Gold Standard: Emmy nominations 2019: Five things to watch for ahead of Tuesday’s announcement
Emmy nominations arrive Tuesday, roughly nine weeks ahead of the September show and a year out from Meryl Streep unfurling another acceptance speech — this time for her supporting turn on the second season of “Big Little Lies.” (The chilling look of self-satisfaction that ends this Sunday’s episode all but sealed the deal.)
The Emmys still doesn’t have a host and, taking a cue from the Oscars, probably won’t. If you remember the lackluster energy dribbling out of hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost last year — and I’m guessing you don’t — then maybe this will be a case of addition by subtraction. Unless Billy Porter (FX’s “Pose”) and Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”) could be persuaded to team up, it’s not like Fox, the network broadcasting the ceremony this year, is brimming with strong in-house candidates.
What can we expect when the nominations are announced? Surprises, sure. The vast television landscape all but guarantees a splintering of selections. (Look for several categories to exceed their quota of nominees, thanks to the Emmys’ rule of granting nominations to contenders that come within 2% of qualifying.) And, since the new seasons of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Big Little Lies” and “Stranger Things” arrived too late to be eligible for this year’s awards, there are plenty of openings for newcomers.
Here are five things to look for in Tuesday morning’s nominations.
Emmy voters will love the final season of “Game of Thrones” more than you probably did
“Game of Thrones” has earned a record 128 Emmy nominations over its first seven seasons, winning 47, also the high mark for a prime-time series. The departing HBO drama figures to add to those numbers, even for an anticlimactic final season that could be described, charitably, as a disappointment. (If you’re feeling less generous, you might call it an outright disaster for the way it did Daenerys wrong, among many, many other transgressions. Bran? Really?)
That the rushed storytelling in the last batch of supersized episodes stumbled won’t matter to Emmy voters, who will again bend the knee because, for six weeks, “Game of Thrones” ruled pop culture in a way that will be difficult for any TV series to duplicate. Each episode was an event to be debated, dissected and quickly turned into glorious memes, which often were more entertaining than the show itself.
The “Thrones” acting ensemble will look to best its record for nominations — five — and they’re banking on voters considering Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in the lead categories, a gambit that didn’t work out last year. Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau did earn supporting nominations in 2018, with Dinklage winning. Maisie Williams earned a nomination for the show’s sixth season; Sophie Turner is aiming to join the club for this final go-around.
And while it’s hard to make a case that Headey deserves a nomination for a short season spent mostly on a balcony, gazing into the distance, Emmy voters are creatures of habit and probably will give her a fifth and farewell nod. It seems likely, in fact, that the whole gang will be celebrating Tuesday morning. Except for Isaac Hempstead Wright, because, c’mon, a creepy, faraway stare might earn you the throne, but it shouldn’t snag you an Emmy nomination too.
“Fleabag” breaks through. (It’d better.)
Nearly everyone who watched the second season of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s brilliant British comedy came away enthralled. It sits atop review aggregator Metacritic’s best-of-the-year list. It was a huge hit in its native England. And the stylish black jumpsuit Waller-Bridge wore in the season’s first episode became a fashion and social media sensation.
The BBC series, available in the U.S. on Amazon Prime, should earn Waller-Bridge a clutch of Emmy nominations, both for her pitch-perfect comic acting and her genius writing, which deconstructed the show’s fourth-wall-breaking conceit in ways both thrilling and crushing. (She could also pick up noms as a producer here and for “Killing Eve,” a likely drama series nominee.)
But here’s the thing: “Fleabag’s” first season was pretty great as well, and it received exactly zero Emmy nominations. You’d imagine more voters know about it now, but as “Green Book’s” best picture win at this year’s Oscars again reminded us, critics don’t vote for awards. Any television academy member who ignores “Fleabag” should be required to go to confession and divulge their sins. And, no, they would absolutely not deserve a hot priest as an audience.
Will Trevor Noah’s “Daily Show” campaign backfire?
Speaking of “Green Book,” Trevor Noah and his “Daily Show” writers devised the year’s most contentious Emmy campaign merely by invoking the 2019 Academy Award winner. “Don’t ‘Green Book’ this one, guys” read the tagline of billboards and posters featuring an image of the late-night host plastered all over Los Angeles and New York.
Noah says he wanted to poke a little fun at awards show controversies, but some people didn’t appreciate the joke.
“He does know ‘Green Book’ won the Oscar, right?” asked one voter, who, citing television academy protocol, asked not to be identified. “ ‘Don’t “Green Book” this?’ You got it. I’ll vote for Bill Maher.”
Last year, “The Daily Show” earned its first series nomination since Jon Stewart left the show in 2015. The variety talk category is always competitive, and voters have been known to banish contenders for missteps. (“The Tonight Show” hasn’t been nominated since host Jimmy Fallon tousled Donald Trump’s hair weeks before the 2016 election.) Since many television academy members are the same voters who rewarded “Green Book” at the Oscars, Noah might regret that “Don’t ‘Green Book’ this one, guys” line. I mean, Seth Meyers deserves to be nominated one of these years, and could easily take his place.
Will Emmy voters get emotional over departing shows?
Seven TV series — “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Upstairs, Downstairs,” “Barney Miller,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad” — have won series Emmys for their farewell seasons. “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” could both join that select list, and it’s pretty much a lock that Julia Louis-Dreyfus will have to make a bit more room in her trophy cabinet for her brutally brilliant turn as Selina Meyer on “Veep.”
But other past Emmy favorites are saying goodbye too. Once upon a time, Jim Parsons won four Emmys for “The Big Bang Theory,” and the series itself was nominated four times, most recently in 2014. “House of Cards” isn’t a popular pick anymore, but Robin Wright and Michael Kelly aren’t to blame for that. “Broad City,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Catastrophe” have all been woefully overlooked over the years. It’s never too late to make amends.
And Waller-Bridge swears (in every sense of the word) that “Fleabag’s” second season will be its last. There won’t be any shortage of pleading for her to change her mind, but hopefully voters will take Waller-Bridge at her word and honor the show while they have the chance.
Jharrel Jerome delivered the goods in “When They See Us.” Will voters respond?
Name recognition plays a big part in Emmy voting, and the contest for lead actor in a limited series or movie sports the likes of Anthony Hopkins (“King Lear”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“Brexit”), Benicio Del Toro (“Escape at Dannemora”), Hugh Grant (“A Very English Scandal”) and two recent Oscar winners, Mahershala Ali (“True Detective”) and Sam Rockwell (“Fosse/Verdon”). And the brilliant Jared Harris (“Chernobyl”) will be familiar to Emmy voters who rewarded “Mad Men” over the years.
So Jerome, largely unknown outside a notable supporting turn in “Moonlight,” faces an uphill battle. But he may be the best in the category. Jerome is the one actor in “When They See Us” to play his character (Korey Wise) as both a teen and an adult, and he gives a tour-de-force turn in the series’ fourth and final episode, which focuses on the young man’s harrowing incarceration. Did enough voters see the series through? We’ll find out Tuesday.
From the Oscars to the Emmys.
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