Drama and comedy series previously nominated but not yet winners at the Emmys, this could be your year.
The incumbent victors, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” in drama and Amazon Prime Video’s “Fleabag” in comedy, wrapped up their runs last year, making their wins the sweet cherry on top of already successful series. So which show is the heir apparent in these coveted categories? If history is any indicator, a past nominee is more likely to get the nod this year than a newcomer.
“The proliferation of streaming services has diluted the possibility of consecutive wins to an extent, unless there’s a bonafide cultural phenomenon like ‘Game of Thrones,’” says awards consultant Richard Licata of Licata & Co. “What I think is happening is, because the landscape has become so vast, there is much more sampling. Because the internet has become such an essential force in entertainment, people are becoming much more aware of what is out there.”
Even “Game of Thrones,” which was a cultural phenomenon and ended up taking home four drama series statues across its runs, fits the trend of being nominated multiple times before seeing Emmy gold. The fantasy series was first eligible (and nominated) at the Emmys in 2011, but lost then to “Mad Men,” which was on a hot streak. (The AMC drama won the drama series statue from 2008-11 and then again in 2014.) Showtime’s “Homeland” won in 2012, followed by back-to-back wins for AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” In total, “Thrones” was nominated four times before it won its first drama series trophy in 2015. It then went on to win again in 2016, 2018 and 2019.
On the comedy side, HBO’s “Veep,” which also wrapped up its run last year, won the comedy series statue for the first time in 2015, after losing the three previous years to ABC’s “Modern Family,” which won the category five times in a row since 2010.
“I couldn’t be prouder of ‘Veep’s’ multiple wins,” says “Veep” showrunner David Mandel. “I also think back to when I was on ‘Seinfeld’ years ago and we would lose year in and year out to ‘Frasier.’ The winning does get you feeling wonderful, but then you remember when you were on the other side.”
And the trend goes back much further than these modern series. “The Sopranos” won its first drama series Emmy in 2004 after four previous nominations and losses as “West Wing” dominated the category for four years, while “Ally McBeal” picked up its one comedy series win for its second season in 1999 after “Frasier’s” five-year win streak. And so on.
“Speaking as a relatively recent past winner, I’m fine if they just end the whole thing and we go out near the top,” Mandel jokes.
What could offset this trend this year, though, is the current coronavirus pandemic in which voters find themselves. Some who are self-isolating at home may have time to watch Emmy-eligible series they never got around to before, whether they’re new programs for this year, such as Amazon’s “Hunters” or Hulu’s “The Great,” or returning to the nomination-round ballot, such as NBC’s “The Good Place” and FX’s “Pose.”
“Pandemic plus quarantine plus choice equals increased sampling,” as Licata puts it.
But exactly how that translates to votes still remains to be seen. Voters may have more time to sample, but the proliferation of content has never been greater. Series that have been on voters’ radar longer may still have an edge this year.