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A Long, Chaotic Emmys Season Ends With Voters Finding a Decent Compromise

Surveying a vast and confusing television landscape, members of the Television Academy put a new network on the Iron Throne and set up some intriguing matchups


“Game of Thrones” returned with a vengeance, “Modern Family” finally missed the cut and voters from the Television Academy set a new record for non-white Emmys acting nominees for the third year in a row.

Surveying a vast and confusing television lineup that gets bigger and wilder with each new year, voters relied heavily on old favorites – it wouldn’t be the Emmys if they didn’t – but also found room for new shows and didn’t shy away from new platforms.

The results felt like a decent compromise: A little of this, a little of that and a lot of pretty good TV.

The biggest news might be that they put somebody new on the Emmys’ version of the Iron Throne, giving Netflix 112 total nomination to 108 for HBO. This marks the first time in 18 years that HBO hasn’t grabbed more nominations than any other platform, and is a landmark in the aggressive pursuit of awards by Netflix, which only began to produce original content in 2012 and landed its first nomination in 2013.

Still, streaming contenders were outnumbered by broadcast and cable shows in the top categories. Netflix and Hulu grabbed three of the seven Outstanding Drama Series slots, while Netflix and Amazon took three of the eight Outstanding Comedy Series nominations.

Sure, we could wish that voters had been adventurous enough to embrace new drama series like “Killing Eve” or “Mindhunter” or “Mosaic,” but we need to be realistic here: In a year in which “Game of Thrones” returned for its penultimate season and “The Americans” had the most acclaimed final season of any show since “Breaking Bad,” it’s hardly a disgrace that those two shows joined the five series that set a record last year by being nominated in their freshman seasons: “This Is Us,” “The Crown,” “Westworld,” “Stranger Things” and the eventual Emmy winner, “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

And it sets up an intriguing matchup, as the defending champion, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” goes up against the show that won the last time it was eligible, “Game of Thrones.”

If the drama categories stuck to past nominees, voters found room for new blood on the comedy side, where the first-year shows “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “GLOW” and “Barry” all landed Outstanding Comedy Series nominations. Voters found room partly by doing the thing it once seemed they’d never do, leaving five-time winner “Modern Family” out of the comedy-series and supporting actor and actress categories for the first time in the show’s nine-year history.

They also bypassed the two “Game of Thrones” actors who moved from supporting to lead categories, Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke, and a pair of “This Is Us” actors who once seemed like shoo-ins, Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley. And they clearly didn’t know what to make of David Lynch’s wildly experimental “Twin Peaks,” giving it a handful of nominations – including for directing and writing — but leaving it out of the acting and program categories completely.

Also worth noting: Not only did “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” land the first acting nominations ever given to the recent spate of live musicals, it got three of them, for John Legend (Jesus), Brandon Victor Dixon (Judas) and Sara Bareilles (Mary Magdalene).

This year’s Emmy season was long and chaotic, with more than a few voters, campaigners and observers throwing up their hands at the sheer amount of content and the never-ending stream of events and stunts designed to draw attention.

But this is the new normal, and members of the Television Academy are coping with it the best they can. It’s a different landscape, where programming can come from anywhere, from streaming upstarts to those old-fashioned broadcast networks that once seemed out of the Emmy picture altogether.

Voters tried to wrap their heads around it all and did so respectably.