The Emmys never sleep. Although television’s top awards show is more than eight months away, we start harvesting tea leaves with Saturday’s Producers Guild Awards, followed by the DGA and WGA awards in swift succession. While most of the attention naturally will go to the guilds’ film prizes and what they mean for the Oscars, these programs are (very) early bellwethers for TV as well.
While it’s nice to garner accolades from critics organizations and the HFPA, the more important notices come from the guilds: That’s where the voters are, and where most critics and HFPA members aren’t. Acknowledgement from the guilds means being celebrated by your peers — the same peers who again cast their votes come Emmy time.
That said, the Emmy season is still so nascent that it’s too early to even formulate the year’s most pressing issues (beyond, “Can anything defeat the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ for drama series?”). Even so, there are several shows — some new, some established — already making moves to position themselves as honest-to-God contenders when nominations are announced this summer.
Gather your scratchpad and start taking notes for your workplace Emmy pool: We have the shows to track in the coming months.
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The Netflix crime drama had a respectable showing after its first season, scoring five Emmy nominations, including a Best Actor nod for Jason Bateman, who also nabbed a nomination for Best Director. However, it fell short of earning acknowledgement in a crowded Drama Series category or acquiring notice for four-time Emmy-winner Laura Linney.
But “Ozark” Season 2 is well on its way to playing with the big boys. Despite being shut out of the Critics’ Choice Awards and earning a single Golden Globe nomination, for Bateman’s performance, the series has collected a number of prestigious nominations with the SAG and WGA.
Here, it’s quality over quantity. Last year, the show earned two SAG nominations (for Bateman and Linney); this year it’s four with the addition of nods for standout Julia Garner as well as Ensemble in a Drama Series. With regards to the WGA, “Ozark” traded in last year’s New Series nomination for an Episodic Drama nod for “The Precious Blood of Jesus,” an episode written by David Manson.
There’s also a PGA nomination for Best Drama, as well as a DGA nomination for Bateman. “Ozark” is slowly but surely building momentum toward a full-force Emmys storm.
“The Good Place”
So far, the awards reception for Mike Schur’s critically acclaimed philosophical comedy has been less than heavenly. Now in the midst of its third season, it has yet to break through at the Emmys beyond last year’s nominations for Ted Danson and Maya Rudolph for Lead Actor and Guest Actress, respectively.
But NBC’s “The Good Place” may finally be on its way to more hallowed ground. The series scored its first-ever nominations from the PGA and the WGA this year, in addition to collecting two Golden Globes noms for the genius performance of Kristen Bell and for the series as a whole. “The Good Place” also nabbed three Critics’ Choice nominations — for Danson, the show, and William Jackson Harper as Supporting Actor.
If Outstanding Comedy Series at the 2019 Emmys remains soft (no “Silicon Valley;” “Atlanta” is TBD), expect “The Good Place” to take its rightful place among the upper echelon of TV comedies.
HBO’s “Succession” continues to subvert expectations. The family drama rooted in the lives of the ultra-rich and ultra-terrible proves that, when done well, fiction doesn’t have to be far removed from the crushing news cycle to be compelling.
The drama — perhaps best classified as a pitch-black comedy, but hamstrung by Television Academy regulations — has made promising inroads with a DGA nomination for producer Adam McKay’s direction of the pilot, in addition to two notices from the WGA, for both new series and drama series, an impressive feat for a freshman nominee.
“Succession” also popped up at both the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Golden Globes, with the series and Matthew McFayden pleasing critics and the performance of Kieran Culkin winning over the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Outstanding Drama Series will be chock-full of newcomers this year, but expect “Succession” to be among them.
“The Kominsky Method”
This one’s an outlier, but the Netflix comedy starring Oscar-winning actors Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas certainly charmed the HFPA, taking home two trophies at the Golden Globes, including Lead Actor for Douglas and Comedy Series.
The series, centered around an aging actor and his aging acting coach, also scored big with SAG, landing nominations for both Arkin and Douglas as well as the series. The Critics Choice Awards also nominated the series as a whole, as well as Douglas, but “Kominsky” may not be quite as strong as it looks early in the season.
The comedy is created by the indefatigable Chuck Lorre, creator of “Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Grace Under Fire,” among many others. He’s known as the king of sitcoms, but Lorre has never won an Emmy after eight nominations. Nor are the Golden Globes known as a particularly strong barometer of Emmy success. But if the Emmys decide they prefer Lorre’s work in streaming form, the series could be in for a very successful awards season.
Here’s two more shows also worth eyeing, although they didn’t earn the same early accolades.
Amazon’s “Homecoming” brought star power in spades in its military mystery starring Julia Roberts and Stephan James, and it showed with noms from Critics Choice and the HFPA. The series also scored a mention at WGA for new series.
Similarly, FX’s “Pose” made a mark with its diverse ensemble cast depicting New York City drag-ball culture and society life in the ’80s, making noise with nominations for both series and actor Billy Porter at Critics Choice and the Golden Globes. “Pose” also broke through at WGA with a nod for new series.