Joanna Robinson: What does it look like when a bruiser like Game of Thrones—which took last year off—returns to potentially dominate awards season once again? That was the big question going into 2018’s Emmy nominations. Though the show has long been a major player, there was some concern that its truncated seventh season, which debuted almost a year ago, would have faded in the minds of voters by the time nominations rolled around. Game of Thrones also took a gamble by submitting two of its stars—Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke—in the lead-actor categories, rather than supporting, for the first time.
That gambit didn’t end up being successful—which means that HBO’s flagship series earned just three nominations in the major acting categories, for on-screen siblings Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, and Peter Dinklage. Thrones still led the nominations, with 22 altogether—but its chief competition, Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale, were right behind it with 21 and 20, respectively. Even more crucially, for the first time since the streaming service became serious about awards season, Netflix garnered more nominations overall than HBO: 112 to 108, breaking HBO’s 17-year streak as the most lauded network in TV. Sonia, is this just a case of Game of Thrones overplaying its hand in some categories—or could it be the beginning of the end of a dynasty?
Sonia Saraiya: It’s got to be the beginning of the end, right? I mean, don’t get me wrong: my guess is the final installment of Game of Thrones will be an awards juggernaut, and it’s hard to judge voters for losing interest when most of us have forgotten that Thrones was even eligible this year—despite airing this time last year. But that small number of acting nominations suggests waning interest to me.
Instead, it seemed like voters were really interested in the deep benches of the ensemble casts in both Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale. I didn’t even recognize the name of Kelly Jenrette, one of the guest-actress nominees for the Hulu drama—but you better believe I know who she is now.
It’s interesting: the Academy avoided rewarding genre shows for a long time, but now it seems like genre is where it lives. It’s the more traditional dramas that fell by the wayside this year: Billions, which I for sure thought had a fighting chance, and Killing Eve—which did make Sandra Oh the first Asian actress nominated for a lead role—were shut out of the outstanding-drama race. Meanwhile, Stranger Things broke into the top category, which is sweet but . . . utterly bizarre?? And Tatiana Maslany was nominated for a show I didn’t realize was even eligible this year.
Joanna, I know you’re about to say something smart, but first let me scream a little: SANDRA OH GOT NOMINATED FOR BEST ACTRESS!!
Robinson: You know that I’m on record with my Killing Eve love. Can I join you in your all-caps shouting, but in the other direction? OH MY GOD, HOW COULD THEY FORGET KYLE MACLACHLAN! With nine nominations, Twin Peaks didn’t get overlooked entirely—but can you believe that the deeply ambitious, 18-episode The Return didn’t get nominated in the limited-series…
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