After months of anticipation, the 2019 Emmy Nominations are finally here and they are surprisingly… GREAT. For the first time, it seemed like everyone had more good things to say than negative. New shows were welcomed with open arms and voters were finally open to shaking up stale categories. On top of that many of the categories are much more competitive than first anticipated. So what are the biggest takeaways? And how many times can are we going to mention Schitt’s Creek leading up to the ceremony?
Well the results are in and it’s official: Game of Thrones is being coroneted with one hell of a goodbye. The final season was celebrated with a record-breaking 32 nominations, well above the previous record set by NYPD Blue. Even with a season that was met with angry petitions from fans Game of Thrones completely over-performed in every way. Ten members from the cast were singled out including the first two lead nominations and four first-time nominees. All three directing submissions were nominated. In fact, the final season was nominated by just about every branch, and extensions of the show including an HBO documentary and the unaffiliated Gay of Thrones were also nominated. The only question now is whether or not that divisiveness will block it from sweeping one last time.
Helping Game of Thrones, even more, is the fact that no clear alternative emerged. Emmy voters have plenty of favorite shows including drama nominees Killing Eve, Better Call Saul, This Is Us, and Ozark. But in the end, they all tied with 9 nominations each. Last winter’s SAG nominations proved that actors love This is Us and Ozark while they also embraced the overall ensembles of Killing Eve and Better Call Saul.
In fact, it was from many of the big dramas that gave us the biggest surprises. Gwendoline Christine and Alfie Allen were able to pull of first-time nominations after submitting themselves. Giancarlo Esposito is back in the supporting actor race for the first time since Breaking Bad. Mandy Moore is FINALLY nominated for This Is Us and fan-favorite Chris Sullivan was nominated as well. Fiona Shaw was nominated for Killing Eve and a guest actress in a comedy nomination for Fleabag.
Maybe the most surprising trend in this year’s drama nominations was the fact that the second-highest tally belonged to The Handmaid’s Tale for a few hangover episodes. Overall it was nominated for 11 Emmys including recognition for acting, writing, directing, and a handful of craft awards boosting its two-season total to 44 nominations. This is largely uncharted territory at the Emmys and if it works out well we might see more of this in the future.
The complete takeover by Game of Thrones led to a couple of surprising omissions and snubs. This Is Us rebounded this year but the MVP of the season, Susan Kelechi Watson, was left out even though everyone around her was nominated. Better Call Saul grew from two to four acting nominations but they couldn’t find room for Rhea Seehorn in the supporting actress race. Succession did well in various branches but the family ensemble was forgotten this year. The two women at the center of Pose were also snubbed.
Above all else, the two most shocking omissions were Richard Madden and Homecoming entirely. Even though Richard Madden was in just about every scene of Bodyguard and it was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series the actor’s branch couldn’t be bothered to find room for him in the lead actor race. They also completely forgot about Amazon Prime’s Homecoming even though many were predicting Oscar winner Julia Roberts and Emmy winner Bobby Cannavale. It only received a single cinematography nod.
Heading into nominations most of us were completely dismissive of the average voter’s ability to embrace the rapidly changing television landscape. We’ve come to expect the same couple shows to be nominated and half of the supporting slots to be taken up by the SNL cast. That’s what made this year even more exciting. Voters surprisingly abandoned their old habits and brought in a couple of new shows and a handful of cult favorites. On top of all that six of the seven nominees heavily feature women. Four shows are first time nominees.
Early on it was assumed that the 2019 Emmys would be an easy victory lap for the final season of Veep after winning for its last three seasons. Instead, it saw its nomination total cut nearly in half to nine and was shockingly forgotten in the directing category. This is probably a sign that voters are ready to award new shows and for the very first time Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is vulnerable.
Instead, it seems like voters are looking towards last year’s winner The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Barry. With 20 nominations The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the second most nominated show of the year and actors really like it. On the other hand, the second season was left out of the writing category after winning last year. Barry over-performed with 17 nominations and is one of two comedies to land directing and writing nominations. On top of that it went from two acting nominations to five bringing in Anthony Carrigan, Sarah Goldberg, and Stephen Root.
Voters also went all out for Fleabag, the single best-reviewed show of the year. On top of Phoebe Waller-Bridge being singled out for acting, writing, and producing the show was nominated in the directing category and the rest of the female ensemble was celebrated as well. Right now it seems like Fleabag can easily go from the little show that could all the way to the top prize.
Russian Doll was nominated for 12 Emmys across a wide range of branches which is a good sign that voters are ready to embrace high-concept comedies that take big risks.
At the end of the day, no nominations meant more to ADTV than the four nominations for the fifth season of Schitt’s Creek. We’ve championed the comedy since its first season celebrating the Rose family, Catherine O’Hara’s career-defining performance, and Dan Levy as the next big voice in television.
