had a ton of time on their hands (yes, writers, we know, no rest for the wear). In previous years many members may have only watched clips for nominees or judged on programs they’ve seen. And that was often taking into consideration busy work schedules and the explosion of Peak TV over the past decade. What shows will benefit from all that extra time on members’ hands to actually watch as much as they can? Streaming was up, but it won’t just benefit Netflix. It was up across the board (more on that in a minute). And, in all seriousness, don’t forget the network shows. Their ratings were up to. (O.K., maybe a populist network resurgence is even a stretch in a COVID stay at home environment). But there are bound to be more surprises that networks, their consultants, the media or even the Television Academy could have foreseen before COVID-19 shut most of LA and NY down in mid-March.
What show (or shows) didn’t make the Competition Series cut?
One of the unexpected drawbacks of new rules released in June regarding nominees per category was that after nine years of the Competition Series category having six nominees, it will now only have five. That made an already tight race even more stressful for potential contenders. We assume last year’s winner, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and longtime category favorite “The Voice” are safe. And the fact “The Amazing Race” is ineligible for the first time in the category’s existence (it was first awarded in 2003) doesn’t mean 2019’s remaining five nominees will repeat. CBS’ “Survivor” is on a comeback trail, Amazon’s “Making the Cut” featured Emmy-favorites Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, “Project Runway” sort of figured it out in its second season back on Bravo, HBO Max spent buckets on “Legendary” during voting as did FOX for “The Masked Singer.” Netflix’s “Nailed It!” was a surprise nominee last year, but clearly wasn’t a priority for the streamer this Emmy season. Could that open up a door for a new entry?
What shows didn’t make the Limited Series cut?
More snubs and surprises entries will come from this category’s nominees than any other. Truly, the only genuine lock for a nomination is probably Netflix’s “Unbelievable” (Did you see our caveat there?). HBO’s “Watchmen” should get in, but the remaining three nods? If we could ever include a hands in the air emoji in a story now would the time. Some things to note though. Hulu made a major push in paid media and publicity beaks for “Little Fire Everywhere.” It’s a huge, huge priority for the streamer (more for internal Disney-ABC relations than making stars Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington happy, although that doesn’t hurt either). Their other limited series contender, “Normal People,” has been mentioned by more voters in interviews over the pandemic than any other series this year. Ryan Murphy’s “Hollywood” had some momentum going for it a few months ago, but that’s quieted a bit. According to third party tracking services, “Defending Jacob” was the biggest hit in Apple TV+’s, admittedly, short existence before it debuted “Greyhound” over the past weekend. FX on Hulu’s “Mrs. America” has anecdotally benefited from members catching up with it on the streaming service compared to is weekly release schedule. And critic favorites such as Netflix’s “Unorthodox” and HBO’s “The Plot Against America” still have a slim shot to crash the party. In other words, nervous times for some very deserving content creators.
Will Apple TV+, Hulu, and Disney+ cut into Netflix and HBO’s dominance?
Yes, more people watched Netflix during the height of the stay at home orders. But, they also watched a ton more of Hulu, Disney+, Amazon, and Apple TV+ than they had previously as well. Netflix and HBO have ruled the overall Emmy nominations race for the past few years with the latter topping all networks for 19 out of the last 18 years (talk about dominance). And while FX, Hulu, and AMC have provided some competition during that span, this is something completely new. Apple TV+ has players in “The Morning Show,” “Dickinson” and “Defending Jacob,” among others. At worst, “The Mandalorian” will give Disney+ a swath of Creative Arts Emmy nods and reality doc shows such as “Encore!” and “The World According to Jeff Goldblum” will make their mark. Hulu should have its biggest year ever with “Ramy,” “Little Fires Everywhere,” “The Great,” “The Handmaids Tale,” “Normal People” and “Hillary.” Amazon? Well, outside of “Maisel” maybe not this year (that “Fleabag” glow can last a good two years). We’re not suggesting HBO or Netflix won’t lead the pack, but they have some major players nipping at their heels.
What former nominees are looking at a potential Emmy fall from grace?
The Emmys are a cyclical endeavor. For a few years, you’re in, and then just as quickly, you’re out. ABC’s “Black-ish,” for example, looks like it’s potentially on a downward swing. BBC America’s “Killing Eve” looks like it will drop from the Drama Series category this time around after finally cracking it last year. NBC’s “This Is Us” feels like it’s on the precipice of a significantly less noteworthy nomination haul. And despite an eye-brow raising Peabody win for its third season, we’re still not convinced “Stranger Things” is a genuine player. And will “Westworld” really repeat the love it earned for its first two seasons this time around? After that season?
Oh yeah, how is a ceremony even going to happen?
The Emmy Awards are scheduled for September 20. If you were to ask ABC and the Television Academy about where it might be held when they announced Jimmy Kimmel as host and co-producer on June 16 they might have been somewhat optimistic in their reply. At the time, COVID cases in California had semi-cratered and there was hope shows and films would resume production in July. A month later, that’s not the case. Confirmed infections have skyrocketed to levels higher than the beginning of the pandemic. So, while Jimmy Fallon returns to his soundstage in NYC and MTV plans a Video Music Awards from the Barclays Center (granted, likely with no audience), life on the Left Coast isn’t as idyllic. The BET Awards had its host, Amanda Seales, on a green-screened set that gave the show “some” scope. Will the event happen at all? Will nominations be pre-recorded? Will they all meet in a parking lot outside of Staples Center for social distancing? Will nominated talent even be willing to show up even if it’s a massively spaced out event? Ponder.
The 2020 Emmy Award nominations will be announced Tuesday, July 28 at 8:30 AM PT, 11:30 AM ET.* The 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards will be handed out in some manner on Sunday, Sept. 20 at 5 PM PT, 8 PM ET on ABC.
*Or so we’ve been told. Fingers crossed for those of us on the West Coast.
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