Emmy Experts Typing: What will make the cut in the wide-open drama field?

Welcome to Emmy Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Emmy race — via Slack, of course. This week, we discuss the drama field, which has lots of open slots.

Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! It’s Friday and we’ve saved the drama long enough. To misappropriate a classic line from one of my favorite comedies for purposes of this column: Are we having fun yet? Once home to “Succession,” “Better Call Saul” and “The Last of Us” among other bangers, this year’s drama category feels somewhat lighter by comparison. There is no real frontrunner, at least in the way we’ve been used to here, so that leaves “The Crown” — three years removed from its Emmy sweep but with a demonstrably less-loved season — and “The Morning Show” at the top of the predictions charts. Sure? I could make the case that “The Crown” rebounded from its spotty fifth season with fairly watchable final batch of episodes — particularly the first portion of Season 6, which focused on Princess Diana and gave Elizabeth Debicki enough juicy material to be the top choice in the Best Drama Supporting Actress category. But it also feels like the buzz around “The Crown” stopped somewhere after its ’21 Emmys domination, and with the real-life palace intrigue at center stage right now, I don’t know that the fictionalized version of the monarchy can compete in terms of interest. Not that “The Morning Show” is without faults. We both loved the messy third season, which often played like Diet “Succession” with Jon Hamm as Lukas Matsson as Jeff Bezos. But the Emmys have never even nominated “The Morning Show” for Best Drama Series. That will change this year — if it doesn’t, I can’t even imagine what happened — but does the show have enough goodwill to win? *Meryl voice* I have such doubts… but failing any other strong frontrunner, maybe the show’s unrivaled entertainment value will push it over the top? If not “The Crown” or “The Morning Show,” there are some other series lurking. Most expect “The Gilded Age” and “Slow Horses” to surface here, and we’ve both got newcomer “Fallout” listed as a potential drama nominee sight unseen (the blockbuster Amazon series debuts in early April). I’ve also got another Amazon show well-represented in my drama picks: “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” Donald Glover’s essential adaptation of a pretty mediocre-at-best movie that basically blew me away. Of what I’ve seen so far, it’s definitely the best new show of the season with Glover and Maya Erskine absolutely crushing it throughout (the finale left me breathless — both desperate for another season and happily unhappy to imagine this was the end). For my final slots, I went with a couple of science fiction series: “Loki,” which had a rough Season 2 until it became outstanding in the final episodes, and “3 Body Problem,” because Netflix. (Yes, I’ve already switched off “The Curse,” which I had here earlier this week.) Basically, the long and short of this is: I don’t know. You’re the real expert here among the both of us, so how are you trying to figure out this cycle of drama?

joyceeng: I am shocked that you added “3 Body Problem” a day after it premiered. So unlikely of you to do! “The Crown” is not just the sole former winner here but the only 2023 nominee eligible to return, so it’ll be in. With the wide-open spaces available, “The Morning Show” should finally be able to break its duck, and if it doesn’t, then it’s a Selena Gomez sitch: if it can’t make it in this year, it’s never making it in. HBO had four slots — half the category — last year, but will likely just snag one this time with “The Gilded Age,” hot off its SAG ensemble bid. “Slow Horses” has been slow out of the Emmy gate, but it got an ACE Eddie nom this year and lots of celeb endorsements. “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” was an effin’ blast and such a great ~ TV Show ~, maximizing episodic storytelling while building a season-long arc. It would’ve fit perfectly in a comedy lineup as well, but alas, it’s here in drama. I have “Fallout” in the “Last of Us” spot, so we’ll see, I guess. As I said the other day, I put in “Ahsoka” over my beloved “Loki” since the Emmys prefer “Star Wars” to Marvel unless your name is “WandaVision.” I did not have “The Curse” until it got a Writers Guild of America Award nomination in drama series over past nominees “The Morning Show,” “Loki” and “Yellowjackets” (remember that?). But what was more striking was that “The Curse” didn’t even make the new series lineup at WGA, which, to me, signals the lack of passion for “The Morning Show” and “Loki,” among writers at least. We’ve seen the writing branch carry shows to a series bid before, and I think that could happen with “The Curse,” which could probably pull off a directing nom too even if it misses with actors completely. In terms of what will win, I have absolutely no idea. “The Crown” would be the obvious default pick, but like you said, the love for the series has seemingly evaporated. “The Morning Show” was beyond unhinged in Season 3 and I loved it. But for it to be in serious win contention, I think it’ll need a writing nomination, which it has never achieved before. And the WGA snub is ominous. “24” was the last show to win drama series without a writing nomination — way back in 2006 under the tape system — but it at least had been nominated in writing previously. So without writing support possibly, will “The Morning Show,” as Jon Hamm as Kendall Roy would say, have the votes?

