Greetings from Variety Awards Headquarters! Today is August 22, 2022, which means final round voting ends today at 10 p.m. PT. After that, it’s 12 days until the Creative Arts Emmys kicks off its two-night event on September 3; and then it’s 21 days until the 74th Emmy Awards takes place, live on NBC, September 12.And this is it! Welcome to the final day of voting. All of the screenings, all of the events, all of the campaigning… it all ends today. After this, it’s on to the celebrations. And there will be a lot more this year, as people seem ready to party once again. Obviously, the big one — The Evening Before, which raises money and awareness for the Motion Picture & Television Fund — is back. But also already on deck are the Humanitas Prizes, the Creative Coalition’s Television Humanitarian Awards, and first out with invites among the congloms is Paramount Global, which has cornered Saturday night before the Emmys with a bash. More surely to come.

It’s an interesting time on the awards space as we await word on when a deal might be done between NBC and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for next year’s Golden Globes — as of press time, nothing yet. And also, yes, I’m hearing about the internal drama at the Hollywood Critics Assn. and the wide range of questions that members are asking about transparency. More to come on that, as I understand the HCA will post an FAQ on its site shortly, in which the org promises to address some of the questions that have swirled about in recent days.

Meanwhile, while our eye is on the TV prize, another major show takes place this weekend: The MTV Video Music Awards, hosted by Jack Harlow, LL Cool J and Nicki Minaj, takes place this Sunday, August 28.

It sure feels like we’re already looking ahead to 2023, with this Sunday’s premiere of HBO’s “House of the Dragon,” and anticipation heating up for Amazon Prime Video’s new “Lord of the Rings” series “The Rings of Power” following its premiere. But for now, let’s focus on the last gasp of Emmy FYC 2022, and let’s get going!
Reach Michael on Twitter @franklinavenue or email mschneider@variety.com
Below Deck Mediterranean’ Executive Producer Mark Cronin Breaks Down the Confusion Behind Emmy’s Unscripted Categories, And What Needs to ChangeBravo’s “Below Deck Mediterranean” earned its first Emmy nomination, following last year’s nomination for “Below Deck,” in the unstructured reality category. The category also features another newcomer, Netflix’s “Love on the Spectrum U.S.,” along with last year’s winner, “RuPaul’s Drag Race Untucked,” as well as 2021 nominee “Selling Sunset” Netflix’s “Cheer,” which won the category in 2020.

Separate from reality competition, the other reality program categories have been split into unstructured (whuch “contain story elements driven by the actions of characters and lacking a consistent structured template”) and structured (“contain consistent story elements that mostly adhere to a recurring structured template”) since 2014.

Of course, plenty of questions remain about eligibility and which shows land where. I asked “Below Deck Mediterranean” exec producer Mark Cronin a few questions about his take on the state of the unstructured category.

What do you make of the structured and unstructured reality program rules, and what kind of confusion is out there in what goes where?

The presence of “structure” is a continuum when you are talking about all of the different kinds of reality shows that there are. The most overt structure is a show with rules and challenges that result in winners and losers. Those are competition shows and clearly not eligible for the structured category. But shows without competition and rules and eliminations can also have a very clear and repeated structure or format.

I think the Academy is trying to separate shows with segmented and artificial moments imposed by production – like the social experiment shows – from those that are telling their real world story “free form.” Which is a noble effort by the Academy. Free form, real world story telling requires a different kind of production and edit than a show with firm “tent-pole” moments, and artificial movements and might be contained in a studio or closed set/location. But even real world, free form story telling sometimes requires a subtle “structure.” I think you could make a case that Below Deck has a reliable format. In general, the “challenge” is the charter guests that the yachties must serve and the “reward” for succeeding is the cash tip they receive at the end of every charter. Those elements are reliably repeated throughout the series – although not in a rigid episode to episode way. They are also based on the real world rhythm of charter yacht life. A life and job which has a kind of natural structure to it. They would be doing that job even if there was no show and it’s producers.

I guess the question comes down to, how much artificial structure is too much structure to be considered unstructured? It’s not a black and white call. I feel for the academy committees trying to define these categories clearly and fairly.

How might the Academy best revise its various reality categories?

