Old things, new things, something international, and real life-inspired dramas are all a part of this show.
This year Emmy Awards nominations juggled an almost impossible task, trying to identify standout new series, like “Only Murders in the Building” and “Abbott Elementary,” while acknowledging older ones, including past winners and a number of shows that were in or about to enter their final seasons. Add to that an increasingly international flavor to the television landscape, with Netflix’s South Korean sensation “Squid Game” securing a best-drama nomination — the first non-English-language show to achieve that feat — and you have a solid prescription for what an overwhelming task this has become. How overwhelming? Well, for starters, the Television Academy decided not to break down nominations by network because tallying up who owns those bragging rights — Netflix? Some combination of HBO and HBO Max? Disney’s assorted platforms with Disney+, ABC and Hulu? — has become too much of a headache.
HBO landed a leading 140 nominations for the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, with “The White Lotus” (20, including eight supporting-acting bids), “Hacks” (17) and “Euphoria” (16) scoring big. Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” again led all comedies with 20 noms.
That’s one complicating factor: On the one hand, one of the season-end breaks keeps some shows from contending this year; on the other, shows such as “The Crown” have been on pause since last year’s broadcast.
The Emmys have become increasingly messy as the number of submissions to the limited series category has increased. The limited series category has a smaller number of nominations than drama and comedy series categories, and this may be why Colin Firth and Toni Collette were nominated for HBO Max’s “The Staircase,” but not the program itself. Notably, HBO’s vacation-from-hell “The White Lotus” (which actually premiered a little over a year ago, missing the deadline for last year’s awards) stands out as the only original concept in the limited-series field. It is joined by a quartet of fact-based productions: Netflix’s “Inventing Anna” and a trio of Hulu productions in “Dopesick,” “The Dropout” and “Pam & Tommy.”
There are numerous factors that define the difficulty of one’s series relative to an unaired work. In particular, series like streaming, which swept the limited-series choices, and were the reason for half of the comedy series and drama series nominations.
The absence of broadcast network shows from the list of Emmy nominees for narrative series reflected the diminishing role of these traditional networks. The sole inclusion of ABC’s new sitcom “Abbott Elementary” in the category underscored this decline, while another nascent hit, CBS’ “Ghosts,” and NBC’s “This Is Us” were overlooked in their final seasons. Nominees for best song included only one nominee from a canceled show: “Frozen” from NBC’s “Will and Grace.” Indeed, evidence that academy voters were feeling sentimental about shows that have signed off or are about to was decidedly mixed. While HBO’s “Ozark” landed 13 nominations, including one for its music score and one for lead actor Jason Bateman, there was no recognition for Issa Rae’s final season of her HBO comedy “Insecure,” joined by Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh from BBC America’s thriller “Killing Eve.”
In 2020, Emmys ratings were rebounding from record-low numbers. Yet after making a major splash last year thanks to “The Mandalorian” and “WandaVision,” Disney+ hovered back down to Earth. Although the service’s Marvel and “Star Wars” shows garnered several nominations for technical areas — including eight for “Moon Knight,” a half-dozen nominations for “Loki” and four to “The Book of Boba Fett” — there was no major recognition. (“Moon Knight” star Oscar Isaac was nominated for best actor in a limited series, but for HBO’s remake of “Scenes from a Marriage.”)
Whether it might affect the audience for the current year’s show remains to be seen. My guess is that the best thing that the Emmys have going for them in the choice to put up an assortment of tastes is to raise different palates.