Yes, I know, technically eligibility for the 2022 Emmy season started June 1, 2021.
Yet, honestly, it’s incredibly rare for something that debuts in June to make it all the way to the Emmy voting windows of June and August. Not unheard of. Succession season 1 premiered on June 3, 2018. Glow premiered on June 21, 2017. I’m sure there are more examples, but they’re few and far between. To find an eventual series winner that dropped all the way back June is even more challenging. You really have to flash forward to at least August and more likely the Fall TV season to find Emmy success stories.
That’s a fairly long-winded way of saying that we really weren’t focusing on the 2022 Emmy season until 2021 was in the books.
So here we are, what do we know, and what does our newly updated Emmy Tracker reflect as the top contenders we’ve seen so far?
Well, the first big title out of the 2022 Emmy gate was AppleTV+’s Lisey’s Story, starring Julianne Moore. On paper, the series seemed like a complete no-brainer. Acclaimed director Pablo Larrain (whose Spencer seems destined for Oscar attention) helming a Stephen King adaptation starring Moore, Clive Owen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Joan Allen. But something went wrong in the translation from buzz to screen. Critics were underwhelmed (Rotten Tomatoes: 54; Metacritic: 49), and audiences seemed to either not know about it or completely forget it. Moore isn’t out of the question, of course. She’s an Oscar-winning star, and you can’t ignore that. But she’s the best chance the series has.
No, the first big star of the 2022 Emmy season has to be HBO’s The White Lotus. Since premiering in late July, people haven’t stopped talking about this satirical look at rich, white tourists on vacation in Hawaii. It’s inspired as many contemptuous think pieces as it has outright raves, and that’s exactly the kind of buzz you need to sustain a very long Emmy season. The Television Academy all but ignored Mike White’s great HBO series Enlightened (it received nominations for Laura Dern and guest actress Molly Shannon), but they will not ignore this series. People are still talking about it in person, at parties, at film festivals, and on Twitter. Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers was supposed to be the big hit of the summer TV season, but no one saw The White Lotus coming. No one’s forgetting it, especially not the Television Academy. And when the Golden Globe nominations (yup, they’re coming) roll in, The White Lotus will likely lead all TV contenders.
Expect White to receive his first nominations for writing and directing, and a supporting actress nomination is guaranteed for Jennifer Coolidge (and maybe even a win — but it’s too early for that). Series lead Murray Bartlett also seems assured a nomination for lead actor in a limited series. Aside from those nominations, the remainder of the cast’s fate depends on a few variables: namely what limited series catch the Academy’s attention between now and then and how deeply do they love this series. Most of the cast is in contention, but I would be incredibly shocked if they all received bids. If I had to add one or two, I would say Steve Zahn is the next runner-up for a nod. Too bad the Academy has no Guest Actress in a Limited Series category. Molly Shannon would most assuredly dominate that. Alas…
Elsewhere in the Limited Series world, Ryan Murphy returns to the race with the third installment of his American Crime Story series: Impeachment. The exploration of the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal received the lowest reviews (by far) of the series, and audiences seem underwhelmed by what they’ve seen. However, never count out Ryan Murphy for at least some attention, and Emmy-winner Sarah Paulson is undeniably amazing as Linda Tripp (even if I foolishly predicted she would be omitted from the final nomination haul next year). Perhaps it’s just me, but I find little reason for the series to exist. It’s not particularly revelatory, and it frankly feels incredibly dishonest in its portrayal of Lewinsky and her relationship with Clinton.
HBO’s Scenes from a Marriage boasts two career-best performance from stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain. Emmy will not ignore these two movie star performances even if the series itself doesn’t merit much attention beyond that. Netflix has two potential strong contenders thus far with Maid and Midnight Mass. Maid feels likely to earn attention for its real-life mother/daughter pairing of Margaret Qualley and Andie MacDowell who are both very good in the series.
Midnight Mass is a bit more tricky. Reviews have been very strong, but the Television Academy really hasn’t warmed to writer/director Mike Flanagan. I could see a scenario where Flanagan’s exploration of serious religious and spiritual themes strikes a match with the Academy. But I could also see many turned off by what, at times, feels like an endless parade of monologues. Still, star Hamish Linklater gives one of the best performances of the year in a complex role, and he’s nearly matched by frequent Flanagan collaborator Samantha Sloyan. I could see those two getting in before the series itself, less so on Sloyan because Supporting Actress is going to be intense. It already is judging from the contenders we already know.
