Emmy Nominations: The Good, the Bad and the Just Weird Reveals

Game of Thrones - Season 8, Episode 6 -Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen- H 2019
Courtesy of HBO

Upon reviewing the 71st Emmy nominations announced Tuesday morning, my immediate takeaway was that they are weird — in some ways good, in other ways bad, but definitely weird.

For one thing, the TV tide clearly seems to be breaking toward Netflix, which last year broke HBO's streak of scoring the most Emmy nominations after 17 years — its 112 bested HBO's 108 — and yet today, HBO, which appears to be somewhat in turmoil, decisively reclaimed the title, 137 to 117. (Nobody else was even close — NBC was third with 58, up an impressive 20 from last year.) Sure, things could look very different next year when HBO will be without both drama Game of Thrones (the final season of which landed 32 noms, more than any drama has ever received in a single season) and comedy Veep. But for one more year, at least, HBO is tops in TV.

Things just get weirder from there. Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale — the first season of which won best drama two years ago when Game of Thrones was sidelined, and the second season of which was nominated last year — pulled an impressive 11 noms today...but not for its third season, which premiered June 5 (that's too late for this season), but for the last three episodes of its second (which were not released in time to be considered last year). And, of this year's eligible dramas, only Thrones scored more. That's astounding.

Meanwhile, shows from the big four broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC — are hanging on for dear life. Among the series nominees are just one network drama (This Is Us) and one network comedy (The Good Place, staving off what would have been the first year in which that category did not have any network representation). Even stalwarts like comedy Black-ish and its lead actress Tracee Ellis Ross, Mom's lead actress in a comedy Allison Janney and Saturday Night Live's Alec Baldwin fell off the map. NBC's saving grace was Saturday Night Live (18 noms) and This Is Us (nine noms, including seven for acting); CBS had 35 noms (the departing audience favorite The Big Bang Theory accounted for just three, none major); ABC had 31; and Fox, the network that will air this year's Emmys, had just 16.

The TV Academy is famous for nominating the same shows over and over, even when they are well past their prime (ahem, ABC's Modern Family). One theory holds that, in the era of Peak TV, overwhelmed TV viewers simply hitch their wagon to about a dozen shows and stick with them, nominating them up and down the ballot. There is some evidence of that this year — Thrones, This Is Us, Netflix's House of Cards (for which Robin Wright is nominated for lead actress in a drama) have all seen better days.

But this year, TV Academy members uncharacteristically took a second look at a bunch of shows that it had previously overlooked and recognized them. Last year, BBC America's Killing Eve garnered only two nods for its first season, best actress in a drama (Sandra Oh) and best writing of a drama (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), but for its second season it is nominated for nine — those same two, plus best drama, best actress in a drama (Jodie Comer) and best supporting actress in a drama (Fiona Shaw), among others. The show, in the drama category, may represent the greatest threat to Thrones, the final season of which turned off a lot of people.

Additionally, Schitt's Creek, a Canadian production made available in America via Pop, had a cult-like following but no Emmy nods for its first four seasons, but is now nominated for best comedy, best actor in a comedy (Eugene Levy) and best actress in a comedy (Catherine O'Hara), the first-ever noms for the show or network. Ted Danson had previously landed some best actor in a comedy noms for NBC's The Good Place, but this year, for the show's third season, it is also nominated for best comedy. Amazon's Fleabag, which garnered zero nods for its first season, snagged 11 for its second and last, including best comedy and best actress in a comedy (Waller-Bridge). And ABC's How to Get Away With Murder, for its fifth season, landed a best actress in a drama nom for Viola Davis, who won for its first but dropped off the radar for its fourth.

Rookie shows did quite well this year — at least in the series categories. Drama nominees included Netflix's Bodyguard (but, bizarrely, not lead actor Richard Madden, who appears in every scene of the show and won the equivalent Golden Globe), HBO's Succession (but none of its ensemble, including lead actor Brian Cox) and FX's Pose (but none of its large ensemble, save for lead actor Billy Porter). Netflix's Russian Doll, meanwhile, cracked the comedy category (and its star Natasha Lyonne also was nominated for lead actress in a comedy). There were, however, two rookies that were surprisingly missing: Amazon drama Homecoming (stars Stephan James and Julia Roberts are also MIA) and Netflix comedy The Kominsky Method (even though lead actor Michael Douglas and supporting actor Alan Arkin received individual recognition for the show that won the best comedy series Golden Globe). And some thought Netflix's late-breaking Dead to Me might also have a shot, but in the end its sole rep was Christina Applegate in the lead actress in a comedy race.

I think TV Academy members blew it by not nominating Madden and his costar Keeley Hawes (supporting actress in a drama), Roberts and her co-star Bobby Cannavale (supporting actor in a drama), Who Is America's Sacha Baron Cohen (lead actor in a comedy), Shrill's Aidy Bryant (lead actress in a comedy), Veep's Timothy Simons (supporting actor in a comedy), Better Call Saul's Rhea Seehorn (supporting actress in a drama), Better Things' Pamela Adlon (lead actress in a comedy), Fosse/Verdon's Norbert Leo Butz (supporting actor in a limited), Netflix's Quincy (documentary or nonfiction special), The Good Fight's Christine Baranski (lead actress in a drama), Succession's Kieran Culkin (supporting actor in a drama), Pose's MJ Rodriguez (lead actress in a drama) and Evan Peters (supporting actor in a drama), This Is Us' Susan Kelechi Watson (supporting actress in a drama), Kidding's Jim Carrey (lead actor in a comedy), The Hot Zone's Julianna Margulies (lead actress in a limited), Sharp Objects' Chris Messina (supporting actor in a limited) and Eliza Scanlen (supporting actress in a limited), HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher and NBC's The Tonight Show (variety talk), HBO's Tracey Ullman's Show (variety sketch), and Netflix's The Staircase, Making a Murderer 2 and Dogs (documentary or nonfiction series).

But there are plenty of noms that were far from assured that I'm very happy to see pan out, among them Schitt's Creek and the legendary team of Levy and O'Hara, Bodyguard, Fleabag and Waller-Bridge, Thrones' Sophie Turner (supporting actress in a drama), This Is UsMandy Moore (lead actress in a drama), Netflix's FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (documentary or nonfiction special), Porter, Don Cheadle (lead actor in a comedy), Tidying Up with Marie Kondo's Marie Kondo (host), When They See Us' Jharrel Jerome (lead actor in a limited), Barry's Sarah Goldberg (supporting actress in a comedy), Stephen Root and Anthony Carrigan (supporting actor in a comedy), Lifetime's Surviving R. Kelly and Netflix's My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman (informational series or special), The Act's Joey King (lead actress in a limited), Better Call Saul's Giancarlo Esposito (supporting actor in a drama), HBO's The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley and Leaving Neverland (documentary or nonfiction special), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's Marin Hinkle (supporting actress in a comedy), Fosse/Verdon's Margaret Qualley (supporting actress in a limited), Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Trevor Noah (variety talk for the second year in a row) and Netflix's Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (variety special prerecorded).

In other words, there is plenty of reason to stay tuned to the race for the 68 days between now and the 71st Emmy Awards on Sept. 22!