No Game Of Thrones, no problem. With its awards juggernaut and perennial most-nominated series out of contention this year, HBO still led the network pack with 110 Emmy nominations when they were announced this morning, up from 94 last year. The network’s sci-fi Western Westworld carried GoT‘s mantle of most nominated series this year with 22 noms. It was tied with NBC’s resurgent veteran Saturday Night Live, which scored its most nominations in a single year for its most-watched season in decades that offered a skewering take on the Presidential election and the Donald Trump administration.
Ranking just below HBO was Netflix. The streaming service, arguably the biggest spender this Emmy campaign with an elaborate FYC space, was the biggest absolute gainer, going from 54 noms last year to 91, paced by hot rookies Stranger Things (18) and The Crown (13), and almost tripling its 2015 tally (34).
Netflix’s rapid rise in Emmy nomination standings is putting it on a possible collision course with HBO next year. The premium cable network almost doubled the tally of its nearest competitor, FX, a year ago, with its advantage over this year’s No.2, Netflix, shrinking to 20%. GoT‘s return should help HBO’s effort to stay on top.
Hulu also was a major gainer this year. After landing its first ever Emmy nominations last year — writing for variety special (Triumph’s Election Special) and special visual effects (11.22.63), the streaming service zoomed to 18 noms. Thirteen of them were for breakout series The Handmaid’s Tale, including best drama and best actress for Elisabeth Moss.
Hulu muscled past Amazon (16 nominations, even with last year despite a massive Emmy campaign), to rank as the second most nominated streaming platform behind Netflix. The trio was joined by the newest streaming player, CBS All Access, which nabbed its first Emmy nomination for its first original scripted series, The Good Fight — spinoff from longtime Emmy favorite The Good Wife — in the outstanding original main title theme music category. While getting on the board is an accomplishment, there had been hope for a stronger showing from the show and especially its star, Christine Baranski, who is playing the role that had scored her six Emmy noms for The Good Wife.
It had been six years since The Good Wife landed the last best series nomination for a broadcast drama in 2011. NBC hot freshman This Is Us ended the drought this morning, landing a total of 11 noms: best drama series and six acting mentions, including for four of its six series regulars. With ABC’s Modern Family scoring an eighth consecutive best comedy series nomination and ABC’s Black-ish also repeating in the top comedy category from last year, broadcast TV rebounded from the all-time low two best comedy/drama series nominations last year. Fueled mainly by This Is Us, Black-ish and SNL, the commercial U.S. broadcast networks scored a total of 16 comedy and drama series and acting nominations, up from 10 last year.
“It’s been an amazing year for broadcast television, including a return to the prestigious drama series category with This Is Us, not to mention a record-breaking number of nominations for SNL, which is the gift that keeps on giving 42 years in,” NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt said. “Who said being middle aged isn’t fantastic?!”
Along with CBS All Access, the ever-expanding Emmy field welcomed several new players landing their first ever or first major nominations. Turner’s truTV made its Emmy debut with a best variety sketch series category for Billy On The Street. National Geographic’s first ever scripted series, Genius, landed 10 nominations, including best limited series, propelling the network to its most-ever 15 noms. And, after making history for Logo last year with a best reality host Emmy win, RuPaul’s Drag Race delivered for its new network, VH1, with a first best reality competition series nomination. RuPaul Charles is back in contention for best reality host, one of two nominations in the category for VH1, along with Martha Stewart & Snoop Dogg.
Stewart & Snoop were among several first-timers in the reality host category, joined by Gordon Ramsay of Fox’s MasterChef, earning his first ever Emmy nom, Alec Baldwin of ABC’s Match Game (also nominated for his portrayal of Donald Trump On Saturday Night Live), and W. Kamau Bell of CNN’s United Shades Of America. They are facing off with veterans Heidi Klum & Tim Gunn of Lifetime’s Project Runway.
There was little love for departing series this year, with The Leftovers and Girls, Bloodline and Masters Of Sex failing to land nominations in the the major categories. But departing SNL cast member Vanessa Bayer got a nice surprise with her first-ever Emmy nomination for her seventh and final season on the show. She is joined in the best supporting actress in a comedy series category by fellow SNL co-stars, Kate McKinnon, who won last year, and Leslie Jones.
Freshman dramas were expected to do well this year, and they did, exceeding expectations by taking five of the seven spots in the best drama series category, with only Netflix veteran House Of Cards and AMC’s Better Call Saul managing to keep their slots from last year but not Homeland, The Americans or Mr. Robot. Scoring their first top drama noms were newbies Westworld, Stranger Things, The Crown, This Is Us and Handmaid’s Tale.
Compare that to a stagnant best comedy series field with only one newbie, FX’s Atlanta, which replaced Transparent, and six returning shows — previous winners Modern Family and Veep, Black-ish, Silicon Valley, Master Of None and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Eight seasons in, many speculated this may be the year when Modern Family drops from the top category, and even co-creator/executive producer Steve Levitan seemed surprised that did not happen.
“Knowing this is for our eighth season, I was prepared for a depressing morning (both my shrink and Bloody Mary ingredients were on standby), so now I don’t know what to do with myself,” he quipped.
Modern Family may have been aided by the new Emmy voting rules adopted this year that allowed Academy members to list as many best series contenders as they felt worthy. That favored popular shows with broad appeal like Modern Family and This Is Us, two of the most watched series on television, as well as zeitgeist shows like Stranger Things, Westworld and Handmaid’s Tale vs. acclaimed but narrower-in-appeal series like The Leftovers or The Americans which failed to make the cut.
In the acting categories, Allison Janney landed her first lead actress in a comedy series nomination for her role on CBS’ Mom after three nominations and two wins as supporting. Similar switch from supporting to lead field for Janney’s previous series, drama The West Wing, worked well, with her scoring two leading Emmy Awards following her two supporting ones. She will now go toe-to-toe with reigning comedy queen, Veep‘s Julie Louis-Dreyfus, who has won the lead actress category for the past five years.
There was a change in the mostly frozen in time best reality-competition series. No, it’s not The Amazing Race, which landed its 14th consecutive nomination in the category it has won 10 times. Instead, fellow veteran and perennial nominee Dancing With The Stars is gone, replaced by RuPaul’s Drug Race, which joins recent winner The Voice and fellow returning nominees Project Runway, Top Chef and American Ninja Warrior.