Emmys: 10 Things to Look for in the Nominations

THR's awards columnist speculates about what might be "this season's 'Game of Thrones,'" colliding costars, late-night wars, "the Trump effect" and more.
From left to right: Courtesy of FX, Hulu and HBO
Donald Glover in 'Atlanta,' Elisabeth Moss in 'The Handmaid's Tale' and Anthony Hopkins in 'Westworld'

1. Who will take Game's throne?

HBO's epic fantasy Game of Thrones led the Emmys field in total nominations for the past three years and in total wins in each of the last two, claiming the drama series prize in 2015 and 2016. But this year, it won't receive any recognition after, well, abdicating the throne. (It's seventh season bows July 16, missing this season's May 31 eligibility cutoff.) So which show will be the TV Academy's favorite this season? It could well be one of two other HBO offerings, the limited series Big Little Lies or the comedy series Veep; FX's limited series Feud or Fargo; Netflix's drama series The Crown or Stranger Things; or NBC's variety sketch series Saturday Night Live or drama series This Is Us.

2. Hail the conquering streamers?

In the drama series category, with Game of Thrones' slot opening up and the major streaming services — Netflix, Amazon and Hulu — offering better options than ever before, we could be looking at the first instance in history in which as many as three streaming shows earn drama series noms, and maybe even more. Netflix probably can expect noms for The Crown (which won this year's best drama series Golden Globe), Stranger Things (which won this year's best ensemble SAG Award) and House of Cards (which has been nominated for all four of its previous seasons). And Hulu looks poised to snag its first series nom for The Handmaid's Tale, which has become a cultural phenomenon.

3. Drama for HBO?

Without Game of Thrones, HBO's best — and only realistic — hope in the drama series category is rookie Westworld, which boasts a star-studded cast (including Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright and Thandie Newton) but has proved to be rather divisive. In an ultra-competitive year, the sci-fi show might very well get boxed out of the final seven (perhaps by AMC's Better Call Saul, Showtime's Homeland, USA's Mr. Robot or another show that's also considered on-the-bubble), which would be statistically significant: there has only been one time year this century, in 2008, when the pay cable behemoth hasn't been represented in the category.

4. Signs of life from broadcast?

Pay cable and streaming increasingly have dominated the Emmys landscape in recent years, particularly in the drama series category. Indeed, the last broadcast drama series to land a nom in the category was The Good Wife back in 2011 and the most recent winner was 24 more than a decade ago, in 2006. But the highest-rated new drama series in 2017, which also received widespread critical acclaim, was This Is Us, which hails from The Peacock Network and looks all but certain to land a drama series nom — and maybe even win. On the comedy side, ABC's popular Black-ish and Modern Family seem likely to receive series noms again. But broadcast's biggest ratings behemoths — the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory and the Fox drama Empire — appear destined to watch from the sidelines.

5. Talking over each other?

For my money, no category boasts more worthy contenders than best variety talk series, which includes late night's weekly (John Oliver, Bill Maher, Samantha Bee, et al) and nightly (Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, James Corden, Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers, Conan O'Brien, et al) offerings, as well as a bit of potpourri (Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee). Inevitably, some worthy programs are going to be left out. Two particularly interesting things to watch: Might this year bring a nom for Colbert's The Late Show, which wasn't nominated last year, but surged into the late-night ratings lead this year? Or a snub for Maher's Real Time, which was nominated last year but came under widespread criticism this year, just as nomination voting was getting underway, when the host used the N-word on the air?

6. Colliding costars?

As we were reminded this season by FX's Feud, which devoted its best episode to the 1963 Oscars at which Bette Davis was nominated but Joan Crawford was not for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, there are few things in Hollywood more awkward than only one star of a two-hander receiving awards recognition. Ironically, the same sort of thing could befall the stars of Feud, Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, both of whom are competing in the jam-packed best actress in a limited series category, as are two other A-list costars, Big Little Lies' Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. In the best actor in a limited series category, will there be room for both of The Night Of's stars, Riz Ahmed and John Turturro? How about Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown and Winona Ryder in best supporting actress in a drama series? Or Westworld's Ed Harris and Jeffrey Wright in best supporting actor in a drama series, which also pits Better Call Saul's Jonathan Banks, Michael McKean and Giancarlo Esposito against one another? Another battle of three comes in best supporting actor in a comedy series, in which Veep's two-time past winner Tony Hale, Timothy Simons and Matt Walsh are all competing. And, after two years of only Lily Tomlin garnering best actress in a comedy series noms for Grace and Frankie, will her costar Jane Fonda finally join — or displace — her this cycle?

7. The Trump effect

The oddities of the first six-plus months of Donald Trump's presidency have altered the compass of what seems normal and crazy — and may also have thrown the TV Academy's sensibilities off its normal axis. Veep's outrageousness no longer seems as outrageous; House of Cards' corruption no longer seems as shocking; and shows about a host of topics suddenly seem more interesting and relevant than they did before, including hacking (Mr. Robot), Russian spies (The Americans), misogyny (The Handmaid's Tale and Big Little Lies), racial intolerance (Black-ish and Atlanta), LGBT issues (Transparent), undocumented immigrants (American Crime), Wall Street greed (Billions and The Wizard of Lies) and, yes, a female president (Homeland). At the same time, it's safe to assume that more people are watching TV for escapism than were doing so a year ago, which might explain the unexpected popularity of glorified soap operas (This Is Us), period pieces set safely in the past (The Crown) and shows that might be called otherworldly (Stranger Things). Will this impact the noms? Watch this space.

8. Another step toward a single-year EGOT?

Already this year, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the hottest songwriting team in show business, have won an Oscar (for La La Land) and a Tony (for Dear Evan Hansen), meaning they're halfway to an EGOT (an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony quartet), an achievement that only 12 people in the history of show business ever have been able to claim. Their magical run could continue at the Emmys: if they are nominated for "Runnin' Home to You," a song they wrote for the acclaimed musical episode of The CW's The Flash, it's hard to imagine any fellow nominee managing to overcome their tune and, just as important, their Cinderella story.

9. Fond farewells?

A number of shows that the TV Academy previously has recognized in major categories (HBO's Girls, Netflix's Bloodline), as well as others that it has not yet recognized (HBO's The Leftovers, A&E's Bates Motel), came to an end in the past year. The TV Academy has been known to get sentimental about departing programs and people — recognizing, for example, Friday Night Lights' Kyle Chandler and Mad Men's Jon Hamm for the first time for their shows' final seasons — so might we expect to see this year's dearly departed get similar attention? I think there's a chance at noms for The Leftovers' Justin Theroux and/or Carrie Coon, and maybe Episodes' Matt LeBlanc, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

10. New beginnings?

This set of nominations could bring the first-ever recognition for some familiar networks and content creators. For instance, the aforementioned streaming service Hulu looks likely to join competitors Netflix, Amazon and Crackle as a nominee in at least one major Emmys category for the first time, thanks to the strong first season of its drama series The Handmaid's Tale. The limited series Genius, which marks National Geographic's first foray into scripted entertainment, seems poised to land several noms of its own. And truTV's Billy on the Street may well register its first recognition in the best variety sketch series category, following host Billy Eichner's Daytime Emmy nom for outstanding game show host in 2013 and the show's Primetime Emmy nom for outstanding short-format live-action entertainment program in 2015.

The Emmy nominations will be announced Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. PT. Visit THR.com at that time to watch a live stream of the announcement and head here for a list of final projections in every category.

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