The Only Place Beyonce's 'Lemonade,' Netflix's 'Making a Murderer' Can Win an Emmy

TV's big awards night tends to overshadow a slightly less glittery event: the Creative Arts honors, which recognize a variety of crafts, talent and special formats — and sometimes presage major category winners.
Illustration by: Koren Shadmi

Everyone knows about the Emmy Awards, but not many, even in Hollywood, are as familiar with the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. The former, of course, celebrates a host of series as well as actors, directors and writers — and its celeb-heavy categories tend to steal the spotlight from the latter, which recognizes the best of the rest of TV (and often contains clues to the winners at the main event). Eyes tend to glaze over while scanning the CAEA's dozens of categories (which this year will be presented across two evenings, Sept. 10-11). But the truth is, while some of those categories aren't especially exciting — sorry, outstanding technical direction, camerawork, video control for a limited series, movie or special — many really are.

Skeptical? Well, if you're one of many who have told friends about Netflix's examination of Steven Avery's case, Making a Murderer; howled at Larry David's cameos as Bernie Sanders on SNL; tweeted about HBO's Beyonce "visual album" Lemonade; shared a clip of Jerry Seinfeld on Crackle's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee; or sung along to the opening to Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, you might be interested to learn that the only place they can be celebrated with an Emmy is at the CAEA.

This year's big CAEA news is that YouTube shows — indeed, all "series with a minimum of six episodes running an average of 15 minutes or less per episode, exhibited over-the-air and/or via cable, satellite or internet" — are now Emmy-eligible in five categories: reality/nonfiction (which replaces the short-format fiction program category in which Seinfeld's show has twice been nominated), variety, comedy or drama, actor and actress.

As always, the CAEA will dish out four guest acting nods — contenders are expected to include SNL's David and several of the show's hosts.

HBO is pushing Lemonade for variety special, which also is being targeted by a host of stand-up comedy specials — HBO's Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo, Ferrell Takes the Field and Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted and Netflix's Chris Tucker: Live and Talking for Clapping, to name a few — plus Hulu's Triumph Election Special.

The favorite for best documentary or nonfiction series, won last year by HBO's The Jinx, again is a murder mystery, Making a Murderer, though Netflix's Cooked and Chef's Table or PBS' latest Ken Burns epic, Jackie Robinson, could upend it. Meanwhile, best documentary or nonfiction special might go to an Oscar hopeful that also showed up on TV, as happened last year with HBO's Going Clear, and could happen again this year with Cartel Land and The Hunting Ground. Best informational series or special, meanwhile, could be a fight between Bravo's 16-time nominee/2013 winner Inside the Actors Studio and last year's winner, CNN's Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.

Live musicals, now all the rage, could get their moment in the sun in the best special class program category — NBC's The Sound of Music Live! was nominated in 2014, and that network's The Wiz Live and Fox's Grease: Live could follow in its footsteps — but they'll be up against perennials like the Oscars and the Tonys. Speaking of Broadway, two adaptations are likely to turn up in the best television movie category, All the Way and Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill, as well as the Kerry Washington vehicle Confirmation — all via HBO.

Last year's winner of best short-format live-action entertainment program, FunnyOrDie.com's Between Two Ferns, won't be back (no new episodes), which could pave the way for Super Bowl 50's halftime show; 49's was nominated last year. Another Super Bowl flashback could come in the best commercial category, which almost certainly will include a few of that event's $5 million spots.

This CAEA is the last at which Ryan Seacrest could win for American Idol — he's been nominated four times for best host for a reality or reality-competition program, but his only win came for producing Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Similarly looking for love is The Walking Dead, cable's highest-rated show, which has only ever won for best prosthetic makeup for a series, miniseries or special but which could win a once-removed prize if Talking Dead conquers best interactive program. And then there's Kimmy Schmidt's addictive opening, not even nominated last year for best main title design or best original main title theme music.

Lastly, keep an eye on the leaderboard coming out of the CAEA because when a show cleans up in its craft and tech categories, it often augurs a big night at the Emmys, particularly in the series categories, on which the same voters get to weigh in. Case in point: Game of Thrones, which last year won a field-leading eight prizes at the CAEA then went on to its first Emmy win for best drama series.

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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