• Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

The 3 Most Surprising Things We Learned

The 3 Most Surprising Things We Learned

We read all 35 of the television academy’s PDFs to see what they reveal about next month’s nominations.
Photo: FX

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Voting for the nomination round of the 2024 Primetime Emmys is underway. Last week, as is custom, the official Emmys website made available this year’s entire, massive ballot, listing every show, performance, and technical achievement eligible for consideration. Separated by category and spread out over 35 individual PDFs, the ballot is a great resource for anybody writing about the Emmys (ahem) and also an absolute nerd’s paradise for folks who like to see how the awards-season sausage is made (AHEM!).

Beyond the gobsmacking awe that comes with seeing just how many TV shows you have never heard of are eligible for awards this year, there is plenty of other actionable intel that will inform the eventual nominations — which will be announced on July 17. I’m just as interested in the curious ephemera, but I’ll try to front-load the more impactful stuff and then get to the part about how Nymphia Wind could get a nomination. The three most surprising features of this year’s Emmys ballot are:

For the first time since 2020 — when the Television Academy changed the rules to expand the number of nominees in the acting categories — none of those categories will reach the maximum eight-nominee threshold. The rule change was originally meant to reflect a greatly expanded peak-TV landscape. But this year, following the combined WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes (which affected six months of production, development, and promotion time), plus a general contraction of new and returning shows, a significantly smaller number of series aired during the eligibility window. And while the shows that did air offer plenty of worthy performances, the Emmy rules base the number of nominees per acting category on the number of overall submissions to that category. The rules are as follows:

20-80 submissions = five nominees

81-160 submissions = six nominees

161-240 submissions = seven nominees

More than 240 submissions = eight nominees

In previous years, these breakdowns have resulted in a nomination bonanza. The supporting categories in both comedy and drama have nearly always hit the eight-nominee threshold, while the lead categories more often than not landed at six nominees.

This year’s ballot marks a dramatic change, with only one category (supporting actor in a drama) clearing 200 submissions, and none of them surpassing 240. Which means no eight-person categories. Suddenly, all the acting categories have become far more competitive (and, not for nothing, difficult to predict). They’ll go like this:

Lead Actor and Lead Actress in a Comedy: five nominees apiece

Lead Actor and Lead Actress in a Drama: six nominees apiece

Lead Actor and Lead Actress in a Limited Series/TV Movie: five nominees apiece

Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress in a Comedy: six nominees apiece

Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress in a Drama: seven nominees apiece

Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress in a Limited Series/TV Movie: seven nominees apiece

Fans like to grumble about The Bear getting categorized as a comedy at the Emmys, but that’s where it has once again been submitted, and there’s little doubt that the Chicago-set series is our front-runner. Given Emmy voters’ tendencies toward block voting, you can see why many Emmy observers (hi, I’m many) are expecting The Bear to dominate the acting races.

With that said, the aforementioned downgrade to six nominees in the supporting comedy categories could put that prediction into some jeopardy. Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri are locks in the lead categories, but the show has four supporting actor contenders and three in supporting actress crowding into an already tiny space. Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Oliver Platt will almost certainly show up on nomination day, which leaves Lionel Boyce and Matty Matheson duking it out with the likes of Tyler James Williams (Abbott Elementary), Paul Rudd (Only Murders in the Building), Paul W. Downs (Hacks), and Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live). Boyce and Matheson only need to get more votes than two of them (provided voters don’t surprise us with a Harvey Guillen or J.B. Smoove nod), but it’s going to be a tight squeeze.

It’s even tighter in supporting actress, where Abby Elliott, Liza Colon-Zayas, and Molly Gordon are hoping to fill up half of the category. They’re going to have to get past front-runner Hannah Einbinder (Hacks), the Abbott Elementary trio (Sheryl Lee Ralph, Janelle James, and Lisa Ann Walter), the Palm Royale duo (Allison Janney and Carol Burnett), and, oh, yes, Meryl Streep (Only Murders in the Building).

The guest actor/actress categories are just as lean in comedy, with six slots available apiece. Here’s where being in comedy becomes a huge detriment to The Bear, because the guest categories are where the Saturday Night Live hosts tend to rack up nominations. In fact, you could easily see a scenario where Guest Actress in a Comedy is Ayo Adebiri for SNL plus Jamie Lee Curtis, Olivia Colman, Sarah Paulson, and even Gillian Jacobs from The Bear. Ultimately, The Bear was so ballyhooed for its guest stars last season that it’s hard to imagine who gets left off. The “Fishes” episode alone seemed to lock up nods for Curtis, Jon Bernthal, Bob Odenkirk, and John Mulaney. Colman (Chef Terry in the “Forks” episode) and Paulson (Berzatto cousin Michelle) are award magnets in their own right. (Paulson just won a Tony! During the voting window! That’s a bump if I ever heard of one.) Will Poulter, as hottie Copenhagen chef Luca in the “Honeydew” episode, will probably pull some votes, though he definitely risks getting overshadowed by the shoutier performances in this group. The same goes for Jacobs (Richie’s ex-wife, Tiffany) and Chris Witaske (Natalie’s husband, Pete).

Even if Emmys decision-makers continue to vote in blocks, the road to a Bear sweep of nominations will be difficult with so many supporting and guest options taking votes from one another and few clear front-runners to beat back SNL and Abbott. That said, if it happens anyway — if The Bear winds up with four of six supporting actor nominations, three of six in supporting actress, and eight of the available 12 guest nominations, it’s going to be a more pronounced sweep than ever.

