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Emmy Nomination Burning Questions 2018: Will Netflix Beat HBO, or Is ‘Game of Thrones’ Back With a Vengeance?

As Emmy nomination voting starts next week, TV Academy members will face crowded fields with no clear frontrunners — making for a much more unpredictable race.

“Game of Thrones”

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After months of For Your Consideration events, boxes and boxes of screeners, billboards all around Los Angeles and too many interviews, photo shoots and podcast recordings to even count, Television Academy voters will finally have their say on this year’s Primetime Emmy race starting this Monday.

Phase One ballots are out, and the more than 20,000 TV Academy members eligible to vote will now get to decide ultimately which shows, talent and below-the-line craftspeople will receive a coveted Emmy nomination. Some of this year’s top races are more competitive than in past years, including the return of one past winner (“Game of Thrones”) and the absence of another (“Veep”).

Unlike past years, there aren’t any major rules changes to shake up the race, but it could be argued that more money has been spent than ever as the list of shows in the hunt continues to grow. And with no guaranteed frontrunners yet, the competition will continue to be fierce after the nominations come out.

“Unlike last year, when it seemed like it was going to be chalk, everybody’s predictions came to pass — everyone expected ‘Big Little Lies,’ ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ and ‘Veep’ to win — this year, it’s wide open,” said one network exec.

Voting continues until June 25 at 10 p.m. PT, with nominations set to be announced on July 12. In the meantime, here are some of this year’s Primetime Emmy race burning questions:

Will Netflix pass HBO as the most-nominated network?

HBO has led the nominee pack for years, thanks to its wide mix of drama, comedy, longform, documentary, talk, and specials contenders. Last year, it earned 111 nominations — but Netflix was not so far behind, at 91.

At some point, due to the sheer tonnage of Netflix programs vs. HBO, the streaming giant is expected to surpass the premium linear leader. Netflix has been quickly rising in the ranks, after having landed 54 nominations in 2016 and 34 in 2015.

HBO has been leading the nomination tally for 17 straight years, even as the number fluctuates: 94 in 2016, and 126 in 2015.

“There are a lot of people who assume this year that Netflix will supplant HBO,” said one network exec. “I think the reality is at some point, Netflix — just by sheer volume — will take home the most nominations. But I don’t know that’s a lock or guarantee. That’s a legitimate looming question, only because of the volume they have. HBO got ‘Game of Thrones’ back, but they don’t have ‘Big Little Lies’ or ‘Veep’ this year.”

It’s really just a two-network race at this point, as the rest of the major nominees last year were far behind: NBC (64), FX (55), ABC (33), CBS (29) and Fox (20).

Can “Game of Thrones” recapture its crown as most-nominated series?

“Game of Thrones” had to sit out the 2017 Emmy race due to timing, and the fact that it missed last year’s eligibility window. But now it’s back — and in the hunt to match or surpass the 23 nominations it scored in 2016.

“Game of Thrones” led all nominated series that year and won the outstanding drama series in 2016. But with it out of contention in 2017, HBO’s “Westworld” led with 22. Now both HBO series will be facing off for nods in several of the same categories — not to mention last year’s ultimate outstanding drama victor, Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Will “Roseanne” still receive any nominations?

ABC dropped its “Roseanne” FYC campaign the same day the network canceled the show following star Roseanne Barr’s racist Twitter post. That included scrapping a “Roseanne” panel and party that had previously been scheduled to take place during an ABC Emmy event on June 3.

Nonetheless, it’s assumed ABC already submitted “Roseanne” and its cast and crew for Emmy consideration — and asking voters to ignore their work wouldn’t be fair to everyone but Barr. Here’s who was set to be submitted:

Roseanne Barr for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
John Goodman for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Sara Gilbert for Outstanding Supporting Actress
Laurie Metcalf for Outstanding Supporting Actress
Johnny Galecki for Outstanding Guest Actor
Estelle Parsons for Outstanding Guest Actress
Production designer John Shaffner
Director Gail Mancuso
Writers (various)
Editor Brian Schnuckel, ACE
Cinematographer John W. Simmons, ASC

Will some of the non-Barr contenders still land a slot? Or has the controversy put a pin in such possibilities?

Will the broadcast networks have more shows to root for?

NBC’s “This Is Us” gave the broadcasters hope that they might receive their first drama series win since 2006. It didn’t happen. But the show is still in the mix for a nomination, with ABC’s “The Good Doctor” also probably broadcast’s best bet for a drama nod. In comedy, ABC’s “Black-ish” is expected to earn another nomination, while NBC still has hopes for the return of “Will & Grace.”

Do Emmy voters pay tribute to Anthony Bourdain?

It was already a shoo-in that CNN’s “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” would get a Emmy nomination in the outstanding informational series or special category, as it has been nominated the past five years, and won in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Bourdain also received several nominations in the writing for nonfiction programming category, as well as for host. As Bourdain’s death on Friday came just as voting began, Academy members may look to honor the well-respected chef, writer and host with a posthumous Emmy.

Can ‘Saturday Night Live’ beat last year’s variety program record?

Coming off a huge year, “Saturday Night Live” entered the 2017 Emmy race with a record 22 nominations — the most ever in one year for any variety program. Because it has been on the air since 1975, “SNL” also dominates the list of most-nominated programs ever, at 231 — a number no show is likely to ever match. “ER” is in second place, with 124.

Can “SNL” match last year’s tally? Although still vibrant, the show didn’t generate quite the same kind of buzz it did last season, during the first year of the Trump presidency.

Does the “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” controversy hurt or help its chances?

Considering in Hollywood, many TV Academy voters likely shared Bee’s disgust with the Trump administration’s policy of ripping young, innocent migrant children away from their parents, Bee’s use of the term “feckless c–t” to describe Ivanka Trump’s indifference to the issue probably has some support. “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” was nominated last year for variety talk series, along with “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Given the dominance of Trump in the headlines, it will be curious to see whether the category is once again dominated by shows that have dabbled with politics.”

How does the #MeToo/Time’s Up movement impact this year’s nominations?

“The Handmaid’s Tale” last year felt prescient because of the Trump administration, and this year feels prescient because of the #MeToo movement, and is not only a shoo-in for a best drama nomination, but a favorite to repeat a series win. (As is star Elisabeth Moss as drama actress.)
The final season of “House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey dropped last year, so the show isn’t eligible this time. Amazon’s “Transparent” had already fallen from Emmy favor, and Jeffrey Tambor — nominated last year for comedy actor — wasn’t submitted by Amazon for consideration this year.

The industry’s desire to improve the culture for women and also expand representation will surely be featured on this year’s ceremony — but the next step will be to nominate more female writers, directors and other craftspeople. And shows that contain a strong female leads, such as “Handmaid’s Tale,” “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “GLOW,” and “Killing Eve,” might see a boost as well.

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