It may be the dawn of a new era: Freshman series, especially in the unscripted categories, are having their moment with the Television Academy.
Of 15 nominees across competition, unstructured and structured programs, almost half (seven) were newcomers to the Emmy race, with six of those seeing accolades their first time eligible. In unstructured, this includes Food Network’s remotely produced “Amy Schumer Learns to Cook”; Netflix’s “Cheer” and “Kevin Hart: Don’t F**k This Up”; and HBO’s “We’re Here” while in structured the new nominees are Netflix’s “Love Is Blind” and HGTV’s “A Very Brady Renovation.” Fox’s “The Masked Singer” finally broke into the competition-program category its second year up at Emmy bat, the only newcomer to that race.
“The voters have had more time home, more sampling and more time to consider stuff,” awards consultant Richard Licata of Licata & Co says of the “stay at home” orders and awards calendar shift that came out of the coronavirus pandemic.
Not all of 2019’s nominees in these categories were eligible again, so some newcomers were expected. But Academy voters tend to reward their favorites year after year (see structured program “Antiques Roadshow,” which has been nominated 18 times since 2002, including this year, as well as competition program “Top Chef,” which has been nommed 13 times consecutively since 2007, as examples).
“The voters live very chaotic lives with their businesses and families, and in the past, they’ve been loyal to the shows they watched initially and loved,” Licata notes. “This year, there was a lot of time that people had on their hands, and suddenly they realized after all of these years that there was a lot of choice. It was, ‘Let’s sample more — and if we’re going to sample, we’re going to choose the ones that make us feel good because that’s what television should do, especially now.’”
On the scripted front, Disney Plus’ “The Mandalorian” was the only newcomer to the drama-series ballot, picking up its first-ever nom for its first season, while in the comedy race, the second seasons of Netflix’s “Dead to Me” and “The Kominsky Method” and FX’s “What We Do in the Shadows” scored those shows’ first series noms. HBO’s “Insecure” received a coveted series ballot spot for the first-ever time, for its fourth season.
“I thought we would see a greater bandwidth of new shows making it in, but I think this is a respectable showing,” Licata says.