Fierce fight for the Emmys

Alec Baldwin was nominated for the Emmys for his portrayal of United States President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.
Alec Baldwin was nominated for the Emmys for his portrayal of United States President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.PHOTO: WILL HEATH - NBC.

Hollywood executives have said that campaigning for an Emmy award now rivals that for the Oscars

NEW YORK • The Trump bump paid off in a big way for Saturday Night Live on Emmy nominations morning: NBC's 42-year-old sketch comedy series walked away with 22 nominations on Thursday, tied with HBO's new science-fiction drama Westworld for the most nods of any show.

Saturday Night Live was nominated for Best Variety Sketch Series, along with nominations for three cast members (Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer and Leslie Jones), Alec Baldwin (for his portrayal of United States President Donald Trump) and Melissa McCarthy (for her hugely popular impression of White House press secretary Sean Spicer).

The ceremony, hosted by Stephen Colbert, will be held on Sept 17 at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles.

At least by the standards of this sometimes relentlessly predictable awards show, this will be a year of change, with many first-time nominees populating several major categories.

The race to the nominations had been fiercely competitive. To secure Emmy votes, networks and studios went on a lavish spending spree in recent months to market their offerings at a moment when there are more TV shows than ever.

Many Hollywood executives said that award-jockeying for the Emmys, once a relatively sedate affair, now rivals Oscars campaigning. Wide-open race for Best Drama: HBO's Game Of Thrones, which won the drama throne the last two years, is ineligible for this year's Emmys because of a later start date.

Five new shows have gleefully filled the vacuum: The Crown (Netflix), Stranger Things (Netflix), The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu), Westworld (HBO) and This Is Us (NBC).

Previous nominees, such as AMC's Better Call Saul and Netflix's House Of Cards, have been welcomed back, but Homeland, The Americans and Mr Robot are out.

NBC's nomination for the tear-jerking This Is Us snaps an embarrassing dry spell for the big four broadcast networks. The last time a show from ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC was nominated was in 2011 - for CBS' The Good Wife.

The best comedy category, however, had just one newcomer - FX's Atlanta - while two-time winner Veep and five-time winner Modern Family were both back.

Rounding out the category were HBO's Silicon Valley, Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix's Master Of None and ABC's Blackish.

Trump bump: Besides Saturday Night Live, several shows adopted a staunch anti-Trump posture in the last year and that appears to have helped them with Emmy voters.

Colbert's The Late Show had been left out of the Best Variety Talk Show category last year, cementing a perception that the show was struggling.

And this year? He was nominated after his show became the most-watched in late night, besting Jimmy Fallon's The Tonight Show.

And Fallon's show - 10 months after he infamously messed up Mr Trump's hair and was thought to be too chummy with the much-criticised president - was passed over for the first time since he became host in 2014.

Samantha Bee's Full Frontal on TBS got its first nomination, along with ABC's Jimmy Kimmel and HBO's Bill Maher, all of whom have capitalised during a year when liberals have turned to their television sets to bathe in criticism of Mr Trump.

John Oliver, last year's winner, was nominated yet again, as was James Corden.

Meanwhile, The Handmaid's Tale, Hulu's dystopian drama about a dark future in the US, very likely benefited from what some TV critics have described as its unique timeliness.

Its nomination in the Best Drama category was a first for Hulu. Female star power: The much anticipated Limited Series and TV Movie Best Actress category will be a showdown between four Oscar winners from two shows: HBO's Big Little Lies (Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon) and FX's Feud: Bette And Joan (Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange).

The other nominees in the category were Carrie Coon for FX's Fargo, and Felicity Huffman for ABC's American Crime.

The Drama Best Actress category is wide open since last year's winner - Tatiana Maslany - is ineligible because Orphan Black debuted too late this year.

Nominees include actresses from rookie shows - Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid's Tale), Claire Foy (The Crown) and Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) - and past nominees such as Keri Russell (The Americans) and Viola Davis (How To Get Away With Murder), who won the award in 2015.

HBO on top: HBO had the most nominations with 111 - the 17th consecutive year that it has led the pack - but its lead is narrowing.

Netflix, which had 92 fewer nominations than HBO just two years ago, had just 20 fewer this year. The streaming service, which had the most ostentatious marketing efforts before Emmy voting began, scored a whopping three nominees out of seven in the Best Drama category.

It has never won a best drama Emmy, but with The Crown, Stranger Things and House Of Cards all competing, it is in a much stronger position this year.

NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2017, with the headline 'Fierce fight for the Emmys'. Print Edition | Subscribe