After years of minimal turnover, the SAG Awards offered up some big surprises with the 2017 TV nominees. Setting aside for a moment the duality present in the acting nominations, the chosen ensemble contenders bucked tradition in favor of the new, starting with three freshman series squeezing their way into a typically veteran drama category.
“The Crown,” “Stranger Things,” and “Westworld” all earned nominations for Best Ensemble (alongside last year’s winner “Downton Abbey” and four-time nominee “Game of Thrones”), forcing out perennial favorites “House of Cards” and “Homeland” (the latter of which wasn’t eligible this year, as it did not air in 2016). More surprising still, the much heralded — and performance dependent — NBC drama “This Is Us” was kept out of the race along with Emmy favorite “Better Call Saul” (which was totally blanked at the SAG Awards).
Last year, the comedy category included six nominees, but they narrowed it back down to five and even booted one of the 2016 nominees — “Transparent” — in favor of the ABC sitcom “Black-ish.” Such an exclusion was even more surprising given the SAG voters’ preference for new blood in the drama categories; why not oust shows past their prime like “The Big Bang Theory” or “Modern Family” instead of a beloved, culturally significant series like “Transparent”?
Surprises were the theme of the morning, however, as the individual acting nominees offered plenty. Most shocking were the Female Actor in a Drama Series picks, if only because four of the five nominees came from new shows, and two of those four were “Stranger Things” stars. Both Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown were nominated, alongside “Westworld” standout Thandie Newton (who might have been joined by Evan Rachel Wood if we expected any series to get two nominations here). Claire Foy also made the cut, contributing to a banner day for the “The Crown.”
John Lithgow earned his eighth nomination, joining Sterling K. Brown (who snagged the only nod for “This Is Us”) in the Male Actor in a Drama Series category, representing the only new series to break into the field. Brown, though, was nominated twice on the day: for “This Is Us” and “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” Though he was the only actor to earn two individual nominations from the SAG Awards this year, plenty of shows were doubly represented within single categories.
“The People v. O.J. Simpson” nabbed nods for Brown and Courtney B. Vance for Male Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries, while Riz Ahmed and John Turturro both represent “The Night Of” in the same category. The two stars of “Grace and Frankie” — Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda — both earned nominations in the Female Actor in a Comedy field, while the aforementioned “Stranger Things” stars Ryder and Brown will be competing against each other on the drama side.
Of course, all these surprises meant disappointment for many expected nominees and series. Maggie Smith, who’s hauled in 12 nominations and five wins over the short history of the SAG Awards, was denied her baker’s dozen nomination total in the final season of “Downton Abbey.” Despite performing well at the Emmys and Golden Globes, “The Night Manager” came away empty-handed with the younger-skewing voters at the SAG Awards. Not even Tom Hiddleston, let alone Hugh Laurie or Olivia Coleman, could crack the crowded field. Similarly, the 2016 hot streak for “The Americans” came to an end, as the newly-minted Emmy and Globes nominee failed to woo SAG voters the same way.
A few freshman comedies didn’t fare as well as expected either. Despite earning a trophy for “Sex and the City,” Sarah Jessica Parker and “Divorce” were left on the outside looking in, along with fellow freshman HBO series “Insecure.” “Baskets” was also ignored, despite a lot of goodwill for co-star Louie Anderson, as was fellow FX comedy “Atlanta.”
But perhaps the most egregious individual snub was Viola Davis, who won the SAG Award for Female Actor in a Drama Series last year. Every other eligible winner from 2016 earned a nomination, except the star of “How to Get Away With Murder.” She’ll have to find solace in her nomination on the film side, where she’s expected to win for “Fences.”
The 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will air on TNT and TBS on January 29, 2017 at 8pm ET.