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The Biggest Surprises From The 2018 Emmy Nominating Ballots

Yesterday marked the first day of voting for the 2018 Primetime Emmy Awards and for the next two weeks voters will be making filling out their ballots to determine this year’s nominees. The great thing about the Emmys is that they make their nominating ballots available to the public once voting begins. The nominating ballots show us the final decisions on category placement as well as specific writing and directing submissions and because of that they can be a huge indicator of what’s to come once the nominations are announced.

For the most part this is a big year in terms of Emmy submissions. A record 728 programs were submitted for consideration (up 18 from last year) and an astounding 2,372 performers were submitted (92 more than last year). With literally thousands of performances and programs to sort through these are some of the biggest surprises with this year’s submissions.

Notable Submissions

Ten years in the Outstanding Host for a Reality Program category is shaping up to be one of the more interesting categories at the Emmys with an eclectic group of contenders. The reigning winner for the past two years, RuPaul, will certainly be back. The big surprise however (and RuPaul’s biggest competition) is that Netflix submitted the fab five from the newest edition of Queer Eye for consideration. The reality show has become one of the most well-liked new shows of the season and the winning combination of the five hosts might be unstoppable this year at the Emmys.

Black Mirror made history last year by entering the Outstanding TV Movie race last year as an episodic anthology series. The Netflix series was able to enter the category by submitting a single episode and this year they wisely submitted the U.S.S. Callister installment. This year Amazon has their own episodic anthology series Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams however the streaming service has decided to submit multiple installments, The Commuter and Kill All Others.

The other strategic decision Amazon Prime made this year in their submission choices was to submit their cancelled drama series The Last Tycoon as a limited series. Other networks have tried this in the past with recently cancelled shows but so far no show has had any luck.

Over in the Outstanding Variety Special (Live) category the biggest surprise was the omission of the 71st Annual Tony Awards. The Tony Awards ceremonies are nominated every year and the ceremony is just won last year. The likely factor in their decision not to submit probably has to do with the fact that Kevin Spacey was last year’s host and the producers will want to avoid any controversy.

This year Netflix made the decision to submit the second season of their TV adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events in the Outstanding Children’s Program category. Last year the streaming service submitted the show as a comedy only for it to be shut out except for a single nod for its original score.

The big news coming over in the acting categories is that Anthony Hopkins will indeed be back on the ballots after receiving a Lead Actor nomination for the first season of Westworld. This year however because of his reduced screen time and number of episodes Hopkins will be submitted in the supporting actor category. This decision came as a surprise to a lot of people especially those not caught up on the second season who had no idea that the Oscar winner would even be making a return.

Although Suits was never a show that Emmy voters paid any attention to it is worth noting that Meghan Markle was submitted in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category. Her chances of a nomination are slim to none but as far as we can tell Markle is the first member of the royal family to be submitted for an Emmy.

(Photo: NBC)
Writing & Directing Submissions 

In the writing and directing categories the submission choices are major factors in determining the nominees. The branches vote on specific episodes and even though the writers aren’t provided with names the directors have the added benefit of being provided the directors for each submission. One of the biggest indicators in predicting what shows might make it into the writing and directing categories is looking at how many episodes each show submitted. Shows that only submit one or two episodes have historically had a much easier success rate at earning a nomination for their creative teams while shows that submit 4+ episodes on a given category tend to risk vote splitting unless there is an obvious standout.

Last year the This Is Us team submitted an incredible amount of episodes (7-8) and shut themselves out of receiving any writing or directing nominations. This year they were much more strategic in their submissions and only submitted two episodes in each category. One of the episodes they did submit was the Super Bowl episode focused on Jack’s death which is bound to be a popular choice with voters.

Overall most shows were much more strategic this year with the number of episodes they submitted. In fact a majority of the major contenders only submitted one or two episodes. Some of the major shows that submitted 4+ episodes for consideration that might be at risk of being shut out include Westworld, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Will & Grace (writing), Transparent (writing), Homeland, and Curb Your Enthusiasm (directing).

Because the directors names are on the ballot next to actual episodes certain well known directors are name-checked year after year. Gail Mancuso who has won several times for directing Modern Family is on the ballot this year for directing an episode of Roseanne.

The directors branch often times makes room for famous film directors and this year there are plenty of options. Spike Lee is the most high-profile name submitted in the comedy category for the television adaptation of She’s Gotta Have It while the drama category includes Oscar nominees like David Fincher (Mindhunter), Danny Boyle (Trust), and Stephen Daldry (The Crown). The Limited Series/TV Movie race includes a long list of well-respected names including Dee Rees, David Lynch, Steven Soderbergh, and Jane Campion. The biggest name to look out for is the late Jonathan Demme who directed Netflix’s Seven Seconds.