The last few weeks of the TV season always have been a mad crush of season finales, major events, and streaming show drops, and that’s especially true this year. Beleaguered TV fans, snowed under by promising new shows and big episodes, might not dig their way out until September.
But as television finds itself transitioning into a year-round proposition, where new seasons can drop at any time, in any place, then why is there still such a mad crush of content jamming itself into the final two weeks of May?
Blame the Emmys.
May 31 marks the final day of the 2018-2019 Emmys eligibility window, which means that content providers are scrambling to make their last-ditch bids for awards glory, not unlike a procrastinating student pulling an all-nighter in the hours before a term paper is due.
It’s all just the latest iteration of an ever-growing TV arms race: how long can you put off launching your show, while still making sure it qualifies for the Emmys? Here are seven networks and streamers are pushing that question down to the wire:
“The Late Late Show Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special 2019” (CBS) – May 20
As if “The Late Late Show with James Corden” didn’t already have its spot in the Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded) category all locked up with its Aug. 2018 special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney Live from Liverpool,” the series is boasting another Carpool Karaoke primetime edition, this time featuring its genial British host cruising the streets with hallowed Canadian diva Celine Dion. Fans of “Titanic” and Los Angeles traffic, this one’s for you.
“Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons'” (ABC) – May 22
Perhaps the weirdest entrant into the late-breaking Emmy race is ABC’s live event offering up versions of two episodes of Norman Lear sitcom classics, starring a host of award-winning talent, including Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, Jaime Foxx, Wanda Sykes, and Will Ferrell, among others. The show will be eligible for the Outstanding Variety Special (Live), meaning it’ll avoid going head-to-head with the likes of Beyoncé’s “Homecoming” and “Carpool Karaoke,” and instead face off against a glut of awards shows. Finally, audiences will get a Meathead for the modern era.
“Vida” (Starz) – May 23
Starz is being particularly crafty with its positioning of the second season of “Vida,” which charmed critics in its first season. The official season premiere will debut on the premium cable network on May 26, but the entirety of Season 2 will be available to stream on May 23, via the Starz app. This clever bit of programming shows an innate understanding of TV Academy rules and delivers the whole of the season to voters with plenty of time to spare.
National Geographic/Amanda Matlovich
“The Hot Zone” (Nat. Geo.) – May 27
National Geographic is very excited about their most recent foray into the limited series game with “The Hot Zone,” an adaptation of Richard Preston’s 1994 non-fiction bestseller about the rise of the Ebola virus. The show will air on three consecutive nights, beginning on Memorial Day, May 27, and features several stars willing to get their hands dirty in the sticky thriller, including Julianna Margulies, Noah Emmerich, and Topher Grace.
“Deadwood: The Movie” (HBO) – May 31
The critically-acclaimed series created by David Milch returns after more than a decade off the air and offers fans a bit of closure after the show was unceremoniously canceled in 2006 after its third season. Pitched as a love letter to its audience, HBO is clearly hoping that goodwill remains for the show amongst the TV Academy, having garnered 28 Emmy nominations – and eight wins – during its original run. Competing in the TV movie category will help, given the category is often overrun with single episodes of anthology series – episodes of “Black Mirror” have won the Emmy for TV Movie for the last two years – but it means that the film’s considerable acting talents, including Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane, will have a lot of competition with regards to breaking into an acting category shared with limited series actors.
“Good Omens” (Amazon) – May 31
Another limited series heavyweight, Amazon is dropping its adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens” on the final day of eligibility, complete with its own fleet of stars anxious to nab Emmy nominations, including Michael Sheen, David Tennant, and Jon Hamm. It could have some trouble cracking the TV Academy, given the chilly reception for Starz’ Neil Gaiman adaptation “American Gods.”
“When They See Us” (Netflix) – May 31
Netflix is dropping Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us,” a four-part limited series centered on the 1989 Central Park jogger attack that spurred the wrongful conviction of five juvenile males known as the “Central Park 5.” The project looks to be a prestige player at the Emmys, with a stacked cast, including Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Niecy Nash, and Felicity Huffman, starring in a story that remains soul-crushingly timely given the current political landscape.