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Dissecting This Year’s Emmy Nominees

What are the initial takeaways from this year’s Emmy® nominees? Are any of the major races shaken up?

The nominations for the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced this morning proving that 2017 is the year that redefines what constitutes awards-worthy television. Five new drama series made it into the race mostly from genres that would have been ignored 10 years ago. Atlanta is the only new comedy voters welcomed to the ceremony. RuPaul’s Drag Race earned a shocking eight nominations, surpassing some of the big contenders in the drama and comedy race.

The biggest takeaway in the drama races remains no matter how hard critics beg and plead sometimes voters just won’t listen. The Leftovers was almost completely shutout (with the exception of guest star Ann Dowd) and The Americans didn’t even make the cut after finally breaking in last year. Overall though, this was a great year for Outstanding Drama Series with voters redefining what a typical awards contender can be. Sci-fi shows like Westworld and Stranger Things are the two most nominated drama series with 22 and 18 nominations respectively. This Is Us proved that people still care about broadcast television when the material is good enough, earning 11 nominations including 7 acting nominations. A prestige costume drama like The Crown was looked at as a clear frontrunner in the race. The first season earned a respectable 13 nominations, but it might not be as clear of a frontrunner after missing out on some supporting performances and not meeting expectations in the craft categories.

Based solely off of succeeding expectations, The Handmaid’s Tale went from a dark horse contender to a frontrunner to win the top award. The dystopian drama earned 13 nominations including four actors, a writing nomination, and two different episodes in directing. There is clearly passion behind the series, and in our current political climate, Hulu’s first real contender is easily the most important contender. Voters already used their ballots to make a statement by including Alec Baldwin and omitting Jon Voight. As the summer progresses and anger towards the administration and its scandals grows, Hulu has the opportunity for a truly iconic campaign.

Unlike the drama races, voters mostly stuck with what they know in terms of comedy. The Outstanding Comedy Series lineup is the same as last year with the exception of Transparent left out for Atlanta. The new voting rule helped an inconsistent season of Veep earn 17 nominations, the most the comedy has ever received. Pre-nominations, there was buzz around black-ish becoming an alternative for voters that had Veep fatigue, but after another year of being forgotten by every branch besides the actors that doesn’t seem likely. Instead, shows like Atlanta and Master of None became the only other real threats to win the award. The second season of Master of None received 8 nominations including writing and sound mixing suggesting overall broad support for a show that has the passion behind it.

All season long, the focus has been on the Outstanding Limited Series race with the assumption that many of the categories would be a fight between Feud: Bette and Joan and Big Little Lies. Instead of clearing any of that up, voters opened the race and also celebrated The Night Of and the third season of Fargo. All four series over-performed in many ways, taking away any hint of a frontrunner. Feud earned 18 nominations even making room for a first-time nominee like Jackie Hoffman. Big Little Lies earned 16 nominations which is quite an achievement when compared to other contemporary limited series like The Night Manager and Olive Kitteridge. Voters made sure to make room for The Night Of which earned 13 nominations and two shocking supporting actor nominations for performances that were on no one’s radar.

Throughout the season so far, no network tried to stake their claim in the Emmy world as hard as Netflix. The streaming service spent $22 million on their FYSEE space in Los Angeles celebrating all of their hit shows. That doesn’t even cover the costs of all of their other FYC material from screeners to ads around town. In the end, the lavish campaign paid off, and the network received 91 nominations up from last year’s 54. Still, Netflix was no match for Emmy juggernaut HBO which once again was the most recognized network with 110 nominations.

Heading into nominations morning, there were a lot of questions on the effect of the new rule allowing Television Academy members to vote for as many submissions as they saw fit in any given category. As expected, this led to many ties resulting in seven nominees including in Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy. There was some concern that allowing voters to check off as many names as they pleased would lead to name checking. That might be at least partially true with nominations for Jane Fonda and Mandy Patinkin. The biggest takeaway is that it helped shows with multiple submissions breakthrough in a major way. Saturday Night Live received three Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy nominations and nine acting nominations overall. Better Call Saul earned its first directing nomination after years of submitting too many options for voters to sort through.

With so much television to sort through, it appears that voters are beginning to single out the couple of shows they see with the most buzz, binge them, and only nominate contenders from those shows. This year especially, there were very few nominees from shows outside of the major contenders, and this was particularly noticeable in the comedy races. Smaller shows like Insecure and Fleabag weren’t able to pick up a single nomination in any category.

Now that nominations are announced, we are halfway through the Emmy season. Now, the real fun begins. It will be curious to see what happens now that voters have all summer to catch up on shows they might have missed and what will happen now that Netflix and HBO will be squaring off head to head in the final round of voting.

What were your biggest takeaways from this year’s nominees?