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Television

Reese Witherspoon and the ‘Stranger Things’ cast weren’t nominated for Emmys. Blame the rules

Reese Witherspoon in Season 2 of “Big Little Lies.”
Emmy rules mean Reese Witherspoon won’t be eligible to be recognized for her work on Season 2 of “Big Little Lies” until 2020.
(Merie W. Wallace / HBO)

As you scroll through the list of Emmy nominees before the awards are handed out Sept. 22, you might find yourself wondering if this year’s batch represents a Hall of Fame of Snubs.

Where are “Stranger Things” and Millie Bobby Brown? Nothing for “Big Little Lies”? (Don’t tell Renata.) And “The Handmaid’s Tale” earned 11 nominations but was ignored in all the major categories?

Save your outrage. Or simply channel it in a different direction. (These are, after all, the Emmys. There’s always plenty to gripe about.)

Because the new seasons of “Stranger Things” and “Big Little Lies” began after the 2019 Emmy eligibility window — June 1, 2018, to May 31, 2019 — they will have to wait another year to vie for voters’ attention.

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The situation for “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a bit more complicated, due to the Television Academy’s byzantine bylaws, allowing the late-arriving episodes from a show’s previous season to compete in creative arts categories such as guest actor and actress, as well as writing and directing.

The final three episodes of “Handmaid’s” second season aired after the 2018 eligibility deadline, granting them this orphan status.

This loophole resulted in Cherry Jones earning a second consecutive guest actress nomination for work done on Season 2 of the Hulu series, as well as a nod for guest actor Bradley Whitford, who arrived in the second season’s penultimate episode. “The Handmaid’s Tale” earned 11 other noms for its 16 category submissions this year. Add those to the 20 nominations the show received last year, and the new all-time total for “Handmaid’s Tale” Season 2 is 31. (The previous record for one season of a drama series was 27 for the first season of “NYPD Blue,” but those were all achieved in a single year. “Game of Thrones” topped that with 32 this year.)

One other bit of Emmy category weirdness: The Television Academy moved the latest season of “American Horror Story” from limited series to drama series because it contained “continuing story threads, characters and actors reprising those same character roles from previous seasons.”

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The switch was good news for Jessica Lange, who returned to the “Apocalypse” installment in a limited role and scored the series’ first-ever guest acting nomination (a category in which it was never before eligible). But it proved to be bad news for Emmy stalwart Sarah Paulson, a five-time nominee for the series, including the 2018 season. Paulson could be back next year, though, as the upcoming season of “American Horror Story” will be shuttled back to limited series. Keep your scorecards handy.


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