Drama at the Emmys: In the Drama Categories, It's Anyone's Game

By Moore, Frazier | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 17, 2017 | Go to article overview

Drama at the Emmys: In the Drama Categories, It's Anyone's Game


Moore, Frazier, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Year after year, too many Emmy categories are laden with expected and oft-repeated winners. No drama, then, when the envelope is torn. But there is some in the drama categories that will be presented Sunday night.

Four of the seven nominated drama series are new on the scene. Consequently, at least half of the drama nominees for best actress, actor and supporting actor come from freshman shows, as do no fewer than five of the six drama nominees for best supporting actress.

No wonder the best drama field has confounded odds-makers. Any one of those nominees could take home the trophy.

Consider the wide range of contenders:

"Better Call Saul" * On basic cable (AMC), with its third consecutive nomination for best drama, yet thus far no Emmy wins in any category.

"Westworld" * On premium cable (HBO). Its first year in contention.

"The Handmaid's Tale" * On a streaming channel (Hulu). Its first year in contention, and, potentially, Hulu's maiden Emmy win.

"House of Cards" * On a rival streaming channel already well-established with Emmy-winning content (Netflix), nominated for its fifth consecutive season.

"Stranger Things" * Also on Netflix, in its first season.

"The Crown" * Yet another Netflix entry, also in its rookie season.

"This Is Us" * A freshman series on NBC, a broadcast network that scored its first Emmy in 1949 but which, along with the other legacy broadcasters, has been shut out of this category for years. (CBS' "The Good Wife" was these broadcasters' last drama series to be nominated, in 2011, and ABC's "Lost" was the last to win, way back in 2005.) St. Louis native Sterling K. Brown is nominated again for best actor for his work on the show.

Tom O'Neil, author of "The Emmys" reference book and editor of Gold Derby, an awards handicapping website, predicts "Stranger Things" will take the prize, but in the same breath he acknowledges that show is too young-skewing and too "genre" to be an Emmy slam-dunk. The drama category, he sums up, is "wide open. You could make a compelling argument for all seven nominees."

But let's set aside for a moment who will win and focus on what these nominees say about TV today. For starters, more than half of the field come from streaming channels, a distribution system that wasn't represented at the Emmys until "House of Cards" claimed three statuettes in 2013.

Both premium and basic cable are also represented. (And it's fun to recall that, until 1988, Emmy didn't even recognize cable shows.)

And as the category's biggest surprise, broadcast TV, which once had the Emmys all to itself, has pulled an upset by a network denied a drama-series win for 14 years.

Another oddity about the best drama field this year: Here, at least, Emmy voters have kicked the habit of picking the same series time and again. (Consider the best comedy category, where "Veep" has been nominated yearly since its 2012 premiere and won twice so far.) The last time as many as half the drama field was newcomers happened more than 30 years ago. …

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