A column chronicling events and conversations on the awards circuit.
The long and winding Emmy Awards season comes to crunch time as final voting begins today with a deadline for return of ballots by 10 p.m. PT on Monday. Studios and networks still are sending food to remind media to get the word out. NBCUniversal on Wednesday sent a full menu of goodies such as seasonal vegetable quiche, assorted mini pastries, fresh orange juice, farmer’s market fruit and so on with menu and “Special Delivery” note working in all the titles of their contenders: “THIS IS US thanking you for all your support during awards season. Whether or not you’re a TOP CHEF yourself we hope you enjoy these delicious treats. It has been a lot of early mornings and a lot of LATE NIGHT’s but we appreciate all you’ve done to use your (The) VOICE” etc., etc. Disney TV Studios gave voters instructions how to access their Pose and Black-ish Food Truck Experience last weekend at various checkpoints around town.
Deadline Launches Its Contenders Television: The Nominees Streaming Site
The studio just this morning delivered a retro TV dinner (beef, mashed potatoes, brownie) wrapped in tin foil and sitting without comment in a specially designed WandaVision box, followed a little later by an email headlined “WandaVision TV Dinner Stunt” including information about a live “Twitter Spaces” chat with stars and creators today to join today. The International Documentary Association carried a message from NatGeo promoting a pizza giveaway all this weekend from Gino’s East in Sherman Oaks, where you call ahead and order a Chicago deep-crust pizza (or thin crust, plus soft drinks) and then head out to the Valley to pick it up — all in honor of its Emmy-nominated docuseries City So Real. Either all these studios are concerned we don’t get enough to eat during Emmy season or they are strategically timing these food giveaways to the start of voting. I suspect the latter, but thanks for thinking of me.
Not missing a beat, Robin Roberts this morning used her position as anchor on Good Morning America to do a long interview in the 8:30 a.m. slot with Lifetime’s Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia star Danielle Brooks and director Kenny Leon and also promoted the cable network’s special 6 p.m. rebroadcast of the Emmy-nominated TV movie for tonight, as well as more from the interview on her Facebook page. And of course, many of these shows and personalities (including Roberts and Brooks) appeared all last weekend on Deadline’s The Contenders Television: The Nominees live streamed event — and now available to be seen individually on this very site — just one of a number of seemingly endless opportunities campaigns are taking in order to stand out in this sea of content.
TO SWEEP OR NOT TO SWEEP
Certainly it is very tough to get a foothold in the race as the nominations (announced on July 13) proved. If your show gets seen by a large number of voters, clearly it makes a difference. It seemed more than ever the nominations in many categories reflected the haves and have nots. A well-known title like Hamilton managed seven acting nods alone. Certainly the name helped, and I would bet a lot of those votes came just from people who saw the show on Broadway (when the filmed record of the original cast was shot five years ago) and not even the actual “television” production that ran on Disney .
Ted Lasso, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Crown, Lovecraft Country were others with so many acting nominations that if you were a performer with a decent role you probably are going to the Emmys. Saturday Night Live with an incredible 11 nominations across just four Comedy acting categories is simply in a class by itself, smothering out so many other worthy contenders not lucky enough to be in a high profile showcase like that one.
Last year the trend became apparent with Schitt’s Creek simply sweeping the board and picking up every major Emmy for which it was nominated including all four stars. Can that happen again with Ted Lasso (20 nominations) or possible spoiler Hacks (15 nominations)? Will The Crown sweep drama series for the first time after four seasons, or can a crafty campaign from FX on behalf of the third and final season of Pose with the catchphrase “Make History” blasted across its ads do the trick (particularly for Lead Actress nominee Mj Rodriguez poised to become the first major transgender Emmy winner ever)? I remember how effective the second phase campaign was that then-Fox Searchlight waged for its Best Picture hopeful 12 Years a Slave a few years back. Ads for the slave drama simply stated: “It’s Time.” It worked brilliantly, so let’s see if that kind of campaign technique makes a dent for Pose aiming to rain on The Crown’s coronation.
Sweeps in comedy and drama series categories would not be a shock in light of recent trends, but it is always nice to see Television Academy voters spread the wealth which is something they also have the opportunity to do in the uber-competitive Limited Series or TV Movie categories where the race is furiously being waged between several hot prospects. The hottest of all is Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit which, talking about sweeps, swept in unprecedented fashion every single other early awards show from Golden Globes, Critics Choice, SAG to all of the Guilds earlier in the year. It is expected it could do that at the final stop on its journey to the gold, the Emmys. Or not. The aforementioned WandaVision has more nominations than any other of the five nominees with a whopping 23, and serving alternately as a popular Marvel show is also a love letter to TV, something that could really bring it to serious contention by threading the needle between Marvel fans in the Academy with older voters who love the brilliantly executed and loving tributes to the likes of Dick Van Dyke, Bewitched and other benchmarks of an earlier TV age. And then there’s the much-loved Mare of Easttown rocking with 16 noms and coming in late in the season setting up a showdown with Queen’s Gambit which has 18 overall nods. Will the sweep mentality take hold or might that be a split with actors going for Mare while the Academy at large hands the big prize to Queen’s. Or could BAFTA winner I May Destroy You split the difference and walk away with all of it? Barry Jenkins’ magnificent The Underground Railroad is the fifth nominee but its lack of a writing or any acting recognition gives me pause in assessing its strength against the rest of the competition. Jenkins could pull off a directing win however if the Academy is in a mood to, as I said, ‘spread the wealth’.
