Earlier this month the Writers Guild of America announced their nominees for their favorite shows of 2019. The nominees included many of the expected favorites from Succession and The Crown to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Barry. The writers also singled out a handful of shows that haven’t gotten that much awards attention lately like PEN15, Watchmen, and the second season of Mindhunter.
With the WGA nominations comes our first major look at next year’s Emmy race. Over the past couple of years the writers guild has become one of the most reliable precursors leading up to the Emmys and they’re known for ushering new shows into the conversation well before the Emmys do. In the past they’ve single-handedly brought Friday Night Lights, The Americans, and The Good Place into the Emmy conversation.
This year we’re taking a look at the WGA nominations and what it might mean for the upcoming Emmy season. There were plenty of ups and downs and even a couple of unexpected contenders to consider.
With three consecutive nominations The Handmaid’s Tale is now the most nominated drama in the lineup. Writers have always admired the Hulu drama with the first season winning the WGA award for its first season and they even love it so much that a hanging episode was nominated at the Emmys. It’s further proof that it is still one of the most beloved shows on television and it should be taken seriously next summer even if it will have been off the air for ten months.
Both The Crown and Succession were nominated for the second year in a row. Although neither nomination is surprising it does confirm that both dramas (especially The Crown) are the early frontrunners at the Emmys.
Over the past couple of years the WGA voters have become reliable precursors for both the drama series and writing nominees at the Emmys. With two exceptions the correlating seasons have consistently gone on to major Emmy nominations and last year all five nominees were nominated. On top of that WGA voters have always had exceptional taste ushering in shows like Friday Night Lights and The Americans long before they went on to win at the Emmys.
That’s great news for Mindhunter and Watchmen, the two nominations that seemed to come out of nowhere. In fact voters loved Watchmen so much that they nominated it twice; both for drama and new series. Up until now Mindhunter, while a critics’ darling and fan favorite on Twitter, has gone completely ignored by awards groups. It will be interesting to see how Netflix campaigns the second season and even though the drama series race still seems impenetrable now a writing nomination doesn’t seem that too far out of the question.
With the first (and possibly only season) of Watchmen just wrapping up it might be time for us to take the graphic novel adaptation seriously. A lot of us dismissed its Emmy chances because of its superhero origins but as the season progressed it has sparked this momentum and become one of the most talked about and best-received new shows of the year. There has been more excitement around Watchmen than some of the fall shows we’ve crowned early frontrunners. Who knows, stranger things have happened.
We’re getting ready for a bloodbath in the 2020 race for Outstanding Drama Series and the WGA nominees just might be the canary in the coalmine for a handful of dramas that are beginning to show some vulnerability. Voters passed on popular shows like Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, This Is Us, Pose, and even Big Little Lies. This is especially bad news for This Is Us, Pose, and Stranger Things all of which were already left out of the SAG lineup.
Both The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Barry were nominated for the top comedy award for the second year in a row confirming that they’re still going to be the comedies to beat at next year’s Emmys. Russian Doll was also nominated for two WGA awards this year and depending on when the second season premieres it will probably continue to be a major factor in the Emmy conversation.
After going home empty handed at the Emmys and being shut out of the Golden Globes and SAG Awards it seemed like the final season of Veep was going to be completely forgotten. Instead WGA voters brought it back into the conversation with two nominations.
The biggest surprise of the year came with the nomination for PEN15. On top of serving as co-creators and writers, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle play pre-teen versions of themselves among a cast of actual kids. They were nominated for their writing at the Emmys earlier this year and their two WGA nominations that the upcoming second season might even play a bigger factor heading forward.
Throughout the past five years all but one nominated comedy has eventually gone on to be nominated at the Emmys. That’s pretty exciting news for PEN15 but it should be noted that one exception was Broad City. So far there haven’t been very many new comedies that have excited industry voters and if that continues PEN15 might be able to gain traction with Emmy voters.
The WGA has one of the strictest set of requirements often disqualifying international productions and although it usually happens over on the film side this year it drastically affected the comedy lineup. Both Fleabag and Schitt’s Creek are international productions and because of that they were likely disqualified.
There weren’t a lot of glaring omissions in the comedy category this year. After missing out at the Emmys voters finally moved on from GLOW. They also completely ignored the final season of Silicon Valley making it even less likely that Emmy voters nominate it one last time.
The Good Place was left out of the comedy series lineup after voters singled it out last year. Another nomination felt like a shoe in after the afterlife comedy was nominated at the Emmys both in series and writing. So far it has been left out of every major precursor including the Golden Globe and SAG Awards. It will be interesting to see if the final season is able to overcome this complete shutout and still be nominated at the Emmys.
Limited Series and TV Movie
Unlike in the drama and comedy categories there isn’t a strong correlation between the WGA and Emmy nominees. Even with two limited series categories (original and adapted) there are always head scratching snubs that don’t make any sense. The categories don’t even have a set number of nominees with the list fluctuating each year. Last year WGA voters skipped over Escape at Dannemora even though it was nominated by every other major guild.
Continuing their awards streak both Chernobyl and Fosse/Verdon were both nominated. The only surprise came with the shocking omission of Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us. The Netflix drama was already completely snubbed by the HFPA and its continued shutout here is hard to understand.
Both Unbelievable and The Loudest Voice were nominated in the adapted category continuing their string of guild and Golden Globe nominations. As of now both are looking like strong contenders for the limited series Emmy race with broad support from multiple guilds including WGA and SAG as well as the buzz from the Golden Globes.
Maybe the biggest disappointment was the exclusion of Mrs. Fletcher, the newest Tom Perrotta adaptation for HBO. The Kathryn Hahn performance vehicle was quickly forgotten throughout the fall season and it has been completely shutout by awards groups. With Perrotta adapting his own novel it felt like the perfect project for WGA voters to reward but now it seems like its going to be long forgotten by the time Emmys come around.
More so than the limited series race the WGA has become a pretty good indicator of the TV movie race at the Emmys. When a film shows strength among writers it almost always goes on to be nominated at the Emmys. Just two years ago the Lifetime movie Flint won at the WGA before heading to the Emmys.
This year two TV movies were singled out by the writers’ guild. El Camino, the Breaking Bad follow-up, was nominated helping it become the early frontrunner. Disney+ was also nominated for its first major award and it was for a film that hasn’t even premiered yet, Togo. The nomination came as a huge surprise seeing as it doesn’t even premiere for another week or so but the Willem Dafoe starring vehicle in the depiction of the 1925 serum run to Nome clearly moved voters.