These Are the Key Surprises and Takeaways From This Year’s Emmy Nominations

The 71st annual Primetime Emmy nominations were announced Tuesday morning in Burbank, Calif., and the results are equal parts business as usual and “Didn’t-see-that-coming.”

While it takes at least a month to digest the TV Academy’s 65-page PDF listing all its nominees—among which HBO trounced the competition with a record 137 nominations—a few key surprises in three major categories are worth noting now.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Heads are likely exploding (in the best way) over Schitts Creek’s surprise nomination in this category after four years of under-the-radar cult status on Pop TV. (A deal was struck in 2017 to also stream the series on Netflix this year, which helped to bump the series into the mainstream.) Series star and co-creator Eugene Levy scored a nomination for best actor and his longtime pal and collaborator Catherine O’Hara earned one for lead actress. The series is set to end with its forthcoming sixth season, so this love is likely a welcome beginning to the series’ farewell tour.

A very pleasant surprise also came in the form of a comedy-writing nomination for Hulu’s freshman series Pen15, in which creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle also play 7th-grade versions of themselves. It’s the only series acknowledged for writing that isn’t also nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series.

There are some noteworthy snubs here, as well: Movie-star-artist Trump-provocateur Jim Carrey and his quirky Showtime series Kidding were snubbed, as were comedian-creator Ricky Gervais and his grief-themed dramedy After Life on Netflix.

Outstanding Drama Series

HBO hasn’t faltered in its dominance of this category for 20 years, and 2019 is no different. (Juggernaut and most-likely-to-win-gold Game of Thrones scored a whopping 32 total nominations.)

But the premium cable network managed to top even itself with a much-less-expected nomination for Oscar-winning director-producer Adam McKay’s series, Succession, about a Murdoch-ian media family in New York. The wry, sharply-written series from British creator Jesse Armstrong aired somewhat quietly last summer and features a sprawling cast of character actors (Brian Cox among them), making it the most heady “adult” drama on the slate this season.

Netflix netted a surprise nom for its U.K.-set thriller Bodyguard, but oddly Golden Globe-winning star Richard Madden wasn’t included. And speaking of thriller-snubs here, Amazon’s experimental half-hour entry, Homecoming, starring Julia Roberts, was nowhere to be found, nor was its Oscar-winning star.

Limited Series

Pundits were near-unanimous in their predictions that director Ava DuVernay’s grueling Netflix limited series When They See Us about the Central Park Five case would land on the ballot, but few could have anticipated so many nominations for the series’ stars.

From young lead actor Jharrel Jerome (Moonlight) to better-known performers Niecy Nash to John Leguizamo, eight actors total earned nominations for their work, a record showing for a single cast both in and out of this category, especially considering When They See Us officially joined the Emmy race in late May, the very end of this year’s eligibility period.

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