I think they may want to think about moving away from “structure” as the only dividing component – because of the continuum I talked about above. I think any show where the subjects are artificially moved from action/location to action/location in a controlled way is probably too structured for unstructured reality. That’s because that method of production – where the producers (or host) control the action/location/events and when and how they occur – is very different than producers chasing real-world people, doing real jobs or living their real lives in the real world.

Perhaps the better divider might be “unsegmented reality program” and “segmented reality program” where “segmented” indicates activities, moments or movements seen in the program as imposed upon the cast by something other than real world forces. Segmented would cover all of the “social experiment” shows now contained in the structured program category but would also allow all of the real-world reality shows – the soaps and occu-soaps – to compete only against each other since they are never segmented as described above.

How hard is it to break into the Emmys race where there are so many shows, including legacy shows that pop up year after year?

If the question is, “Is it hard to make a really, really good show that people love season after season?”, the answer is yes. I think “Below Deck” really stands out as consistently great because the drama is baked right into the real life job and life of the yachties. But, we have also had an amazingly consistent team of incredibly talented producers and editors who just love working on the show. Many of them have been on it since the very beginning.

It feels really great to have the show recognized as one of the very best on the air. We have all worked so hard on it and strived to make the quality consistent and the story-telling first class. It’s a show that delivers on so many levels – from the beauty of the locations, to the attractiveness and youthful energy of the cast, to the real danger and drama of working on a massive ship on the ocean. It has always been, but another reality is that a show usually has to be on the air for some years before it gains enough public awareness to get enough votes to be nominated. “Below Deck” was on for nine years before we garnered a nomination. I honestly think that’s not because the nominated season was the best of them all, but because the series itself – across all of it’s iterations – was finally well known enough as a great show after years of cumulative audience gathering.

Then, once you have broken through, as long as you maintain the quality, you are hard to dislodge by younger shows – but of course, it will eventually happen.

So, I would say the hard part about breaking into the Emmys race is surviving for so many years. That’s the real rarity in television – the show that survives five to ten years or more.

How has the rise of streaming shows complicated matters?

I don’t look at streaming as a complication. It’s just an alternate platform – just like cable TV was an alternate platform to network TV all those years ago – and resulted in an explosion of new content. I think streaming reality shows look and feel just like linear reality shows. They are produced by the same people and watched by the same people. They have resulted in another explosion of new content, but that just means more opportunity for us producers and for the audience. I believe in the wisdom of the audience. If you are worth their time, they will find you regardless of your platform.

With RuPaul having two different but similarly named shows in contention in different catagories, do you think it’s difficult for voters to identify which show they are voting on?

I hope not. Of course “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race Untucked” are two completely different shows. They are both great, but they are in different categories for a reason. You could make a case that there could be voter confusion between “Below Deck Mediterranean” – which is nominated this year – and the other “Below Deck” franchises which are not. Hopefully, everyone watches and is familiar with the show they are actually voting for.

(Photo: Captain Sandy Yawn — Laurent Basset/Bravo)
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AWARDS CIRCUIT COLUMN: TV Movie Emmy Noms Are Nonsensical This Year — But This Category Has a Long History of Unusual Choices

Think this year’s outstanding TV movie category is a bit weird? It’s always been a category with an identity problem. Flash back for a moment to 1972, the year that the ABC TV movie “Brian’s Song” won five Emmys. “Brian’s Song” is considered one of the seminal TV movies of all time, a tear-jerker starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams about Chicago Bears player Brian Piccolo (Caan), who discovered he had cancer soon after turning pro.

Nominated for 11 Emmys overall, “Brian’s Song” was so popular, and so successful, that it helped put the ABC “Movie of the Week,” as the franchise was called, front and center — cementing the TV movie as a network staple. The “movie of the week” idea was so groundbreaking that the entire industry continued to call TV movies “MOWs” long after ABC had ditched the name.

But there was no TV movie category then, and “Brian’s Song’s” biggest Emmy victory was for “outstanding single program — drama or comedy.” The program bested a now iconic episode of “All in the Family” (“Sammy’s Visit,” wherein Sammy Davis Jr. stops by and kisses Archie Bunker on the cheek, to the audience’s delight); as well as a “Hallmark Hall of Fame” installment; an episode of “Masterpiece Theatre’s” “Elizabeth R”; and one of the BBC’s “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” plays, which, believe it or not, ran on CBS that year.

