Emmy Awards 2018: ‘Game of Thrones’ and Netflix Lead the Way

It’s a new era for the Emmys.

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John Koblin
, New York Times

It’s a new era for the Emmys.

The streaming service Netflix led the way with 112 nominations when they were announced Thursday, snapping HBO’s 17-year streak of being the most-nominated network for TV’s most coveted prize.

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” did lead all series with 22 nominations, followed by “Saturday Night Live” (NBC) and “Westworld” (HBO), which each had 21, and Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which had 20.

The awards will be handed out Sept. 17.

But Netflix’s ascension is one that Hollywood has been anticipating. The streaming service pumps out new shows at a dizzying pace and spends plenty to make them — it will spend up to $8 billion on content this year, compared with HBO’s $2.5 billion.

The end-of-an-era feeling becomes even more pronounced with AT&T’s new ownership of HBO. The telecommunications company has declared that changes are coming for the network in a bid to increase subscriptions.

Netflix’s growth at the Emmys has been staggering. Three years ago, it had just 34 nominations, an amount it more than tripled this year.

“We are particularly enthused to see the breadth of our programming celebrated with nominations spread across 40 new and returning titles which showcase our varied and expansive slate — comedies, dramas, movies, limited series, documentary, variety, animation and reality,” Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer of Netflix, said in a statement.

As usual, Netflix spared no expense in campaigning for this moment. It opened a 30,000-square-foot space in Los Angeles in May and June, staging more than a dozen events for crowds that it hoped included lots of Emmy voters. Netflix also recently bought a few dozen billboards along the Sunset Strip to display more awards advertising.

Still, Netflix’s Emmy contenders are not expected to capture the top drama and comedy awards. And HBO, which nabbed 108 nominations, does have a 16-year streak of winning the most Emmys.

Here are a few other story lines to keep an eye on as the awards show approaches.

— ‘Game of Thrones’ vs. ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

One of the key questions for Emmy voters: Will it be Westeros or Gilead?

With “Game of Thrones” eligible at this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards for its not-so-recent seventh season, there will be a showdown between the dragon-fueled HBO juggernaut, twice recognized as best drama, and 2017’s top winner, “The Handmaid’s Tale” from Hulu.

Because of the timing of its previous season, “Game of Thrones” was not included in the 2017 Emmys, opening the door for Hulu’s dystopian drama. “The Handmaid’s Tale” took advantage, becoming the first show from a streaming platform to win best drama.

But “Game of Thrones” is an Emmy favorite. In the past four years that is has been eligible, it has led all shows in nominations. One point against it: Its seventh season debuted almost a year ago, a long stretch of time especially when compared with the second season of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which came out in April and feels increasingly relevant to many left-leaning Emmy voters.

Or perhaps things will go in another direction.

It was a year of change in 2017 at the Emmys, with rookie shows like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Crown,” “Stranger Things,” “This Is Us” and “Westworld” all nabbing best drama nominations. They were all among the seven nominees in the best drama category again, with FX’s critical darling “The Americans” also getting a nod for its final season. It is not unheard-of for Emmy voters to give shows a big trophy on their way out: Series such as “The Sopranos,” “Breaking Bad” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” all claimed top prizes for their final seasons.

— We’ll have a new best actress.

The last time the Emmy for best actress in a comedy went to someone not named Julia Louis-Dreyfus, President Barack Obama was in his first term.

With the final season of “Veep” delayed because Louis-Dreyfus was being treated for cancer (good news: filming is scheduled to begin with Louis-Dreyfus in August), there will be a new winner in best actress in a comedy category for the first time since 2011.

The race is wide open. Rachel Brosnahan, who stars as a 1950s housewife-turned-comedian in Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” is an early favorite. (She won the Golden Globe in the same category in January.) Others in the running are the two-time nominee Tracee Ellis Ross from “black-ish,” the seven-time Emmy winner Allison Janney for the CBS sitcom “Mom,” Issa Rae from HBO’s “Insecure,” Lily Tomlin from Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie” and Pamela Adlon from FX’s “Better Things.”

In the best actress in a drama category, 2017’s winner, Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), was nominated again. Her competition includes Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve”), Claire Foy (“The Crown”) and Keri Russell (“The Americans”). Oh became the first Asian woman to be nominated in the lead actress in a drama category.

The absence of “Veep” also means there will be a new winner in best comedy for the first time in four years. (Since 2007, there have been, remarkably, only three best comedy winners: “Veep,” “Modern Family” and “30 Rock.”) Donald Glover’s boundary-pushing comedy, “Atlanta,” will be a favorite, along with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” And for the first time since it has been on the air, the five-time best comedy winner “Modern Family” was not nominated.

Let’s look at the late-night battles.

John Oliver stands as the clear favorite in the best variety talk show category, with his weekly HBO series, “Last Week Tonight,” winning the past two years.

But can Stephen Colbert, the CBS host whose show has become the most watched in late night and was nominated again this year, break that streak? Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah finally elbowed his way into the category after missing out each of the past two years. Samantha Bee, just six weeks removed from apologizing for using a vulgar epithet to describe Ivanka Trump, was also nominated. Jimmy Fallon, who has seen his “Tonight Show” audience shrink, made a point of campaigning fairly aggressively this year but was snubbed for a second year in a row.

“Saturday Night Live,” which historically has not been a favorite of Emmy voters, is turning that narrative around. It picked up 21 nominations, another strong showing, even if critical praise for the show cooled considerably this past season.

The show will have a prominent role: Its Weekend Update hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che are hosting this year’s Emmys, and will likely bring several cast members along for the ride. And the “SNL” impresario Lorne Michaels will executive produce the show, the first time he has done so since 1988.

— Superstars, indeed.

NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” could make some pop culture history. There are three people attached to NBC’s live musical who are at the doorstep of joining the EGOT club — the exclusive and somewhat random assortment of people who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.

John Legend, who played Jesus Christ in the musical and was nominated for best actor in a limited series or movie, won an Oscar in 2015 for best original song for “Glory” from the movie “Selma,” and a Tony for serving as a producer for “Jitney,” which won best revival of a play in 2017. He has also won several Grammys.

The musical was nominated for best live variety special. Andrew Lloyd Webber and his longtime collaborator, Tim Rice, who are among the producers of the TV musical, are both an Emmy shy of an EGOT.

There have been a dozen EGOT winners, including Audrey Hepburn, Whoopi Goldberg, Mel Brooks and Scott Rudin. Robert Lopez, the acclaimed songwriter behind “Frozen” and Broadway’s “Book of Mormon,” was the last person to join the club, four years ago. This year, he became the first person to win the “double EGOT.” His wife and regular collaborator, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, has won two Oscars and two Grammys.

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