How do you solve a problem like Peak TV? For TV viewers, it’s pretty cool to live in an age with hundreds of TV shows – the more choices, the merrier. But for the TV Academy and its members, it’s presented a real dilemma: What’s the fairest way to approach Emmy voting when no voter can have seen everything — or even a large portion of everything — that’s there?
In 2017, the TV Academy tried something it thought could help make things fairer. It ended the tradition of issuing nomination ballots with a fixed number of slots per category and instead began instructing members to nominate as many achievements in each category as “you have seen and feel worthy of a nomination”.
Over the past six years, however, the unintended by-product of this kind of voting has been that the Emmy acting categories have become utterly dominated by performers from a small handful of “prestige shows” — those from popular networks or platforms with strong reputations. mouth and substantial campaigns behind them – with large ensembles.
In hindsight it makes sense. Even if voters watch more programs than they did decades ago, they are not all watching the same programs. The highest-profile series are the most likely to be widely watched — and discussed online and discussed endlessly in pop culture publications — and are therefore likely to garner the most nomination votes.
Consider, as case studies, the past two years.
In the 2021 acting Emmy races, NBC’s Saturday Night Live landed 11 nominations (including four out of five comedic guest actors, three out of seven comedic supporting actresses, two out of eight comedic supporting actors, and two out of six comedic guest actresses). hulus The Handmaid’s Tale scored 10 (including four out of eight supporting drama actresses, three out of eight supporting drama actors, and two out of five drama guest actresses). that of Netflix The crown collected nine (three of eight supporting drama actresses and two of six drama actresses). And that of Apple TV+ Ted Lasso netted seven (four of eight comedic supporting actors and two of seven comedic supporting actresses), just like Disney+’s Hamilton.
Then, in the 2022 acting Emmy races, HBOs Succession landed 14 nominations (including seven out of 12 in the Drama Guest Acting categories). Ted Lasso registered 10 (including six out of 16 in the comedy supporting acting categories). And HBO’s first season of The White Lotus clocked with eight and Hulu’s Dopesick with five out of 14 in the limited/anthology/TV movie supporting acting categories – in other words, two shows accounted for 13 out of 14 slots from those two categories!
These shows and many of the performances in them were excellent – but so were many other shows and performances that went completely unrecognized.
In recent years, I – and others – have argued that if voters were again forced to nominate a finite number of performances, many would make a more conscious effort to spread their votes across performances from a greater number of shows, leading to better giving the depth and breadth of quality television than the current system. And I’m happy to report – though some high-profile shows may have been disappointed to hear – that on Dec. 20, the TV Academy announced it was adopting this advice: “The number of selections each voting member is allowed to make by category in the first round of voting will be now limited to the number of nominations specified for that category. Members are no longer allowed to vote for an unlimited number of selections in any category.”
When this season’s Emmy nominations are announced on July 12, there will almost certainly still be some acting categories with multiple nominees from the same shows, and that’s no bad thing. For example, I think Succession earned multiple nominations for Drama Actor (Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong and Kieran Culkin) and Supporting Drama (Matthew Macfadyen, Nicholas Braun, Alan Ruck and Alexander Skarsgard). I suspect that The White Lotus will likely dominate the supporting drama category (Jennifer Coolidge, Aubrey Plaza, Meghann Fahy, Haley Lu Richardson, Sabrina Impacciatore, Simona Tabasco, and Beatrice Grannò all have a chance). HBOs Barry will likely garner several nominations for a supporting actor (Henry Winkler, Anthony Carrigan, and Stephen Root). And I’d be surprised if there’s another HBO show, The last of us, failed to receive multiple nominations in either guest star category. Those shows and many of their performances were so widespread and so universally appreciated.
But will say SNL, Ted Lasso And The crown dominate acting categories to the extent they have in recent years? I suspect not.
We’ll see how things play out, but if this overhaul of the voting process for nominations results in more worthy shows getting at least some recognition (e.g. a nomination for Jeff Bridges for FX’s The old manNatasha Lyonne for Peacock’s Poker face or James Marsden for Freevee’s Jury duty) and/or artists with slightly lower profiles who end up with deserved acting names (such as Bel Powley for Nat Geo’s A little lightMo Amer for Netflix MoZoe Lister-Jones for The Roku Channels Slip or Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Ayo Edebiri for Hulu’s The bear), then it can be considered a success in my opinion.
After all, the TV Academy should point viewers to truly excellent TV content, rather than just following the crowd. What else is the point of this?
This story first appeared in the May 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.