For Emmy junkies, months of speculation and mock-balloting all got swept away over the course of ten minutes on Thursday morning, when the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences finally revealed its full nomination slate. Today saw the long-awaited unveiling of Emmys 2017 picks, and the customary glee/outrage over a surprise inclusion/snub has arrived right on schedule. (Your day will come, Rachel Bloom.) Below, we’ve broken down the major developments and game-changers.
1. Best Drama has been blown wide open
Quirks of scheduling and awards-submission cutoffs have conspired to give reigning Best Drama Series victor Game of Thrones a gap year, so the category is now fully up for grabs. A new challenger may run away with the prize – the Emmy track record favors shows generating a lot of buzz from a strong debut season over the dependable workhorses overdue for some love – but Better Call Saul could be a potential spoiler. It’s praised but not a niche critical darling, and recognizable to voters with memories of Breaking Bad‘s long tenure of Emmy domination. Jimmy McGill’s luck may be looking up.
2. It’s safe to go genre
Think of the last time a genre film stood a serious shot at winning the Best Picture Oscar. (Yes, Avatar was all the way back in 2009.) The Emmys do not share their cinematic sister program’s reluctance to recognize the world of entertainment beyond drama and comedy, even though they break the categories up that way for simplicity’s sake. As clearly evidenced by the shower of gold that Game of Thrones enjoys every year, fantasy and sci-fi are far from disadvantaged in the Emmy race. In 2017, populist hits Westworld and Stranger Things will attempt to ride their zetigeist-wave right to the podium – and if the Stranger Things crew walks away with the win, buckle up for one hell of an acceptance speech.
3. A deluge of new blood (Atlanta, Handmaid’s Tale, This Is Us)
Westworld and Stranger Things are just two in a huge freshman class entering the Emmy fray this year. NBC parlayed the surprising grassroots support for decade-spanning melodrama This Is Us into a Best Drama nod and a mess of acting citations (Milo Ventimiglia, Sterling K. Brown, Ron Cephas Jones, Chrissy Metz, Denis O’Hare, Brian Tyree Henry, and Gerald McRaney all scored). Donald Glover’s Atlanta landed him in the Best Comedy and Best Actor in a Comedy Series races, The Handmaid’s Tale got a spot in the Best Drama category and a nod for Elisabeth Moss, and juicy historical series The Crown fills out the Best Drama melee from across the Atlantic. The more untested quantities, the less predictable an Emmy race, and that can only be good news for viewers.
4. So long, Leftovers
Carrie Coon’s name will be spoken on Emmy night, but because it will be uttered only once (for Fargo), that still counts as a disappointment. Fans of HBO’s The Leftovers hoped against hope that the actress might double up and score a nomination for her work on the unrelentingly bleak religious drama, but she couldn’t squeeze into the crowded Best Actress in a Drama category. More aggravating still, The Leftovers was shut out completely in its final season, meaning the Emmy voters have missed their last chance at redemption – a topic with which the characters on the show are all too familiar. Joining them in the snub outskirts: The Young Pope, Insecure, Girls, The Good Place, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and plenty of others.
5. The limited series is the province of movie stars now
In recent years, the Limited Series categories have turned into something of a vacation spot for Hollywood types. Whereas doing TV was once assumed to be a step down for A-list big-screen actors, major names now regularly flock to the safe haven of the miniseries and its finite production period, as opposed to the open-ended engagement of a proper show. 2017 has seen the category completely overrun. On the female side, we’ve got Felicity Huffman, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Fargo‘s Coon, Jessica Lange, and Susan Sarandon, and Coon’s the only one without an Oscar nomination to her name. Among the men, we’ve got Benedict Cumberbatch, Riz Ahmed, Ewan McGregor, Geoffrey Rush, John Turturro, and Robert freakin’ de Niro. Ahmed’s the odd-man-out with his roots in TV, but even he has already been anointed as a silver screen idol for his heroic turn in Rogue One. To actors hunting for gold, slumming it in the non-slum of prestige TV may seem like a recipe for an instant nomination, but every rule has its exceptions. It wasn’t so long ago that Kidman was on Lifetime, embarrassing herself as Grace Kelly…