No Brexit Strategy This Emmy Awards Season

By Clarke, Steve | Variety, May 31, 2017 | Go to article overview

No Brexit Strategy This Emmy Awards Season


Clarke, Steve, Variety


AS TV CONTINUES TO GO GLOBAL, the overseas programming generating awards buzz this season looks more eclectic than ever. And American favorites could find themselves defeated by a show devoted to an English monarch or a drama initiated by Sky Italia starring Jude Law as a fictional pope.

In recent years two shows have defined Britain's success at the kudos event: They are the quintessentially English, country house saga, "Downton Abbey," and the re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes as a 21st century crime solver in the BBC's "Sherlock." Now that "Downton" has closed its doors, pundits look to Netflix's lavish "The Crown," starring Claire Foy as the young Queen Elizabeth, which has been delivering on its awards buzz since debuting in the fall. The show has already collected multiple Golden Globes (including drama series) and SAG awards. (Though, in a surprise upset, it was completely shut out of this month's BAFTA TV awards after earning the most nominations overall.)

It joins an astonishing lineup of contenders from across the pond, including HBO, Canal Plus and Sky's limited series "The Young Pope," Sky and Showtime's limited series "Guerrilla," ITV and PBS' drama series "Victoria," and multiple BBC entries including variety sketch newcomer "Tracey Ullman's Show" (HBO), limited series "The Missing" (Starz), and Emmy favorite "Sherlock" (PBS). The latter is a nine-time winner at the awards, and this year enters "The Lying Detective" installment in the longform categories.

And better late than never, BBC flagship "Doctor Who" enters into the drama series race for the first time in its 54-year history. Departing star Peter Capaldi was on the ballot for the first time last year, thanks to BBC America, and returns to contention this year.

Why are non-U.S. shows so in favor at the Emmys? Anglo-American collaboration and the globalization of TV are two factors driving this high-profile for European fare. "Today TV is a global market more than ever before. As a result British production companies are much more part of the U.S. scene," says Andy Harries, CEO of Left Bank Pictures, producer of "The Crown." "These days it's routine for British producers to be knocking on the door at American broadcasters or at Netflix, Amazon or Hulu."

"There's a real appetite for a British voice and British production values," adds BBC Studio's head, Mark Linsey "If you look at shows like 'Luther' or 'Doctor Who' and 'Sherlock,' they have a sense of Britishness, as do 'Downton Abbey' and 'The Night Manager.'"

Harries suggests "Downton's" success at the 2011 Emmys alerted Americans to the potential rewards of getting into bed with British program makers.

Six years ago "Downton," then largely unknown to the U.S. TV com- munity, walked away with four Emmys for best miniseries, directing, writing and supporting actress Maggie Smith.

"I could sense people at the Emmy awards ceremony had no idea of what the show was," recalls Gareth Neame, CEO of "Downton" producer Carnival. "That first year we received 11 nominations but most people who attended the Emmy awards ceremony had never seen it. By the end of the evening they had go and find out what all the fuss was about." Over six seasons "Downton Abbey" won 69 Emmy noms and 15 awards, a record for a British show. "Emmy success was key to 'Downton' being such a big show in the U.S.," Neame points out.

"'Downton Abbey' changed everything. It was like a silent revolution," says Jane Tranter, the former Los-Angeles-based BBC topper who runs Bad Wolf, a drama specialist operating on both sides of the Atlantic.

"'Downton' was a PBS British period drama, nothing unusual about that. But it went way beyond PBS's normal reach. The series showed that it was possible to get a big audience for something made in the U.K."

Amazon and BBC's "Fleabag," meanwhile, has a tone galaxies away from the deferential world of "Downton Abbey" British TV's latest comedy queen, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, wrote and plays the lead role in this dark, subversive and tragically sexual show. …

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