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10 Shows with a Shot to Score Big at TV’s Winter Awards

Of course there'll be love for "Succession" and "Ted Lasso" and "Mare of Easttown," but let's talk about the shows hoping for a showdown with the heavy hitters.

The White Lotus HBO Connie Britton Steve Zahn

Connie Britton and Steve Zahn in “The White Lotus”

Mario Perez / HBO

If there’s one advantage film awards have over TV awards, it’s that the former has a clean slate with the dawning of a new year, while the serialized nature of television means there will inevitably be nominations — if not winners — that carry over year after year.

With that in mind, it can sometimes be challenging to find new ways to talk about TV awards contenders. “The Crown” had been an Emmy stalwart for years before finally winning the award for drama series this year. It will inevitably garner many more nominations when its next season is released, as will “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Barry” and “Atlanta” and so on and so forth.

Which is why it’s redundant to write a piece telling you that “Succession” will see awards traction for its third season or that “Ted Lasso” and “Hacks” and “Mare of Easttown” will continue garnering accolades throughout TV’s winter awards season. We know that already. Instead, let’s focus on what we don’t know.

It turns out, we don’t know a lot. The slate is full of possibilities and there’s plenty of players, both new and old, ready to make their mark with awards-voting bodies. Here are 10 hoping to do just that.

Drama Series

Squid Game” (Netflix)

This South Korean survival drama made waves on a global scale, becoming the most watched series in Netflix Originals history in its first month of release, with 142 million household viewers (according to Netflix) to its name. Not only is the show a stylish and propulsive watch, it also sends a brutal message about income inequality and the corruptive nature of capitalism that’s hard to look away from. Created, written, and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, “Squid Game” feels like a safe bet on any ballot in coming months.

Station Eleven” (HBO Max)

An adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s critically-acclaimed novel of the same name, “Station Eleven” tells the story of the aftermath of a global pandemic — filming on the series was halted by the actual global pandemic — that’s much more interested in how we create community and art and love when everything else is stripped away. “The Leftovers” alumni Patrick Sommerville serves as writer and showrunner on the series, which stars a dynamite Mackenzie Davis, and doesn’t debut until December 16 when the first three episodes drop. All the same, don’t be surprised if this suddenly gains a lot of traction late in the awards game.

himesh patel matilda lawler station eleven

Himesh Patel and Matilda Lawler in “Station Eleven”

Ian Watson/HBO Max

“Yellowjackets” (Showtime)

A show about murderous children’s games, a show about a global pandemic, and now, a show about teen girl cannibals. I’m as surprised as you are. Though “Yellowjackets” might not seem like a natural awards player, this tale of a championship girls soccer team whose plane crashes in the middle of the Canadian wilderness has a lot lurking beneath the surface. The series is primarily split between two main timelines, one that shows the girls’ struggle to survive in the aftermath of the crash and one featuring the protagonists some 20 years later as adults. This is a series that feels like it has big “Killing Eve” energy and word of mouth will be its best bet at garnering awards heat.

Comedy Series

“Only Murders in the Building” (Hulu)

Welcome to a segment I like to call “You Aren’t Paying Enough Attention to Hulu Comedies.” First up, freshman hit “Only Murders in the Building.” Starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, this charming comedy about three neighbors obsessed with true crime who band together after a grisly murder in their very own building. (It’s kind of all right there in the title.) There are a lot of places “Murders” could (and should) break through this winter, it’s just a matter of where.

“The Great” (Hulu)

Next up, the return of “The Great.” Loosely based on the life of Catherine the Great, the series stars Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult as the Empress and Emperor of Russia in a satirical series created by Tony McNamara, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “The Favourite.” “The Great” saw some success for its first season, garnering Emmy nominations for writing and directing, as well as a handful of nominations from other awards bodies. With its second season premiering on November 19, the series is perfectly positioned to catch the eye of awards voters.

The Great -- “Alone At Last” - Episode 203 -- Catherine’s grief over the loss of Leo during the coup finally catches up with her. Peter’s part in Leo’s death, and the discovery that he just murdered a noble, causes Catherine to lock Peter in his apartments with only his mummified mother for company. Catherine (Elle Fanning), shown. (Photo by: Gareth Gatrell/Hulu)

Elle Fanning in “The Great”

Gareth Gatrell/Hulu

“Pen15” (Hulu)

Speaking of well-timed returns, Hulu’s critically-acclaimed “traumedy” “Pen15” debuts the second half of its second season on Dec. 3. It’s been a labor of love to complete the season, which had to work around the pregnancy of both of its stars — Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, a particular hurdle, as both women play 13 year-old versions of themselves in the series — before running smack into a global pandemic. The series is unrivaled in the way it orchestrates cringe comedy for the greater good, channeling the audience’s painfully awkward collective memory of adolescence into empathy, both for the characters and for themselves. No matter how much love the show gets from awards bodies, it will never be enough.

Limited Series

“Dopesick” (Hulu)

Digging deep into the origins and unfolding of America’s opioid crisis, Danny Strong’s “Dopesick” melds several timelines together and includes both fictional and composite characters. The show aims to deliver as comprehensive a look at the pharmacological addiction epidemic as possible. From the rural communities it devastates, to the Virginia prosecutors investigating, to the employees and owners of Purdue Pharma, whose drug OxyContin served as ground zero of the country’s opioid addiction. Starring Michael Keaton, Peter Sarsgaard, Will Poulter, and more, “Dopesick” got a very enthusiastic reception at a recent FYC event, suggesting it’s has an inside track for the months to come.

Dopesick Michael Keaton Hulu series

Michael Keaton in “Dopesick”

Antony Platt / Hulu

“The Underground Railroad” (Amazon Prime Video)

This towering work from Barry Jenkins adapts Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, following the journey of one runaway slave as she struggles to find safety and security, as she’s hunted across the South by a single-minded slave-catcher. “Railroad” offers an unflinching look into the country’s shameful history of slavery, with all the cruelty and violence that accompanied it, while still offering up hope and humanity. Unquestionably, the most gorgeous series of the year, “Railroad” should factor heavily into the awards season to come. That said, it should have done the same at the Emmy Awards, but that wasn’t the case.

The White Lotus” (HBO)

Mike White’s long-awaited return to TV, “The White Lotus” scored a lot of buzz during its summer run, with audiences transfixed by the events unfolding at an elite, eponymous Hawaiian resort. A cutting and satirical look at the comically-large gap between the lifestyles of the rich and famous and those of the poor and struggling, “The White Lotus” cracks the facade of luxury and reveals the unseemly privilege lurking within. Buoyed by a dynamite cast, including Murray Bartlett, Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, and Steve Zahn (among many others), “The White Lotus” seems destined for awards love, particularly somewhere like the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which has room to celebrate full casts. That said, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the show’s potential accolades.

“Maid” (Netflix)

According to Netflix reports, limited series “Maid” has proven itself to be a hit for the streamer, with projections suggesting that 67 million households tuned in during its first month of release. Starring Margaret Qualley, the limited series follows a single mother’s struggle to keep her head above water, while languishing below the poverty line. Yet another series examining how society engages with the poor, “Maid” sees Qualley delivering another dynamite performance more than worthy of any and all awards recognition it can get. This is Netflix’s big limited series awards push, so don’t be surprised if it sticks around all the way to Emmy season.

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