The SAG Awards they are a-changin’. Last year’s three nominations to freshman shows — Mr. Robot (Rami Malek), Unbreakabable Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) and Better Call Saul (Bob Odenkirk) — versus four total in the previous five years combined, never more than one a year — was not an anomaly. SAG, known for being slow to embrace new series and for sticking with favorites, shattered last year’s breakthrough with a whopping nine nominations to first-year series, all dramas, the most in recent SAG history by a mile.
The 10 noms for freshman series (nine in the acting categories, plus one in the stunt field) were split among four series: Netflix’s Stranger Things and The Crown and HBO’s Westworld, three each, including stunt ensemble for Westworld, and NBC’s This Is Us (one). Netflix and HBO delivered one of the most dominant network performances ever.
For a second consecutive year, Netflix was the most nominated outlet, followed by HBO. Both nets more doubled their tallies from last year, going from eight to 17 (Netflix) and from six to 13 (HBO). There was only one other network with multiple nominations, ABC (three), with Netflix and HBO each topping all other nets combined. For comparison, last year, following Netflix’s and HBO’s noms, there were networks with five, four, three and two noms each — a total of eight other outlets logging multiple nominations vs. only one this year. That is staggering dominance.
After years of one freshman-show nominee in a category at the most, we have an actress in a drama series field this year in which four of the five nominees are from new shows, Stranger Things (Winona Ryder and 12-year-old Millie Bobby Brown, believed to be the youngest individual SAG TV nominee ever), Westworld (Thandie Newton) and The Crown (Claire Foy), who join returning nominee Robin Wright of House of Cards. As part of the unprecedented overhaul, the category left out Viola Davis of How to Get Away With Murder, winner for the past two years, as well as Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith. (Davis, the only TV winner in January not to get a nomination, has two noms on the feature side for Fences.)
Smith had been a SAG Awards mainstay, landing an Emmy nom for each season of the PBS drama until missing out on the last hurrah, where she had the final line in the show. That is very unusual as the SAG Awards usually recognize their favorites until the end, with 30 Rock‘s Alec Baldwin and Nurse Jackie‘s Eddie Falco wrapping their runs with noms for each year their series were eligible.
Downton Abbey, winner of the best drama ensemble category in three of the past four years, still landed one last SAG nom, its fifth consecutive in the ensemble category, in which it is joined by returning nominee Game of Thrones and three newcomers (also a SAG first in a very long time if not ever), Netflix’s Stranger Things and The Crown and HBO’s Westworld for a category featuring only British costume dramas and fantasy/sci-fi/genre fare.
The lone new broadcast series recognized by SAG was NBC’s breakout drama This Is Us, which scored an actor in a drama series nomination for Sterling K. Brown, who is a double nominee after also landing a nom in the longform acting category for his Emmy-winning role in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. That was a nice counterbalance for the show, which saw its female cast members, Mandy Moore and Chrissy Metz, nominated for Golden Globes yesterday.
Brown is one of two newcomers in the drama actor category along with veteran John Lithgow of The Crown. They join House of Cards’ Kevin Spacey, winner for the past two years, and fellow returning nominees Malek and Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones.
There were no freshman comedies nominated, but the SAG Awards did recognize series they had overlooked in the past with first noms, including Netflix’s Grace & Frankie, whose stars, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, were nominated for best actress in a comedy series, and Black-ish, nominated for best comedy ensemble and comedy actor in Anthony Anderson. This is a rare double for Tomlin, who also is slated to receive the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award.
In the actor in a comedy series, Anderson and another first-timer, Tituss Burgess of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, join the winners for the past three years — Ty Burrell of Modern Family, William H. Macy of Shameless and Jeffrey Tambor of Transparent.
On the distaff side, Fonda and Tomlin are joined by Uza Aduba of Orange Is the New Black, winner in the past years, and fellow returning nominees Kemper of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Louis-Dreyfus, who has won the Emmy for five years running, won the SAG Award in 2014 for her performance on the show, which is seeking a first ensemble SAG Award after two consecutive best comedy series Emmys. In the ensemble field, Veep faces Black-ish; Orange Is The New Black, which won the last two years; Modern Family, which won the four years before that; and fellow repeat nominee The Big Bang Theory.