Sunday, September 17, 2017

Emmys 2017: What to Watch For

• The Emmys start at 8 p.m. Eastern time on CBS.
• Stephen Colbert is hosting for the first time.
• The race for best drama is wide open, with “This Is Us,” “Stranger Things”and “The Handmaid’s Tale” seen as top contenders.
• Julia Louis-Dreyfus could tie the record for most acting Emmys.
• “Saturday Night Live” is poised to have a big night, including a possible win for Alec Baldwin as President Trump. Melissa McCarthy has already won a Creative Arts Emmy, which was part of an earlier ceremony, for her hosting duties and her portrait of the former White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
Final preparations for the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. CreditMario Anzuoni/Reuters

Rookie shows lead the way in drama category

LOS ANGELES — With the two-time best drama winner “Game of Thrones” sidelined for this year’s Emmys — the HBO show is ineligible because of a later-than-usual start this season — there’s no favorite for television’s top award.
Prognosticators are deeply divided over which show has the upper hand for best drama, but the leading contenders are rookie entries: Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and NBC’s “This Is Us.”
“Stranger Things,” a sci-fi thriller inspired by 1980 coming-of-age movies like “Stand by Me” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” hit a cultural nerve in the summer of 2016. The show won five Creative Arts Emmys, including for best cast in a drama, a good sign that it could be a big night.
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“This Is Us,” the unapologetically sentimental family drama, was the breakout hit of the year on broadcast television. Its season finale had nearly 18 million viewers, and NBC said that when digital views were counted the show averaged 26 million viewers. Though the show has a big fan base, it was snubbed in several categories (writing and directing) that are usually seen as a sign of a show’s strength at the Emmys.

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“The Handmaid’s Tale,” meanwhile, adapted from Margaret Atwood’s novel, is tonally different from both of those bighearted shows: It paints a grim future for the United States where women are treated, well, very unkindly. TV critics went ga-ga for “Handmaid’s,” but it’s not clear how broadly popular it was since Hulu does not release ratings.
The network that wins best drama will claim enormous bragging rights: For Netflix, it would be its first win in the most prestigious category; if Hulu wins, it will, unexpectedly, beat out its better-financed streaming rival; and if NBC wins, it will be the first time a broadcast network has won the category in 11 years. (Fox, with “24,’’ was the last to accomplish that.)
Oh, and the other four contenders: They are HBO’s “Westworld,” AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” and Netflix’s “The Crown” and “House of Cards.”
Stephen Colbert at the Primetime Emmys red carpet rollout. Mr. Colbert has thrived on criticism of President Trump on his late-night show.CreditRichard Shotwell/Invision, via Associated Press

Colbert is the host. Expect a lot of Trump jokes.

Stephen Colbert has been riding an anti-Trump wave all year to unanticipated ratings gold, so don’t expect him to shy away from what has worked so well for him.
“The biggest story of the year is not ‘Westworld,’” he told Variety. “It’s not ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ It’s not Milo Ventimiglia’s luscious abs. That’s not what we cared about. The biggest TV star of the year is Donald Trump.”
Of course, there is a risk in going political at an event that’s supposed to celebrate television. The Emmys have set ratings lows for two consecutive years, and there are plenty of viewers out there who do not want to be lectured by Mr. Colbert or anyone from Hollywood about President Trump.
On the other hand? Mr. Colbert has the biggest audience of any host in late night, and his presence may draw some viewers who would otherwise skip the Emmys.
Melissa McCarthy and Alec Baldwin, playing politics on “Saturday Night Live.” CreditWill Heath/NBC

‘S.N.L.’ may finally have a big night.

