Voting is now underway for the 70th annual Primetime Emmy Awards nominations. Annual standbys and revived former favorites will be duking it out with hot new series all the way to the phase one finish line on June 25. Nominations will be announced on July 12.
As TV Academy voters begin to fill out their ballots, a number of questions linger over the proceedings. Here’s an attempt to wrangle with a few of them.
How will voters respond to Roseanne Barr, Jason Bateman, Samantha Bee, etc.?
There’s a mantra in covering the film Academy: It’s not a monolith. Taking the collective pulse of nearly 8,000 voting members will always prove tricky for that reason. That goes triple for the triple-sized TV Academy (officially 22,000-plus voting members across 30 peer groups). So it’s hard to really say what kind of impact recent controversies will have. Will Samantha Bee’s C-bomb and the resulting apology leave voters wary of supporting her TBS program, or perhaps endear her to them? Will Roseanne Barr’s Twitter meltdown and her show’s high-profile cancellation render the ABC hit revival too toxic, or is a success like that too big to ignore? Could Jason Bateman have lost support for his “Arrested Development” and “Ozark” performances following that bad-look New York Times interview, or did he save face with his response to the criticism? … No, really, we’re asking.
How many Oscar players will crash the party?
As ever this year, there are countless previous Oscar winners and nominees in the mix, looking to add an Emmy to their laurels. “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle is in the thick of it with FX’s drama series “Trust,” which also stars Oscar winner Hilary Swank (“Boys Don’t Cry,” “Million Dollar Baby”) and one of last year’s honorary Oscar recipients, Donald Sutherland. Speaking of last year’s Oscar season, dueling moms Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) and Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”) could be recognized for CBS’ “Mom” and ABC’s “Roseanne,” respectively. Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”), meanwhile, is no stranger to the Emmys, with five statues on his shelf already. He’ll be back with Hulu’s limited series “The Looming Tower,” developed with Oscar-nominated “Capote” scribe Dan Futterman. And Barry Levinson (“Rain Man”) keeps his ongoing collaboration with Al Pacino (“Scent of a Woman”) going with the HBO movie “Paterno.” Other Oscar-winning filmmakers in the hunt include Ron Howard (“Genius: Picasso”), Kenneth Lonergan (“Howards End”), Jordan Peele (“The Last O.G.”), and Steven Soderbergh (“Mosaic”). Other actors include J.K. Simmons (“Counterpart”), as well as Oscar nominees Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Franco (“The Deuce”), Laura Linney (“Ozark”) and David Strathairn (“McMafia”), among others. The prestige is strong with this bunch.
Can we please combine the limited series and TV movie categories?
How many eligible television movies will we end up with at the end of the day? Something like 20? Does that really warrant a separate category, particularly when the acting fields for these two arenas remain combined? HBO’s “Fahrenheit 451” was savaged by critics, but is considered a favorite to land a nomination. Anyone got a teleplay ready for production? With odds like those…
Who’s going to get squeezed out of the stacked lead actor drama race?
I’ve written about this at length already, but there are easily a dozen serious contenders for six slots here. Assuming returning champ Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”), his co-star Milo Ventimiglia, and “The Americans” star Matthew Rhys (in the show’s final season) make it back onto the ballot, there’s still Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”) lurking as a perennial. The exit of Anthony Hopkins, Bob Odenkirk, and Kevin Spacey this year frees up three spots, with Bateman (“Ozark”) and maybe Freddie Highmore (“The Good Doctor”) the likeliest to capitalize after previous industry awards recognition. Then you have Kit Harington returning in “Game of Thrones,” Ed Harris and Jeffrey Wright making the jump to lead in “Westworld,” compelling dual performances from Franco (“The Deuce”) and Simmons (“Counterpart”), wild cards like Jonathan Groff (“Mindhunter”) and Sutherland (“Trust”), not to mention former winner Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”). It’s a bloodbath. (And by the way, the lead actress race is no cake walk, either. It’s not as expansive as lead actor, but previous winners mix it up there with popular newcomers and yearly mainstays for a pretty gnarly bottleneck.)
How badly do voters want to show up the film Academy?
Because there’s a ripe opportunity! Tiffany Haddish was on countless wish lists going into the 90th annual Oscar nominations announcement in January, for her off-the-charts performance in hit comedy “Girls Trip.” She didn’t make the cut and that was a bummer, but she’s frankly leagues better on the small screen in TBS’ “The Last O.G.” Haddish hits a whole range of gears with her portrayal of Shay, a woman weathering the drama surrounding her ex-con-ex-boyfriend’s release from prison. Her “Saturday Night Live” hosting stint is a possibility in the guest actress category, but that wouldn’t be as exciting.
As ever, can we do something about the avalanche of FYC mailers?
The piles of screener mailers stacking up in voters’ homes these last few weeks — they will tell you, to a person — is outrageous. The waste, the redundancies, the physical embodiment of campaign noise, it’s out of control. And none of it has the impact networks and studios think. They’re just lemmings. If the story in recent years has been the explosion of Emmy campaign season, that story has quickly evolved into the numbing effect of Emmy campaign season. Last week actress Zoe Kazan tweeted a photo of garbage bags stuffed with her duplicate screeners (she’s since deleted it), embossing the point. Even Netflix honcho Ted Sarandos commented recently that the process of sending screeners is “inefficient,” but in the next breath, he copped to simply following the herd. If any company was big enough, and on-brand enough, to discontinue the practice, it’s Netflix. (And they’re one of the most egregious offenders, it turns out.) Someone please just lead here.