LOS ANGELES, Sept 15 — Hollywood’s elite hits the red-carpet Sunday for television’s glittering Emmys, with the race for statuettes wide open as awards juggernaut Game of Thrones sits it out this time around.
HBO’s fantasy epic about noble families vying for control of the Iron Throne raked in a record-breaking 12 awards last year, but is ineligible for the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, having started its seventh season too late.
That leaves the field clear for numerous much talked-about first-timers, including HBO sci-fi Western show Westworld, Hulu’s dystopian The Handmaid’s Tale and Netflix’s 1980s-set horror series Stranger Things.
“What’s probably going to come out is that the awards will be spread across everybody. I think everyone’s going to be happy,” Debra Birnbaum, executive editor of television for Variety magazine, told AFP.
“It’s so funny — we were just talking about what parties we were going to be hitting on Emmy night and I think everyone’s going to have a reason to celebrate.”
The glitzy ceremony in downtown Los Angeles — the first during the administration of President Donald Trump — is expected to have a distinctly political flavour.
NBC’s long-running comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live received 22 nominations — the joint-highest total alongside “Westworld” — after a year of mercilessly spoofing the new commander-in-chief.
The awards are handed out in two instalments, with last weekend’s Primetime Creative Arts Emmys mainly rewarding behind-the-scenes personnel and Sunday’s event reserved for the top awards.
SNL took home five Creative Arts statuettes, including outstanding guest actor and actress in a comedy series for hosts Dave Chapelle and Melissa McCarthy.
McCarthy has been acclaimed for her “Unhinged Spicey” routine as under-fire White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who resigned in July.
The show is in the running for five more gongs on Sunday, with Alec Baldwin nominated for his zinging portrayal of Trump himself and Hillary Clinton impersonator Kate McKinnon in with a chance of repeating last year’s win in the comedy supporting actress category.
“It’s not a question of if Donald Trump is mentioned, but how many times Donald Trump’s name gets mentioned,” Birnbaum said.
While SNL secured the most nominations overall, FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan, about the famous rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, is in pole position for the top prizes, with 10 nominations going into Sunday’s awards.
That places it alongside HBO’s Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as hapless former president Selina Meyer.
Leading the nominations in totals by platform are premium cable network HBO (111), streaming powerhouse Netflix (91) and traditional broadcast network NBC (64).
The outstanding drama category includes five debutants — Westworld, The Handmaid’s Tale, NBC’s family drama This Is Us, and two Netflix shows, Stranger Things and British royal drama The Crown.
Stranger Things, which already has five Creative Arts Emmys, has emerged as the favourite going into the final week but will face stiff competition from returnees Better Call Saul (AMC) and Netflix stablemate House of Cards.
“We’re in uncharted territory as far as the Emmys goes, so I think it’s impossible to call how this race is going to end up,” awards expert Phillip Hammond said in a critics’ roundtable discussion for the Deadline Hollywood website.
‘Anybody’s ball game’
He said The Crown, which has two Golden Globes to its name, looked like a good bet in the category but added that he was far from certain.
“With five new series it’s anybody’s ball game in a way,” he added.
Birnbaum told AFP This is Us — the first serious player from a broadcast network in recent years — was one to watch, with five nominations in four categories.
“It’s a favourite going into the night — certainly Sterling K. Brown is the favourite in the best actor race — and it will be a great shot in the arm for the broadcast industry if it does well,” she told AFP.
She added, however, that with such an open field almost no award on the night would surprise her.
“The only thing I think is a sure thing would be Elisabeth Moss for The Handmaid’s Tale. I think she’s beloved in the academy. She was fantastic in Mad Men and certainly she was brilliant in Handmaid’s Tale,” she said.
Louis-Dreyfus, vying for a sixth consecutive Emmy for best actress in a comedy, is the only other nominee who could be described as a shoo-in, according to Birnbaum.
The Television Academy’s 21,500 voting members were given two weeks in June to sift through a crowded field of some 8,000 entries from shows aired during the previous 12 months across 113 categories.
The ceremony, hosted by late night TV funnyman Stephen Colbert, will be beamed live from the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles by CBS and starts roughly at 5pm (0000 GMT Monday). — AFP