Let the voting begin.
CLINTON IMPEACHMENT SERIES COULD BE EMMY JUGGERNAUT
And while we are at it, it is never too early to start on next year since I think we have pretty much exhausted talking about this year’s hot Emmy contenders. Having gotten a preview of the first three hours of FX’s and Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story: Impeachment, all I can say is watch out. Based on that sampling of the 10 hour Limited Series chronicling the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal that resulted in President Bill Clinton’s impeachment (although he was not ultimately convicted by the Senate) I can pretty safely forecast a boatload of acting nominations at the very least, but the overall series is riveting in every department. Murphy’s ACS franchise swept the Emmys, and other awards, in its first go round with The People vs O J Simpson. It also picked up the Limited Series Emmy for The Assassination of Gianni Versace. This show looks to be on a par with those, so when it debuts on September 7th I would expect the Emmy talk to start in earnest, particularly for Sarah Paulson who is virtually unrecognizable as Linda Tripp the D.C. veteran who befriended, and then betrayed, Monica Lewinsky, and is simply brilliant in inhabiting this role. She won her only Emmy, against numerous nominations, as Marcia Clark in the O.J. series, and is clearly headed in that territory again with this one.
At first glance I just wasn’t sure about the casting of Beanie Feldstein as Lewinsky, but after a few minutes all doubts were erased. She gets right to the essence of this young woman who became infatuated with the President of the United States and is actually completely compelling and believable in the role. Clive Owen, also pretty much unrecognizable, is another interesting casting choice and he simply becomes Clinton without resorting to an impression. Billy Eichner is slimily terrific as creepy gossip Matt Drudge, as is Judith Light as Susan Carpenter McMillan, and the always nailing-it Margo Martindale who plays book agent Lucianne Goldberg who offers the enticing opportunity of a tell-all for Tripp. And then there is Cobie Smulders as Ann Coulter. OMG. She came in late and replaced another actress who was set for the role, but she owns it. I had no idea watching this cold who was playing this role, but I even thought maybe they went to Coulter herself. Smulders is dead-on and absolutely hilarious here. Annaleigh Ashford as Arkansas native Clinton accuser Paula Jones, and Taran Killam as her actor-wannabe husband Steve Jones are equally delicious in those roles which are a large part of the first three episodes. Edie Falco’s Hillary Clinton gets her moments apparently later in the series which I can’t wait to finish. My colleague and our TV critic Dominic Patten will undoubtedly be reviewing the actual series so I will leave it to him, but in terms of its acting Emmy potential I would say the possibilities for several nominations are infinite based on what I have seen so far.
WILL VOTERS CHECK IN AT ‘THE WHITE LOTUS’ A YEAR FROM NOW?
And in terms of a summer guilty pleasure, I would say the same should be true of HBO’s The White Lotus which just wrapped its six episode Limited Series run on Sunday and became an instant water cooler sensation growing dramatically in ratings right up through the wild finale. Writer-director Mike White’s twisted sense of humor and humanity all comes together here in completely unpredictable ways. It certainly didn’t hurt my enthusiasm for the show in that this story of several different vacationers at a ritzy Hawaiian resort was all shot on location at the Four Seasons in Maui, a hotel I have been too many times. Since the pandemic curtailed our annual Hawaiian summer vacation for the past two years running I can tell you watching this series, and these insanely written and played cast of characters, has been like being on vacation itself. But getting to Emmy predictions, well, I say nominate them all starting with Jennifer Coolidge in the role of a career as a self-hating and insecure woman carrying her mother’s ashes to the island and trying to find a shred of a new life for herself in the process. She should be a lock to win no matter who else comes along. But Steve Zahn and Connie Britton leading a nutso family that includes daughter Sydney Sweeney, her college friend Brittany O’Grady and brother Fred Hechinger should all be considered. So should Jake Lacy as an obnoxious honeymooner and Alexandra Daddario as his highly insecure wife, along with a pitch perfect Molly Shannon as the Honeymoon invading mother-in-law. Without question Emmy voters should consider Natasha Rothwell as the resort’s spa manager, Jon Gries as a hotel guest who hooks up with Coolidge’s character, and there will be no justice without a nomination for Australian actor Murray Bartlett, the beleaguered White Lotus manager and “recovering” drug addict whose sobriety goes to hell after dealing with this boatload of guests.
Of course for both White Lotus and the upcoming ACS: Impeachment the respective campaigning skills of HBO and FX will come heavily into play in keeping the memories alive of these shows which come early in the 2021-22 Emmy season. But I am betting on both of them. You heard it here first.