In the Comedy world, Ted Lasso dropped its second season during the Phase 2 voting window. Reviews were equally strong, and despite some quibbles online early in the season, audiences seem to continue to love the show. That is, until the end. There is one controversial (in my mind) character development that, in my opinion, feels ludicrously underwritten and ill-advised. They’re trying to set up a good-verus-evil theme for Season 3, but I’m not convinced the Lasso gang properly set up one character’s transition into evil. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks that, and if that’s the case, then so be it. We still have Ted Lasso in the number one spot for now, but it’s less of a slam dunk than Season 1 was to win.
What we didn’t see coming was Hulu’s incredibly buzzy word-of-mouth sensation Only Murders in the Building. We should have seen this one coming, though. It appeals to an older audience with stars Steve Martin and Martin Short delivering the best work they’ve done in years. It also tosses in Selena Gomez to appeal to some younger viewers. It also satirizes the incredibly popular world of true crime podcasts while rolling out a murder mystery of its own. And people can’t get enough of the show. Like White Lotus, it has the kind of “I discovered something great” glee behind it that will carry it all the way to the nomination window. Good thing Lasso‘s Jason Sudeikis won his Emmy this year. Martin Short or Steve Martin are coming for it next year.
Other Comedy contenders are less certain outside of those two. FX’s What We Do In the Shadows has seen Emmy love before with a series nomination for its second season. It feels primed to break out in a bigger way this year, and that growing love may even extend to its cast. Netflix’s The Chair, HBOMax’s The Other Two, and AppleTV+’s Schmigadoon! should factor into the conversation in either crafts, writing, or acting bids. None at this point look to be serious contenders for Comedy Series.
And then there’s Kevin Can F*** Himself.
What to make of this show? Is it a drama? Is it a comedy? Both? Where will AMC submit it? It deftly balances between incredibly serious dramatic moments and a dead-on satire of CBS “working man” comedies. Plus, it features the best performance I’ve seen so far from an actress this year in Emmy-winner Annie Murphy (Schitt’s Creek, of course). But I have no idea where AMC will slot this, and the show didn’t seem to receive the buzz it deserved. This is the kind of show that the Golden Globes will need to rescue with nominations when they announce their awards later this year.
It’s a bit early to talk about Drama competition as really only two series have debuted that would be series contenders: AppleTV+’s The Morning Show and, debuting this weekend, HBO’s beloved Succession. The Morning Show actually received better reviews for its second season, and there’s no reason to think it will be excluded from the conversation. Cast, writing, directing, and probably a series nomination seem very likely.
The biggest question surrounding Succession‘s third season is how big will it go. I’ve seen seven episodes of the new season, and it massively delivers in multiple ways. Emmy-winner Jeremy Strong gives another fantastic, award-worthy performance over the season. To talk about it and Kendall’s journey would spoil a lot of great surprises, so I’ll refrain from that. But you have to see it, of course. I also love the performances from the rest of the main cast, each receiving their own buzzy moments across what I’ve seen thus far. Writing and direction nominations are guaranteed, and I think it will end up over-performing in the Creative Arts races, mostly due to the late-season episode focused on Kendall’s 40th birthday party.
The sky’s really the limit for the brilliant, endlessly bingeable series, and it will be tough to beat even though we have another 7 months to go in the Emmy season. The high water mark for the series is Season 2’s 18 nominations. I think we could see Season 3 go into the 20’s.
Now, as you’re reading this, I suspect you’re wondering about Netflix’s beloved Squid Game. It now ranks as Netflix’s highest rated series, topping last year’s Bridgerton, and it’s evident as it’s shown up online and in casual conversations. However, before we can start including it in the Drama races, Netflix needs to make a decision. It could compete at the 2022 Emmy Awards because it’s American-financed. Or it could compete at the International Emmy Awards as it’s co-produced with international backing. However, it cannot compete in both circles. According to an article from Variety, Netflix will likely wait until the SAG, guild, and Golden Globe nominations to see how the series resonates.
Is this another Parasite? Or is this simply a flash in the pan?
Yes, the series may be a huge winner for Netflix, but early evidence points to its audience strength emanating outside of the US. The International Emmy Awards may be where it fits best.
It’s one of the big stories we’ll be following as the 2022 Emmy season unfolds. So, take a look at the new 2022 Emmy Tracker and let us know what we’re missing, what we’re underestimating, and even what we may have left off completely.
Buckle up buckaroos!