If you’re particularly invested in the perpetual “Who is the king of Emmy mountain — HBO or Netflix?” argument, the 2019 Emmy nominations seem to have put that question to definitive rest for now. The announcement, made the morning of July 16, ended with HBO’s programming from the 2018–’19 TV season netting a staggering 137 nominations (up from 108 last year) to Netflix’s 117 (also up, from 112).
HBO didn’t just obliterate Netflix. It obliterated its own previous record — 126 nominations in 2015 — and reasserted its position as King of Emmy Mountain after Netflix briefly stole the title (the first time any network had beat HBO in almost 20 years) last year.
But all of that HBO dominance doesn’t leave room for a lot of other Emmy narratives. In the drama categories, for instance, Game of Thrones has sucked up so many nominations (a record-breaking 32) that the second most-nominated drama is Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which received 11 nominations and isn’t even eligible for the awards’ top categories. And while the comedy categories are a little more evenly spread out, HBO still boasts massive nomination totals for Barry (17) and Veep (nine). Oh, it also leads the Limited Series categories with 19 nominations for Chernobyl. Not bad.
We could pretend the 2019 Emmy nominations reestablish television’s natural order after Netflix’s brief fling with being the top dog. We could also point to how neither Game of Thrones nor Veep will be eligible to compete in 2020, as both ended their runs in the spring of 2019. But the future is unknowable! Right now, HBO is on top again.
So, really, HBO is the “winner” of this year’s Emmy nominations, but here are a few more winners and losers all the same.
I just finished talking about how much HBO crushed it, but let’s make it official, shall we?
Both Game of Thrones and Veep attracted some degree of critical grumbling over final season missteps, but Emmy voters didn’t really seem to care, rewarding both shows handsomely (though Veep getting left out of the comedy directing category raised my eyebrow at least a centimeter). And with essentially every other major competitor stepping out of its way, Game of Thrones should cruise to a record-tying fourth win in the Outstanding Drama Series category. (Veep will have a tougher path.)
HBO also managed to snag additional nominations in both the comedy and drama categories, with Barry and Succession, respectively, making it the only network to manage two nominations in both top categories. And it landed two Limited Series nominations for Chernobyl and Sharp Objects. Hell, it got three of the five nominations in the made-for-TV movie category.
I do think HBO’s strength is at least a little illusory. It won’t have Veep or Game of Thrones or Chernobyl to boost its nominations totals next year (though it will have Big Little Lies and Westworld and Barry). But that feels a little like trying to rain on somebody’s parade. HBO: It did great.
Winner: Shows that have never been nominated in a series category before
Typically, there’s minimal turnover in the Comedy and Drama Series categories. Occasionally, two or three first-time nominees will break in, but rarely four or five. And if one category sees substantial turnover, then the other is usually pretty staid.
Not this year. The Outstanding Comedy Series category has four first-time series nominees (Fleabag, The Good Place, Russian Doll, and Schitt’s Creek), while the Drama Series category has five (Bodyguard, Killing Eve, Ozark, Pose, and Succession). And while the Drama Series category was primed for such turnover, the Outstanding Comedy Series category wasn’t, not really, and yet several nominees from last year (notably Black-ish, GLOW, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) ended up sidelined in favor of new names.
The drama nominees all struggled to rack up big nomination totals in the face of the Game of Thrones onslaught (Bodyguard managed just two nominations — Drama Series and writing). But both Fleabag (11 nominations) and Russian Doll (13) saw double-digit totals on the Comedy side.
And if you look past the top categories, you’ll find plenty of refreshing first-time nominations for shows early in their runs, shows like PEN15 (writing) and Big Mouth (animated program).
But perhaps the most surprising first-time nominee of all is …
Winner: Schitt’s Creek
I spent a lot of time laughing off PopTV’s efforts to secure Emmy recognition for Schitt’s Creek. The tiny cable channel might have had a big, quiet ally in the form of Netflix — the show’s streaming home and where it has perhaps become best known — but its corporate conglomerate (CBS TV) hasn’t always been the best at running Emmy campaigns, even for shows on the more high-profile Showtime and CBS. The CW, for instance, has never quite gotten its Emmy due, despite having some terrific shows like Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
And even more damning, Schitt’s Creek is now nominated for its fifth season, with plans already in place for the show to end with its sixth. The number of shows that have made it into the top categories this late in their run is very, very small and mostly includes some of the greatest series of all time, shows like Friday Night Lights (first nominated in season five) and The Americans (first nominated in season four).
Plus, the show originates in Canada. Who wants to reward Canada?
But Schitt’s Creek pulled it off. The series only received four nominations, but three of those were in the biggest categories possible — Outstanding Comedy Series and both of the two lead acting categories, for Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. (The fourth was for costumes.) When it comes to Emmy campaigning, persistence pays off, no matter how unlikely. So does having two comedy legends billed first in your cast.
Loser: Diversity in the top categories
The Emmys have frequently crowed about how much more diverse they are than, say, the Oscars. And it’s true that the 2019 nominations still reflect this, with lots of nominations for the many great actors of color in the cast of When They See Us and a nomination for Pose’s Billy Porter in Lead Actor in a Drama Series. So the Emmys still have less ground to make up than many other awards shows do.
But the 2019 nominations still feel like a minor step back, particularly in the comedy categories, which are much more heavily dominated by white actors than they have been in the past few years. The Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category, for example, featured Black-ish’s Tracee Ellis-Ross and Insecure’s Issa Rae just last year, but both were bumped this year in favor of a completely white lineup.
Similarly, the supporting players from Pose — particularly the show’s several trans actresses — were left out of categories that were dominated by supporting actors from Game of Thrones(which scooped up seven of the 13 total Supporting Acting nominations). The nomination of any one of Pose’s trans performers would have been a notable first (though trans actress Laverne Cox, who remains the only trans performer to be nominated at the Emmys, received her second nomination in the guest acting category for Orange Is the New Black).
Winner: Streaming networks
Sure, Netflix lost the “most nominations” title to HBO, but the network still increased its total from 112 in 2018 nominations to 117 this year. It seems likely to keep nipping at HBO’s heels, if not overtaking it outright, especially since its big awards magnets Stranger Things and The Crown will be back in play next Emmy season.
But the biggest growth for a streaming platform this year belongs to Amazon’s Prime Video, which jumped from 22 nominations in 2018 to 47 in this year, thanks to huge performances……….Read More>>