Drama Supporting Actress Video Chat

This video was posted to Gold Derby on August 9th as “Editors on Drama Supporting Actress”.

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A Test for Hanging Episodes

A version of this article was published to Gold Derby on July 17th as “Will Mad Men be Helped or Hurt by Hanging Episodes?”

Just as film studios release many of their Oscar contenders in December, television networks sometimes air episodes close to Emmy voting in order to be the first thing on voters’ minds when they tick off their ballots.  This could explain how Veep, which aired its finale the day that ballots came out last year, got a surprise nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series over the favoured Louie, which had been off the air for nine months at that point.

Before 2007, the academy enforced a strict June 1st to May 31st eligibility calendar, meaning that late season finales would have to be shelved for Emmy consideration until the following year.  For example, the first season finale of Arrested Development, which aired June 6th, 2004, was included on their 2005 series reel a year later when the second season contended for best comedy.

The June to May calendar proved problematic for the final season of The Sopranos because the last two episodes of the season aired in June, which would have made them ineligible as part of the final season and ineligible the next year because they would not have met the minimum six-episode requirement to qualify as a season by themselves.  With the rise of cable networks and their disregard for the traditional broadcast cycle, the academy implemented a “hanging episodes” rule that permitted those final two episodes of The Sopranos to compete in the 2007 Emmys.  The rule is colloquially referred to as “The Sopranos rule”.

Last year, Mad Men aired two hanging episodes in June before ballots were released.  The late airdates seemingly had no negative effect on their Emmy chances and may have even helped them: the episode “Commissions and Fees” was nominated by the writers’ branch, while the season finale “The Phantom” was recognized for its cinematography.  This year, Mad Men did something much riskier by airing four episodes in June, including two after ballots had been released.  In fact, the season finale “In Care of” was broadcast thirteen days after ballots were released and just five days before the deadline to turn them in.  This means that unless a significant percentage of the voters are procrastinators or specifically waited for Mad Men’s season to conclude before marking their ballots that “In Care of” might not have factored into their voting.  This likely would hurt Mad Men’s nomination total, considering that the episode is considered the season’s high water mark, as the highest-rated episode on both TV.com and IMDb, with a standout performance by Jon Hamm and script by Matthew Weiner and Carly Wray.  Nominations will be announced on Thursday morning, at which point the people campaigning for AMC will be pronounced geniuses or fools.

‘The Big Bang Theory’ Set for Emmy Explosion

A version of this article was published to Gold Derby on July 12th as “Will Big Bang Theory Explode at Emmys?

After six seasons, the stars seem to have finally aligned for The Big Bang Theory at the Emmys.  It is highest-rated sitcom on television, as new viewers are regularly discovering it through syndication.  This season marked its highest Nielsen ratings yet: new episodes were watched by an average of twenty-one million viewers including DVR.

This past year has also marked the show’s most successful awards run.  The Big Bang Theory dominated the Critics’ Choice Television Awards, winning Best Comedy Series, Best Supporting Actor for Simon Helberg and Best Supporting Actress for Kaley Cuoco.  Lead actor Jim Parsons, supporting actress Melissa Raunch and guest actor Bob Newhart helped the show lead all programs among total nominations.

Neither of The Big Bang Theory’s first two seasons scored any Emmy nominations, but the third season surged in viewership and reaped three nominations.  The next three years yielded five nominations apiece, but The Big Bang Theory could double that total when nominations are announced next Thursday morning, given its building momentum from the precursor awards.

Jim Parsons has won two of his four nominations for lead actor in a comedy series and is the show’s biggest lock.  The series has been nominated for best comedy and editing the last two years and has been nominated twice for technical direction and three times for art direction.  Supporting actress Mayim Bialik is expected to repeat her nomination, as she is ranked fifth by Gold Derby’s odds; Kaley Cuoco is ranked sixth, so is predicted to garner her first nomination.  Simon Helberg is ranked eighth, while 2011 nominee Johnny Galecki is ranked ninth for lead actor.  His buzz has been dwindling, as he has been overshadowed by his co-stars; if he returns, it will truly demonstrate The Big Bang Theory as a force to be reckoned with.  Six-time nominee Bob Newhart just picked up an honorary Critics’ Choice award is ranked second in guest actor.

Another possible forecaster of Emmy gold is if The Big Bang Theory scores its first directing nomination.  Series director Mark Cendrowski surprised everyone when he became the first multi-camera comedy nominee with the Directors Guild of America since Will & Grace in 2005.  The Emmys nominated two laugh-track episodes in 2011, so The Big Bang Theory’s chances might be even better here.  Although the DGA nominated Cendrowski for his work on the season premiere, Cendrowski has instead submitted the episode that guest starred Newhart to the Emmys and which aired after the DGA’s eligibility period (so could theoretically be nominated by them next year).  A directing nomination is important because only one comedy in the last fifteen years—Friends in 2002—has won the series race without either a directing or writing nomination and Friends had been nominated for both in prior years.  If The Big Bang Theory does win, it will be the first multi-camera series since Everybody Loves Raymond in 2006.