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Christopher Rosen: The WGA snub is not great, Bob, but three of the WGA nominees aren’t eligible this year at the Emmys. So, if “The Morning Show” was up against this group of shows, maybe it would’ve gotten in? I’m not surprised it didn’t push “Succession” and “The Last of Us” out and I guess you could say it should be stronger than “The Diplomat,” but also #Netflix. “The Curse” could definitely make it in — what a strange and uncomfortable show. I’m more bullish on its acting chances, with Emma Stone at the top of my actress list (you have her in sixth place, which doesn’t mean anything but just using it as a comp to show the difference, perhaps, in our enthusiasm!) and I think there is a world where Benny Safdie makes it in as a supporting actor. He’s *Zoolander voice* so hot right now and I think the industry is absolutely on his performance wavelength. Plus, he’s got the spicy supporting role. I’m less convinced of Nathan Fielder’s hopes because that character is a walking awkward nightmare, like Larry David without the Larry David. We’re kind of all circling the same 10 or so shows here, give or take a “3 Body Problem” or “Ahsoka.” So what I would love to know — what I’m sure many observers and industry professionals are trying to figure out as well — is where are the surprises? According to the odds, “Sugar,” “The New Look,” and “Hijack” are all possibilities, but — no disrespect to those shows — how many Apple TV+ series can seriously make the cut? (I didn’t even mention the Apple sci-fi shows “Silo” with my fave Rebecca Ferguson or my actual fave “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters,” which just rips!) Then there are several … network… dramas? Is that a thing? Should we keep a seat warm for “Will Trent” or my mom’s favorite “Tracker”? Help me out here.

joyceeng: While it’s true three of the WGA nominees are not Emmy eligible, the bigger issue for “The Morning Show” is that the Emmy category recognizes individual episodes, so a show could pull multiple bids if it has multiple writers and submits them, versus, like, “Succession” only submitting Jesse Armstrong every year. (“The Morning Show” also missed the WGA’s juried episodic category, in which it was nominated for Season 2.) The Emmy writing lineup could be a mix of “The Crown,” double “Slow Horses,” double “The Curse,” double “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “Fallout” and “The Gilded Age” for likely seven spots, which means “The Morning Show” is on the sidelines once again. My having Stone in sixth has nothing to do with my enthusiasm and everything to do with my read of the acting branch’s tastes. Like I’ve said, “The Curse” reminds me of “Twin Peaks: The Return.” It’s too weird and esoteric for the actors, but the writers and directors (and crafts branches) are here for it, and had Best Limited Series had eight slots in 2018, “Twin Peaks” probably would’ve gotten in. Apple has so many shows and so little time. Wait, that doesn’t work. Or does it? Given its troubles nabbing a drama series nom for its launch series “The Morning Show,” I’m hesitant to over-indulge on Apple, which has several shows I quite enjoy this season. The only series bids Apple has earned across drama, comedy and limited are for “Ted Lasso” and “Severance,” two word-of-mouth hits. No shade, but I don’t think the ones you named and the ones you didn’t name are the same, quality notwithstanding and with “Sugar” yet to premiere. The network shows are fun to entertain, but I don’t think they would go for them either. They’re not exactly a “This Is Us”-type breakout, you know? I would love to see “Tokyo Vice” in here — a Max series that is the HBO fam’s best drama this season — but I’m not sure how many people are even aware its second season is currently airing. I’ve also thought about “Justified: City Primeval.” “Justified” earned its sole drama series nomination in 2011 when “Breaking Bad” sat out the cycle, so maybe it can take advantage of the openness this year? I’m not betting on it though since it aired in the summer and Emmy voters have never been huge stans. I do, however, have my guy Timothy Olyphant in drama actor, because, sure? No idea what I’m doing here. And since I cannot break up the iconic Raylan-Boyd duo, I had to do Walton Goggins in supporting for “Fallout.” You asked for surprises and I think the acting categories is where there could be lots with “Succession” and “The White Lotus” gone.

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Christopher Rosen: I hope so. Not that Emmy voters are lazy — I would never suggest such a thing — but this year they really could put in the work if they so desired instead of checking off all the names from their favorite shows. You mentioned a personal fave in “Tokyo Vice,” so I’ll leave here with one of my other ones: “Winning Time.” Remember “Winning Time”? It was a great show despite its “Poochie died on the way back to his home planet” finale and I would love to see some recognition for Adrien Brody in the supporting race. Once you stop laughing at me for being me to the core, I’ll let you have a last word!

joyceeng: I remember “Winning Time” and I especially remember the accompanying viewing guides HBO sent out for Season 2 in case you didn’t want to consult Wikipedia on your own. Incredible stuff. Give them an Emmy for that.

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