Jalal Haddad looks at how the DGA awards and the Super Bowl This Is Us episode affect the 2018 Primetime Emmys. He also takes a quick look at a couple of left field limited series contenders.
Two major events happened in the entertainment industry this week. First the Directors Guild announced their picks for the best of 2017 giving clarity to the upcoming Oscar race, a major boost for Guillermo Del Toro, and a couple of clues about the 2018 Emmys. More importantly after an agonizing year and a half This Is Us finally revealed just how Jack Pearson died the night of the fire. Even more exciting is the fact that the fan favorite show gave a major boost to Mandy Moore’s Emmy campaign after voters unfairly snubbed her last year.
The seventh season of Veep continued its strong guild showing with a third consecutive DGA award in the comedy race, making the eventual Emmy race even more wide open. Beth McCarthy-Miller won her fourth DGA award (out of 12 nominations) for the episode “Chicklet” – an episode Emmy voters didn’t even nominate. Since Veep won’t be eligible at the upcoming Emmys it doesn’t say much for the comedy races, but it does hint that ten-time Emmy nominee Beth McCarthy-Miller might be popular enough for a surprise nomination. She is quickly becoming the ‘Roger Deakins’ of the branch, and if voters see her name on the ballot they might rally behind her for a nomination.
In the drama category Reed Morano easily won her first DGA award after she won the Emmy last summer. Previously Game of Thrones had won the category twice but this year three action-packed episodes were nominated and likely split the vote pretty evenly. This is yet another win for The Handmaid’s Tale making the second season the one to beat at the Emmys.
A Major Third Contender Emerges in the Lead Actress Race
After that surprise SAG ensemble win, there is no doubt that actors love This Is Us. Last year the ensemble by far received the most nominations with seven total nods. For a show that actors love, they shockingly snubbed the only actor that appeared in all four timelines, Mandy Moore. Matriarch Rebecca is the only character not given the relief of multiple actors. Instead Moore has to plot out Rebecca through multiple sections of her life and deal with unfortunate prosthetics.
The long anticipated Super Bowl episode finally answered every question about Jack Pearson’s death, but the real spotlight was on Rebecca. Audiences never saw his death (besides a reflection of the aftermath) and instead only saw Rebecca’s reactions through just about every stage of grief. That single scene from the first bite of the chocolate bar to the last tear was Emmy worthy, but as the next two episodes progressed, Moore’s performance proved she is the real backbone of the show.
For whatever reason voters clearly clung to some bias against the former pop star and chose to snub her last year, but there is no doubt that this year she is a major Emmy contender. Her biggest obstacle is that she is going up against eight beloved performances that have been nominated in the past two years. If she is able to receive her first career nomination there is a good chance she becomes a major dark horse contender in a tight race between Foy and Moss.
A Wide Open Limited Series Race
For the past five years the best of TV has been in the Outstanding Limited Series category, so it only makes sense that the category is going through a seemingly underwhelming year. So far we have yet to see the next Big Little Lies or People v. OJ Simpson.
Instead a group of shows have cropped up that might capture the attention of voters even if they’ve failed to become pop culture sensations. A couple of weeks ago HBO aired the social media interactive Mosaic. TNT premiered the period crime drama The Alienist. Even the fledgling Paramount Network has Waco.
None of these three shows have commanded attention like nominees in the past. They are all moderately successful in terms of ratings but have troubling Metacritic scores. The Alienist has a score of 61, Mosaic has a score of 73, and Waco unfortunately has a critical rating of 56. In the past three years 12/15 of the nominees have had a Metacritic score in the 80s or 90s. Only one nominee had a score in the 70s which was surprisingly Big Little Lies (75). Only two were in the 60s, Genius (65) and American Horror Story: Freak Show (69). Only two shows had a score as low as Mosaic, and if Waco and The Alienist were nominated they would be by far the worst received limited series by critics.
Still, all three shows have aspects that might appeal to voters. HBO’s Mosaic is created by Steven Soderbergh who has received surprise nominations in the past. Voters might also want to reward an innovative show that tries to engage audiences across multiple platforms. The Alienist is strong ratings wise and might be a strong contender across various tech branches. Waco has a lot to overcome with poor reviews from critics, but the modern western based off of a true story has the possibility of captivating audiences that don’t necessarily pay attention to critics. On top of that Waco has a great cast with Michael Shannon, Andrea Riseborough, John Leguizamo, and Taylor Kitsch.
A lot can change between now and when voters start paying close attention but no network is better at selling a show to voters than HBO. If voters are sold on the interactive aspect of the viewing platforms it has the potential of becoming a possible contender in the Outstanding Limited Series race. Waco also has the possibility of becoming a sleeper hit, and even though the network is brand new, Paramount is not and knows how to connect with voters.