THB #185: Why Emmys Repeat... Emmys Repeat... Repeat...
The toughest thing in Hollywood is to get through the door.
I wrote years ago about the main reason why new directors - including more women and people of color - were having a hard time getting studio movies. The answer, historically and based on facts, was that the studio side of industry only hired a handful of first-time directors each year, meaning that fewer than 10% of studio films were being directed by first-timers of any gender or race. (Of course, these were mostly white men for most of modern film history.)
If you want some factual analysis in your showbiz news, you’re in the right place.
In order to be more inclusive, the industry either needs to hire a higher percentage of “new” directors or to make more movies. (When you see a director of color or woman (or both) making multiple movies for studios… it’s because they have already made a movie for a studio. The discussion of what happens once they are in the door is a different one than getting in.)
Then yesterday, I was reading a colleague misreading what has happened to Emmy and why they can’t seem to stop repeating themselves in their nominations. There is always a conspiracy theory afoot. In this case, it was a 2017 rule change. So in order to make sure I wasn’t misreading this as misreading, I did the research. Below are the result… a couple of charts that will be impossible to read on your phone, but which expand nicely on a computer screen.
But the idea was to go back 10 years, before the 2017 nominating rule change, to see whether The Emmys voters have changed at all because of the new rule.
The answer was worse than I expected… if you consider repetition to be a problem.
In 8 of 10 seasons, at least 3 of the nominees were repeaters. In 5 of 10 seasons, there were 4 repeating nominees.
Add to that, in most cases, a new nomination leads to a repeat nomination. Of 60 nominations for Best Actress in a Comedy over the decade, 13 were 1-time nominees. The only one to win was Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who was only recognized in the second season of Fleabag.
So, for instance, in 2016, when Amy Poehler’s and Edie Falco’s nomination streaks ended with their series, Amy Schumer and Lily Tomlin each repeated for their 2nd year in a row, joining Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the year of her 4th straight win for VEEP.
The newbies that season (2016) were Elie Kemper, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Laurie Metcalf (3-time emmy winner in supporting). Kemper and Ross would both be nominated again in 2017. Metcalf’s show went away.
In 2017, Schumer’s show was over and newcomers Pamela Adlon, Alison Janney, and Jane Fonda joined the repeating 4-some of Louis-Dreyfus/Tomlin/Kemper/Ross. Adlon and Janney would both repeat the next year. Fonda never did.
But you get the idea. Once anointed, repeating is the norm.
Then, the Actors in A Comedy Series…
There were only 6 first-timers in the 9 years before this year delivered 10-time prior nominee Steve Martin, 10-time prior nominee Martin Short, and never-a-regular-on-a-US-tv-series-before Nicholas Hoult… all of whom I would expect to see again next year.
In 2013, all 6 nominees were either previous nominees or at the start of their Emmy nomination runs.
In 2014, 4 of the 6 repeated and William H. Macy started his run of 6 nominations for Shameless.
In 2015, 4 nominees repeated and the 3 additions, Jeffrey Tambor (6-time prior nominee)/Anthony Anderson/Will Forte all got their first nom of multiple noms for the shows they were in then.
Rinse and repeat.
Wait! I promised an explanation.
Sorry… just a minute… calling a college professor… another…
Human nature!!! That’s the answer.
And weirdly, it seems that with the massive wave of original content… more than has ever been made by the television/film industry… with easier access… hasn’t changed a thing… maybe made it worse.
When people sit down to vote, people they have already voted for are first in mind. Not unusual. But I would suggest that in order for someone new to supplant someone they have already supported, it takes an additional shove.
And then, all the way down the ballot… all the way…
Oh… you might be wondering about Comedy Series. Here you go:
Again, at the bottom of the chart, shows that were only nominated once in the last decade. But you will also notice, please, that the 4 shows in those first 3 years were all nominated in the category before their listing here, 30 Rock 6 times.
There were 4 first-time/only-time-so-far nominees last season. But that wasn’t a sign of change, it seems, so much as a fluke of COVID, no season for Maisel, Curb, Barry or Shadows, and the end of The Good Place.
The Television Academy can adjust to open things up… or just keep rolling along. But the odds are that next year at this time, we will see at least 4, maybe 5, of the same nominees in the category.
Thanks for reading The Hot Button!