“Saturday Night Live” has never been a favorite of Emmys voters. It hasn’t won the variety show category in more than two decades, and its cast members have rarely found the winner’s circle.
This year promises to be different. After pummeling President Trump nearly every week and scoring some of its highest ratings in years, “S.N.L.” has a good chance to take home several awards, including for best variety sketch show. This NBC late-night show already swept the two best guest actor categories at the Creative Arts Emmys (the one for Melissa McCarthy and another for Dave Chappelle).
Favorites this year include Alec Baldwin for best supporting actor in a comedy for his portrayal of Mr. Trump, and Kate McKinnon with a repeat win for supporting actress (Leslie Jones and Vanessa Bayer were also nominated for best supporting actress, a rare feat where “S.N.L.” occupied half the category).
“S.N.L.” isn’t the only game in town. Other late night shows may benefit from a Trump bump. Mr. Colbert — who wasn’t even in nominated in the best variety talk show category last year — has a solid shot at unseating HBO’s John Oliver, as does Samantha Bee. Then again, Mr. Oliver is not exactly a stranger to viciously lampooning Mr. Trump.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who stars on HBO’s “Veep,” is looking to make history at the Emmys. CreditColleen Hayes/HBO

Julia Louis-Dreyfus looks to make history.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus coming to the Emmys stage and collecting yet another trophy? Tell us something we don’t know.
At least this year, there’s some history on the line.
If she wins best actress in a comedy for her performance as Selina Meyer in “Veep,” she’ll tie Cloris Leachman’s record for eight prime-time acting Emmys. She would also set a record for number of wins by an actor playing one character, breaking a tie with Candice Bergen (“Murphy Brown”) and Don Knotts (“The Andy Griffith Show”).
But if Ms. Louis-Dreyfus doesn’t tie Ms. Leachman, maybe Allison Janney will. She is nominated for her role in “Mom,” and a victory would be her eighth, which would also tie the record. But viewers are so accustomed to watching Ms. Louis-Dreyfus holding the trophy that it’s hard to imagine any other result. (The last time Ms. Janney won for “Mom,” she was in the best supporting actress category two years ago and was not going head-to-head against Ms. Louis-Dreyfus.)
“Veep” is also vying to win best comedy in a third year in a row, but it faces a significant upstart in “Atlanta,” the FX comedy created by Donald Glover that won a Golden Globe earlier this year.
The good news for the competition? “Veep” will wrap up next year.

Kidman, Sarandon, Witherspoon, oh my!

As movie actors and audiences gravitate to limited series, this category has gone from a wasteland to arguably the most intriguing.
The biggest showdown is between HBO’s soapy and glossy “Big Little Lies” and FX’s period drama “Feud,” about Joan Crawford and Bette Davis’s Hollywood rivalry.
Four Oscar winners are up for best actress in a limited series category: Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon (“Big Little Lies”) versus Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange (“Feud”). And a number of boldfaced names will compete in the supporting categories — including Laura Dern, Alexander Skarsgard and Stanley Tucci — from both shows.
Whether Emmys will be split between the two shows or if there will be a virtual sweep, as there was last year with “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” will be one of the more closely watched plot lines.
Millie Bobby Brown in “Stranger Things,” a fan favorite from Netflix. CreditNetflix, via Associated Press

Will Netflix’s marketing push pay off?

TV networks took Emmys campaigning to a new level this year, spending millions to market shows before nominations were handed out.
But there was no player more ostentatious than Netflix. The streaming service opened up its own 24,000-square-foot event space this spring, holding nearly daily parties to put potential Emmy voters in front of talent, free dinners and an open bar.
Rivals grumbled that this level of financial commitment violated a tacit agreement from the networks to stick with a schedule of events that had traditionally been sanctioned by the Television Academy; some went as far as to suggest (off the record, of course) that Netflix was trying to buy votes.
What happens at the Emmys could have a big effect on how campaigning is conducted in the future. The streaming service won nine Creative Arts Emmys last weekend, leaving it within striking distance of HBO, which nabbed 12. The last time HBO did not lead all networks with the most Emmys was 16 years ago.
Though Netflix has had some success in the supporting actor and actress categories, it has yet to break through in the major acting awards or for best drama or comedy.
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