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Emmy Preview: Will a Few Series Dominate the Acting Categories Again?

The Gilded Age Series

It doesn’t feel recently like Emmy voters are really spreading the wealth, feting certain series with seemingly excessive nominations that end up leaving little room for other contenders. However deserved each individual mention may be, it’s a phenomenon that’s increased lately and shows no signs of slowing down, even after rule changes were put in place so that unlimited votes could no longer be turned in for any given category.

Courtesy of HBO

Hill Street Blues remains the only show in Emmy history (in a category that still currently exists with at least five nominees at the time) to hog all the available slots in one race: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 1982. The year before and after, it shared the category with just one other show: Lou Grant in 1981 and St. Elsewhere in 1983. Similar two-show splits have occurred a number of times, three of them in 2023 alone, with some combination of The White Lotus, Succession, and The Last of Us solely populating drama supporting actor and both drama guest acting races.

The West Wing and The Sopranos split drama supporting actor in 2001, while The West Wing shared drama guest actor with The Practice in 2003. Roots: The Next Generations and Backstairs at the White House were the only limited series or specials with nominated supporting actors in 1979, and John Adams and Recount dominated the same category in 2008. The comedy guest actor race has been shared three times by two series, and in all cases one show got four nominations and the other got one: Will and Grace and Everybody Loves Raymond in 2005, 30 Rock and Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2008, and Saturday Night Live and The Kominsky Method in 2021.

Courtesy of Hulu

Scoring four nominations in a single category certainly helps in earning a large share of one category’s available slots. The West Wing did so in drama supporting actor in 2002, while The Handmaid’s Tale and The White Lotus accomplished it in drama supporting actress in 2021 and 2023, respectively. Modern Family got four of its supporting actors in in 2011 and 2012, and Ted Lasso pulled it off in 2021, but they couldn’t repeat that feat despite many other eligible seasons and reduced acting nomination totals.

Angels in America and The Normal Heart scored four bids each for supporting actor in a miniseries or TV movie a decade apart, in 2004 and 2014, and The White Lotus did so for supporting actress in a limited or anthology series or movie in 2022. For drama guest actor, Succession pulled it off in 2022 and The Last of Us in 2023. In addition to the abovenamed examples of Will and Grace, 30 Rock, and Saturday Night Live in comedy guest actor, SNL also did it in 2019. In 2022, Hacks nabbed four slots for comedy guest actress.

Photograph by Macall Polay/HBO

Nabbing three lead acting nominations is even rarer, but it has happened to three shows. Succession, already mentioned numerous times on this list, did so in 2023 for drama lead actor. Desperate Housewives managed it in 2005, though that still meant the snub of its fourth eligible lead actress, Eva Longoria. The Golden Girls holds the distinction of scoring three acting nominations for comedy lead actress four years in a row, from 1986 to 1989, and they even shared the wealth by each winning a prize for the first three years.

Courtesy of Netflix

With all three HBO juggernauts that didn’t share the wealth last year not eligible this time around (Succession is over and The Last of Us and The White Lotus will both return at a later date) and Ted Lasso also ended, what shows stand the best shot of achieving multiple bids this year? The best bet is probably The Crown, which previously got three nominations for drama supporting actress back in 2021. While Elizabeth Debicki was the series’ sole acting representative for season five, it’s always been the case that the even-numbered seasons, which are the second and final instances of a particular cast’s appearance, have fared much better than the year before, like when Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, Josh O’Connor, and Tobias Menzies all earned their first bids (and wins for the latter two). That lead actress Imelda Staunton wasn’t even nominated for season five doesn’t bode well, but her two predecessors, Claire Foy and Olivia Colman, both won for their second and final portrayals of Queen Elizabeth II. The disadvantage for season six is that its contenders are more evenly split between gendered categories.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

The Morning Show has had an inconsistent run with Emmy voters to say the least, missing out on a bid for Outstanding Drama Series for both of its first seasons and trading off its two lead actresses rather than nominating them both together. It does boast a large ensemble with plenty of possible nominees, especially for supporting actress. The same can be said for The Gilded Age, which had a nearly nonexistent Emmy showing for its first season but could easily garner attention for many of its Tony- and Emmy-nominated cast members, especially after its recent SAG ensemble mention.

Photo: Bertrand Calmeau/CBS ©2024 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

On the comedy side, The Bear probably has the best shot to show up in a big way given its wealth of contenders and how popular the show is right now. Abbott Elementary has yet to see its full supporting cast feted but could easily amass three bids in each of the gendered supporting races. While it’s earned Emmy love before in other categories, What We Do in the Shadows, which has plenty of performers to honor, has yet to receive an acting nomination, while The Righteous Gemstones and Ghosts are also similar stacked with possibilities but haven’t yet won over Emmy voters. Our Flag Means Death and The Afterparty, which both include Emmy-friendly faces, could also enter multiple ensemble players into contention.

Credit: Katie Yu/FX

Three limited series boast a number of potential Emmy honorees. Fargo earned between three and four acting nominations for each of its first three seasons before netting zero major bids for season four, but season five is likely to bring it back to Emmy favor, thanks in no small part to Emmy-favorite leads Juno Temple and Jon Hamm and a wealth of supporting players. The first season of Feud nabbed six acting nominations back in 2017, and its second iteration, Capote vs. The Swans, has so many actresses Emmy voters could celebrate. Though some of its performers aren’t well-known in the United States, Shōgun boasts a formidable cast that could match or exceed the 1980 miniseries of the same name’s impressive five-nomination acting haul.

Other acting juggernauts could still emerge in the run-up to nominations voting, which begins June 13th. Which shows do you think could pull off a major nominations sweep? And let us know if you found other instances of category dominations in Emmy history!

Author

  • Abe Friedtanzer

    Abe Friedtanzer is a film and TV enthusiast who spent most of the past fifteen years in New York City. He has been the editor of MoviesWithAbe.com and TVwithAbe.com since 2007, and has been predicting the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards since he was allowed to stay up late enough to watch them.

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