The third time at the Emmys may be the charm for Peacock and Paramount+.
Often used as punchlines in conversations about the streaming wars, as their subscriber numbers still pale in comparison to behemoths like Netflix and Disney+, the two services seem to have quelled their growing pains by ending the fiscal year strong, and entering 2023 with their most successful programming yet both critically and commercially.
Still, with most streaming services fumbling toward profitability, the type of validation even a major Emmy nomination can give turns this TV awards season into a make-it-or-break-it situation for Peacock and Paramount+. To finally have formidable contenders for the biggest Emmy categories of the night like Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Drama Series, with a proven, broad audience and critical acclaim, and still be shut out of nominations could serve a deadly blow to the two streaming services’ future programming potential.
Here we take a closer look at what projects may finally move the needle over into the streaming services becoming true Emmys contenders.
Looking at Peacock first, the service’s greatest hope seems to be the comedy “Poker Face,” starring four-time Emmy nominee Natasha Lyonne and created by recent Oscar nominee Rian Johnson. The former found great success with her debut season of her Netflix series “Russian Doll,” earning her attention from the Television Academy as both an actress and a writer, but the show’s more cerebral second season went overlooked in those same categories, as the Primetime Emmys race became overstuffed with all the projects that had been waiting to return since before the pandemic. Murder mystery comedy “Poker Face” is more accessible though, taking much inspiration from classic Emmy-winning TV shows like “Columbo,” plus offering a bevy of exciting stars like 2023 Oscar nominees Hong Chau and Stephanie Hsu as contenders for the Outstanding Guest Actor and Actress in a Comedy Series categories. In addition to positive reviews across the board, Nielsen rated it Peacock’s most watched original yet.
“Mrs. Davis,” an Outstanding Drama Series contender from Emmy winner Damon Lindelof and “The Big Bang Theory” alum Tara Hernandez also looks promising. Though it still seems to be finding an audience, critics have reacted well to it, and TV Academy voters will likely want to see Lindelof’s first series since “Watchmen,” a show that fell one Emmy short of tying the record for most wins for a series in a single year. And lead actress Betty Gilpin is never one to count out, as she was Emmy-nominated for every season of her breakout Netflix series “GLOW,” even when the show’s awards prospects in the rest of the categories start to dwindle.
Looking a bit further out at Peacock’s Emmy prospects, the gonzo docuseries “Paul T. Goldman” is certainly a dark horse to keep watch of in the Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series category, “The Traitors” is the buzziest new series vying for Outstanding Reality Competition Program, and “A Friend of the Family” and “The Best Man: The Final Chapters” earned a very respectable reaction from critics and audiences alike, garnering enough attention for at least one to plausibly crack into the crowded Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series space.
All in all, while Peacock’s Emmys potential lies more in the creators it’s brought to the service, what helps Paramount+ the most is its ever-growing audience that, funny enough, stems from a show that only streams on Peacock. The entire Paramount Global corporation has bet big on the “Yellowstone” universe, and its brainchild Taylor Sheridan, but the Kevin Costner-led series that started it all has struggled to gain the attention of the Television Academy, despite being the most popular show on linear TV.
The channel it airs on, Paramount Network, has only had five Emmy nominations total since launching in 2018, so it is fair to argue that it’s unlikely that voters will suddenly tune in and embrace it in its fifth season. However, via the momentum of the Paramount+ launch, the awards body did nominate “Yellowstone” spin-off “1883” for three awards. And casting movie stars Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren for the latest “Yellowstone” venture on Paramount+, “1923,” gives the streaming service its buzziest Outstanding Drama Series Emmy contender yet.
Fellow big swings “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies” and “Tulsa King” are harder sells in the Outstanding Comedy Series category itself, but show a lot of potential for Emmy categories down the line like Outstanding Music and Lyrics for the former, which collaborated with hitmaker Justin Tranter, and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, for showrunner and Emmy-winning “The Sopranos” alum Terence Winter.
Paramount+ also boasts the reboot of Emmy-winning sketch series “Inside Amy Schumer,” now contending in the new Outstanding Scripted Variety Series category, and “Last Flight Home,” which is so far the only documentary from the 2023 Oscars shortlist to really be able to make an Emmys push after a recent rule change to the Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special category. Also, given its past success securing below-the-line nominations, “Star Trek: Picard” will make a harder Emmys push for its celebrated farewell season.
Though both streaming services have more promising shows in the pipeline, like Annette Bening’s return to television in “Apples Never Fall” (Peacock), and Nicole Kidman starrer “Lioness” (Paramount+), a noticeable amount of Emmys recognition this year could give both platforms the fighting chance they need to survive the streaming wars.