Emmys 2017: Overview, Preview of Major Categories

This year’s Emmys shape up to be an interesting one.


Caleb McLaughlin, Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, and Gaten Matarazzo in ‘Stranger Things’ | Netflix

The Primetime Emmy Awards, which airs tonight on CBS at 5 p.m., has almost a hundred categories in combination with the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. This is more categories than the Academy Awards (film) and the Tony Awards (Broadway theatre) combined. One would think that this gives the Television Academy ample opportunity to award the best of television, but it also gives it the opportunity to award some downright awful television. Unfortunately, the Television Academy decided to take the latter situation to the extreme this year.

There was a new voting procedure last year, which changed the voting process from ranked voting to plurality voting for choosing the winners. This means that voters used to rank the nominees from their favorite to least favorite. Now, the voters choose the one nominee that they want to win. This change made for some interesting results.

Contenders who would have certainly lost in the previous system won their respective categories last year due to passion votes, including Rami Malek for Mr. Robot, Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black, and Louie Anderson in Baskets.

Vote splitting, which is the idea of multiple similar nominees taking votes away from each other, became far more prominent last year. For example, Aziz Ansari and Alan Young received a surprise win for writing Master of None over Silicon Valley’s two nominations and then-incumbent winner Veep’s two nominations.

This year brought a new nomination procedure to the voting process. In previous years, voters were limited in the number of contenders that they could have nominated per category. For example, voters were only permitted to check off 7 contenders for Outstanding Comedy Series in previous years, but this year, they could have checked off 20 contenders if they desired to.

Under this system, mainstream shows with wide appeal have an advantage over those focusing on a niche audience.

These new voting procedures have spiced up the results of last year, as well as this year’s nominations, making for a more unpredictable show, for better or for worse.

Here are some of the major program categories up for grabs tonight.


Keith Stanfield, Donald Glover, and Brian Tyree Henry in ‘Atlanta’ | FX
Alessandra Mastronardi and Aziz Ansari in ‘Master of None’ | Netflix

Outstanding Comedy Series

Atlanta (FX), Season 1
(ABC), Season 3
Master of None
(Netflix), Season 2
Modern Family
(ABC), Season 8
Silicon Valley
(HBO), Season 4
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
(Netflix), Season 3
(HBO), Season 6

Should Win:

Atlanta and Master of None were the best and most innovative half-hour shows this past year, and it isn’t particularly close. The other shows have been doing the same exact things in their respective seasons that they have always done, not necessarily improving upon their formulas.

The characters of the political satire Veep, although still funny, have essentially become caricatures of themselves. Modern Family still managed to waste a spot in this category, this time while only having two other nominations, Sound Mixing (Half-Hour) and Supporting Actor (Comedy) for Ty Burrell, both of which are also wastes of spots.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in ‘Veep’ | HBO

Will Win: If the Television Academy feels like deviating from the status quo this year, Atlanta will be getting the win. Unfortunately for Atlanta, it only received 6 Emmy nominations compared to Veep’s 17, indicating far less support from below-the-line branches. For example, Atlanta did not get key Creative Arts nominations in Picture Editing or Sound Mixing last weekend, which historically correspond with Best Comedy Series winners. As for the other shows, they have all already matched up with Veep before and lost.

Should Have Been Nominated: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW), Fleabag (BBC Three / Amazon Video), Insecure (HBO), Transparent (Amazon Video)

Bob Odenkirk in ‘Better Call Saul’ | AMC
Alexis Bledel and Elisabeth Moss in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Hulu

Outstanding Drama Series

Better Call Saul (AMC), Season 3
The Crown (Netflix), Season 1
The Handmaid’s Tale
(Hulu), Season 1
House of Cards
(Netflix), Season 5
Stranger Things
(Netflix), Season 1
This Is Us
(NBC), Season 1
(HBO), Season 1

Should Win:

There was a lot of new blood in the drama categories this year. Five of the seven nominees were nominated for their first season, and Hulu broke into a program category for the first time for The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood.

Although most of these nominees are worthy of nomination (except for the travesty that is House of Cards), there were still many snubs. Any of the shows mentioned in the Should Have Been Nominated category below could have an argument for winning this category, especially The Americans and The Leftovers. This truly is the Golden Age of Television.

Out of the nominated shows, Better Call Saul and The Handmaid’s Tale are really the only shows that have went above and beyond and advanced into prestige drama territory.

David Harbour in ‘Stranger Things’ | Netflix

Will Win:

Although House of Cards and This Is Us have the most mainstream appeal in this category, neither have key nominations in Cinematography, Directing, Picture Editing, or Writing to be able to win the big prize. The only thing This Is Us has going for it is the acting branch.

The likely winner here is the science fiction-horror series Stranger Things. It has the most guild support, winning Best Episodic Drama at the Producers Guild of America Awards and Best Ensemble (Drama) at the Screen Actors Guild Awards as well as getting nominated at most of the other guild awards. These guilds are labor unions and have the strongest crossover with Emmy voters. They are by far the strongest predictors for the Emmy Awards.

The Handmaid’s Tale could possibly win if voters were in a political mood. It’s the only show out of the nominees that has no guild awards precedence since it premiered after this year’s awards, so there are fewer ways to tell where it stands among the other nominees.

Should Have Been Nominated: The Americans (FX), Halt and Catch Fire (AMC) The Leftovers (HBO), Rectify (SundanceTV)

Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, and Reese Witherspoon in ‘Big Little Lies’ | HBO

Outstanding Limited Series

Big Little Lies (HBO)
(FX), Season 3
Feud: Bette and Joan
Genius (Nat Geo)
The Night Of

Should Win:

This category is different from the others in that only limited series or anthology series are eligible. This means that the submitted season must be its own standalone story.

These shows can’t be more different from each other. Big Little Lies is a case study on family and abusive relationships. Fargo is a perky black comedy-crime drama set in the Midwest Feud: Bette and Joan is a campy, catty period drama about two diva actresses, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Genius is a period drama chronicling Albert Einstein’s life. The Night Of is a gritty crime drama about a college student accused of murder. They all have widely differing tones and themes, making them difficult to compare.

With that said, Fargo’s first two seasons had better stories, Genius is a by-the-numbers period drama, Feud has little actual depth, and The Night Of has some prominent writing issues after its phenomenal first episode. The best and most meaningful of these shows is Big Little Lies.

Will Win:

All of the nominees have at least a slight chance of winning except for Genius. It does not have key nominations in Casting, Picture Editing, or Writing.

The likely winner is Big Little Lies, which won Casting (Limited Series, Movie, or Special) last Sunday. This award has corresponded with the past five years of Limited Series and Television Movie winners.

Should Have Been Nominated: American Crime (ABC)

Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in ‘Black Mirror: San Junipero’ | Netflix

Outstanding Television Movie

Black Mirror: “San Junipero” (Netflix)
Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
: “The Lying Detective” (PBS)
The Wizard of Lies

Should Win: This category should just not exist. Two of these nominees are television shows posing as movies (Black Mirror, Sherlock), and the rest do not warrant awards recognition. The only nominee here that could be considered great is Black Mirror.

Will Win: If the Television Academy wants the winner to have any semblance of quality, it would give the award to Black Mirror. However, there is precedence for Sherlock in this category. Sherlock: “The Abominable Bride” won this category last year, and it may win again this year.

Should Have Been Nominated: N/A