Welcome to Emmy Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Emmy race — via Slack, of course. This week, days away from nomination voting closing, we look at Best Drama Series, which feels like the donest of deals.
Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! It’s the Friday before the Emmy nominations-round voting comes to a conclusion, so what better time for us to finally talk about “The Crown,” right? Like, it seems, the entertainment industry at large, we’ve been quite enamored with the limited series categories thus far. Not that it should come as a total surprise: that’s the designation where traditional movies for adults that they don’t make any more and prestige television dramas that they don’t make anymore have combined for stuff they do still want to make. What a concept. But while the drama category pales in comparison to its limited series brethren (as well as to the halcyon days of “The Sopranos,” “The West Wing,” “ER” and more), maybe it deserves to be taken seriously. After all, even though everyone expects “The Crown” to basically sweep on Emmy night, that itself would be pretty significant. “The Crown,” after all, has never won Best Drama Series — and neither has Netflix as an institution. Its win would be historic. “The Crown” could also make history in the acting categories, where it stands as a favorite to win all four main cast acting honors: Best Actress (Emma Corrin), Best Actor (Josh O’Connor), Best Supporting Actress (Gillian Anderson) and Best Supporting Actor (Tobias Menzies). Of that quartet, Menzies feels like the most likely to fall short — he’s currently running behind Michael K. Williams for “Lovecraft Country” — but it’s not impossible to imagine that he pulls off an upset. What I’m saying is, hey, “The Crown” is pretty good? Why isn’t there more enthusiasm behind its pending Emmy dominance, especially for a season that even its biggest detractors seemed to really love (looks in the mirror, sheepishly)?
joyceeng: Heavy is the head that wears “The Crown,” right? First, I’ll say I think “The Crown” stans are very excited that their baby will finally do it this year. Not to mention Netflix as well (if “The Queen’s Gambit” doesn’t win limited, I am looking forward to the good chuckle I will have over Apple TV+ being the latest streaming service to beat Netflix to a series win because you know Best Comedy Series will be announced before Best Drama Series). Anyway, I think there isn’t the same widespread excitement over its probable victory and I would say the drama categories in general because — and no offense to any of the worthy shows — drama is weak. Not necessarily weak in terms of quality, but weak in terms of traditional types of Emmy contenders. Most of the major players and Emmy faves are MIA this year, and we’re left with some shows that you know voters won’t touch, new shows that underperformed in some way over the winter, and some former nominees that are looking to reassert themselves. And even if they do, I don’t think many believe they can actually win. Basically “The Crown” has no competition. Even in comedy, where “Ted Lasso” will likely prevail, we had “Hacks” come in and shake things up, especially in comedy actress. There’s been nothing like that in drama, so I guess we’re all just kinda resigned to “The Crown” winning? To be clear, “The Crown” is a very good show and the fourth season, with the Charles and Diana of it all, pierced the cultural conversation in a way the first three hadn’t. But right now, it could very well pull a “Schitt’s Creek” and win all seven categories at the main ceremony. Are you prepared for that?
Christopher Rosen: I honestly am, though if you’ll allow me a brief misguided soapbox: “The Crown” is why there should be an ensemble acting award at the Emmys, because this is a show where the whole is truly better than the sum of its parts. But in lieu of that, yeah, I’d be down for a sweep. Like I mentioned, Menzies is the longest shot and he doesn’t really have all that much to do in Season 4. Yet I rewatched the season finale recently and I think it’s notable that when push comes to shove and we’re heading into the final moments of the Young Diana years, it’s Prince Phillip who explains the role of the royal family as pawns for the Queen. It’s a juicy scene and Menzies kills it with a mix of empathy for Diana, resignation for their world, and weariness about the younger generation. He rules, is what I’m saying, and if there are enough “Crown” stans voting for Emmy, he could easily win with that scene alone. But as you mentioned, this category is a little top heavy. If not “The Crown” on the throne, what do you think could pull an upset?
joyceeng: I guess they can comfort themselves with those two SAG Awards for drama ensemble. The odds have “The Mandalorian” — one of the three 2020 nominees that could return — in second place, but I think we all have to see that happen to believe it. “Bridgerton” is in third, but if “Downton Abbey” could never win in drama (it won limited for its first season, if you recall), I don’t know if a fluffier show could. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is the other 2020 nominee and it’s also a former champ. The consensus is that Season 4 is a return to form because, well, they actually moved the plot forward, but that show has had such a roller-coaster ride at the Emmys. It dominated for its debut season, failed to win a single award at the main ceremony for its second (with Elisabeth Moss losing to none other than Claire Foy), it hacked the system and was the second most nominated drama in 2019 with its three orphaned episodes, and then got fewer noms last year for a full season and Moss was snubbed. If voters are watching and paying attention, I suppose it can give chase to “The Crown,” but as I mentioned earlier this week, it’s also at that age where voters might be moving on from it. So, pre-noms, I don’t really know what can legitimately upset. Really helpful, I know. I do want to give voters some credit here because they have surprised, in good and bad ways, before and very few of us saw Mando coming last year. So in that vein, is there a show you think we’re all dismissing too quickly?
Christopher Rosen: I’m glad you asked! From a sheer nominations standpoint, I think we’re all really sleeping on “Lovecraft Country,” likely because its critical reception was mixed-positive. But this is a show all but assured to get four acting nominations (Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Wunmi Mosaku and Michael K. Williams) and should land at least one slot in the guest actor races (Courtney B. Vance). Add those to a wealth of potential below-the-line nominations and it could be that “Lovecraft Country” winds up with 15 or more on Emmy morning, and likely stands as the second- or third-most-nominated drama behind “The Crown” and possibly “The Mandalorian.” I can’t really imagine a scenario where it wins, but it does feel more “Emmy friendly” than Mando and possibly “Bridgerton” too thanks to its overall social message and broader HBO prestige sheen. The other show which I’d like to see do well is the final season of “Pose.” They really went out on a high note and stuck the landing, no easy feat when it comes to highly anticipated series finales. We’ve gone a whole chat and not mentioned “The Boys” or “This Is Us” or “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” so I’ll leave you with the last word on those before we close this tab.
joyceeng: I would love to see “The Boys” nominated and I think it can do it. It feels like it could be the drama equivalent of “What We Do in the Shadows” last year: the cool, subversive pick. It got a WGA nomination, so the writers are at least here for it, and the Emmys have embraced genre shows recently. “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” is more traditional superhero fare, and while I think it can snag an acting bid here or there (I will always pick up the phone if Julia Louis-Dreyfus calls), “WandaVision” will be Marvel’s best ticket to the Emmys. I have “This Is Us” returning, as I think many do, in this less competitive field, though I would not be surprised if it missed again. It’s carried the broadcast flag the past few years, but of course it wouldn’t beat “The Crown” if it made it in. And that’s the royal tea.
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