With Emmy nominations set to be announced Tuesday morning, we want you to be prepared. We've written our testimonials in support of the nominees we favor, and the votes have been cast. Now it's a matter of waiting for the announcement. Until then, though, there are six burning questions that need to be answered by the Emmy nominations. It's fixing to be a pivotal year, especially in the drama categories. Make sure you know the major narratives to pay attention to while awaiting tomorrow's news.
As you know if you've been following around these parts, the drama categories at this year's Emmys are going to be a whole new ballgame since almost all of last year's big contenders (The Handmaid's Tale, The Crown, Stranger Things, and Westworld, specifically) all hightailed it out of this year's eligibility window, which conveniently lets them all avoid getting steamrolled by Game of Thrones' final season. Only NBC's This Is Us and a returning Better Call Saul (which just missed the eligibility window last year remain as re-nomination possibilities. Which leaves us with the very fun prospect of a whole lot of new-blood nominees. Fun!
So if we take as a given that Thrones will be the nomination leader, which drama will have the second-most nominations. This Is Us feels like a show on the wane, culturally speaking, and while the Emmys are always capable of surprising you by holding on to a fading show for way too long, let's set that one aside. Similarly, it has been SO long since Saul aired its season that it, too, feels out of sight, out of mind.
Killing Eve seemed like a fun possibility until its second season disappointed. Amazon has a pair of dramas in Jack Ryan and Homecoming, but they're more scrambling for a nomination than looking to dominate. To me, it comes down to one of the following two shows:
Ozark: For a show that neither you nor anyone you know watches, Ozark has done surprisingly well as an awards player. This includes four SAG nominations and a win for Bateman in Best Actor back in January and a surprise two directing nominations (including one for Bateman, who was nominated in Best Actor) at last year's Emmys. With that kind of momentum and much less competition, you could easily see nominations for writing, directing, and acting nods for Bateman, Laura Linney, and Julia Garner. An Outstanding Drama Series nod is virtually assured, and Bateman may well be the frontrunner to win in Lead Actor.
Succession: Despite the fact that HBO is putting so many of its eggs in Game of Thrones's basket, don't count out last summer's sneaky hit about a corporate media dynasty and all the amoral scheming that does on in a fight to grab power. HBo has often made successful plays for multiple dramas in the same year, dating back to the Sopranos/Six Feet Under days and as recently as last year with Westworld and Game of Thrones. A writing nomination seems incredibly likely, and there are countless possibilities to fill up the acting categories with award-worthy performances from the likes of Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Matthew Macfadyen, Hiam Abbass, and Nicholas Braun. Also there will be riots if Nicholas Britel's main title theme music isn't recognized.
Despite the fact that half the TV industry fled the Emmy field in anticipation that Thrones would sweep in its final eligible year, there's no denying that said final season was not across-the-board feted. Whether that sense of ambivalence extends from Twitter to Emmy voters' homes is another question, but it's probably safe to imagine that not EVERYTHING connected to the show will get a nod.
The two biggest question marks are in lead, where stars Kit Harington (Jon Snow) and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) have leveled up for the final season. Both certainly seem buzzy enough, but Harington is facing down the one still-stacked category on the drama side, with competition from the likes of Jason Bateman, Sterling K. Brown, Bob Odenkirk, and Richard Madden (Bodyguard). Meanwhile, Clarke's path to a nomination was more open, it's just a matter of whether Emmy voters will respond positively or negatively to Daenerys's sudden heel turn at the end of the series.
Why three-time winner Peter Dinklage wasn't bumped up to lead for a season in which he was decidedly the pivotal character, no one knows. He'll instead be the frontrunner in supporting actor (again), alongside likely nominee Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime). I would perhaps not expect more than those two in that category, which spells bad news for Alfie Allen (Theon), Pilou Asbaek (Euron), and Richard Dormer (Beric Dondarrion), all of whom are hoping the old adage than an on-screen death means an easy nomination proves true.