There was also a major overhaul in the comedy categories – a genre that voters are notorious for nominating the same shows year after year. Black-Ish, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and GLOW were kicked out of the comedy lineup. Lead Actress was given a major shakeup with veteran actors perennial nominees Lily Tomlin, Allison Janney, Pamela Adlon, and Tracee Ellis Ross being left out. William H. Macy was conveniently forgotten in the year of his family’s legal scandal. Voters finally got over their obsession with the cast of SNL and only nominated Kate McKinnon.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Outstanding Comedy Series race this year was the exclusion of The Kominsky Method. While it received two acting nominations and recognition for sound mixing it was left out of the series, writing, and directing categories. After its success at the Golden Globe awards, many thought this would be the return of Chuck Lorre at the Emmys especially since it focused on the industry itself and featured two Oscar winners.
Netflix is Impacting the Emmys in More Ways Than One
The playful rivalry in the media between HBO and Netflix has played out again. HBO is back as the most nominated network of the year with 137 total nominations (up 29 from last year). Netflix has fallen to second place with 117 nominations (up five from last year). But Netflix has one thing to brag about that HBO can’t: it’s built in boost for other shows through streaming syndication.
For years now Schitt’s Creek and The Good Place have gone largely ignored by awards groups even though they are two of the most popular comedies online. That changed this year when both shows made their way into the Outstanding Comedy Series race over former favorites as well as plenty of other categories including acting, writing, and costume. An argument can easily be made that as the shows progressed and became available on Netflix a larger audience was finally able to catchup with the online buzz.
This could be a game-changer for a lot of smaller shows. The streaming syndication gave Schitt’s Creek a much wider audience and these nominations have now put POPTV on the map in a major way. Now that both comedies are about to enter their final seasons in 2020 the added visibility could help them pull off a win.
In the future, it will be interesting to see how streaming networks have a surprise benefit for other networks. Arguments can be made that Breaking Bad and The Americans also benefited.
Possibly the most exciting news to come out of the limited series categories is the fact there are a handful of favorites vying for the top awards. Over the past couple of years, voters have singled out a single show and showered it with wins whether it be American Crime Story, Olive Kitteridge, or Big Little Lies. This year all five nominees are relatively in the running gearing up for what is sure to be a night of many tight races.
We were worried that a combination of late release dates and depressing subject matter would hurt the Emmy chances of both When They See Us and Chernobyl. In the both programs over-performed with voters. Chernobyl became the most nominated limited series of the year with 19 nominations across every major category. When They See Us received 16 nominations and was a clear favorite of the actors branch. Eight members of its ensemble were singled out making up a third of the nominations for the entire genre.
The only frontrunner to under-perform was HBO’s Sharp Objects. While the thriller was nominated for eight Emmys including series, actress, and supporting actress it was shockingly left out of the writing and directing categories. Why did the once perceived frontrunner only end up with half the nominations as the rest of the contenders? Is it because it premiered last summer and was merely forgotten? Was it too dark for voters? Or did voters actually like it and were just won over by other shows in an insanely crowded year?
In fact, the five nominated limited series were so popular that they were basically the only programs on the radar of voters. Only three other shows were singled out in major categories by the voters: Mahershala Ali in True Detective, Joey King and Patricia Arquette for The Act, and A Very English Scandal with nominations for writing, directing, Hugh Grant, and Ben Whishaw.
Long gone are the days of the random performances getting in off of name recognition. Emma Stone and Sally Field were left out for Maniac. The beloved cast of Catch-22 was completely forgotten. Patty Jenkins was left out of the directing lineup for I Am The Night. Emmy voters couldn’t even make room for staples like Connie Britton, Julianna Margulies, Jeffrey Wright, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Peter Dinklage.
In the Outstanding TV Movie race, the nominations proved that momentum is building for Deadwood: The Movie. Although it didn’t receive any acting, writing, or directing recognition it did receive eight total nominations. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch was only nominated twice and voters clearly weren’t impressed by the interactive component of the episode.
One thing is for certain and that is the fact that the television academy desperately needs to retool the limited series and TV movie categories. For the past five years limited series have consistently made up some of the best work in television but are only allotted five nominees while comedy and drama are given at least seven. On the other hand TV movies are quickly becoming a dying art form and voters are having a hard time finding five worthy nominees. This has led to plenty of interesting shows being left out including The Haunting of Hill House, Maniac, I Am The Night, and Catch-22. It’s time for the categories to reflect that.
A Step Back for Diversity
There is a lot to celebrate this year in terms of diversity. After a long career Billy Porter was finally nominated for an Emmy. Sandra Oh is a double nominee this year for starring in Killing Eve and hosting SNL. Kumail Nanjiani finally received his first Emmy nomination. Latino actors Benicio Del Toro and John Leguizamo are both nominated this year. Seven actors of color were nominated for When They See Us (including four first time nominees) – certainly the most for a show in a single year.
But overall representation at the Emmys was down compared to the past two years. Six acting categories didn’t feature a single actor of color, many of those being from comedy. Although Pose was nominated for drama series both MJ Rodriguez and Indya Moore were left out. Latinx Women were completely forgotten across the board even though critics championed shows like One Day at a Time, Pose, Vida, and Superstore. Although Special was nominated for three short-form awards its star and creator Ryan O’Connell, an actor with Cerebral Palsy, was left out of the acting race.
Overall 26 performers of color were nominated for Emmys compared to 38 in 2018 and 27 in 2017.
What were your biggest takeaways from the 2019 Emmy Nominations? What were you most excited about? What are your early predictions?