The next year, the category morphed into “outstanding drama/ comedy special.” It wasn’t until 1992 that it became “outstanding made-for-TV movie,” and yet even that year, confusion reigned: Two of the nominees were two-hour pilots — for ABC’s “Homefront” and NBC’s “I’ll Fly Away.” (NBC’s “Miss Rose White” won that year.)

The real TV movie revolution began in 1993, when HBO won for the first time in the category, via a tie for “Barbarians at the Gate” and “Stalin.” The pay cabler dominated the category until 2015, losing only three times during that period, to ABC (2000), TNT (2003) and PBS (2011).

PBS’ win was another fluke: Due to the virtual disappearance of miniseries in primetime, the TV Academy decided to merge outstanding TV movie and outstanding miniseries into one. At the time, “Downton Abbey” was supposed to be a one-and-done “Masterpiece Theatre” entry, and much to the chagrin of competitors, “Downton” won the category before returning the following year in the drama race.

HBO’s TV movie streak ended for good in 2016, when PBS won for “Sherlock: The Abominable Ride,” followed by three consecutive wins for Netflix’s “Black Mirror.” There was plenty of hand-wringing over the victories for “San Junipero,” “USS Callister” and “Bandersnatch,” as the first two were technically episodes of a full “Black Mirror” season. In an attempt to resolve the problem, the Academy added a 75-minute time requirement for “TV movies,” before ultimately moving anthologies to the limited series field.

The real issue facing the TV movie category now is the lack of what were considered MOWs in the first place. The genre fell out of favor as programmers in both cable and the streaming world embraced limited series — where you can get more return on your investment versus a one-time movie. And now, in the streaming age, it’s harder to tell what was meant to be a TV movie versus a film that was originally intended as a theatrical release but then kicked to a streamer.

Read more here.
‘The Daily Show With Trevor Noah’ Launches ‘In the Footsteps of the Freedomsurrection: A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Jan. 6’ (EXCLUSIVE)
BreAnna Bell writes:

“The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” is partnering with VoiceMap to launch an interactive self-guided walking tour aiming to take guests on a journey through the events of the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington D.C., Comedy Central announced last Wednesday.

“In the Footsteps of the Freedomsurrection” will allow listeners to trace the exact route taken by the insurrectionists on January 6th to revisit the events that occurred before, during and after the historic day. Beginning near the White House, the tour promises to take guests down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, following in the footsteps of the people who marched in support of keeping former President Donald Trump in office.

As a follow up to its “Heroes of Freedomsurrection” installation –– “The Daily Show’s” collection of monuments paying “tribute” to the “heroes” most responsible for inciting the Capitol riots –– the new excursion will use VoiceMap’s technology to recapture the history of the insurrection for Washington, DC visitors.

Read more here.
The Husband-and-Wife Duo Behind ‘The Amazing Race’ Reveal Where They Store All Those Emmys

“The Amazing Race” still holds the record for most wins in the competition category, with 10 altogether starting in 2003, the year the category launched, to its most recent win in 2014. That means married producers Elise Doganieri and Bertram Van Munster together have 20 statues, which got us curious: Where do you put all that hardware? The duo invited us to their home to find out, and it turns out they’re very tastefully displayed on shelves in a living area.

“The first win, 2003, was so nerve-wracking, that I almost didn’t want to go on stage,” Van Munster says. “I was almost hop- ing we wouldn’t win so I didn’t have to go on stage. I was so nervous to walk up there. It was a blur, you looked and Steven Spielberg was sitting right there!”

Adds Doganieri: “We just didn’t think we’re going to win. So we were like, this is going to be a fun party, we’ll go and we’ll see who wins and it’s not going to be us. So when they said, ‘The Amazing Race,’ we all just sat there.”

Over the years, even as “Race” became a perennial nominee and frequent winner, Doganieri says those butterflies remained. “I get nauseous in my stomach when that category comes up,” she says. “You just get like this feeling, you’re going to wait to hear some crazy news. You don’t know if it’s going to be good news or bad news.”

The couple is particularly proud of this nominated season, which began production right before the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Amazing Race” was among the first productions to shut down in February 2020 as word spread of the virus — and then picked up again, under very different circumstances — 19 months later.

