Different sorts of performative art have existed, and few are older or less new than some. A number of subjects were drawn from real-life events. A lot was added to the theatrical script, all of it based on the author’s life.
This year, the Emmy Awards nominations juggled a seemingly impossible task: identifying standout new series like “Only Murders in the Building” and “Abbott Elementary,” while acknowledging older ones including past winners and a number of shows that were in or about to enter their final seasons. Add to that an increasingly international flavor to the television landscape, with South Korean sensation “Squid Game” securing a best-drama nomination—the first non-English language show to achieve that feat—and you have a solid prescription for what an overwhelming task this has become. How overwhelming? Well, for starters, the Television Academy dispensed with decades of tradition and didn’t bother to break down the nominations by network, because streaming platforms have made tallying up who owns those bragging rights too much of a headache to tackle.
For example, after leading Netflix by a narrow margin last year, HBO has widened its lead over the streaming service in this year’s nominations. The premium channel received 140 nominations — a total buoyed by drama favorite “Succession” (25), followed by “The White Lotus” (20), “Hacks” (17), “Euphoria” (16) and “Barry” (14). Apple TV+’s comedy “Ted Lasso” received 20 nominations — more than any other comedy.
Despite extensive breaks between seasons, some of the 2021 nominees are in the process of not returning this year. Many of us were surprised when “Atlanta” was yanked from consideration this year, but the fact that “The Crown” — which had dominated the awards last year — is nowhere to be found is an even bigger surprise.
The Emmys have become so messy because of the explosion of the limited series category, which has somehow eclipsed higher-profile contenders for drama and comedy series. The limited ranks have five nominations each, while dramas and comedies have eight each. This might explain why Colin Firth and Toni Collette were nominated for HBO Max’s “The Staircase,” but the program itself wasn’t. Notably, HBO’s vacation-from-hell “The White Lotus” (which actually premiered a little over a year ago, missing the deadline for last year’s awards) stands out as the only original concept in the limited-series field. It is joined by a quartet of fact-based productions: Netflix’s “Inventing Anna” and a trio of Hulu productions in “Dopesick,” “The Dropout” and “Pam & Tommy.”
Episodes of episodic series tend to sustain the balance between nostalgia and freshness of discovery with precision. Also, streaming introduces many new programs to fill the limited-series niche.
The Emmy Awards provided few surprises on Thursday as the traditional broadcast networks saw their role diminished by the growing number of outlets for scripted programming. ABC’s new sitcom “Abbott Elementary” was the sole inclusion among a slew of nominations for newcomers like Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method” and Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The lone network newcomer to make a mark was NBC’s “This is Us,” which was recognized in its final season for best song. And indeed, it appeared that voters were feeling sentimental about shows that have signed off or are about to, as evidenced by their recognition of strong nominees like “Ozark” (13 nominations) and “Better Call Saul” (seven).
Last year’s Emmy Awards included a populist touch in the form of several Disney+ shows, including “The Mandalorian” and “WandaVision,” which might have contributed to a rebound in the ratings after record-low numbers in 2020. Yet after making a major splash last year thanks to these shows, Disney+ hovered back down to Earth at this year’s Emmys. The service’s Marvel and Star Wars shows amassed a fair number of nods in technical areas—including eight for “Moon Knight,” a half-dozen for “Loki” and four to “The Book of Boba Fett”—but there was no major recognition for any of them. (“Moon Knight” star Oscar Isaac was nominated for best actor in a limited series, but for HBO’s remake of “Scenes from a Marriage.”)
Time will tell whether the audience’s reaction to the show will have an effect on the upcoming Emmys, which boast an impressive array of tastes. A mass of possibilities for mass dilectation arise in this area of television, which has been a relatively idiosyncratic sector.