Emmys: As Final Voting Begins, One Last Stand for Broadcast?

Monday kicks off two straight weeks of last-ditch campaigning for this year’s Emmy contenders. Final ballots are due by 10 p.m. PT on Monday, Aug. 28, and then it’s three more grueling weeks of nominees holding their collective breath for the Sept. 17 Primetime Emmys ceremony.

Throughout the main categories, an interesting note arises: If you’re eager to stand up for broadcast, now is your chance. And it couldn’t come at a better moment.

Netflix made huge waves in the wee hours of the night by announcing that the streamer had enticed hitmaker Shonda Rhimes over to its shore. The move instantly recalled a prophecy from FX president John Landgraf at this year’s Television Critics Assn. tour: “Wait for the epic, titanic battle for talent that’s coming.” The major networks are no doubt feeling vulnerable — but they have strong representatives in the race to rally behind.

Until this year’s nominations, it had been a decade since a broadcast drama was nominated. But NBC’s “This Is Us” is a formidable challenger to presumed frontrunners “The Crown” (Netflix) and “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu). Meanwhile, though the comedy category has been kinder to broadcast shows like “The Office,” “30 Rock,” and “Modern Family,” other programs like Netflix’s “Master of None” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” and HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and “Veep,” have them surrounded. But ABC’s “Black-ish,” mid-stride in its third season with a hotly anticipated spinoff on the way, could be an enticing option for voters who may not be on FX’s “Atlanta” bandwagon just yet.

Whatever prevails, it will ultimately be a question of momentum. “There’s so much out there that everything has its moment in the sun and then sadly fades into the mist,” says TV awards strategist Richard Licata. “I think one of the jobs of marketers is adjusting their thinking beyond just launching a show.”

A cool-down effect could harm programs like “Atlanta” and “The Crown,” both of which aired in the fall. And if HBO’s limited series “The Night Of” had a prayer against the network’s own “Big Little Lies” and FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan” (it doesn’t), bowing over a year ago certainly put it at a disadvantage.

The watercooler conversation helps sustain momentum, too, and broadcast shows benefit on that score by being stretched out over 20-plus weeks. Binge programs suffer somewhat for being dumped all at once; how many times have you been eager to talk about what happened on, say, the “Stranger Things” finale, only to have the conversation shut down because your friend hasn’t caught up yet?

Outside of the top series categories, there are a number of exciting races to consider. Claire Foy (“The Crown”) vs. Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) is one of the biggest nail-biters. And though Sterling K. Brown feels locked in for his “This Is Us” stint, Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”) being in the Emmy mix for the first time in 27 years will no doubt be tempting for some voters. And obviously HBO’s genre entry is an overall favorite, scoring the most nominations of any narrative series.

Comedy performance categories are even more interesting. Have Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) and Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”) heard their names called enough? If so, are Tracee Ellis-Ross (“Black-ish”) and Donald Glover (“Atlanta”) poised to swoop in? Better yet, could Ellis-Ross and Anthony Anderson make it a double whammy for ABC?

The only races that feel truly sewn up are the supporting actor fields. Go ahead and hand the trophies to John Lithgow (“The Crown”) and Alec Baldwin (“Saturday Night Live”).

That said, we still have more than a month to go to the finish line. So let’s pace ourselves.

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