Supporting Actress is where the real questions lie for the Thrones cast. Lena Headey and Maisie Williams are former nominees, and while the latter will likely (and rightfully) ride to a nod on her best, most heroic season, it'll be interesting to see if the Emmys see Headey's vastly reduced screen time in the final season and conclude there's not enough there there. But they have so loved her in the past. Looking to crack their first nominations: Sophie Turner, criminally underrewarded both onscreen and off as Sansa Stark, and Gwendoline Christie, who, like Williams, got one of the best, most crowd-pleasing moments of the season when Lady Brienne was knighted. She could be a most welcome surprise.
Of last year's whopping EIGHT nominees in Outstanding Comedy Series, Atlanta and Curb Your Enthusiasm didn't air new seasons this year, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is only eligible for its final 7 episodes, and both Silicon Valley and black-ish feel like they've suffered from a buzz deficit. This means somewhat fertile ground for new seeds to be planted (though I say "somewhat" because Veep returns after a year off to likely win one more trophy for the road).
Four new (or newly emerged) comedies feel poised to step into the big category: critical faves Russian Doll and Fleabag, populist little-engine-that-could Schitt's Creek, and Golden Globe darling The Kominsky Method. All four of them could produce acting nominees, and I would be shocked if Phoebe Waller-Bridge weren't given a writing nod for Fleabag. Same goes for Leslye Hedland getting a directing nod for Russian Doll.
The problem with airing in July and August is that you're nearly a full year away from the next year Emmys. (This is a problem that shows like The Loudest Voice and Big Little Lies season 2 are going to face next year. When Sharp Objects premiered last July, the reviews were top-notch, and everybody seemed to recognize that this was some grade-A select-label television, with breathtaking performances by Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, and Eliza Scanlen and a sense of dread and setting that put it apart from the rest of TV. The Emmy statues might as well have already been engraved.
But as the months went on and especially as last winter's award season commenced, a funny thing happened, where Sharp Objects — and Amy Adams specifically — kept losing. Suddenly, Patricia Arquette in Escape at Dannemora was the hot ticket for Best Actress, and questions arose about Sharp Objects not connecting with voters.
And then came this spring's cornucopia of excellent miniseries: HBO's Chernobyl, Netflix's When They See Us, FX's Fosse/Verdon, and Hulu's The Act were all highly acclaimed. As was Amazon's A Very English Scandal, which joins Sharp Objects in hoping that last year's raves aren't suddenly old news. Suddenly, at least 7 limited series, all very good at worst, and each with a powerful network/platform push behind it, will vie for 5 slots.
Famously, the most difficult category to break into on the Emmy ballot is Outstanding Reality Competition. In the 16 years the category has existed, only four shows have ever won (The Amazing Race 10 times, The Voice 4 times, and Top Chef and RuPaul's Drag Race once apiece), and last year's nominees (the fore aforementioned shows, plus 14-time nominee Project Runway and 3-time nominee American Ninja Warrior) have been nominated a grand total of 54 times. But experts think this year's weirdo singing competition/guessing game The Masked Singer has the stuff to crack the category, given that it was the first network reality show in YEARS to get America on the hook and playing along with it for weeks. Yes, it was dumb. Yes, the celebrity singers were usually D-listers. But the Emmys respond to success, and this category is friendly to singing competitions.
One of television's best shows would also make for one of the Emmy ballot's most necessary nominees. Pose is a critics' hit, featuring a performance from Billy Porter, a talented star who is emerging as a "name" talent at exactly the right time. There is a lot of room to maneuver in the Drama categories, but that doesn't mean you should assume Pose is in. For one thing, the Emmys are not this daring. This is still the same TV academy that let shows like The Wire, Gilmore Girls, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer pass by with barely any nominations. To assume they'll respond to a show about transgender ball performers in AIDS-ravaged 1980s New York City just because critcs have is asking to be crestfallen on nomination day.
But there are reasons to hope! It's never a BAD thing to be a hot, buzzy, critically acclaimed hit on an Emmy-friendly network. And Pose premiered its second season right in the thick of Emmy voting, which meant it was very much in the cultural conversation while people were filling out ballots. To my eye, both Porter and the show itself are riding that 6th-place line in their respective categories. But if any show on TV knows what it takes to walk a category, it's Pose
The 2019 Primetime Emmy Nominations will be announced live online at 11:20 AM ET/8:20 AM PT on Tuesday July 16.
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.