Could this be the year that the Television Academy voters finally shake up the Emmy race? Given that this is a time in our history like no other, perhaps people are in a different mindset right now — and that could very well impact how they’re choosing nominees.
What that might mean is a few surprises when the 2020 Emmy noms are finally announced July 28. At least, let’s hope so. Emmy voters tend to stick with what they know, which is why there are so many repeat nominees and winners annually. The Oscars and Grammys only deal in new contenders every year, but the ongoing nature of TV means often the Emmy race is over before it ever begins: Just look at the dominant wins over the past decade for “Veep” and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “The Amazing Race” and “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” Those were fantastic programs, but so many others didn’t get a seat at the Emmy table because of voters’ tendency to invite the same nominees.
We’ve already written about the TV Academy’s move to begin vetting its membership, in the hopes that a more active (and younger) body might lead to more representation. And as we’ve also noted, the decision to firm up eight nominations in both comedy and drama will at least potentially add a little more competition to the race.
But this year will also look different because of both a changing of the guard and the more common practice of shows taking extended hiatuses between seasons. 2019’s big winners “Game of Thrones” and “Fleabag” won’t be back, which means at the very least there won’t be back-to-back wins in the drama and comedy categories. In the competition program category, perennial nominee and 10-time winner “The Amazing Race” kept getting pushed back by CBS, until suddenly it wasn’t even airing during the year-long Emmy eligibility period. And in TV movie, “Black Mirror” was moved to the drama race, so its three-in-a-row winning streak will be halted.
In comedy, several of last year’s nominees won’t be back in 2020 — besides “Fleabag,” that includes the retired “Veep,” as well as “Russian Doll” and “Barry.” But the drama category is only losing “Thrones” and “Bodyguard.” Whether that means a returning nominee gets back on the ballot or there’s room for something new — or something newly returning after sitting out last year’s race (see: “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Stranger Things,” “Westworld”) — still remains to be seen.
Several months ago, before the Emmy race got under way, I would have told you I thought “Succession” and “Schitt’s Creek” had it in the bag as frontrunners. And without a doubt both shows will be nominated. But the pandemic altered this FYC season in a way no one expected.
With less campaigning and people mostly staying at home, the noise of the season has been tempered. Instead, there’s a pureness to this year’s Emmy race, and a possibility that Academy members actually watched more shows.
Perhaps the recent nationwide conversation about inclusion and representation has even spurred a willingness by voters to broaden their scope. And, in turn, that could lead to a real shakeup vs. the usual tried-and-true.
“There are shows that could potentially contend this year that probably ordinarily wouldn’t, because there would be so much noise around the shiny shows,” says one awards exec. “People are at home and they’re actually watching TV in a way that they probably haven’t before, with intention. It will be really interesting to see what happens next.”