By JOHN KOBLIN
“Saturday Night Live” and “Westworld” lead the pack among Emmy Awards announced Thursday with 22 nominations each while HBO leads all networks with 110 nominations and Netflix comes in second with 91.
Netflix scored three of seven Best Drama nominations with “Stranger Things,” “The Crown” and “House of Cards.”
The awards show will be held Sept. 17 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Stephen Colbert will host the ceremony, which will be broadcast by CBS.
There was a big expectation in the TV industry that the nominations would solidify this as a year of change – at least by the standards of this sometimes relentlessly predictable awards show. They were right, as several of the major categories featured numerous first-time nominees.
The race to the nominations had been fiercely competitive. To secure Emmy votes, networks and studios went on a lavish spending spree in recent months to market their offerings at a moment when there are more TV shows than ever. Many Hollywood executives said that award jockeying for the Emmys, once a relatively sedate affair, now rivals Oscars campaigning.
“Game of Thrones,” which has won best drama the past two years, is ineligible for this year’s Emmys because of a later start date. (Its seventh season begins Sunday.) And HBO’s competitors are gleefully ready to fill the vacuum.
Though the Emmys are known for showering awards on one winner year after year in major categories, this year introduced sweeping change to the category including five new shows – all freshman series.
Previous nominees, like “Better Call Saul” and “House of Cards,” were welcomed back in the category, but several shows including “Mr. Robot” and “Homeland” were shut out. First-year nominees include “The Crown” (Netflix), “Stranger Things” (Netflix), “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu), “Westworld” (HBO) and “This Is Us” (NBC).
NBC landing a nomination for that tear-jerker hit “This is Us” snaps an embarrassing dry spell for the big four broadcast networks. The last time a show from ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC was nominated was CBS’s “The Good Wife” in 2011.
Several late-night shows have adopted a staunch anti-President Donald Trump posture, and that appears to have helped them with Emmy voters.
“Saturday Night Live,” which was withering toward the Trump administration last season, led all shows – along with “Westworld” – with 22 nominations. The NBC stalwart was nominated for best variety sketch series, along with other nominations for Kate McKinnon (last year’s surprise winner as best supporting actress in a comedy), Alec Baldwin (for his portrayal of Trump) and Melissa McCarthy (for her hugely popular Sean Spicer impression).
Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show” was left out of the best variety talk show category last year, cementing a perception that the show was struggling. And now? Colbert was nominated after his show became the most watched in late night, besting Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” months ago. And Fallon’s show – 10 months after he infamously messed up Trump’s hair – was passed over for the first time since he became host in 2014.
Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal” got its first nomination, along with Jimmy Kimmel and HBO’s Bill Maher, all of whom have capitalized during a year when liberals have turned to their television sets to bathe in criticism of Trump. John Oliver, last year’s winner, was nominated yet again.
Move over, gentlemen. This may be the year of the actress at the Emmys.
To wit: Last month, when the Television Critics Association announced the nominees for its acting categories – one for drama, one for comedy, neither separated by gender – 11 of the 14 nominees were women.
The limited series and TV movie best actress category will be a showdown between four Oscar winners from two shows: HBO’s “Big Little Lies” (Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon) and FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan” (Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange). The other nominees were Carrie Coon for FX’s “Fargo,” her first Emmy nomination, and Felicity Huffman for “American Crime.”
The best actress drama category is wide open since last year’s winner – Tatiana Maslany – is ineligible because “Orphan Black” debuted too late this year. Nominees include actresses from rookie shows – Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), Claire Foy (“The Crown”) and Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”) – and past nominees, like Keri Russell (“The Americans”) and Viola Davis (“How to Get Away With Murder”), who won the award in 2015.
HBO, once again, had the most nominations with 110 – the 17th consecutive year that it has led the pack – but its lead is narrowing. Netflix, which had 92 fewer nominations than HBO just two years ago, had just 19 fewer this year.
HBO lost the 23 nominations “Game of Thrones” earned last year but made up for it with the 22 from “Westworld.”
Netflix, meanwhile, which had the most ostentatious marketing efforts before Emmy voting began, scored a whopping three nominees out of seven in the best drama category. Netflix has never won a best drama Emmy but with “The Crown,” “Stranger Things” and “House of Cards” all competing this year, it may have better luck.