×

Emmys 2017: Laying Odds on ‘The Crown,’ ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ ‘This Is Us’ in Drama Race

The biggest drama on Emmy night will undoubtedly come from the drama race: Without the two-time returning champion in contention (“Game of Thrones” is ineligible because of its mid-July debut), it’s a fiercely competitive category, perhaps the most unpredictable of the night. Five freshman series — from across genres and platforms (finally, a broadcast nominee) — are vying against two seasoned programs (“Better Call Saul” and “House of Cards”). Emmy likes to anoint the new prestige show — and this time out, it’s spoiled for choice.

The Odds
The only safe prediction is that the winner will come from among the new series. The question is which? HBO’s “Westworld” claimed the most nominations of any scripted series (with 22) but voters may be befuddled by its plot twists. Netflix’s “Stranger Things” was the surprise hit for the streamer, and rode that wave to awards glory at the SAG Awards and PGAs. But then came Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which offers a timely political message wrapped in pristine production values. Similarly Netflix’s “The Crown” painstakingly recreates the rise of young Queen Elizabeth II, with the British imprimatur that makes voters swoon (“Downton Abbey,” anyone?). And then there’s NBC’s family drama “This Is Us” — as the lone broadcast nominee, it’s the one series they’re most likely to have watched.

The Case for “The Crown
Netflix spent millions on this period piece — and it shows. The production sparkles with the meticulous attention to detail at every level — from the exquisite costumes to the sumptuous locations to the peerless performances, not just from its leading lady Claire Foy as the conflicted queen, but notably John Lithgow as Winston Churchill (all but guaranteed a trophy of his own). And yet it offered twists of its own: Consider the coronation episode, which brilliantly wove the ceremony with all its requisite pomp and circumstance with the Duke of Windsor’s viewing party, mourning for what might have been.

The Case for “The Handmaid’s Tale”
From the very first scene, “The Handmaid’s Tale” made it clear that this wasn’t just a by-the-numbers retelling of a dusty 30-year-old novel. Finding relevance to our current times in Margaret Atwood’s prescient themes, showrunner Bruce Miller and his creative team — notably cinematographer-turned-director Reed Morano — established a haunting world with a potent visual palette where every moment was infused with meaning. The color-coded costumes, the bleak production design, and Elisabeth Moss’ chilling voiceovers all combined to create a nightmarish world of Gilead, but one from which we couldn’t look away.

The Case for “This Is Us
If there’s been one theme to the Emmys in recent years, it’s been the lack of contenders from the Big Four. Enter “This Is Us,” a soapy yet soulful family drama — reinventing the TV staple with its plot twists and time jumps. Recognizing Dan Fogelman’s series is a chance for voters to celebrate quality broadcast programming that struck a chord with millions of viewers. Yet along the drama’s famous emotionally charged path (all those weepy memes!) were some stellar side trips, like the “Memphis” episode, which served as tribute to a core character as well as a city. It’s hard not fall for “This Is Us’” charms. NBC’s feel-good family drama could well play spoiler given its record-breaking popularity.

The Competition

“Better Call Saul” (AMC): The third season of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s “Breaking Bad” prequel may well stand as its best, punctuated with a heartbreaking twist.

“House of Cards” (Netflix): A surprise nominee, perhaps, but voters have shown consistent loyalty to the political potboiler throughout its run.

“Stranger Things” (Netflix): The throwback sci-fi mystery is the cult favorite of the season — and its early awards success bodes well for its trajectory.

“Westworld” (HBO): The would-be successor to “Game of Thrones” and high-tech sci-fi thriller clearly made an impression
with voters, scoring 22 noms.

More TV

  • On-Location Filming Slides 3.9% in Los

    On-Location Filming Slides 3.9% in Los Angeles in Second Quarter

    Held down by a lack of soundstage space, total on-location filming in greater Los Angeles declined 3.9% in the second quarter to 8,632 shoot days, permitting agency FilmLA reported Thursday. “Although our latest report reveals a decline in filming on location, local production facilities tell us that they are operating at capacity,” said FilmLA president [...]

  • Don Johnson

    'Nash Bridges' Revival With Don Johnson in Development at USA Network

    USA Network is in early development on a revival of “Nash Bridges,” Variety has confirmed. Original series star Don Johnson has signed on to star in the series, reprising the title role he played for six seasons when the show originally ran on CBS. Carlton Cuse, who created the original show, is not attached as he [...]

  • BH90210: L-R: Brian Austin Green, Gabrielle

    'BH90210's' the Peach Pit Pop-Up to Open in L.A. (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fox and Popsugar have teamed up to open the Peach Pit in celebration of “BH90210,” Variety has learned exclusively. The beloved retro diner has been recreated for the upcoming continuation series debuting August 7 on Fox, and for a few nights leading up to the big premiere, reservations can be made to dine in. Taking [...]

  • John FordNPact Awards, Show, Los Angeles,

    John Ford to Exit as Head of Unscripted Producers Trade Association NPact

    John Ford has stepped down as general manager of NPact, the trade association that represents unscripted TV producers. Ford is exiting the post he’s held since 2015 because of the potential for conflicts of interest arising from his role as head of programming for digital multicast outlets Justice Network and Quest Network. The channels were [...]

  • Justin Connolly

    Disney Merges All Media Sales and TV Channel Distribution Under Justin Connolly

    Disney promoted Justin Connolly to the new role of president, media distribution, overseeing a single organization that combines all of the company’s media sales and TV channel distribution operations. Connolly previously served as EVP, affiliate sales and marketing, Disney and ESPN Media Networks. Based in New York, he will report to Kevin Mayer, chairman of [...]

  • Kevin Reilly

    WarnerMedia's HBO Max Unveils Content Team

    WarnerMedia has unveiled its original programming and business operations and strategy teams as the company builds out its HBO Max streaming platform. Sarah Aubrey will lead the original programming group as head of original content, reporting to HBO Max chief content officer Kevin Reilly. Joining her on that team are Joey Chavez as executive vice [...]

  • 'Lego Masters' Series from Brad Pitt's

    'Lego Masters' Competition Series from Brad Pitt's Plan B Ordered at Fox

    Fox is continuing to build its non-scripted slate, block by block. The network has put out a series order for reality competition series “Lego Masters,” which hails from Endemol Shine North America and Brad Pitt’s Plan B. The quirky format, which pits all-age contestants against one another to design and construct Lego masterpieces, bowed on Channel [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content