The Race to 160 Noms: Networks Strive to Break Emmy Record for Total Nominations

·6 min read

The 74th Emmy Awards nominations could set some records, and make history — whether it’s actors or studios or streamers, everyone is looking to dominate the headlines. The most exciting record is the 160 nominations in one year by a studio — that was set in 2020 by Netflix. Right now, it looks like Netflix, Hulu and HBO all have enough strong contenders to bring them close to that number.

For instance, in drama, HBO and HBO Max have “Succession,” “Euphoria” and “Winning Time: Rise of the Lakers Dynasty”; in comedy series, “Barry,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Flight Attendant,” “Hacks” and “And Just Like That…” all are contenders; and in limited series, “The White Lotus,” “The Staircase,” “Scenes From a Marriage” and “Station Eleven” are key players in the competition.

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Netflix can easily land in striking distance of its own record with dramas “Squid Game,” “Ozark,” “Stranger Things” and “Bridgerton,” as well as limited series including “Maid,” “Inventing Anna” and “Midnight Mass.” Unfortunately for the streamer, it’s lacking a little in the comedy realm, with previously nominated “Cobra Kai,” “Emily in Paris” and “Russian Doll” struggling in the highly competitive field.

Read moreVariety’s Awards Circuit Emmys Predictions Hub.

Hulu’s only drama hopefuls are “Nine Perfect Strangers” and “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” which aren’t expected to light up the tally. However, with comedies such as “Only Murders in the Building,” “The Great” and “Pen15” and hit limited series “Dopesick,” “The Dropout,” “Pam and Tommy,” “The Girl From Plainville” and “Candy,” the streamer can rack up nominations.It’s been rare for a network (and now cabler and streamer) to grab more than one nomination in a single category. In 1992, NBC grabbed four of five in drama series. ABC, CBS and NBC have nabbed three drama series noms each on at least one occasion. No non-broadcast network has hit that record.

. - Credit: Courtesy of Netflix
. - Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Courtesy of Netflix

However, if Netflix lands with any three variations of “Squid Game,” “Ozark,” “Stranger Things” and “Bridgerton,” it would be the first. NBC is the only network to land five of its shows in the comedy series category when in 1987, its Emmy category lineup was “Cheers,” “The Cosby Show,” “Family Ties,” “Night Court” and winner “The Golden Girls.” It has also landed four noms in the category on five different occasions; the last time was in 1997 with the winner “Frasier,” alongside “Mad About You,” “Seinfeld” and “3rd Rock From the Sun.” CBS achieved this category domination three times — in 1973, 1975 and 1977.

HBO is the only non-broadcast network to get three of its series in the same category lineup, and it happened on two separate occasions: 2017 and 2018. Depending on how you separate HBO and HBO Max, it could happen again this year with “And Just Like That….,” “Barry,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Flight Attendant,” “Insecure” and “Hacks.” Limited series has had various iterations over the past 74 years of the Emmys, but the last time a network landed three shows in the lineup was HBO in 2011. Again, HBO and Hulu have the quality goods to possibly pull this off, but in a smaller field that will have either five or six nominees.

HBO could clear it with “The White Lotus,” “The Staircase,” “Scenes From a Marriage” and “Station Eleven,” while Hulu could dominate with “Dopesick,” “The Dropout,” “Pam and Tommy” and “The Girl From Plainville.”

“Succession” could make history with potential acting nominations for Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Nicholas Braun, Alan Ruck, Matthew Macfadyen, Sarah Snook and J. Smith-Cameron in the running. If all make the cut, it will tie Netflix’s “When They See Us” with the most acting noms for a series.

After winning Academy Awards earlier this year, Jessica Chastain (for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”) and Ariana DeBose (for “West Side Story”) would join the ranks of Helen Mirren as actors to win Oscars and Emmys in the same year if they prevail. Chastain is contending in lead actress limited series for HBO’s “Scenes From a Marriage,” while DeBose has two possible entries with Apple’s musical-comedy “Schmigadoon!” and guest actress in a comedy for hosting NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

Speaking of Chastain’s limited series, her co-star Oscar Isaac has potential for five Emmy noms as an executive producer and actor on “Scenes From a Marriage” and Disney+’s “Moon Knight,” in addition to hosting “Saturday Night Live.”

A Time for Change

Last year, Nick Mohammed (“Ted Lasso”) and Bowen Yang (“Saturday Night Live”) became the first Asian actors recognized in the category. They could continue the trend with back-to-back noms. Meanwhile, for his final season of NBC’s “This Is Us,” if former Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown were to eke out another victory, he would be the second Black actor to win a second time (the first was Bill Cosby for “I Spy”).

Nicole Byer (“Nailed It!”), Karamo Brown (one of “Queer Eye’s” Fab Five), RuPaul (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”), Padma Lakshmi (one of the three for “Top Chef”) and Daymond John (one of the six for “Shark Tank”) encapsulate the most people of color nominated in host for a reality or competition series ever, and all are up again this year.For five consecutive years, the lead actor comedy category had more than one POC nominated. Unfortunately, that streak could come to an end with Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”), Don Cheadle (“Black Monday”), Kenan Thompson (“Kenan”), Sam Richardson (“The Afterparty”) and Donald Glover (“Atlanta”) all on the bubble. Glover is one of only two Black men to ever win.

Squid Game .Season 1.Credit: Noh Juhan/Netflix - Credit: Netflix
Squid Game .Season 1.Credit: Noh Juhan/Netflix - Credit: Netflix

Netflix

Indigenous actors can have a strong showing with FX’s “Reservation Dogs” contending in the comedy categories; producer Taika Waititi also delivers with HBO’s “Our Flag Means Death.”

Other tidbits: There has still never been a POC winner in supporting comedy actor (though Mohammed, Thompson or Yang might have the goods to pull it off) nor supporting drama actor (it’s up to Oh Young-soo for “Squid Game” and Giancarlo Esposito for “Better Call Saul” to carry the torch).

Speaking of Esposito, he, along with his co-star Rhea Seehorn, directed two separate episodes of the AMC series. If double nominated for supporting acting and directing, they would be the first to land in those categories. If “Better Call Saul” is nominated as a series, it would tie for the fourth most-nominated series in history with six, alongside “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law,” “NYPD Blue” and “St. Else-where.” The most nominated show ever is “Law & Order” with 11.

Zendaya could be the youngest person ever to be nominated as an executive producer and actor for HBO’s “Euphoria.” She’s already one of two Black women to win for lead actress (drama), so, looking like the front-runner, she would be the first to win a second time in any top category at the Emmys.

Netflix’s “Squid Game” would be the first non-English language series ever nominated in the drama category. In addition, nominations for the series’ other actors and directors would be the most for any Asian from the same television program.

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