‘Game of Thrones’ on the Rise

A version of this article was published to Gold Derby on July 11th as “Are We Underestimating Game of Thrones at Emmys?

The first season of Game of Thrones mustered up an impressive thirteen nominations.  In the history of the Emmys, only the 1997–1998 season of The X Files has racked up more nominations for a science fiction or fantasy series in a single year, with sixteen.  Game of Thrones scored the trifecta of series, writing and directing nominations for those 2011 Emmys, a feat that was not even achieved by eventual Outstanding Drama Series winner Mad Men that year.  The HBO epic went on to win two Emmys.

The next year, Game of Thrones received twelve nominations, losing those writing and directing nominations, but gaining an art direction nomination for creating the fictional world of Westeros after being shockingly snubbed the year before in favour of Modern Family.  Despite the reduction in nominations, Game of Thrones tied to lead all programs among wins, with six.

Now, Game of Thrones is coming off of what many consider its strongest season to date, with a 90 score on Metacritic to boast, up from 79 for its very first episodes and 88 for the early second season.  The show also posted its highest Nielsen ratings and had its strongest showing at the Critics’ Choice Awards with four nominations and a win for Best Drama Series.  It could be poised for its best showing yet at the Emmys when nominations are announced next week.

If Game of Thrones can increase its nominations, it stands a strong chance at an upset win for best drama.  Most important is a return to either the writing or directing category because no drama in the 2000s has won the top prize without a nomination for at least one.  The Game of Thrones writers submitted a single episode for best writing in 2011, which focused support and resulted in a nomination.  Perhaps overconfident, they submitted four episodes last year and were snubbed.  This year, they have returned to the formula that paid off by submitting only the annual buzzed-about penultimate episode.  Considering that the so-called Red Wedding episode “broke the Internet” as Gold Derby editor Chris Beachum so shrewdly put it, it is a safe bet to get in and might also compete in directing.

Peter Dinklage is the only cast member to be recognized for his Game of Thrones role by the Emmys, so a good barometer of success might be whether any others can score nominations.  Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Emilia Clarke received nominations at the recent Critics’ Choice Awards; Lena Headey and Kit Harrington have been nominated by the both the genre-based Saturn Awards and the international Monte-Carlo TV Festival.  Michelle Fairley is another viable contender for her role at the climactic Red Wedding.  Gold Derby odds rank Dinklage third and Coster-Waldau eighth for supporting actor, while Clarke is tenth, Fairley eleventh and Headey thirteenth for supporting actress.  Diana Rigg is placed fifth for guest actress.

Game of Thrones was dropped from the stunt coordination category last year, but it still went on to win a second consecutive stunt ensemble award from the Screen Actors Guild.  Assuming that its snub was a fluke, this is another category that will help its total nomination number.

Finally, there remains cinematography, editing and music composition that the show has surprisingly not registered in, despite acclaim.  Nominations there could help Game of Thrones become the 2013 series nomination leader, as incumbent leader Mad Men is expected to fall after a disappointing season.  However, total nominations are not necessarily predictive; Homeland actually had the least nominations of all six best drama nominees last year.

‘Downton Abbey’ the Continual Emmy Underdog

A version of this article was published to Gold Derby on July 11th as “Is Downton Abbey in Trouble at Emmys?

Downton Abbey inexplicably competed in the miniseries categories for 2011 and won many high-profile Emmys, upsetting HBO’s Kate Winslet vehicle Mildred Pierce, which had led all programs in nominations.  The British period piece then moved to the drama series categories last year and surprised everyone by exceeding its previous nomination haul, despite the steeper competition.  The show went from two acting nominations to six; only two people out of the over 1400 who used Gold Derby’s predictions center forecasted the first-time nominations for supporting performers Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle and Jim Carter.

Gold Derby is again predicting conservatively this year when it comes to Downton Abbey.  The second season reaped seven nominations in the seven drama categories that Gold Derby publishes odds for; Gold Derby odds are in favour of just four nominations for the third season.  This school of thought has emerged that the Julian Fellowes drama will underplay at the Emmys this year may be more bias-driven than logic-based.

The first season of Downton Abbey was a critical gem, scoring 92 on review aggregate Metacritic.  Its second and third seasons tumbled to 84 then 83, still qualifying as a quality production, but not truly befitting of the “Masterpiece” title that American broadcaster PBS has subtitled it and putting it a bit out of its league competing with Breaking Bad, which scored 99 for its most recent season.  One might think that this argument crumbles because the series’ faltering should have already been accounted for last year, but the Emmys are notorious for not always having their finger on the pulse and also for having a soft spot for flavours of the moment.

Glee was a pop culture sensation in its early years; however, from a critical perspective, the show was defined as a “hot mess” with as much disarray as potential.  The first season overachieved with nineteen nominations and was seen as a threat to win Outstanding Comedy Series.  The next season dropped just two points on Metacritic and made up for it with a similarly dubious uptick in Nielsen ratings.  Despite the relative consistency, the second season fared much worse at the Emmys, losing major nominations for writing, directing, lead actor and lead actress.  The Emmy trajectory for Downton Abbey could prove to be similar if it follows up its overachieving year that ultimately did not take home the top prize with a year in which its nominations are dramatically reduced and the cynics rejoice.

