Emmy season is off and running. If you need proof, all you have to do is look at all the trade and consumer newspaper advertising. Or just check any of the billboards around Los Angeles, where the bulk of the 18,500 or so active Television Academy members live and work. Or the number of networks, broadcast, cable and streaming entities, that are actively campaigning. Or how about the nightly FYC events that include live reads, performances and meet-and-greet receptions?
Deadline kicked everything off in early April with our first-ever The Contenders Emmys event, which spotlighted 36 different programs live in front of a DGA Theatre packed with Emmy voters. Since then, we’ve been running videos of each of these presentations, featuring stars, showrunners, writers, directors and others who offered voters insight into just how their projects came together. And now we’re throwing our big annual Hollywood party tonight celebrating the season.
But we aren’t alone. Just last week the TV Academy kicked off their own season with the opening of their new theatre and media center in North Hollywood. Balloting for this year’s Emmys will begin this coming Monday June 13 and run through June 27, with nominations announced on July 14. I say all of this because it seems to me that the enthusiasm, the sheer number of players, and most of all the money really seems to be flowing larger than ever. And—dare I say it—even bigger than Oscar season? The sheer number of mailings of DVD screeners seems higher than ever. I have tons of Emmy FYC boxes piled up everywhere. Netflix alone has sent 14 pounds of their programming.
Oscar will always reign supreme just for pure prestige, but Emmy is giving the old guy a run for his money—literally. And ABC, the network airing the Emmys in September, is probably also happy that they won’t have to deal with the diversity crisis (#OscarsSoWhite, anyone?) that hit the Academy Awards broadcast in February. TV does not seem to be the subject of any diversity controversies of late, and this year, with prestige contenders ranging from the new Roots to the O.J. Simpson mini-series—as well as a myriad of other shows highlighting diverse casts and storylines—the jokes Chris Rock told on Oscar night won’t be necessary for Emmy MC Jimmy Kimmel.
With all the opportunities TV now offers for creatives, it is no surprise that it would all spill over into the Emmys. To answer that need, the Television Academy has been busy expanding nominees in several acting, writing, directing and program categories, in an effort to create a bigger tent for the contest, with the main event on September 18 preceded by an unprecedented two Creative Arts Emmy shows and matching Governors Balls the weekend before, giving the Television Academy a chance to celebrate all of this by sporting an impressive three Balls.
No matter what they do, there will always be complaints about what didn’t get in—and what did. It just goes with the territory. And many questions in that regard remain for this year’s battle. Will cable king HBO pull off the near-clean sweep of major categories that it did last year with Veep and Game of Thrones leading the way? Certainly those returning shows, which both won their program category for the first time after several seasons of trying, are in a good position to repeat.
The expansion of the voting pool for the finals that was inaugurated last year is just taking hold, and it indicates a tilt for those two series that only triumphed after more members were allowed to have a say on the ultimate outcome. Until then, with blue ribbon panels voting, ABC’s Modern Family had owned the comedy category for five seasons straight, and AMC—between Mad Men and Breaking Bad—had grabbed the drama series crown for six out of seven years.
The latter two shows are now gone, but Thrones faces tough competition to retain its crown. There’s sentiment for Downton Abbey in its final season, and many hope FX can finally get its critically acclaimed The Americans an overdue nod. Can AMC come back with its Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul, which landed an impressive 7 nominations in just its first go around last season? Will Showtime’s past Emmy winner Homeland prevail again? Or perhaps its newbie Billions? What about Amazon’s growing output including The Man In The High Castle or USA’s out-of-the-box awards darling Mr. Robot? Can Netflix finally bring it home for Orange Is The New Black or perennial nominee House Of Cards in this political season? Or Hulu’s compelling The Path?
Oh, and did we forget the broadcast networks which, after all, have done pretty well in this category, not just in terms of wins but also nominations? Can ABC’s Black-ish take on the Modern Family mantle and get into the game? How about a return for Chuck Lorre’s CBS bridesmaid The Big Bang Theory, which was overlooked last year even though it remains TV’s number one comedy? The Golden Globe went to Amazon’s Mozart In The Jungle. Will that be good enough to get it a spot with the big guys like HBO’s Silicon Valley?
The competition will be fierce, too, in the Limited Series category, where The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story threatens to swamp everything in terms of sheer nomination power. But FX will be competing with itself with past Emmy juggernauts Fargo and the multi-nominated American Horror Story, and then there’s newbie Hulu with J.J. Abrams’ 11.22.63, as well as HBO’s Show Me A Hero from Oscar winner Paul Haggis. One to watch will be AMC and BBC’s thrilling six-hour John le Carré adaptation, The Night Manager, which could be a spoiler if it can muster the votes.
And another category that will get close scrutiny is Outstanding Variety Talk Series which has the first seasons of Late Show With Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah , new host of The Daily Show,along with Larry Wilmore trying to keep the cabler’s traditional slots. Or can Chelsea Handler or Samantha Bee break the male hold on the category with their new shows? Of course Kimmel, Fallon, and John Oliver all seem certain to be back in the running. But will they be joined by new network late night stars Seth Meyers and James Corden. I would not rule out either of the latter pair. In fact Corden’s brilliant Carpool Karaoke segments might lift him into the race just for them.
So much to watch and discuss, and so little time before I have to vote (yes I am just one of those 18,500 TV Academy members). Get your viewing ready. Let’s roll.