NEW YORK — Year after year, too many Emmy categories are laden with expected and oft-repeated winners. No drama then, when the envelope is torn.
But there is drama in advance in the crisis categories that’ll be presented Sunday night.
Four of the seven nominated episode series are new on the world. As a result at least one half of the greatest Drama Actress, Actor and Supporting Actor nominees result from freshman shows, as do no fewer than five of the six Best Supporting Actress crisis nominees.
No wonder the very best Episode field has confounded odds-makers. Anybody of those nominees could collect the trophy.
Consider the large range of contenders:
— “Better Call Saul.” On basic cable (AMC), with its third consecutive Best Crisis nomination, yet so far no Emmy wins in virtually any category.
— “Westworld.” On high quality cable tv (HBO). Its first 12 months in contention.
— “The Handmaid’s Tale.” On the streaming channel (Hulu). Its first time in contention, and, possibly, Hulu’s maiden Emmy succeed.
— “House of Cards.” On the rival streaming route already well-established with Emmy-winning content (Netflix), nominated for its fifth consecutive season.
— “Stranger Things.” Also on Netflix, in its first season.
— “The Crown.” Yet ANOTHER Netflix entry, also in its rookie season.
— “This Is Us.” A freshman series on NBC, a broadcast network that scored its first Emmy in 1949 but which, along with the other legacy broadcasters, has been shut out of this category for a long time. (CBS’ “The Good Wife” was these broadcasters’ previous play series to be nominated, in 2011, and ABC’s “Lost” was the previous to win, way back in 2005.)
Tom O’Neil, author of “The Emmys” guide book and editor of Yellow metal Derby, an awards handicapping website, predicts “Stranger Things” will need the prize, however in the same breath he acknowledges that show is too young-skewing and too “genre” to be an Emmy slam-dunk. The theatre category, he amounts up, is “widely open. You will make a compelling debate for all seven nominees.”
But let’s reserve for a moment who will succeed, and give attention to what these nominees say about Tv set today. To begin with, over fifty percent of the field result from streaming programs, a distribution system that wasn’t represented by the Emmys until “House of Credit cards” claimed three statuettes in 2013.
Both top quality and basic wire are also represented. (And it’s really fun to recall that, until 1988, Emmy didn’t even identify cable tv shows.)
So that the category’s biggest wonder, broadcast TV, which once experienced the Emmys all to itself, has pulled an upset by the network denied a drama-series win for 14 years.
Another oddity about the very best Drama field this year: Here, at least, Emmy voters have kicked the habit of picking the same series time and again. (Consider the very best Comedy category, where “Veep” has been nominated yearly since its 2012 premiere and earned twice — so far.) The past time as many as half the episode field was newcomers occurred more than 30 years ago.
“The radical infusion of new blood in the Emmy race is largely because of the huge impact that loading services are experiencing on Tv set,” O’Neil notes. He pointed to how Netflix, Hulu and Amazon (which includes arrived eight Emmys in just two seasons for “Transparent”) “are having the same disruptive impact on the Emmys that they are having on the TV industry.”
Meanwhile, recent revisions in how Emmy votes are cast and counted has possibly boosted the probabilities to get more edgy entries. This past year, the academy switched from a ranking-and-points system to simply enabling voters check off an individual top choice. That may take into account how Rami Malek, the legend of USA’s dystopian crisis “Mr. Robot,” upset voter-friendly individuals like Kevin Spacey, Bob Odenkirk and Kyle Chandler.
Needless to say, the Emmy has been a work-in-progress since its inception. Its regulations and procedures have been around in turmoil and dispute dating back to 1964, when ABC and CBS lashed out by boycotting the awards service (aired on NBC that calendar year) as unfair.
“The fatal flaw in the Emmy awards is the academy’s pathetic yearning to be liked at any price, to revise its systems of awards to meet whatever would be the latest wave of criticism,” wrote The New York Times’ Jack Gould after the 1965 Emmycast, which, in response to the ’64 kerfuffle, made some unbelievably dumb changes. “Refinements” included bunching every one of the entertainment nominees into a single all-inclusive, non-competing category. A pick up tote of 15 programs — variety, comedy, play, even high-brow music — resulted, with four of these nominees scoring Emmys.
“An unmitigated catastrophe,” Gould says. The next year, standard categories were restored. Definitely, who-will-win suspense was necessary to viewers, no matter how much grousing might come with it.
It still is. Which year’s crisis category, with seven valuable contenders, is offering up assured suspense. But will the victor, whichever it is, really be the “best” show?
“The Emmys have NEVER chosen the best shows on Tv set,” O’Neil says with a laugh. He needs only to cite HBO’s “The Wire,” a everlasting fixture on many best-shows-ever lists that, every one of its five times, received the Emmy brush-off (apart from a pair of writing nominations).
“There’s tons of outrageous cases you can point to,” O’Neil adds — “Lindsay Wagner acquired Best Dramatic Actress for ‘The Bionic Woman’!”
But it isn’t so hard to comprehend, he explains: “The Emmys choose what they LIKE.”