If you haven’t yet voted, consider this warning as your last chance to get your ballot in. Polls close for Emmy voting at 10 PM PT tonight. As noted when this process started, this is the first year no paper ballots are allowed. It is all strictly online and the Television Academy firmly expects numbers of those over 18,000 active members participating to increase significantly. The Academy has been frequently sending out reminders ever since voting began early last week. Their final reminder went to eligible members just this morning. That’s the beauty of online voting. You can wait until the very last minute and still have your vote mean as much as if you cast a ballot ten days ago. The longer period is important since Emmy voters have been inundated with screeners, Q&As, FYC advertising via trades, newspapers, billboard, banners, TV spots – you name it. I can’t recall a TV campaign season with as much in-your-face attempts to reach members. Will it all pay off? That is a question that will be answered for many when nominees are announced at 8:30AM PT on July 16th. WGN’s Manhattan was the first screener that arrived, and the very aggressive NETFLIX brought up the rear in the final days before balloting began with separate mailings arriving daily with full seasons of House Of Cards, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Grace & Frankie, Orange Is The New Black and Bloodline. And in case that wasn’t enough , shortly thereafter on the weekend before polls opened an elaborate HBO-style box set arrived from NETFLIX complete with selected episodes of many of those same shows, plus assorted documentaries, comedy specials and animated programs . And if that still wasn’t enough they included a laminated card granting free access to the streaming service for the next three months, just enough to cover the entire Emmy season voting periods. I give them the prize this year for really , really showing they crave some Emmy love. When I ran into him at the AFI tribute to Steve Martin earlier in the month Netflix honcho Ted Sarandos seemed a little concerned that they waited towards the end to send their screeners out, but actually I assured him the continuous flow of their “product” would likely not go unnoticed. It was an interesting strategy, one that I have seen successfully employed in certain Oscar races. And though they were initially upset that the Academy rejected their bid to have sophmore series, Orange Is The New Black remain in the comedy category, not drama where the Acad has now placed it, they quickly rose to the challenge. An ad last week simply stated, “One of television’s finest dramas”. Whatever it takes, heh?
Not to be outdone streaming rival, Amazon Prime also started moving into its Emmy prime with a very big campaign behind its Golden Globe winner, Transparent. You couldn’t drive down the street without seeing one of their cheeky billboards. Of course Emmy veterans HBO, Showtime, AMC, FX, Starz and others continued to do their thing very effectively and very LARGE, making this one of the most competitive seasons ever. In some ways I see the Emmy campaigning even starting to outstrip Oscar season, if anyone thought that could be possible. Perhaps it is indicative of the general feeling that the quality on television now matches or exceeds what we are seeing on the big screen. As for the four commercial networks I would say ABC especially has been putting their shows out there in a big way for Emmy voters with a big emphasis on the likes of Black-ish, American Crime and How To Get Away With Murder among others. The alphabet net has ruled the roost in the comedy series category for the past five years with Modern Family and could set a record there should they pull off an historic sixth win in a row come September 20th.
So with the ballots almost a done deal who is likely to be very happy come July 16th when the nominations are announced for the two most prized Emmys, Comedy and Drama series? It’s a crap shoot now since the advent of online voting has really enlarged the field (as much as a 50% increase in the nominating period last year when it was first introduced). And the TV Academy has also increased the list of possible contenders to seven each in those two prized categories. I would say though the names we will be hearing called out for Comedy Series are likely to be familiar, a bit of the same old-same old with Modern Family, Silicon Valley, Veep, Louie and The Big Bang Theory all but certain to land slots. Amazon’s campaign and zeitgeist luck with the ever -topical Transparent should pay off too. That seventh slot might deservedly go to Showtime’s Episodes which has been slowly building over the past few Emmy seasons. But don’t count out Black-ish, or possibly a Netflix player like Kimmy Schmidt and Grace & Frankie, although being new kids on the block might hurt. As for Drama Series now that Breaking Bad is gone , you can still look for the familiar names like four time champ Mad Men (regurgent in its final turn at bat), House Of Cards, Game Of Thrones and Downton Abbey. If any one of those failed to make the cut it would be a shocker. Add in the comedy to drama switchover of Orange Is The New Black too. And although commerical networks don’t get to play in this sandbox much anymore Fox’s sensational success with Empire would seem to be a must here, don’t you think? It has been compared to TV blockbusters like Dallas and Dynasty and both of them earned a nomination for Drama Series just as they peaked at the top of the ratings shortly into their long runs in the early 80’s. Ratings and pop culture phenomenons are hard to resist and since Fox is actually airing the Emmys this year it might be a bit embarrassing for the Academy brass should their membership ignore it. The seventh slot could go to previously overlooked The Americans which has its supporters , but I wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix pulled off a bit of a shocker with a third contender in the category with well-liked newbie Bloodline.
Time will tell . Get those ballots in, stragglers. You CAN make a difference. The Primetime Emmys air on Fox on September 20.