This year’s Emmy awards could prove to be the most historic in decades.
In response to the rising popularity of streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon, The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has knocked down the strict eligibility requirements for this year’s Emmy Awards, giving previously neglected platforms and actors unprecedented attention.
Some of the most notable changes include increasing comedy and drama nominations from six to seven, and also mandating that “any series where the average length of an episode is approximately 30 minutes is eligible to enter as a ‘comedy’; any series where the average length of an episode is approximately 60 minutes is eligible to enter as a ‘drama.’”
Netflix’s programming leads all other streaming networks with a record 34 nominations. “Orange is the New Black” — nominated as a drama due to each episode’s hour run time — and “House of Cards” are both nominated for Outstanding Drama. Tina Fey’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is up for Outstanding Comedy.
“Orange is the New Black,” Netflix’s most watched show, follows a young woman sentenced to 15 years at a federal prison. It boasts four nominations at this year’s show, but faces stiffer competition as a drama than it would as a comedy, as it was nominated last year before the rule change. “Game of Thrones,” “Better Call Saul,” “Homeland,” “Downton Abbey” and “Mad Men” are also nominated for Best Drama.
Amazon’s nominational debut came in the form of 11 nods for the show “Transparent.” Starring Jeffrey Tambor, perhaps best known as George Bluth Sr. on “Arrested Development,” the show follows his characterMaura, originally named Mort, a transgender father to a dysfunctional California family.
While the acceptance of streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon poses an unprecedented threat to cable’s longstanding grip of the Emmys, HBO still leads all other networks with a whopping 126 nominations, exactly three times as much as the second most represented network, ABC.
History could be made in this year’s Outstanding Actress in a Drama category, where no black woman has ever won. There are two women who could change that this September: Viola Davis for her role in “How to Get Away with Murder,” and Taraji P. Henson of “Empire.” Davis and Henson are only the sixth and seventh black female actresses nominated in the category since its inception in 1953.
Davis plays a defense attorney leading a group of young interns through a murder case; Henson plays Cookie Lyon, vindictive ex-wife to series protagonist and hip-hop mogul Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard). Both are competing against Robin Wright in “House of Cards,” “Mad Men’s” Elisabeth Moss, Claire Danes from the HBO drama “Homeland” and Tatiana Maslany of “Orphan Black.”
Interestingly enough, four out of six of last year’s nominees in this category were not nominated this year despite their shows’ continued popularity. Danes and Wright are the lone holdovers, and Danes is the only nominee to have won previously (2012 and 2013).
Tatiana Maslany feels like a real dark horse as the star of BBC’s Canadian drama “Orphan Black.” She’s built up a strong fanbase playing a group of clones and an identity thief. It will be interesting to see if Moss, Maslany, Danes or Wright, who all star in non-primetime programs, can win despite playing to a fraction of the audience Davis and Henson have as stars of primetime television.
With last year’s Outstanding Drama winner “Breaking Bad” out of the picture, AMC’s other drama juggernaut “Mad Men” seems poised towin this year, nominated in six major categories for its final season.
Surprisingly though, “Mad Men” is not the most nominated drama series this year, behind “Game of Thrones’” seven nominations. If “Mad Men” does win its fifth Emmy for Outstanding Drama, however, it will break its tie with “The West Wing,” “L.A Law” and “Hill Street Blues” for most wins ever — an impressive feat in perhaps the most competitive category .
Another intriguing story to follow is that of Jon Hamm, who received his eighth nomination in the Most Outstanding Actor in a Drama category for his portrayal of Don Draper in “Mad Men.” Amazingly, Hamm has not won despite the overwhelming acclaim of the show — another streak that could end as “Mad Men” concludes.
Like Hamm, Amy Poehler hasn’t won an Emmy either, despite critical acclaim for her role in “Parks and Recreation.” She will face off in the Outstanding Actress in a Comedy category with heavyweight Julia Louis-Dreyfus from “Veep.”
With Andy Samberg playing host, this year’s potentially historic Emmys ceremony will air on Fox on Sept. 20.