Are ‘Veep’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ Vulnerable at the Emmys This Year? (Column)

Are “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” destined to win this year’s top Emmy prizes, or do competitors detect blood in the water? Both shows took a bit of a hit from critics and fans as their series came to an end — but it may not matter.

We’ll have a better idea in less than a month. After nearly half a year of big-budget FYC events, a final crop of DVD mailers, last-minute premieres landing just under the eligibility wire — and ads, ads and more ads — this year’s Emmy nomination voting finally got underway on June 10 (and ends June 24). 

That means we’re now nearly at the end of the Emmy season’s Phase One, when everything is eligible and even top contenders have to feel some pressure from new shows looking to take their place. 

Phase Two comes after nominations are announced on July 16, and that’s when the real prognosticating begins.

But almost everyone agrees that this feels like an odd year for the Emmys. “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” are not only two of the most awarded scripted series in recent Emmy history; they’re retiring in the same year. This makes it the last chance for the TV Academy to honor the two shows, and voters may feel compelled to give them one more series win as a bit of a “career achievement” honor. 

That could make for an anticlimactic Emmys. “Veep” has won 17 Emmys, including best comedy in 2015, ’16 and ’17, while star Julia Louis-Dreyfus leads all performers in terms of most all-time wins (eight, tied with Cloris Leachman). “Game of Thrones” has won 47 Emmys, including best drama in 2015, ’16 and ’18. TV Academy members clearly love both series.

But wait just a minute. As predictable as the Emmy Awards may have been in the past, a changing industry may also mean that the tide is turning in what Television Academy members select for the winners’ circle as well. 

For one thing, the age of Peak TV gives voters permission to spread their love around. And the Television Academy has expanded its membership ranks with an
eye to bringing in more voices — and, ideally, mixing things up.

Perhaps another concern for “Thrones” and “Veep”: Retiring series rarely win in their last year, partly because there’s often a reason why those shows are going away: They’re not in the zeitgeist like they were at their peak. 

Yet “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” aren’t like most series — and they both ended their runs very much top of mind, for very different reasons. “Thrones” had
the almost impossible task of finishing a complicated story in a short time while appeasing a very vocal fan base. If social media is any guide, fans’ reaction was mixed (to put it kindly).

“Veep” faced another kind of anticipation: With a real-life president of the United States now doing and saying things often more disturbing and offensive than anything that has come out of the mouths of Selina Meyer (Louis-Dreyfus) and her staff, viewers were waiting to see how the show’s return (after a break as the star recovered from cancer) would tackle modern politics. 

At Rotten Tomatoes, Season 8 of “Game of Thrones” was scored 53% Fresh by critics — a far cry from every other season, when reviewers pushed the accolades above 90% and the show was consistently Certified Fresh. (Audiences were even harsher this season, giving the show a 34% vote.) “Veep” performed much better — earning a 96% rating among critics — but earned so-so marks from audience members, whose approval level was at 77%.

That may be good news for other series in the hunt, such as AMC/BBC America’s “Killing Eve” or Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” “Mrs. Maisel” is the reigning champ in the outstanding comedy series category, but previous winner “Veep” returns to competition after not being eligible last year.

Ultimately, all this talk of tepid reactions or online fan backlash might not matter. As one PR rep recently told me, Emmy voters still gravitate to the biggest, flashiest things — and in an age of so much fragmentation, there are fewer shows that everyone has either seen or heard of. “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” are those shows. 

Add in nostalgia for the end of two of the TV Academy’s most lauded programs ever, and bet against them at your own peril.  

More TV

  • How Cooking-Travel Shows Are Changing TV

    How Cooking-Travel Shows Are Changing TV

    Toyo hunches over his street food stove, cooking tuna with a blow torch, stopping to light his cigarette with it and produce a cheeky grin. The Japanese chef, who owns a roadside stand in the city of Osaka, is one of many highlighted in the Netflix series “Street Food.” Over the course of 30 minutes, [...]


    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Proposal for New Film-TV Contract

    The SAG-AFTRA national board has approved proposals for a successor deal to its master contract covering feature film and primetime television — a key step in the upcoming negotiations cycle with companies. The board approved the package Saturday with the performers union declining to reveal any specifics — its usual policy. The board established the wages [...]

  • Shannen Doherty'Jennie Garth: A Little Bit

    Shannen Doherty Joins 'Riverdale' Season 4 in Luke Perry Tribute

    “Riverdale” is planning to make a special tribute to Luke Perry. The show’s executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa announced at Comic-Con that Shannen Doherty, Perry’s longtime friend and “Beverly Hills 90210” co-star, will guest star in the season 4 premiere. The tribute episode will “reflect Perry’s enduring legacy and the indelible imprint his character” Fred Andrews [...]

  • Supernatural CW

    'Supernatural' Team Gets Emotional Final Season Sendoff at Comic-Con

    The cast and creative team of “Supernatural” bid a fond farewell to the attendees of San Diego Comic-Con on Sunday. At the show’s final panel in the gargantuan Hall H, the team thanked the fans for all of their support over the years as the series prepares to enter its final season. “I’m trying not [...]

  • Alicia Rodis photographed by Alicia Rodis

    SAG-AFTRA Moves to Standardize Guidelines for Intimacy Coordinators

    SAG-AFTRA is moving to standardize guidelines for intimacy coordinators as part of an effort to establish policies for union members when their work involves nudity and simulated sex. “Our goal is to normalize and promote the use of intimacy coordinators within our industry,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Intimacy coordinators provide an important safety net for [...]

  • SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases

    SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases 'The Magicians' Season 5 Clip (Watch)

    In today’s SDCC TV news roundup, Syfy shares a clip from “The Magicians” Season 5, and Amazon sets the Season 4 premiere of “The Expanse.” CASTING Julie Gonzalo and Staz Nair have joined the cast of “Supergirl” for its upcoming fifth season. Gonzalo will portray iconic DC character Andrea Rojas aka Acrata, a polished businesswoman [...]

  • Doom Patrol -- Ep. 101 --

    'Doom Patrol' Renewed, Season 2 to Stream on DC Universe and HBO Max

    “Doom Patrol” has been renewed for a second season and will soon be available outside of DC Universe. At San Diego Comic-Con, series executive producer Jeremy Carver and star Diane Guerrero announced not only that the show will be back for another season but also that it will be available on HBO Max, the upcoming [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content