In addition to its staggering level of popularity, Downton Abbey owed many of its second-season nominations to savvy Emmy strategizing and submitting.  Whereas many series submit their entire casts for consideration, PBS submitted no more than two performances per category and only one episode for best directing in a fruitful effort to mobilize support.  PBS set out this year with the same strategy, but the ballot ultimately listed three performances in each supporting category.  The network had intended to submit Elizabeth McGovern as a lead actress for the third time, but the Oscar nominee took Gold Derby’s advice and moved to the more-appropriate supporting category.  Meanwhile, Dan Stevens had previously been campaigned by PBS in the lead actor category, but the network opted not to submit him this time around.  Stevens entered himself—in the supporting category.  Lead actress Michelle Dockery just scored her first Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations, which would normally make her a lock for a repeat Emmy nomination, but her screen time was reduced this year such that will make it hard to compete with actresses who truly lead their shows.  Gold Derby odds rank her at just fifth place.

While Downton Abbey has much to worry about in the telecast categories like directing against pilots for House of Cards and The Newsroom, as well as in the aforementioned acting categories, it is considerably safer below the line.  Creative Arts categories that it has won like costumes, hairstyling and music composition are locked up, as are most departments that garnered recognition as both a miniseries and a drama like art direction and casting.  Only two trouble spots exist in the technical races: picture editing and sound mixing.  The former again faces new competition in House of Cards and The Newsroom, while the latter tends to favour series with more obvious sound work.  Downton Abbey submitted a war-heavy episode last year with battle scenes, but the third season featured nothing so high-octane.

The Impact of Critical Backlash at the Emmys

A version of this article was published to Gold Derby on July 4th as “Can Mad Men Recover from Emmy Disaster?

In early April, The Hollywood Reporter reported that show runner Matthew Weiner had hired Argo campaign consultant Michele Robertson to help manage Mad Men’s 2013 Emmy campaign, after the series failed to make the history books as the drama series with the most wins in the history of the Emmys and instead entered the history books last year for having the single largest shutout ever with seventeen nominations and zero wins in 2012.  Mad Men was hoping to stage an Emmy comeback following the recent seasons of Emmy darlings Homeland and Downton Abbey being lambasted by the critics who had propped them up in the first place.

But Mad Men has been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons this year, as it has taken a critical beating of its own; veteran television critic Matt Roush described the season as “terribly disappointing and weirdly heavy-handed” in TV Guide, while the Associated Press’ Frazier Moore labelled the first couple of episodes “a disappointment—even annoying”.

Mad Men won no Emmys last year and just two the year before that (hairstyling and drama series), but it has been consistent in nominations, scoring from sixteen to nineteen nominations in its first five years.  However, this season of Mad Men is different because the first five were almost universally praised.  The series may see a sudden and massive decline in its nominations this year, like other Emmy-winning shows have experienced following a critical backlash.

In 2006, 24 finally won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series.  Like Mad Men, 24 had had a fairly consistent run prior to that in terms of nominations.  The sixth season of 24 is regarded as its worst and was a steep fall from its outstanding fifth season.  Its nominations were cut in half from a series-best twelve to six and the show was even dropped from three key categories that it had actually won the year before: drama series, directing and editing.  For its last two seasons, 24 picked up just six and five nominations.

In 2007, Heroes seemed like the start of a pop culture phenomenon and on the verge of overshadowing Lost, as both were serialized genre shows on major networks with international ensemble casts.  It was nominated for eight Emmys, including best drama, directing, editing and supporting actor.  But Heroes crumbled the next year with a critically-reviled turn—demonstrated by an Entertainment Weekly cover story titled “A Series in Crisis: Fallen Heroes”—and its nominations were reduced to three for its second season.  The series was never welcomed back to the Outstanding Drama Series race; its last season two years later received just one nomination, for art direction.

Dexter had more buzz than ever in its fourth season and it picked up a series-best eight nominations, including best drama, going on to win best directing and guest actor for John Lithgow’s turn as a serial killer that also won him a Golden Globe as best supporting actor on television.  The fifth season was decidedly less confident than the fourth and the show floundered without a strong antagonist and the writers seemed unsure with how to move on in the absence of a major character that had been killed off in the Emmy-winning fourth season finale.  The show still picked five nominations, including best drama, but won none and was reduced to a single nomination—lead actor—the year after that.

Mad Men will return in many categories, but it is poised for its worst year yet with nominations.  Mad Men was nominated in all seven of the drama categories in Gold Derby’s prediction center last year.  This year, Gold Derby odds peg the series as being dropped from three categories: supporting actor, guest actor and guest actress.  Lead actor Jon Hamm and lead actress Elisabeth Moss are each ranked fourth, so are probably safe bets to return, but not the locks that they normally are; the series itself is ranked fifth.