Over the past few weeks, a handful of influential guilds have announced their picks celebrating the best work of the year. Because we’re in the thick of Oscar season all of the headlines have focused on film, but the guild awards are also our best (and only) indicator of the upcoming Emmy season.
With past winners like Game of Thrones, Fleabag, and Veep out of the Emmy conversation, the guilds are giving us our first hint at what shows might become the early Emmy frontrunners. Still shows like Fleabag and Chernobyl have nearly sweeped through awards season, and we’ve seen actresses like Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Michelle Williams captivate audiences with more acceptance speeches than we can keep track of.
Everyone who pays attention to television knows that the upcoming Outstanding Drama Series race at the Emmys is going to be a bloodbath. With no less than ten major contenders vying to take over where Game of Thrones left off, it’s destined to become the most competitive year in the category’s history. We were hoping that the guild awards would shine a little bit of clarity, but so far they’ve spread the wealth. Succession was named the best drama of the year by both the Producers Guild and the Hollywood Foreign Press. Actors instead singled out the new ensemble from The Crown. The directors threw a major curve ball in the race by awarding Watchmen – a show many of us had previously thought would have a hard time entering the Emmy conversation at all. And may actually end up representing in the Limited Series race with the recent news that show runner Damon Lindelof would be unlikely to return for another season, capping the show at a single (limited) series.
Directors Guild Awards
This past weekend, DGA voters revealed a particularly inspiring group of winners that don’t simply continue the trend of the same crop of winners we’ve seen ceremony after ceremony.
For the second year in a row, Bill Hader won over DGA voters for his work behind the camera on HBO’s Barry. Hader won for directing himself in “ronny/lilly,” an action-packed episode where we see the hitman go head to head against a feral father/daughter duo. Although it probably benefited from three episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel splitting the vote, it is proof that the black comedy is still an industry favorite.
The biggest surprise of the weekend came in the drama series category where Watchmen pulled off a major upset winning its first major award. Nicole Kassel won the DGA award overcoming vote splitting and standing out against a stacked list of directorial achievements from Game of Thrones to Succession.
With the show’s first major win, it’s safe to say that the superhero drama has become a major Emmy contender. The DGA award is a major bellwether in both the drama series and directing race at the Emmys. There’s no doubt that Watchmen is now a strong contender in many top categories at the upcoming Emmys, but now it’s time to ask if it can even win.
Disney+ has picked up a handful of surprising wins and nominations at the various guild awards including a DGA award for its popular reality show Encore. The reality show reunites past high school casts to reproduce the productions from their childhood. The popularity for Encore is great news for an Emmy category that has become stale with repeat winners and nominees in recent years. Has Encore become the strongest contender for Disney+ to win a program Emmy in 2020?
Screen Actors Guild Awards
The SAG Awards used to be one of the most reliable bellwethers of the Emmy race, hinting at what shows the massive actors branch is watching. With the recent inclusion of AFTRA voters the group became less reliable and leaned heavier into more widely seen, general consensus, and even Netflix programming. Still they’ve been able to usher some surprising names into the Emmy conversation like last year’s Emmy-winner Julia Garner (Ozark).
This year the biggest TV news to come out of the ceremony was Jennifer Aniston’s win for Outstanding Female Actor in a Drama Series. Aniston’s win marks both the first individual SAG award of her career as well as the first major award for Apple TV+. This is a huge win for the streaming service’s flagship drama, a show that immediately struggled to find critical acclaim and wide audiences. Since then the show has slowly grown and Aniston’s win is proof that the show is still in the Emmy conversation.
The other major win of the night that might influence the upcoming Emmy race came in Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series. The third season of The Crown took home the top award. SAG voters have always had a soft spot for period dramas with Downton Abbey winning twice and Claire Foy winning two individual awards for her run as a young Queen Elizabeth.
It’s been interesting to watch the response to the long anticipated third season featuring a brand new ensemble. It seemed like audiences weren’t as invested in the third season, but its win here shows that the Netflix drama is still immensely popular. It helps that the show just premiered before voting, so it was fresh in the minds of voters. In all likelihood, if Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter didn’t split the vote, then one of them would probably have won too.
The comedy categories showed that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is still immensely popular among actors. Tony Shaloub and the ensemble both won for the second year in a row setting the third season up for a comeback at the upcoming Emmys. The only award the beloved comedy didn’t win was for female actor where Phoebe Waller-Bridge finished her year long awards season sweep for the final season of Fleabag.
Producers Guild Awards
Fresh off of its win at the Golden Globes, Succession also won the PGA Award for Best Episodic Drama. The beloved HBO drama was able to beat out a lineup of immensely popular shows including The Crown, Big Little Lies, and the final season of Game of Thrones. In its second season, Succession really found its audience in a way that propelled it to the center of the Emmy conversation. Producers make up the second largest branch of the Television Academy, and their support for the show should not be dismissed.
Other than that, the voters of the Producers Guild went with the popular choices across the board. Chernobyl and Fleabag continued to sweep through their respected categories. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and RuPaul’s Drag Race both won their categories after years of dominance at the Emmys.
ACE Eddie Awards
The ACE Eddie Awards were also held, celebrating the year’s achievements in film and television picture editing. Just like everywhere else, Fleabag and Chernobyl both won in their respected categories adding to their never-ending lists of accolades.
The win that no one saw coming was for Better Things in Best Edited Comedy Series for Commercial Television. The comedy beat out a handful of high-profile comedies like Schitt’s Creek, The Good Place, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Earlier this year the third season of Better Things had been completely forgotten by Emmy voters, so its win here caught everyone by surprise.
Costume Designer Guild Awards
Just this week, the CDG announced their picks for the best costume design of the year, and although awards for costume design don’t necessarily correspond with major program awards, they do give us a hint at what shows are popular.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won the award for Outstanding Period Design for the second year in a row, and although it doesn’t come as much of a surprise, it is worth pointing out what it beat. The lavish and impeccably designed 1950s inspired costumes beat out shows like The Crown and Fosse/Verdon.
Last year Schitt’s Creek broke into the costume design category at the Emmys, and now it’s won the CDG Award for the episode focused on Moira’s red carpet dress. Its win at the CDG Awards marks its first major American industry award after a handful of nominations this year, and it’s safe to say that the cult comedy has broken out in a major way.
As the final season of Schitt’s Creek airs it will be interesting to see if that goodwill and momentum can turn the show into a major Emmy contender.
What were your major takeaways from the various winners over the past couple of weeks? What wins made you the happiest? Do we have an early frontrunner in the race for Outstanding Drama Series or is it still too close to call?