Photo: Katie Yu/FX

Different shows employ different strategies when it comes to scoring nominations in the writing and directing categories. While a handful of favored shows throughout the years have been able to get multiple writing and directing nods in the same year, a smart strategist will tell you that you run the risk of splitting your own votes. But being calculated isn’t easy. Networks and executive producers have to consider the politics of choosing one writer’s or director’s episode over another, and individual writers and directors can always just submit themselves for the ballot.

That said, it’s interesting to see a clear divide on this year’s ballot between the shows that chose to streamline their options and those that chose to essentially spam the ballot. While The Bear could have picked the Richie-centric “Forks” episode — in my humble opinion, the best episode of the season — it instead went with the chaotic, star-studded Thanksgiving flashback, “Fishes,” as a submission in writing and directing. (Ramy Youssef’s direction on the Copenhagen-set “Honeydew” episode was also submitted.) Hacks submitted only the season finale, “Bulletproof,” for writing and directing. The Crown submitted its series finale in both categories, the Diana car-crash episode (“Dis-Moi Oui”) for directing and the Princess Margaret–centric “Ritz.”

Meanwhile, Shōgun submitted six episodes in directing (covering the six different people who directed episodes this season) and five episodes in writing (covering seven of the eight credited writers). Reservation Dogs employed the same strategy, submitting six episodes for each of the six credited directors in season three and eight episodes covering eight of the ten credited screenwriters.

X-Men ’97 submitted in the animated program category, not in drama like we wanted. It’s on the ballot in several other categories too, most notably character voice-over, where the show’s lone submission is Lenore Zann as Rogue.

➵ The choreography category is, as ever, flooded with submissions from dance-based shows like Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, but voters can also opt for the Oscar-night performance of “I’m Just Ken,” choreographed by La La Land choreographer (and frequent So You Think You Can Dance collaborator) Mandy Moore.

➵ Streaming TV could get a boost from the outstanding commercial category, as both Netflix and Paramount+ have promotional spots in the running. For Netflix, it’s the maddeningly effective nostalgia bait of its “Farewell to DVDs” ad, while Paramount+ is up for its bonkers ad where Patrick Stewart throws Hey Arnold!’s Arnold into the side of a mountain like a football while Creed plays “Higher” and Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa admits his arm isn’t up to the task.

Top Chef, which in the past has allowed head judge Tom Colicchio and even associate judge Gail Simmons to piggyback onto the Best Host nomination, submitted only first-year host Kristen Kish for consideration.

➵ The music categories always feature some intrigue. Both Girls5Eva and Only Murders in the Building have only one song apiece in the running (this meant that Only Murders had to slight G5E’s Sara Bareilles in the process). The “Pickwick Triplets” patter song submitted by Only Murders is a collaboration between Marc Shaiman and the team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The latter two need only an Emmy to complete their EGOT (and it would honestly be the best work of theirs to win an award).

➵ Meanwhile, RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Nymphia Wind could be the rare queen to grab an Emmy statue of her very own. Individual reality-TV contestants don’t have a category of their own (they should), but Nymphia co-wrote the song “Queen of Wind” that she performed on the season finale, and now it’s Emmy eligible.

➵ The performance categories offer ample opportunities for actors to land double (or triple or more!) nominations. Fittingly, given how much it’s been her year (she even toppled J.Lo!), Ayo Edebiri could emerge as a quadruple nominee. She’s on the ballot for The Bear, for hosting Saturday Night Live, and for her voice performances in Clone High (as Harriet Tubman) and Mulligan (as General Scarpaccio). Oddly, she’s not on the ballot for Big Mouth, as that show only submitted Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, and three-time winner and defending champ Maya Rudolph.

➵ Wendell Piece is on the ballot three times in the same category, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama, for Elsbeth, Power Book III, and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Walton Goggins also has three shots at a nomination: as a lead in Fallout and a supporting actor in The Righteous Gemstones and I’m a Virgo.

➵ Jon Hamm has the best shot at a triple nomination; he’s a strong contender in Lead Actor in a Limited Series for Fargo and a Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for The Morning Show. He’s also a long shot but still on the ballot as a Supporting Actor in a Comedy for Good Omens.

➵ Possible double nominees include Lily Gladstone (Under the Bridge and Reservation Dogs), Nicole Kidman (Expats and Special Ops: Lioness), Nicholas Galatzine (Mary and George and Red, White & Royal Blue).

➵ Jesse Plemons, Letitia Wright, and Andrew Scott have all previously scored nominations for their performances in Black Mirror episodes. This year, the show submitted the principal actors from two episodes: “Joan Is Awful” (Annie Murphy and Salma Hayek) and “Beyond the Sea” (Josh Hartnett, Aaron Paul, Kate Mara, and Rory Culkin).

➵ Bradley Cooper really could get an Outstanding Guest Actor nomination for his cameo as himself on Abbott Elementary.

➵ Other people definitely worth rooting for in the guest actor/actress categories include: Will Ferrell and Andy Samberg as Laker fanatics Lou Adler and Jimmy Goldstein on John Mulaney Presents Everybody’s in L.A.; Richard Kind, not for Everybody’s in L.A. (sadly) but for Girls5Eva; and both Rachael Ray and Vincent Pastore for playing themselves in the season finale of The Curse.

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