Gold Standard: Emmys could bring an interesting mix of old and new

Justina Machado, left, and Rita Moreno star in “One Day at a Time,” one of many remakes and reboots vying for Emmy attention.
(Michael Yarish / Netflix)

If you’re a Television Academy member (and with the group’s ranks swelling to 22,000-plus, who isn’t these days?), for the last few weeks you could have had your hair done like the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, watched David Letterman interview Jerry Seinfeld at Netflix’s massive Emmy campaign space or wallowed in free drinks at a saloon made to resemble “Westworld’s” famous Mariposa bar and brothel. (Black hat optional.)

Actually, you could be sloshing around in free booze and meals well into June, because in this time of Peak-Plus TV, networks have to break out the hors d’oeuvres and make sure there’s plenty of ice to get voters’ attention. So many shows, so little time. If you wonder why the same series earn Emmy nominations year after year, it’s not (necessarily) due to merit. They’ve simply managed to form a beachhead by lodging themselves in enough voters’ DVR queues.

Last year, thanks to some retirements and an exasperating sophomore season letdown (“Mr. Robot”), five first-year shows (“The Crown,” “Stranger Things,” “This Is Us,” “Westworld” and the eventual winner, “The Handmaid’s Tale”) broke through in the drama series category. And they all followed up with sturdy enough second seasons, meaning that novelty of Emmy newcomers was probably an anomaly. Short of the Upside Down turning sideways or the Pearsons managing to rid their lives of drama, we could be seeing this quintet of nominees for some time.

But there are still a few ways the Emmys could change things up and offer a little intrigue this year. Namely:


Roseanne Barr, star of the rebooted "Roseanne."
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times )

Whitney Cummings, the showrunner of “Roseanne,” said the presidential election made her want to get out of her comfort zone and work with issues she may not agree with.

Invite Roseanne to the party. Emmy voters never nominated “Roseanne” for comedy series, even at its creative and commercial peak. But its namesake star did earn four nominations, winning once, 25 years ago.

The 65-year-old comedian’s bite and comic chops remain potent, and her live-wire presence and broad appeal would give the Emmy broadcast a boost at a time when awards show ratings are cratering. But many voters — even those who enjoy the show — will think twice about checking off Barr’s name, simply because they can’t stomach her inflammatory Twitter feed, where she has, among other things, trolled school-shooting survivor David Hogg and endorsed right-wing conspiracy theories.


Costar Laurie Metcalf, who won three Emmys from 1992-94 for playing Roseanne’s sister, figures to be nominated. Maybe John Goodman too. (Boy, did we take this cast for granted back in the day.) Whether Barr joins them might be the most interesting question surrounding this year’s nominations.

"Saturday Night Live" cast members Colin Jost, left, and Michael Che will host the Emmys this year.
(Will Heath / NBC )

Toy with the telecast. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler rank as the best awards show hosts since we somehow survived Y2K. There’s no point in naming a runner-up as nobody comes close to their three-year run anchoring the Golden Globes from 2013-15.

The announcement that another “Saturday Night Live” pair, Michael Che and Colin Jost, would host this year’s Emmys wasn’t greeted with much enthusiasm. But with “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels and his deep connections on board as executive producer, this show could be fascinating. The range of outcomes — like “Saturday Night Live” itself from week to week — is massive. Making judicious use of the hosts’ castmates will be key. Less Alec Baldwin, more Kate McKinnon (why isn’t she hosting?) should be the operating principle. If Michaels can have some fun with the format, it could be a memorable show for all the right reasons.

Kyle MacLachlan revisits Agent Cooper in "Twin Peaks: The Return."
(Suzanne Tenner / Showtime )

Indulge the current nostalgia TV boom ... If the 18-chapter “Twin Peaks: The Return” was good enough to make its way onto best-of lists for both TV and film critics, then Emmy voters should follow suit, raise their coffee mugs and lavish David Lynch’s uncompromising landmark with a bevy of nominations.

Likewise Netflix’s big-hearted remake of “One Day at a Time,” which deepened its characters and stories in its superb second season, elevating it to the ranks of television’s best comedies. It picked up one measly nomination last year, and, somehow, that wasn’t for Rita Moreno. That oversight needs to be fixed.

Laura Kightlinger, left, Harry Connick Jr. and Debra Messing in "Will & Grace."
(Chris Haston / NBC )

but don’t get stuck in Memory Lane. Yes, “Will & Grace” piled up 83 Emmy nominations during its initial run, winning 16, including comedy series for its second season in 2000. But there’s a reason two-thirds of its audience bailed on its revival from its premiere to its finale. It wasn’t awful. It was just pretty, pretty good … much like, yes, the return of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

The Emmys should reflect the best of television now — not the turn of the century. Not every reboot recaptures the magic. Again, though, the Emmys have always been slow to say goodbye to their favorites. Meaning: Legit or not, get ready to welcome back Candice Bergen and “Murphy Brown” next year.

Twitter: @glennwhipp