“We had to pull the plug,” Van Munster says. “I thought, in six weeks we’ll be back. Little did we know. I was sitting at home very depressed.”

Van Munster and Doganieri adjusted the show by adding a chartered plane, abbreviated routes and strict testing protocols — actions they have continued with the show’s upcoming 34th season — and another set to embark after that.

“We don’t do ‘The Amazing Race’ for the Emmys, we do it because we’re passionate about making the show,” Doganieri says. “We’re proving that there’s still goodness and great people out there, and that the world is still a beautiful place. And when we’re not filming it, we go through withdrawals. Honestly, Bert’s sitting at home, asking, ‘When can we get back on an airplane?’”

Read more here.

(Photo: Dan Doperalski/Variety)
Download: Your Very Own ‘The World According to Jeff Goldblum’ Coloring Book

Nat Geo’s “The World According to Jeff Goldblum,” nominated for outstanding hosted nonfiction series or special, returned for a Season 2 as Goldblum explored many more topics — which you can now color. Click here to download and print out your own coloring book highlighting the topics and objects that Goldblum uncovered in this latest string of episodes.
ON THE CIRCUIT: ‘Squid Game’ Red Light/Green Light Doll Younghee Tours Los Angeles, and More

Netflix took Younghee, the “Squid Game” Red Light/Green Light Doll, all around Los Angeles recently — including a stop at Hollywood and Highland. The steps from “Squid Game” were surrounded by sayings from the cast of the series; and Youghee on the corner of Hollywood and Highland surrounded by pink guards. The doll’s eyes even moved and head spun each time the light turned red.

Later, Netflix re-created the full “Squid Game” staircase for visitors to walk through; Youghee was also available here for a photo opp.

The “Squid Game” experience also icluded street teams — featuring the pink guards — at Santa Monica Pier, 3rd Street Promenade, Rodeo Drive, Abbot Kinney, Fairfax Ave/3rd and Melrose, Hollywood & Vine, Ventura Blvd. Alfred’s Coffee (Studio City) and Westfield Fashion Square (Sherman Oaks).

Speaking of “Squid Game,” Netflix installed hot pink spray-painted stencil art across more than 50 locations around Los Angeles with the doll outline and quotes about the humanity and reality aspect of the series.

National Geographic Documentary Films’ “We Feed People” food trucks passed out free tacos from the Border Grill truck in honor of the Emmy-nominated doc. Hungry folks who found the trucks were also given information on the film along with details on how to donate to José Andrés’ groundbreaking non-profit organization, World Central Kitchen. (Photo: Frank Micelotta/Picture Group for National Geographic)

ABC’s “Abbott Elementary” is on the campaign trail with these goodies, including pins, a bag and coffee thermos — just in time for a new school year!

I want to see all of you slapping this “MAYHEM” temporary tattoo on your stomachs, just like the one and only Tommy Lee. To support “Pam & Tommy,” Hulu sent these tatts, along with drum sticks.

Hulu has been busy! The streamer also launched a pop up activation in New York over the weekend, timed to the Season 2 finale of “Only Murders in the Building.” Guests found themselves in Third Arm Gallery featuring Bunny’s painting, a Sculpture Court with Mabel’s chopped statue and other key elements from the first few episodes of the series. Secret passageways led to different elements of the experience, including the walls of The Arconia, the mural in Mabel’s apartment. As consumers make their way to the restroom, key elements from Mabel and Theo’s adventure on Coney Island to find glitter guy, and then Charles’ foyer, kitchen, and then the “Bloody Mabel” wall. Oliver’s theatrical living room, with various easter eggs for attendees to discover, was also included — with the tour ending at the Pickle Diner, where Bunny spent her last day alive.‘
Abbott Elementary,’ ‘Ozark,’ ‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’ Among AAFCA TV Honors Awards Recipients (Winners List)

The African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) held its 4th annual AAFCA Awards last week in Los Angeles at the SLS Hotel. Among the winners: “Abbott Elementary” won for best TV comedy and the show’s creator/writer/producer, Quinta Brunson won for breakout star, Netflix’s “Ozark” took home best TV drama and Peacock’s “Bel-Air” won for best new show.

