Although the U.S. is gearing up for another election cycle and scripted shows have leaned into topical issue storytelling, Television Academy voters have pumped the brakes a little when it comes to celebrating political fare.
Two stalwarts of Emmys past that have politicians as their central characters drew less attention than they did previously: HBO’s “Veep,” which came to a raucous end this year, garnered nine total nominations — significantly fewer than the previous time it was eligible (in 2017, when it scored 17). Over at Netflix, “House of Cards” picked up only three nominations, the lowest total of its run.
“The Good Fight” previously had been nominated in musical categories, but its third season attracted extra attention for tackling President Trump head-on with its satire, including a storyline in which Christine Baranski’s character forms a resistance group to his administration, and one in which the law firm deals with a client who might be his wife, Melania. While some predicted it could crack into the drama series races this year, the CBS All Access series was snubbed completely.
One intriguing question was whether “Brexit,” which scored a nom in the TV movie category, would gain recognition for lead Benedict Cumberbatch, who has a cluster of nominations to his name for “Sherlock” and “Patrick Melrose.” Turns out the actor, who plays Vote Leave campaign director Dominic Cummings in the film, didn’t quite do enough to break into a tough lead actor in a limited series/TV movie category, which included fellow Brits Hugh Grant and Jared Harris. However, Grant also played a politician in “A Very English Scandal,” so in a sense the category did include a small nod to politics.
In terms of series with larger political implications, Ava DuVernay’s Netflix limited series “When They See Us,” about the Exonerated Five, smashed onto the awards scene with 16 nominations, finishing as the streamer’s most-nominated show and seventh most recognized overall. And the first season of FX’s ballroom-culture drama “Pose,” which deals with issues of LGBTQ representation and rejection as well as the 1980s AIDS crisis, scored six nominations, including drama series, right out of the gate. Both series resonated with audiences, and now it’s clear that voters feel the same way. But both are period pieces that don’t reflect the world exactly as it is today. And as the current real world becomes more tumultuous, reel worlds that leaned further into fantasy were more widely celebrated.