This year has affected a lot of us, health-wise, financially, socially, and politically. For me, my plans and ideas to promote my new novel have been disrupted, as well as my hopes to have a few more exploratory road trips. However, I know that I have still been in a better position than many others on this planet. As a member of the Public Relations Peer Group of the Television Academy, I have been more aware of how much this year has affected the entertainment industry, upending television production for new broadcast and streaming shows during a time when people are looking for comfort in isolation. It also slightly affected the process and timeline for the nomination and voting for the 2020 Emmy Awards. The announcement of this year’s official nominations came out in late July and the online viewing platform for the nominated programs opened up in mid-August, creating a tighter timeline for viewing and voting, since the voting deadline was August 31. The rules for voting require Academy members to view all nominees in a category before voting, but for series or limited series nominees, members only needed to view one episode of the six provided of each nominee in order to vote. In the end, I had time to view and vote for the top four categories.
In the Outstanding Television Movie category, there were five nominees this year, all of them basically within the 90 minute to 2 hour range that I feel fit within a standard television movie length. HBO’s only nominee was Bad Education, a historical drama based on the true story of an embezzlement scandal of taxpayer money in a Long Island school system in the early 2000s. The other four nominees were all from Netflix with two of the nominees being post series wrap-ups, with El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie providing a rough escape thriller from the AMC drama series, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend providing the comedy series with a comic wedding and rescue fun ending. Netflix’s third nominee, Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings: These Old Bones, was another country-style heart-tugger in the same style of previous Dolly Parton network special stories. The final Netflix nominee, American Son, was an interesting adaption of a play which takes place in one location in a basically extended single scene, a police station waiting area late at night where a recently separated mixed race couple is desperate to find out about the event in which their eighteen-year-old son was involved during a police interaction. Even as the agonizing argumentative interaction between the characters and eventual surprising unveiling of truth provide a much more complex grey perspective, the story’s theme still touches on the current social conflict on policing and race, which encouraged me to give this nominee my vote.
The Outstanding Limited Series category also had five nominees this year from Hulu, Netflix, FX Networks, and HBO. The two Netflix series both centered on a young woman within an unequal power situation. In Unbelievable, a young teenage girl is unfairly pressured by police and friends to admit that her claim of being raped was a lie. In Unorthodox, a young woman seeks to escape the Hassidic Jewish culture and a forced marriage in New York City, secretly flying off to Berlin. In both series, the thematic perspective is subtly presented. In Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere, the complex perspectives of trying to resolve racial and wealth inequality subtly powers the story line. In a more historical tale, FX Networks’ Mrs. America delves into Phyllis Schlafly and her campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 70s. All four of these nominees have very important themes and issues behind their storylines, but HBO’s Watchmen with its DC comic universe background to present its racial and political conflict perspective more powerfully attracts its audience, encouraging me to give it my vote.
Eight nominees landed in the Outstanding Comedy Series category, but NBC’s The Good Place was the only broadcast network series to get a nomination, a continuing sign of the way that streaming era has upended the electronic video entertainment universe. Even more telling is this was the final season of The Good Place which gained this nomination. Pop TV’s Schitt’s Creek was also nominated for its final season, while FX Networks’ What We Do In The Shadows also provided a boost to basic cable programming. HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and Insecure demonstrated how premium cable programming seeks to produce comedy without sexual or language restrictions, making it edgier. Netflix’s Dead To Me and The Kominsky Method provided more balance to its comic storytelling, but once again, Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was still stronger in providing a more balanced positive view of comic perception, which is why it received my vote.
For the Outstanding Drama Series, there were also eight nominees, but only one was new to the nominee list, Disney+’s The Mandalorian, a series that impressively brought Star Wars action and thrills, even though each episode was only a half hour long. Dark themes continued to play within AMC’s Better Call Saul, BBC America’s Killing Eve, HBO’s Succession, and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, whereas Netflix’s three nominees found a little better balance: The Crown with its strong historical perspective, Ozark with a slightly lighter touch in its criminal theme, and Stranger Things which continued to maintain its sci-fi fantasy balance with its young protagonists in the retro 80s, even with its darker end to its third season. Stranger Things pulled in my vote for this year.
It has definitely been a trying time for the entertainment industry this year, so it will be interesting to see how my votes match up with my fellow Television Academy members this year, when the Primetime Emmy recipients are announced at a more pandemic virtual Emmy Awards Show airing on ABC, Sunday, September 20.
Update: It was an interesting pandemic awards ceremony on ABC, Sunday, September 20, with host Jimmy Kimmel standing alone in the main theater while nominees and other guests connected in from home or other locations, a most interesting virtual show. The awards for three of the categories I voted in were presented during this show, while another category award was presented on the last night of five Creative Emmy Awards shows, which aired on FXX on Saturday, September 19. The Outstanding Television Movie Emmy, presented during the Creative Emmy Awards show, went to Bad Education. During the main Emmy Awards Show, the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy went to Schitt’s Creek, and the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy went to Succession. The only Emmy Award winner that matched my vote was in the Outstanding Limited Series category, in which the Emmy went to Watchmen.