Among attendees, Robin Thede — the creator, writer, executive producer of HBO’s “A Black Lady Sketch Show” accepted the award for best writing. HBO’s “Insecure” was given the Impact Award, with star Yvonne Orji accepting the award on the show’s behalf.

As previously announced, AAFCA bestowed special achievement honors on industry leaders including Universal Studio Group Chairman Pearlena Igbokwe, who received the Ashley Boone Award; Alex Kurtzman, who received AAFCA’s Ally Award, and AAFCA’s Inclusion Award went to the Warner Bros. Television Group.

Prsenters included Tichina Arnold (“The Neighborhood”), Nicoo Annan and Brandee Evans (“P-Valley”), Laz Alonso (“The Boys”), Dondre WhitfieldThomas Jones (“Johnson”), Tami Roman (“The Ms. Pat Show”), Kim Coles (“Finding Happy”), Wayne Brady (“Let’s Make a Deal”) and Emayatzy Corinealdi (“Reasonable Doubt”).

Here are the 2022 AAFCA TV Honors winners:

BEST TV COMEDY – “Abbott Elementary” (ABC)
BEST TV DRAMA – “Ozark” (Netflix)
BEST NEW SHOW – “Bel-Air” (Peacock)
BEST DOCUMENTARY – “Black and Missing” (HBO)
BEST LIMITED SERIES/SPECIAL – “Women of the Movement” (ABC)
BREAKOUT STAR – Quinta Brunson
BEST ENSEMBLE [Tie] – “Swagger” (Apple TV+) & “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” (HBO)
BEST WRITING – “A Black Lady Sketch Show” (HBO)
BEST TV DIRECTING – Salli Richardson, The Gilded Age (HBO)
BEST TV ACTING (Female) – Patina Miller, “Power Book III: Raising Kanan” (Starz)
BEST TV ACTING (Male) – Courtney B. Vance, “61st Street” (AMC)
IMPACT AWARD – “Insecure” (HBO)

(Photo: Sheri Determan)
VARIETY COVER: Ready or Not, Here Comes Web3: How the Internet’s Next Evolution Is Shaping Hollywood’s Future

Cynthia Littleton dives into a topic that I still haven’t been able to get my arms around. Web3 — what is it? Why, as an old dog, do I need to learn new tricks? Why isn’t it called “W3b”? Cynthia doesn’t answer that last one, but she does give you a really good, thorough primer on what you need to know, and how it will impact the entertainment biz:

Stoner Cats, CryptoPunks and Bored Apes. Blockchains and metaverses. Crypto-currencies and non-fungible tokens.

Over the past 12 months, as the world has eased out of pandemic crisis mode, the pop culture-verse and the Wall Street-verse have been rife with discourse and deal-making around a belief in the revolutionary potential of mind-bendingly complicated, internet-enabled new systems of communication, content creation, supply-chain management, legal documentation and banking. This emerging world has a nomenclature all its own — the digital version of a velvet rope — but in general it refers to technologies and wildly complex computer processing applications (also referred to as data mining) that fall under the broad heading of “Web3.”

Yet — simply put — what is Web3? And perhaps just as important, why did seemingly everyone in entertainment, finance, media and law start talking about it at cocktail parties and mixers as those trappings of pre-pandemic life came back into play? The answer is the only thing that is clear about the world of Web3: Money.

“I started to pay attention to the NFT business in the midst of the pandemic,” says Chris Jacquemin, WME partner and the agency’s head of digital strategy. “By the end of 2020, the total market revenue for NFTs was $300 million. One year later, it was a $41 billion business.”

But back to the what-is-it question. The term “Web3” broadly refers to the next major evolution of the internet communication that is designed to combat the monopoly power wielded by Big Tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, Google and Twitter.

Web1 was learning how to send and receive email via CompuServe and AOL accounts during the Clinton administration. Web2 was building out the World Wide Web, audio and video streaming capabilities and social media platforms.

As for Web3: Paul Sweeting, founder of Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm Concurrent Media Strategies, describes it in his recent VIP+ report, “Web3 Demystified,” as “a shorthand for evoking an intersecting and overlapping set of ideas and technologies that its proponents hope will make up the next iteration of the internet. At the center of that Venn diagram is the notion of a World Wide Web built on decentralized protocols such as blockchain rather than on the massive, centralized platforms and walled gardens running on the proprietary servers that dominate today’s Web2 version.”

