Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Five Toughest 2023 Emmy Races To Predict

It happens every year. The moment that nominations are announced for the year’s Emmy Awards, the hue and cry rise up on the internet by TV fans shocked…shocked!… that their favorite series or actor has been egregiously snubbed by the morons in the TV Academy. Actually, all of this faux outrage is kind of fun to watch, and often it is not without merit — no Harrison Ford for “Shrinking,” really? — but in the end, it just comes down to the fact that Emmy voters simply preferred someone else.

So where do these snubs leave the Emmy race? In most cases, completely unchanged. Provided they were nominated, most front-runners before the announcement are still front-runners today. But in a few select categories where either front-runners were snubbed, or an unexpected wildcard nomination appears, a race can be turned on its head at a moment’s notice. I’ve selected five of these categories where Wednesday’s nominations have surprisingly changed their races from easy-to-predict to genuine nail-biters.

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
This category was not supposed to be this close after what some viewers perceived as a less-than-stellar final season; returning champion “Ted Lasso” seemed primed to be gracefully replaced by ABC’s “Abbott Elementary,” which won Emmys in acting, writing, and casting last season and seemed primed to double its nomination take of 7 from last year. On Wednesday, however, the love was not there for “Abbott Elementary” — its nomination total only added one additional category, and an expected supporting nomination for Lisa Ann Walter never materialized. Most tellingly, the show was blanked in the critical categories of directing and, shockingly, writing, a category it won last year.

With “Abbott Elementary’s” chances diminished by Wednesday’s news, the Comedy Series race will likely come down to “Ted Lasso” and Hulu’s “The Bear.” The Apple TV+ series still has plenty of firepower, with 21 nominations this year, the most of any comedy series, and has a deep bench of acting nominees, with three nods in the Guest Actress category alone, including one for Sarah Niles, who rarely appeared in Season 2. Moreover, its sentimental farewell episode was well received and may prompt Emmy voters to give the show one final salute.

But clearly, the series that currently holds the hot hand is “The Bear,” strategically unveiling its second season as Season 1 is being voted on. (“Ted Lasso” took the same tack during its first season and won.) Granted, there may be a question as to whether the series is actually considered a comedy by some strict Emmy voters. This voting bloc generally prefers its comedies to provide belly laughs rather than frayed nerves. But with likely wins in such key categories as Lead Actor and Directing, “The Bear” is on the brink of snatching that series crown. This one’s going to be close.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Succession” may have made history on Wednesday when three of its stars — Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, and Brian Cox — were nominated in the Lead Actor race. Still, that triple nomination for the show’s stars may have complicated the chances of any of its actors to receive a voting plurality to take the Emmy win. With Cox’s Logan Roy departing the series early, many thought the race was between Strong (a previous winner for this role) and Culkin (who moves up from the supporting category), as both have among the most awards-baity clips of any contender this year. But the presence of Cox (who has yet to win for this performance) may siphon enough votes away from his “Succession” stablemates to hand the Emmy to someone else. But who?

Though the category’s nominees are all worthy, the most likely beneficiary of a “Succession” split would be Bob Odenkirk, whose performances as a lawyer/con artist in “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” (for which he is nominated here) are among the most memorable in recent television history but for which he has never won an Emmy. In fact, “Better Call Saul” has been nominated for 53 Emmy Awards, and its win total is precisely 0. Now it’s Odenkirk’s last chance to change that if the “Succession” trio split their votes just enough. But that’s a very big “if.”

OUTSTANDING VARIETY TALK SERIES
After having been clobbered every year by the HBO weekly talk show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” weeknight talk show hosts Jimmy Fallon, Seth Myers, Trevor Noah, and Stephen Colbert likely breathed a sigh of relief when “Last Week Tonight” was moved to the category of Scripted Variety Series. While it would now seem that they now have a clear path to one of them finally winning the Emmy, the nominations revealed that they have a new problem, and the problem is Jon Stewart.

