The major guild awards are all announced. What shows have gained an upper hand from the various voting guilds? Jalal Haddad analyzes the recent winners.
Last weekend the guild awards season wrapped up with the WGA awards, and some shows are beginning to emerge as the frontrunners of the year, especially for best comedy and drama series. This time last year, Game of Thrones and Veep gained momentum at the guild awards, and no other shows could beat them once Emmy season began. These shows boast the most momentum heading into spring.
Veep continued racking up awards from the directing and editing guilds as well as another SAG award for Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It’s hard to imagine the show not entering the Emmy race as the clear frontrunner for its upcoming final season, but surprisingly a clear alternative has emerged with Donald Glover’s Atlanta. The FX comedy won the top comedy award at the PGAs as well as two WGA awards for best comedy series and best new series. Months ago Atlanta seemed too edgy to be embraced by Emmy voters, but after massive support from the Golden Globes, the critics, and various guilds, the auteur-driven comedy seems likely to go head to head against Veep in multiple races including directing and writing.
A big part of being nominated for and winning a directing or writing prize at the Emmys is strategy. Episode selection often proves critical in receiving that coveted nominations. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s WGA win for an individual comedic episode only further proves that element of the race. WGA voters singled out the episode “Kimmy Goes on a Playdate!” as the best comedic episode of 2016, and surprisingly it wasn’t even the Tina Fey penned one. This proves that, if Netflix stopped submitting six or seven Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episodes in a given season, the show might just earn its first writing nomination.
Other than multiple awards for Veep and Atlanta, the other major comedies failed to earn recognition throughout the winter awards season. Past favorites like Transparent, Silicon Valley, and Black-ish all repeatedly lost various awards. Surprisingly Modern Family continued its streak at the Cinema Audio Society Awards while a string of dramedies (Orange is the New Black, Shameless, Mozart in the Jungle) won random awards here and there. In the end none of them are going to make a dent in the major comedy series races.
When HBO announced that Game of Thrones was going into a yearlong hiatus, the Emmy race for best drama series became its most unpredictable since before the days of Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Guild awards season is basically over, and the most unlikely of frontrunners has emerged, Netflix’s Stranger Things. Both the Producers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild awarded the sci-fi show top honors – very telling seeing as the PGA award has matched up with the Emmy choice twelve of the past sixteen years. Now that the Emmys are decided on a wide scale Academy vote as opposed to a blue ribbon panel, it makes sense that a cultural phenomenon like Stranger Things picks up steam. It may not have the critical appeal like past winners, but it dominated popular culture all of last summer. As with the Oscars, voters seem to be in the mood for something fun and exciting.
Last weekend, the Writers Guild singled out This Is Us’s “The Trip” as the best dramatic episode of 2016, proving that the family network drama is popular and acclaimed enough to go head to head with any premium or streaming network show. Singling out “The Trip” also shows that the show is at its most powerful when highlighting Sterling K. Brown’s Randall. If NBC wants to ensure This Is Us becomes a major Emmy player, they might want to consider sending every voter screeners of the episode as well as last week’s “Memphis.”
The Crown won everything it was expected to including two SAG awards, a Costume Designer’s Guild award, and a bunch of Golden Globes. It proves that the British period drama will fill the void left by the end of Downton Abbey. Now that Claire Foy has swept every actress award, she has also become the frontrunner in the best actress race, especially with Maslany out of contention this year and Viola Davis losing steam. The Americans won the top WGA award hinting that the show’s breakthrough at the Emmys last year wasn’t a fluke.
HBO might want to reconsider a strong campaign for Westworld, the sweeping sci-fi epic that was supposed to be the alternative in a year without Game of Thrones. The Westworld team went home empty handed at the PGA, DGA, SAG, WGA, ACE, and even the Golden Globes, although it did win a couple of awards for makeup and art direction. At the rate, Westworld doesn’t appear to resonate with voters, and it might only be a major contender to win in the craft categories.
Talking about the limited series race at this point is basically futile since the biggest titles haven’t even premiered yet. It is worth noting that HBO’s The Night Of won a few guild awards over the past couple of weeks including a DGA award as well as an ACE Eddie. It’s already been seven months since the crime series premiered, and there was initially some concern that there would be a case of “out of sight out of mind” when it came to Emmy voters filling out their ballots. If the guilds are any indicator, The Night Of will remain a big part of the conversation even up against juggernauts like Big Little Lies, Feud, and the third season of Fargo.
Readers, what were your takeaways from the guild awards? Is Stranger Things unbeatable in drama series? Will The Night Of be remembered nearly a year after it premiered?