There’s one more weekend of Emmy voting before this year’s nominations are finally set in stone, to be revealed on July 12. Last year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards and Golden Globes put a number of series on the awards map for this season, largely in the comedy sphere — from Amazon’s “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” to Netflix’s “GLOW” to Showtime’s “SMILF.”
On June 19, the Television Critics Assn. nominations were unveiled — the only significant critical precursor announcement this time of year. Contrast that with the film awards season, which begins with superlative announcements from critics groups in New York and Los Angeles before an entire circuit filled with collectives from all regional points chimes in with a chorus of kudos throughout December and into January.
Some argue that the seemingly endless film awards season has become so noisy that Oscar voters end up forced into lockstep with the media cognoscenti. But critical laurels can and have provided fuel for underdog causes, and the annual Academy Award nominations have proved, time and again, to be less a rubber-stamping of pundit-culled contenders than a representation of both the macro and micro trends of a given season.
There is no such “season” for the Emmys. Contenders don’t have the added campaign fodder of countless critical wins to trot out into the marketing. So it’s generally on the TCA to strike that match for this or that hopeful at the crucial moment of voting. And yet, just like in the film world, many of those critical darlings often fail to translate the love into TV Academy votes. Shows like “New Girl,” “The Mindy Project,” “Justified,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “The Leftovers,” to name a few, have felt the TCA embrace while missing out on series Emmy nominations. Others, like “The Americans,” finally got there only after years of drum-banging support from the critics.
Several shows are in the hunt to break that pattern this season, aiming to transform their critical clout into Emmy love. NBC’s comedy “The Good Place,” with Ted Danson and Kristen Bell, is a prime example. The show’s debut season yielded comedy series and best new program nominations from the TCA last year, before rounding the corner into program of the year recognition this time around. What will it take for Emmy voters to tune in to that momentum?
Another critical fave that found a fervent and dedicated fan base was BBC America’s “Killing Eve,” starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer. It was nominated for TCA program of the year (along with “The Americans,” “Atlanta,” “This Is Us” and returning champ “The Handmaid’s Tale”), one of its field-leading five mentions from the group. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s show, adapted from the Luke Jennings “Villanelle” novels, caught its stride as a bingeable hit right in the thick of balloting. But again, the TV Academy is notoriously slow to catch on: Waller-Bridge’s previous outing, “Fleabag,” was a TCA hit that went nowhere with industry voters.
After winning the achievement in comedy prize two years ago, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star and co-creator Rachel Bloom is back in the nominations this year. She, and the show, are still looking for Emmy recognition outside of the music categories. And another TCA nominee, Netflix’s “One Day at a Time,” is also still hoping to attract more Emmy voters; last year’s introductory season only managed an editing nomination.
In the limited race, series like “Alias Grace” and “Twin Peaks: The Return” were obvious bets for critical kudos, but will they be such obvious bets for Academy members? Chances are voters will focus instead on programs the TCA ignored, like Netflix’s “Godless” and Hulu’s “The Looming Tower” (both, incidentally, starring Jeff Daniels).
Perhaps a 22,000-strong voting body is simply too impenetrable to be swayed by the external cheerleaders, but the lack of a true “consensus” doesn’t help, and it’s not as if that dearth drives voters to be unpredictable in their choices. More often they cling to perennial standbys, as if desperate for a signpost.
Then again, there’s an adage in Oscar world that bears paraphrasing here: Critics don’t vote for Emmys. All they can do is humbly suggest.