Emmys: 5 Pressing Questions With Voting Underway

The Leftovers series finale
Courtesy of HBO

Ballots make their way to the 21,000-plus voting members of the TV Academy on Monday. Two weeks of voting will follow, with the nominations for the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards set to be revealed on July 13. Here are a few pressing questions as another “for your consideration” season enters the home stretch.

Something has to give with all these sterling debut series, right?
It’s unsurprising that in an era of peak TV, the list of Emmy submissions has reached record levels this year. More than 9,000, in fact, according to newly elected TV Academy chairman and CEO Hayma Washington. As a result, voters will be inundated with more content than ever before. How and where will they embrace the slew of new programs, though? For example, you could easily whip up a best drama series category full of debuts. Conversely, how great will the instinct be to cling to standbys in the face of this glut? There was a lot of noise in the run-up to voting this year. As shows like “Atlanta,” “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Insecure,” “Stranger Things,” “This Is Us,” and “Westworld” jockey for position, something will have to give. What makes things all the more interesting is the fact that there are a number of ongoing programs, from “Billions” to “Catastrophe” to “The Leftovers,” looking to finally squeeze in for the first time as well.

Will the “Leftovers” love fest translate from critics to voters?
Speaking of “The Leftovers,” HBO’s recently-wrapped series is riding high on a wave of critical adulation this month. With “Game of Thrones” off the ballot, and with “Westworld” more of a question mark than a sure thing across the various categories, the cable network’s drama prospects are somewhat up in the air. (“Silicon Valley” and “Veep” will no doubt carry on as strong as ever in comedy.) Can that adoration for Tom Perrotta and Damon Lindelof’s vision translate to Emmy ballots, though? Were voters as enamored as the critics? Everyone got their moment as the third and final season brought this unique story to a close, so there is cause for recognizing Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Justin Theroux, and especially Carrie Coon. Perhaps it can even pull off a series nomination — one last slice of vindication for Lindelof.

How will the ongoing diversity debate be represented?
Members of the TV Academy have not been nearly as under fire as their film counterparts in the diversity department. Part of that is, with seemingly endless categories, it’s much easier to be inclusive. But there has also been remarkable consistency, with individuals like Viola Davis (“How to Get Away With Murder”), Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”), Andre Braugher (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Uzo Aduba (“Orange Is the New Black”), and Regina King (“American Crime”) popping up frequently in the nominations. Add to that new contenders like Sterling K. Brown and Ron Cephas Jones from “This Is Us,” Giancarlo Esposito from “Better Call Saul,” Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright from “Westworld,” and Riz Ahmed from “The Night Of,” not to mention shows like “Atlanta,” “Black-ish,” “Dear White People,” “Insecure,” and “Queen Sugar,” which specifically detail the African-American experience (ditto key episodes of “Master of None”) — there is yet another massive well to draw from. Also of note is “Billions” star Asia Kate Dillon, who identifies as gender non-binary and opted to submit for consideration in the supporting actor category after a dialogue with the TV Academy. The table is set for a landmark lineup of inclusion.

What will voters make of two new categories: music supervision and reality casting?
According to Washington, there were 100 submissions for this year’s newly installed music supervision category and 50 for the new reality casting field. So the hunger for these two separate arenas of recognition was not overstated. It will be interesting to see how they play out. The music supervisors of shows like “Stranger Things,” “The Get Down,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Atlanta,” etc., seem ripe for recognition. As for reality casting, the eventual list of nominees ought to say a lot about the personalities of these various shows, ultimately. Reality stars “have to be genuine and not just doing it for TV,” casting director Scott Salyers recently told Variety. “They have to be who they are, whether the camera is on them or not.” Who will get a tip of the hat for giving us the new Omarosa?

Will broadcast break through?
Save for “Black-ish” (finally nominated last year), “Modern Family” and “The Big Bang Theory” (all notably comedies), broadcast networks continue to struggle in the face of cable and streaming outfits that can simply afford more opportunity for creatives. Save for PBS’ “Downton Abbey,” the last broadcast drama nominated was “The Good Wife” in 2011. This year, the only contender with any fire is NBC’s “This Is Us.” In comedy, the “Big Bang” fever has finally broken and “Modern Family” may well be finished with its Emmy run as well (we’ll see). But shows like “American Housewife,” “The Good Place,” and “Superstore” don’t exactly appear to be on deck for that kind of recognition. Will broadcast programming surge with voters again?

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  1. Karen W. says:

    Depressing to see no mention of Freddie Highmore or Vera Farmiga in Bates Motel.

  2. Len says:

    The article did not mention Underground which is a truly groundbreaking show. It should be nominated in all categories. Aisha Hinds (Harriet Tubman) and Amirah Vann (Stine) deserve special recognition. The Minty and Ache episodes were especially outstanding. TheLeftovers gets a decent series finale, but Underground doesn’t. Dropped from the lineup in the middle of cliffhanger storylines.

  3. Cath says:

    Too many good choices to narrow it down to 5 or even 10 and then have to pick just 1 is absurd.

  4. Marie Claire says:

    What about the Vikings?

  5. EmmyFan says:

    And don’t forget the recently-cancelled “Underground.” The acting, the writing, and the fantastic music of this slavery era drama, produced by John Legend, certainly deserves recognition — especially the tour de force performance of Aisha Hinds as legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman in the “Minty” episode. It was a phenomenal performance that included a 45-page hour-long monologue that simply mesmerized. She at least deserves a nomination, if not the win as Best Guest Star Performance.

    In addition, “Queen Sugar” had better be nominated in all drama categories. Acting. Writing. Direction. All perfection, with a special shout-out to Bianca Lawson’s performance in the “Where With All” episode. Tina Lifford, Greg Vaughn, and Rutina Wesley should also get a nod for their work.

  6. BD says:

    Giancarlo Esposito is not really a new contender since he was already nominated in the same category with this same role for Breaking Bad. And saying Blackish was “finally nominated is a stretch considering it was only its second season.

    Give reality casting to Survivor already. The show has deserved that award for so long! If not, then RuPaul s Drag Race

    • George Lewis says:

      Rupaul: yuck no. Survivor may be fun/comical to watch at times, but casting includes real terrible in your face yuck yuck yuck. Obviously, our views are very opposed/different. Unfortunately your views more likely prevail in ‘Hollywierd’.

      • A says:

        RuPaul’s Drag Race and Survivor are big mainstream ratings hits, so obviously a lot of people like them outside of “Hollyweird”

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