For the creative community, the capabilities enabled by Web3 tech will pave the way for artists to be paid for their work directly from individuals, which in theory will remove the need for middle layers of production and distribution. The digital ledgers created by the impossible-to-replicate computations that form the blockchain will be the ultimate arbiter of who owns what — and they create a digital string that will theoretically allow artists to receive royalty fees tied to any sale of their assets for all time.

Go here to read more.
Television Academy to Hold an Industry-Wide Summit on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion This December

The Television Academy will launch its first-ever industry-wide DEI summit later this year, which comes as the org also releases its latest report on diversity, equity and inclusion practices throughout the industry.

The summit, which will take place Dec. 1, will target DEI professionals in the industry – “to meet, network, share ideas and collaborate to work towards a more inclusive and equitable industry, increasing the visibility, equity and power for those marginalized and underrepresented,” according to the Academy.

The report is part of the TV Academy’s efforts, first announced in March 2021, to evaluate the organization’s inclusion and representation practices. That included signing a deal with diversity consulting firm ReadySet, which started out with a series of membership, leadership and staff surveys to assess staff and member composition, attitudes and perceptions regarding DEI, opportunities for improvement, and expansion of current practices.

The results of that initial study, focused on the Academy, were revealed in December and led to, among other things, the addition a senior executive in its membership department to focus on driving new member outreach and community engagement as part of its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

Now, as an offshoot of that 2021 survey, the TV Academy and Ready Set has revealed more data, focused on the industry at large. Read the study here.
For Cherien Dabis, the Emmy-Nominated Palestinian American Director of ‘Only Murders in the Building,’ Storytelling Is a Matter of Survival

Cherien Dabis is a critically acclaimed and award winning Palestinian American film and television director, writer, and actor dedicated to telling complex authentic stories about under and misrepresented communities. Dabis is nominated for directing the “Only Murders in the Building” episode “The Boy From 6B.” Dabis wrote an essay for Variety about the nod; here’s an excerpt:

When I was offered the opportunity to direct the “Only Murders in the Building” episode “The Boy From 6B,” which focuses on the story of a deaf character, I knew instantly that I had to do it. It was precisely the kind of story that excites me, a story told from a point of view we rarely get to see, portraying a character from a community that’s underrepresented and misrepresented. I’ve built my career upon telling stories about marginalized communities, and by doing so, I’ve attempted to push us all out of the margins and into the center. Why? Because I know all too well the pain of misrepresentation.

During the first Gulf War, my Palestinian Jordanian immigrant family was so egregiously discriminated against in small-town Ohio that not only did we receive death threats on a daily basis, but the Secret Service came to my high school to investigate a rumor that my 17-year-old sister had threatened to kill the president. At the tender age of 14, I was forced to ask myself why our friends and neighbors would so suddenly and swiftly turn on us. What on Earth made them think that we were somehow a threat? That’s when I discovered the power of film and television.

I began to study the ways in which we Arabs were dangerously misrepresented, portrayed as villains, terrorists and jihadists — and that’s if we were represented at all. There was a complete dearth of any remotely authentic portrayal. I vowed to change that. My intimate, formative experience of the consequences of careless and harmful portrayals of communities like my own drove me to pursue a film and television career based upon the need for authentic representation. Not only of my community, but of all marginalized communities.

Straight out of film school, I cut my teeth as a writer and producer on three seasons of Showtime’s landmark series “The L Word,” the first-ever show to center LGBTQ+ characters, especially women. From there, I made my first feature “Amreeka,” a drama-comedy which centered a Palestinian American immigrant family. It was the first Arab American film to get major theatrical distribution, and the most-screened Arab-directed film in U.S. cinema history. With my second feature, “May in the Summer,” I attempted to go even more mainstream, with a romantic comedy that transported audiences to Jordan and shattered stereotypes about Arab and Arab American women. When I finally worked my way back into television, this time as a director, I sought opportunities like “Ramy,” even turning down an offer to write, direct and co-executive produce on “Homeland” (pissing some people off in the process) in order to be part of a show that was historic for my community and obviously far more authentic in its portrayal of Arabs. (For those who might not know, “Homeland” was controversial for perpetuating damaging, racist SWANA — Southwest Asian and North African — stereotypes.) Whether its BIPOC or LGBTQ+, the common thread throughout my work, is that I seek stories that center so-called marginalized communities. Because the successful representation of one group is a win for us all.

