For the first time in years the race for Outstanding Drama Series is truly one of the most competitive races of the 2020 season. With no juggernauts like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad in the conversation. it feels like a completely new era.
With 18 nominations each, Succession and Ozark tied to become the most nominated dramas of the year. With that, the narrative swiftly shifts to a growing rivalry between HBO and Netflix at the Emmys. For years, the two networks have been going head-to-head to earn the title of the most nominated network of the year. This year Netflix pulled ahead for the first time, but they still have yet to win a top series prize.
Has Succession Pulled Ahead as The Clear Frontrunner?
At first glance, Succession seems like an odd choice for Emmy voters after years of obsessing over Game of Thrones. How does one go immediately from a fantasy epic known for dragons to a talking head boardroom drama? One might focus on a kingdom while the other a global media conglomerate, but at the heart of both of them is a familial ensemble relying on ruthlessly cunning power plays.
Helping Succession is the fact that, even though the second season premiered over a year ago, it’s still fresh in the minds of voters because of its ability to cement itself in pop culture. To this day, we’re still obsessing over games like Boar on The Floor and Kendall’s cringe inducing “L. to the O.G.” – not to mention Shiv’s wardrobe and Roman and Gerri’s sexual chemistry. It’s a show that had people talking more than most summer blockbusters
Cementing Succession as the clear frontrunner is the fact that the actors branch went all out for the ensemble. For years, actors have been the most influential group within the Academy, and this year, they went all out nominating eight different actors. What makes this all the more surprising is that up until now actors, whether here or at SAG, have completely shutout the ensemble.
Why We Shouldn’t Count Out Ozark
Ozark has always been a sleeper hit for Netflix quietly bringing in record-breaking streaming numbers for the site. This year, however, the third season broke out in an unexpected way becoming the most talked about show of the new decade. It helps that the third season premiered just as audiences were desperate for any form of escapism as the pandemic shutdown the world.
Up until nomination morning, it seemed like an impossibly tight race between Succession and Ozark, continuing the ever-growing feud between HBO and Netflix. Both shows raked in 18 nominations each, tying to become the most nominated dramas of the year. Even with 18 nominations, Ozark underwhelmed when Tom Pelphrey was cruelly left out of the expanded supporting actor race after giving one of the most talked about performances of the year.
Still, Ozark shouldn’t be discounted. Is it likely that one snub will derail a show’s entire momentum? It still has one thing going for it that might help it surprise come Emmy night. Even though both frontrunners entered the race with the same number of nominations, Ozark has a much broader support across more branches of the Academy. Ten different branches singled out the family crime drama for everything from writing to make-up to sound mixing on top of its series nomination which is a sign of support from producers, executives, and agents.
So, even though Succession is entering Emmy night as the odds-on favorite, the race is much closer than anyone is anticipating. The quarantine factor might be a lot more powerful than anyone thinks, and the final few seconds of the season guaranteed that it was one of the most jaw-dropping and buzzed about finales of the year.
Is The Mandalorian the True Underdog of the Race?
The one nomination none of us were ballsy enough to predict was the addition of The Mandalorian for Outstanding Drama Series. In hindsight we should have paid more attention to what audiences were loving. As the return of various dramas were disappointing us left and right, the thirty minute drama helped launch Disney+ and since then the new streaming network has gone on to rival its competitors.
So why should we count it out now? The Mandalorian is by far the most accessible drama nominee of the year appealing to just about everyone from kids and families to adults that have been watching Star Wars for decades. The team behind the show has also been the most creative when it has come down to campaigning in a COVID world with multiple drive-in screenings and free Baby Yoda dolls. Disney certainly knows how to capitalize off its own success, and clearly voters are paying attention.
This is also a new, expanded Television Academy. One where actors aren’t necessarily the dominant branch. It’s clear that the tech and craft branches rallied behind the new drama with FIFTEEN nominations for its stunt coordination, cinematography, costumes, sound editing, production design, picture editing, prosthetic makeup, sound mixing, music composition, and visual effects. Even the actors branch nominated it for two awards (guest actor and voice-over). Is it possible that that broad support might carry it to a surprise win?
Maybe the only thing getting in its way is its lack of writing and directing recognition, especially when a directing nomination for Taika Waititi seemed like a nomination waiting to happen. No drama has taken home the top prize in recent years without at least support from one of those key branches. But the show does have support from just about every other peer group. As it wins craft after craft award, it might head into Emmy night as the clear dark horse.
Two years ago the second season of The Crown surprised everyone when it took home awards for Claire Foy, directing, casting, costumes, and cinematography. Since then the highly anticipated third season seemed poised to be a major Emmy contender. On top of the royal drama finally hitting its stride with audiences and Emmy voters everyone was excited for the beginning of a new of the story led by Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter.
Since its premiere though, it lost a lot of steam. Yes, it ended up with 13 nominations like it did the season prior, but it missed in some key areas including multiple acting nominations for Tobias Menzies, Josh O’Connor, and Charles Dance as well as editing. Audiences clearly still love the show, but there probably isn’t as much urgency to vote for it when they know that they’ll have plenty of more opportunities to do so.
While all popular in their own right, the other nominees all underperformed in key categories. Stranger Things, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Better Call Saul are all broadly popular shows, but somehow David Harbour, Elisabeth Moss, and Bob Odenkirk were all left out for the first time on nomination morning with no clear reasoning as to why. They are all still clearly loved by audiences and voters alike, but this year they are all missing that excitement factor. Without it, they don’t have a clear shot at winning over an ever-growing voting body.
Then there’s Killing Eve: a show that managed to pull off eight nominations for a season that left fans bored, frustrated, and longing for the danger of the first season. Oh, Comer, and Shaw were all nominated again in much more crowded fields, and it’s clear that actors still like the show. However, the excitement simply isn’t there and without writing or directing nominations, it is nearly impossible for the erotic cat and mouse thriller to pull off an upset.
Readers, what show do you think will win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series?