Here’s how sure Sarah Silverman was that her canceled Hulu series “I Love You, America” wouldn’t get an Emmy nomination: This past spring she hosted a For Your Consideration event for another show in her category, Sacha Baron Cohen’s Showtime series “Who Is America?”
“I don’t think I realized we were eligible,” Silverman recently told me. Indeed, Hulu hadn’t mounted much (if any) of an Emmy campaign to promote the show in the months leading up to the nominations announcement in July. But the joke’s on everyone: “I Love You, America With Sarah Silverman” is still in the mix, and was nominated this year — competing against, yes, “Who Is America?” — in the variety sketch series category.
It’s a nice salve to the sting of being axed, and a rare one for a canceled show. Emmy voters don’t often nominate killed-off programs in top series categories, although there are a few exceptions: Perhaps most memorably, Fox’s short-lived “The Ben Stiller Show” managed to take home the Emmy for writing in a variety or music program in 1993.
Despite its cancellation, “I Love You, America” had a few things going for it with TV Academy voters: It was also nominated in the variety sketch category last year, and critics continued to champion the show even if the viewers weren’t there. Nonetheless, given that the final original episode aired in November, the nod came as a pleasant surprise to a team that had long since packed up and moved on to new things.
“I had come to terms with the fact that we might not get nominated again,” says Funny or Die’s Joe Farrell, who was an executive producer on “I Love You, America.” “That was a bummer because I thought the show really delivered in this second batch of episodes.”
Silverman says the cancellation left her “heartbroken.” “I loved doing the show so much, and I got so attached to all the people,” she says. “It was my favorite thing. If we got nominated soon after we were canceled, it would be bittersweet. But I feel like it’s just sweet. I’m always on to the next thing.”
In recent months, Silverman admits she’s grown frustrated that topics she first raised on the Hulu show (including a Florida pastor calling for her death) have only gotten traction after she brought them up on podcasts. “It was hard to find,” she says of the show. “But some people liked it, because they nominated us!”
Silverman says she doesn’t harbor any ill will toward Hulu, and even admits that the network notes “elevated” the show. Nevertheless, she doesn’t think the series was exposed to enough viewers who might have been interested in sampling it. “These streaming services pray to one god besides money, and it’s algorithm,” she says. “For some reason they think the algorithm knows everything, and they don’t go beyond that. I don’t think there’s any talking to them about it. … The algorithm has proven fruitful for them, I guess.”
The comedian is now prepping her Off Broadway musical “The Bedwetter” (which she’s producing but not starring in) for a May premiere, as well as developing another show and returning to acting. But even as she works on “The Bedwetter” in New York, she’s planning to return to Los Angeles for 24 hours to celebrate the Emmys.
Silverman notes that “I Love You, America” is competing in a stacked category that includes “Who Is America?,” “Documentary Now!,” “Drunk History,” “At Home With Amy Sedaris” and “Saturday Night Live.” She expects “SNL” to win the category, as it did last year and in 2017, “and it should.” But Silverman feels a kinship to Cohen and “Who Is America?,” especially since that show, much like “I Love You, America,” was borne out of the 2016 election and a desire to find a creative outlet to address what’s going on in the country.
“We all go in knowing ‘Saturday Night Live’ will win,” she says. “But I thought Sacha would be good; he’s not doing another season. But I’m not either. I’m canceled — what am I saying?”