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Emmy Awards Nominations: What to Watch For

The race to the nominations has been fiercely competitive. To secure Emmy votes, networks and studios went on a lavish spending spree in recent months to market their shows at a moment when there are more TV shows than ever. Many Hollywood executives said that award jockeying for the Emmys, once a relatively sedate affair, now rivals Oscars campaigning.

Here are some significant story lines to look out for when the nominations are announced:

A wide-open race for the drama throne

“Game of Thrones,” which has won best drama the past two years, is ineligible for this year’s Emmys because of a later start date. (Its seventh season begins on Sunday.) And HBO’s competitors are gleefully ready to fill the vacuum.

Though the Emmys are known for showering awards on one winner year after year in major categories, many predict sweeping change in the best drama category, with potentially more than half the nominees being rookie shows.

Previous nominees, like “Better Call Saul” and “The Americans,” seem likely to be welcomed back, but the fate of stalwarts like “Homeland” and “House of Cards” is more uncertain. Several first-year shows — including “The Crown” (Netflix), “Stranger Things” (Netflix), “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu), “Westworld” (HBO) and “This Is Us” (NBC) — have a strong shot at making the cut.


Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia in NBC’s “This Is Us.”

Ron Batzdorff/NBC

If “This Is Us” receives a nomination, it would snap an embarrassing dry spell for the big four broadcast networks. The last time a show from ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC was nominated was CBS’s “The Good Wife” in 2011.

HBO is hoping that “Westworld” or “The Leftovers” (which received critical praise for its final season) is nominated. If neither is, that would be the first time in nine years that HBO, the premium cable channel, does not have an entrant in the category.

A Trump bump?

Several late-night shows have adopted a staunch anti-President Trump posture, and that may help win them attention with Emmy voters.


Stephen Colbert during a taping of CBS’s “The Late Show,” now the most watched show in late night.

Chad Batka for The New York Times

Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show” was left out of the best variety talk show category last year, cementing a perception that the show was struggling. And now? Mr. Colbert is widely expected to score a nomination after his show became the most watched in late night, besting Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” months ago. And will Mr. Fallon’s show — 10 months after he infamously messed up Mr. Trump’s hair — be passed over for the first time since he became host?

Possible first-time nominees in the category also include Seth Meyers, Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah. Each one has capitalized during a year when liberals have turned to their television sets to bathe in criticism of Mr. Trump. John Oliver, last year’s winner, is a near-lock to receive a nomination and remains a favorite to repeat.

“Saturday Night Live,” which was withering toward the Trump administration this past season, will probably have a major presence at the awards, with potential nominations going to the show in the best variety sketch show category, Kate McKinnon (last year’s surprise winner as best supporting actress in a comedy), Alec Baldwin (for his portrayal of Mr. Trump) and Melissa McCarthy (for her hugely popular Sean Spicer impression).


Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer on “Saturday Night Live.”

Rosalind O’Connor/NBC

Star power in the best actress categories

Move over, gentlemen. This may be the year of the actress at the Emmys.

To wit: Last month, when the Television Critics Association announced the nominees for its acting categories — one for drama, one for comedy, neither separated by gender — 11 of the 14 nominees were women.


From left, Shailene Woodley, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman in HBO’s “Big Little Lies.”

Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO

The limited series and TV movie best actress category could be a showdown between four Oscar winners from two shows: HBO’s “Big Little Lies” (Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon) and FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan” (Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange). Other potential contenders include Oprah Winfrey for the HBO movie “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and Carrie Coon for FX’s “Fargo,” who is looking for, at long last, her first Emmy nomination. (She could also be nominated for her role in “The Leftovers.”)


Susan Sarandon, left, as Bette Davis, and Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford in FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan.”

Suzanne Tenner/FX, via Associated Press

The best actress drama category is wide open since last year’s winner — Tatiana Maslany — is not eligible because “Orphan Black” debuted too late this year. Possible contenders include actresses from rookie shows, like Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), Claire Foy (“The Crown”) and Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”), and past nominees, like Keri Russell (“The Americans”) and Viola Davis (“How to Get Away With Murder”), who won the award in 2015.

Can Netflix topple HBO?

Two years ago, HBO had 92 more nominations than Netflix. Last year, the gap fell to 40.

What will it be this year?

HBO has had the most nominations of any TV network for 16 consecutive years. TV executives have been quietly whispering about whether the day is approaching when HBO will no longer be the perennial leader of the pack at the Emmys.

But this year HBO will lose the 23 nominations that “Game of Thrones” received last year, the most of any show. Meanwhile, Netflix’s rapid expansion into original programming, documentaries and stand-up comedy specials is sure to help that streaming service pile up Emmy nominations.

Netflix was also the most ostentatious in its marketing efforts before Emmy voting began. It opened a 24,000-square-foot space in Beverly Hills, Calif., trotting out the stars and producers of more than a dozen of its shows almost nightly for several weeks. And Netflix wooed the crowd that it hoped included plenty of Emmy voters with an open bar and a free meal. If Netflix has a big day on Thursday, expect rivals to complain that it essentially bought Emmy votes.

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