Emmys: Where’s My Show? Why New Favorites Like ‘I May Destroy You’ Aren’t Nominated In 2020, And How COVID-19 Fallout Will Linger

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It’s the jarring thought many face each year on Emmy nominations day as shows receive their just plaudits in the noms: what happened to that great show I was just watching? The one everyone’s talking about right now. Why isn’t it nominated? It’s easy to forget that Emmy’s eligibility window comes to a close on May 31, ruling out from consideration any shows that premiere in the gap between June 1 and today’s nominations announcement.

Last year, the pre-noms head-scratchers were Emmy favorites like Stranger Things Season 3, Big Little Lies Season 2 and Euphoria, which all appear in this year’s nominations as a consequence of their June/July 2019 bows. And this year’s field is especially compounded by the global pandemic, which has led to the longest first phase for Emmy in recent memory. The Television Academy tweaked submission and voting dates this year, pushing them back to take into account the confusion caused by the COVID-19 catastrophe, and extending the hanging episodes rule to June 30, but they didn’t touch the main eligibility window itself, resulting in nearly two full months of television launches since the deadline passed.

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So, for example, while you may have delighted in Michaela Coel’s buzzworthy HBO drama I May Destroy Youa collab with the BBC in Britain which premiered June 7—it doesn’t appear in today’s list of nominations because it falls into next year’s zone of eligibility. That’s true too for Netflix’s much-discussed docuseries Lenox Hill, with its June 10 premiere. And, while ESPN’s garlanded 30 for 30 doc brand saw expected nominations for its Michael Jordan deep dive The Last Dance, its take on the 1998 Home Run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Long Gone Summer, will be up for consideration next year following a June 14 airdate.

Also left off the 2020 list are HBO’s Perry Mason series (June 21) and Netflix’s second season of The Politician (June 19, but there were noms for Season 1, which premiered last September). Add to that, HBO’s docuseries I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (June 28), Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries (July 1), The Alienist’s new season (July 19), Starz’ P-Valley (July 12) and Cate Blanchett’s Stateless (July 8). And while NBC wide-launched its Peacock streaming service to much fanfare on July 15, the original content that premiered on that date—including Brave New World, Intelligence and also its July 17 30 Rock reunion show—will all have to battle it out next year. Perhaps a smart play, since it’ll allow the streamer almost a full year to build up a slate to compete on television’s glitziest night.

Of course, there are other shows that we might have seen on today’s list, had the pandemic not put paid to their production schedules. HBO’s Barry, beloved in last year’s nominations, was due to start shooting its third season in late March, but halted before cameras could roll. That was always a late start for the series, which had aired the first episodes of Seasons 1 and 2 by March, but had production not been disrupted, there’s a chance Season 3 would have premiered in time for this year’s window. Additionally, Netflix had intended to get rolling on on the second season of Russian Doll in March, but had to shelve those plans as lockdown orders swept the globe.

Other series had been in production and had set premiere dates that would have fallen into this year’s window. Fargo was rolling on its fourth season for FX before lockdown closed the set. And the Emmy campaign had even started in earnest for the third chapter of National Geographic’s Genius anthology series, Aretha, which had reached the home stretch of production and was all set for a Memorial Day premiere on May 25 when work was stopped March 13. When producers announced March 30 that there was no hope of completing the show in time for that premiere date, they may not have imagined they’d still be shut down four months later, but a new premiere date for the show remains TBD.

Even shows that had completed production were affected, as networks strategized the best ways to lay out their schedules for an ongoing period of disruption. One example is The Undoing, HBO’s prestige miniseries produced by and starring Nicole Kidman, which was set for a May 10 debut after shooting last year. But HBO announced a delay on March 26, perhaps so that Kidman and writer David E. Kelley could focus their Emmy campaigning on their other HBO collab, Big Little Lies. The show will now premiere in the fall.

Be assured then, that even with many shows halted amid COVID-19 chaos, and your new favorite shows outside of the eligibility window this year, all of the above juicy contenders are already lining up with an eye on Emmy 2021.

But what remains to be seen is how the pandemic will affect some of the perennial shows we might have expected to see next year. Few could have imagined, when the shutdowns first fell, that the landscape would remain so inhospitable for such a long time, but shows like Barry, Russian Doll and Genius: Aretha are still awaiting dates to go back to work. And so, too, are Succession and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which both appear in today’s nominations for previous seasons; it remains to be seen whether the production landscape over the coming months will allow them the latitude to squeak into the 2020/21 eligibility zone.

All of these shows shoot in the United States (while previous iterations of Genius have shot elsewhere, Aretha was filming in Atlanta, GA), which is bearing the brunt of a second wave of COVID-19 infections and has been forced to roll back the easing of lockdown measures in many states. The picture is rosier in other countries, where some production has been able to resume, which might mean that the 2021 Emmys offers a more international field. The BBC hit Bodyguard earned an Outstanding Drama Series nomination for its first season last year, and it has been reported that a second is gestating. Other movies and TV shows have already been able to return to set in its production base, the UK. And recent reports suggest casting has begun this month for HBO’s Game of Thrones spin-off, House of the Dragon. The prequel series, which will tell the story of the Targaryen dynasty, had been expected to debut in 2022, but with cupboards so bare on domestic productions, it may yet advance in the schedule if it’s able to go before cameras in the near future. Its progenitor series, a long-standing Emmy favorite, based production out of Belfast, with scenes shot in Iceland, Croatia and Morocco.

The fallout of COVID-19 may also bring brand new, unexpected shows into the Emmy forefront next year, while some older, repeat favorites remain in stasis. But of course, all of this remains to be seen.

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