It’s one of the curiosities of this peak TV era: Most series now contain fewer episodes, yet often take longer to produce — with lengthier breaks between seasons. All that hiatus time has upended the Emmy series races, often to the benefit of shows that land nominations or wins when the previous year’s nominees miss the eligibility window. That’s particularly pronounced this year, with 2018’s drama series nominees “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Stranger Things” and “Westworld” all taking a year off (and “The Americans” all done). That opened the door in 2019 for several new entrants: “Bodyguard,” “Killing Eve,” “Ozark,” “Pose” and “Succession,” as well as the return of “Better Call Saul.” Next year’s competition should be interesting, as “Game of Thrones” won’t be back, but nominees from both 2018 and 2019 might be fighting for the drama category’s seven (or eight, depending on a tie) slots. As for this year, right now the key front-runner is “Game of Thrones,” as it exits the field with a history-making 32 nominations.
The Case for “Game of Thrones”
No series has ever won a drama series Emmy in its eighth season — but there has never been a show like “Game of Thrones.” While most series sputter to the finish line, attracting little Emmy love as it comes to an end, “Thrones” appears to be at the height of its Emmy power. The HBO drama’s 32 nominations is more than any program has achieved in a single year ever. Above the line, the show’s noms include lead drama actress (Emilia Clarke), lead drama actor (Kit Harington), supporting drama actress (Gwendoline Christie, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams), supporting drama actor (Alfie Allen, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage), drama directing and drama writing. And the show is coming off previous drama wins in 2018, 2016 and 2015. (It wasn’t eligible in 2017.) Critics and fans weren’t kind to the final season of “Game of Thrones,” and that noisy backlash is the only factor stopping Emmy prognosticators from giving the show’s win a 100% guarantee. But critics and fans don’t vote for the Emmys — TV Academy members do, and their vote of confidence with those nominations, backlash be damned, is a strong sign that “Thrones” will reign on Emmy night.
The Case for “Killing Eve”
Season 1 of “Killing Eve” missed getting an Emmy nomination last year, but the buzz surrounding the quirky BBC America thriller continued to pick up since then, with star Sandra Oh winning the Golden Globe in January for drama actress, and also earning raves for co-hosting that ceremony with Andy Samberg. The show also wildly expanded its Emmy nomination tally this season, going from two to nine nods, earning accolades not only for Oh, but also for co-stars Jodie Comer (in lead drama actress) and Fiona Shaw (in supporting drama actress). “Killing Eve” is also nominated this year for drama directing, drama writing, casting, and more. And while creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge didn’t oversee Season 2 of “Killing Eve,” TV Academy voters are clearly fans, also giving her series “Fleabag” 11 nominations, including comedy series. The reviews for Season 2 of “Killing Eve” were a bit more tepid than its premiere season, but “Killing Eve” remains a show at the very height of its zeitgeist — growing 87% in total viewers from Season 1, according to its network.