New Blood for the Emmys: Will These Shows Be Nominated?

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Stranger Things (Photo: Netflix)

Emmy nominations will be announced on Thursday, and this year the awards show could undergo a bit of a revolution: The possibility of numerous new shows entering the competition should make for a more intriguing, exciting set of races. The Emmys can become tiresome when even adventurous or quality shows are nominated year in and year out in multiple categories (“What, House of Cards/Modern Family/Orange Is the New Black again?”). So adding some budding hopefuls to various categories always makes the event seem like more of, you know, an event.

This year, in the drama category alone, there will be lots of new-blood opportunities due to the absence of award monsters Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey (the first didn’t air during the eligibility period; the second locked its doors and set the servants free after its final season). Look for NBC’s This Is Us, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Netflix’s The Crown and Stranger Things to infiltrate the Emmy ranks, with the additional possibilities of HBO’s Westworld and FX’s Legion, particularly in the acting categories.

The Handmaid’s Tale (Photo: Hulu)

Among comedies, Veep tends to dominate the genre, but I think FX’s Atlanta — the Donald Glover creation that had a great first season — will make itself a serious presence in the nominations. Add to this Issa Rae, creator and star of HBO’s Insecure, and Aziz Ansari, who is back in the running with his second season of Netflix’s Master of None, and it starts to look like veteran winners such as Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) could have solid competition.

In many cases, the new shows that I’m suggesting might make the cut on Thursday also further the industry’s attempts to create more diverse series, both in front of and behind the camera. Then too, there are opportunities to acknowledge familiar faces in new contexts: I wouldn’t be surprised if Hank Azaria (in IFC’s Brockmire) or Ted Danson or Kristen Bell (both in NBC’s The Good Place) were nominated — the acting slots are always the ones where Emmy voters slide in nods to less-popular shows with excellent performers.

Atlanta (Photo: FX)

It may turn out that the award category with the most excitement and suspense will be Limited Series, where a big batch of major stars will likely be competing against each other. Sure shots like FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan and HBO’s Big Little Lies yield possible nominees such as Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, and Shailene Woodley. Throw in Oprah Winfrey (for HBO’s Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), Michelle Pfeiffer (for HBO’s The Wizard of Lies), and Carrie Coon (for FX’s Fargo and/or maybe even HBO’s The Leftovers?) and that is one star-studded Emmy night. And that’s just the possible female nominees!

I’m hoping for a few long-shot nominations. I’d love to see Netflix’s Gilmore Girls revival snag a few noms, although the show’s mix of drama and comedy makes it a tricky proposition for nominators and voters. (Netflix chose to enter the show as a Limited Series, meaning it’s up against all the movie-star heavyweights in Big Little Lies, Feud, etc.) And I really hope Brian Tyree Henry, so good as Atlanta’s Paper Boi, cracks the supporting-actor category. Yes, this year’s nominations hold out the tantalizing prospect of being one of the most rip-roaring batches in quite a while. I’ll be back on Thursday, after the nominations are announced, to talk about how many of my hoped-for shows made the cut.

The 69th Annual Emmy Awards will air Sunday, Sept. 17, at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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