Read more here.
AWARDS CIRCUIT PODCAST: Did ‘Better Call Saul’ Get a Happy Ending? Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn Weigh In

“Better Call Saul” ended Monday night with an ending very different than the way that “Breaking Bad” concluded. No shootout, just Jimmy McGill behind bars. But as Jimmy and ex-wife Kim Wexler reconnect, in many ways it’s also a much more hopeful conclusion. But can we go as far as to call it a “happy ending?”

“I think it is,” star Bob Odenkirk tells Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast, in a bonus edition recorded Tuesday morning — just hours after the finale aired. “It’s crazy, because he’s going to jail for the rest of his life. But I absolutely consider it the best end he could have had. Because he’s at peace with himself. And he’s got her. He’s earned her love. And he knows that even though they can’t be together. He proved himself to the one person who he cared about.”

Rhea Seehorn, who joined Odenkirk for the podcast, agrees: “I mean, happy is hard to wrap your head around. But I find it hopeful and I do find it to be a positive. I do think it’s like, there is light there. And I agree with Bob, it’s about living without the burden that they both have had hanging over them their whole lives, trying to outrun what people think of them. Certainly Jimmy more than Kim, but we know Kim didn’t come from a safe, positive upbringing either. I found it to be a positive ending. And the happiest that you could be for those people.”

Odenkirk and Seehorn had joined much of the series’ cast and producers on Monday night to screen the finale in Odenkirk’s home. And the duo say it was an intense, emotional gathering.

“If you needed to hear a pin drop you were in the right room,” he says. “It was just one of the best nights of my life.” Adds Seehorn: “If we could have invited every single person we would have, but we were crammed into Bob and Naomi’s living room. So we did the best we could. It was lovely — tears, joy.”

Odenkirk and Seehorn break down the finale, including Odenkirk’s courtroom scene (which took three days to shoot), the return of “Breaking Bad” stars Betsy Brandt and Bryan Cranston, Saul’s decision to turn back into Jimmy for Kim’s benefit, and the final scene between Jimmy and Kim. Listen below!

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday and Friday.

Read more here.
Clayton Davis’ Emmy Winner Predictions: Reality Host – Will Amy Poehler’s Pending Documentary Win Give Boost for Hosting With Nick Offerman?

 Clayton Davis is putting up his early Emmy predictions. This time out, he tackles reality host:

Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman (“Making It”) – This dynamic duo was a bit of a surprise on nomination morning, but the two starlets have had a great year that included Poehler directing an Emmy-nominated documentary (“Lucy and Desi”) and Offerman’s stint in multiple programs including the Emmy-nominated “Pam & Tommy.” Will the odds of winning for the doc, assist in this category?

Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness (“Queer Eye”) – The Fab 5 have never been better, more entertaining, or more timely than the last season of Netflix’s “Queer Eye.” Is it time to finally bestow the prize on their undeniable chemistry?

Nicole Byer (“Nailed It!”) – Byer made history as the first Black woman ever to be nominated for hosting a few years ago. With a stand-up special and other hosting gigs, she continues to dominate the TV space. How much longer will the TV Academy wait until they bestow the honor upon her?

Barbara Corcoran, Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary (“Shark Tank”) – The Sharks are always bubbling near the top, and they’ve managed to nab a spot here once again. However, not the traditional hosts that the category rewards, the Sharks may need to seek love in other categories such as unstructured reality, which is easier to overcome.

Padma Lakshmi (“Top Chef”) – Lakshmi has been a staple for the Bravo hit reality series for years now, and she’s walking into voting after winning the Critics Choice Real TV Award for hosting. Could she be a dark horse waiting to unseat one of the other front-runners?

RuPaul (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”) – Last year’s winner RuPaul became the most awarded Black artist in Emmy history. With the VH1 show dominating once again, will the iconic drag queen get another pair of statuettes to go home with?

Send Me Your Questions, Comments and More!
Feel free to send your burning Emmy questions and suggestions to mschneider@variety.com, and your hot tips as well!  Thanks for reading.