Emmys offer a nominee lineup made for the internet age



In the past, the Television Academy has often been slow to recognize quirkier or off-the-beaten-track fare. Not so in the 72nd annual edition of its awards, which might be the most web-traffic-friendly lineup of Emmy nominees ever. It’s like someone (or really, a whole lot of someones) finally got the memo that we live in the age of the internet.

Whether the academy and host network ABC will be able to maximize that remains to be seen, as they prepare for a virtual presentation because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But academy members certainly did their part to break from the organization’s sometimes-stodgy image, with high-profile nominations for Zendaya in HBO’s teen-drug-abuse drama “Euphoria,” “The Mandalorian’s” unexpected best-drama bid and FX’s vampire satire “What We Do in the Shadows” as outstanding comedy series.

Without “Game of Thrones” in its quiver, the nomination total for HBO not surprisingly dropped — from 137 nominations last year to 107. Netflix, meanwhile, exploded to a staggering 160 nominations overall — shattering the record HBO set in 2019 — despite the encroachment of new services like Disney+ (19, all but four of those for “The Mandalorian”), Apple TV+ (18) and Quibi (10).

The influx of new players has, inevitably, squeezed opportunities for older ones. Even with the drama and comedy series candidates expanded to eight, NBC’s “The Good Place” — in its final season — was the only broadcast program recognized. Amazon also delivered far fewer nominations, despite claiming 20 for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
Netflix has now topped HBO in the overall tally for the second time in three years, after the pay service had held that crown for 17 years in a row. Part of that has to do with the sheer volume of Netflix contenders, amassing nominations for a dizzying array of shows in every conceivable category, including specials, TV movies (with four of the five nominations) and nonfiction fare like the much-buzzed-about “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.” (Like CNN, HBO is a unit of WarnerMedia.)

Of course, sheer tonnage in nominations doesn’t always translate into wins, and HBO would still appear to be well positioned to make considerable noise on awards night. The nework’s heavyweights include this year’s most-nominated program in “Watchmen” — competing in an absolutely loaded limited-series category — and drama nominee “Succession,” which tied “Ozark” in its category.

Award nominations can never please everybody, and wading through the dozens of categories, it’s a virtual certainty that any TV viewer will find some teeth-gnashing “snub” or oversight about which to gripe. In late night alone, for example, Bill Maher, Jimmy Fallon and James Corden’s shows were overlooked, while “The Daily Show” alums Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah and John Oliver all made the cut, along with Jimmy Kimmel.

Still, this was that rare year when the Emmys delivered plenty of surprises, in mostly admirable ways. That certainly provides the ingredients for an interesting show, with the slightly sobering reality that in the age of coronavirus, it’s not going to look like the telecasts of the past in more ways than one.

The 72nd Emmys will air Sept. 20 on ABC.



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