The former “Daily Show” host’s new Apple TV+ series contains a format decidedly different from that of his fellow nominees. Though some weeknight hosts may be more political in their tone while others might lean more toward comedy, their formats — opening monologue/celebrity interviews — have mainly remained the same since the early days of television. “The Problem with Jon Stewart” is more of a current events series focusing on a single issue for the entire hour. It’s not without humor, but it is only used in service of that night’s theme. It’s certainly different, and that difference may be either its strength or its liability. The problem for us is that we don’t yet know, and that makes this category one of the most difficult of all to predict.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY
For the past two years, this category has been owned by profane footballer-turned-coach Roy Kent, embodied by Brett Goldstein in “Ted Lasso,” and Goldstein has returned once again to defend his crown. This year, however, a third win was thought to be less of a sure thing, with fellow nominee Tyler James Williams winning the Golden Globe for “Abbott Elementary” and the presumed entry of Harrison Ford for “Shrinking,” whom many Emmy prognosticators had tapped to win the whole thing. As we know, Ford inexplicably failed to make the cut, an omission that has forced predictors to make a few recalibrations to predict a winner.

Williams and Goldstein each come into the race with a few disadvantages — “Abbott Elementary’s” lackluster nomination total suggests that Williams may have less support than initially thought, while Goldstein’s Season 3 storyline of training a teammate was thought by many to be less compelling than his Season 2 arc of romancing fan favorite Keeley (Juno Temple).

If there is an actor who may be able to take advantage of the category’s shake-up, it could be Eban Moss-Bachrach, whose complex character Richie in “The Bear” has provided much of the pathos of the series and whose performance is arguably deeper in Season 2, which is fresh in the mind of many Emmy members as they vote. Here is a case where a perceived snub has totally upended a race, and I, for one, am here for it.

OUTSTANDING UNSTRUCTURED REALITY PROGRAM
While not exactly the most marquee category, the race for the Unscripted Reality Program Emmy provides a great example of what an unexpected nominee can do to a race. Of the category’s five nominees this year, three are returnees — Netflix’s “Indian Matchmaking” (on its second nomination) and “Selling Sunset” (on its third), neither of which are predicted to contend, as well as a previous winner, “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked,” which took the prize in 2021. When MTV controversially cut the run time of the “Drag Race” mother ship to a bare-bones one hour for most of Season 15, it was left up to “Untucked” to handle most of the contestant drama for the franchise, which it did handily and may prove to be enough for another win.

Still, two freshman nominees may be its most serious obstacle to a second victory. FX’s documentary series “Welcome to Wrexham” follows the travails of Welsh soccer team Wrexham A.F.C. which was purchased in 2020 by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. With the familiar celebrities as our guides, the series appeals to audiences already conditioned to like association football thanks to “Ted Lasso,” and the manner in which the series chronicles the growing support by the town in his underdog team checks all the boxes as a potential Emmy winner. But it’s got to get past….

…”Vanderpump Rules.” Don’t laugh. One of the great surprises of Wednesday’s nominations were two nominations (the second was for Picture Editing) earned by the Bravo series, the first of the “Real Housewives” franchise to get any sort of Emmy recognition. Thanks to its “Scandoval” storyline, “Vanderpump” was Topic A on the nation’s gossip sites for the past few months, and their readers must have included enough Emmy voters to garner this recognition. Can it win? It’s hard to gauge — so-called “Trash TV” has little record to go by as far as Emmy goes. But don’t underestimate it — it’s likely the one show in this group that most Emmy voters have actually seen (though few may admit it).

What was the biggest surprise from the Emmy nominations? What re the hardest races to predict? Who do you think is winning the top prizes? Please us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account. We will have our Emmy winner predictions updated shortly and a podcast recap is coming your way soon. You can watch Matt Neglia, Giovanni Lago and Tom O’Brien react to the Emmy Nominations live this morning here.

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Tom O'Brien
Tom O'Brienhttps://nextbestpicture.com
Palm Springs Blogger and Awards lover. Editor at Exact Change & contributing writer for Gold Derby.

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