Emmys 2018: What to Watch for at the 70th Annual Awards Show

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With the 2018 Primetime Emmys just days away, it’s time to take a closer look at all the drama expected to unfold at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, where the awards will be handed out live on Monday, Sept. 17.

This year, there are several key races -- the battles over Best Drama, Lead Actress - Comedy, and Reality-Competition -- to watch out for, as well as major milestones when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Then there are this year’s hosts, Saturday Night Live Weekend Update co-anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che. How will they stack up to past hosts, including late-night stars Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert?

And the biggest question is: Will anyone watch? Here are the questions we're asking ahead of the awards (that will hopefully be answered during the ceremony):

Which network will come out on top? Each year, the major industry battle always comes down to which network won the most Emmys. When the nominations were announced in July, Netflix ended HBO’s 17-year streak as television's most celebrated network, with 112 nods for the streaming platform and 108 for the premium cable channel. Following the Creative Arts Emmy Awards, where a majority of those awards are handed out, HBO leads Netflix 17 to 16, with 29 nominations remaining for the former and 37 for the latter.

Which show will walk away with the most wins? Last year, Saturday Night Live and Westworld led with 22 nominations each. By the end of the night, Saturday Night Live came out on top with nine total wins, followed by Big Little Lies and The Handmaid’s Tale with eight each. Westworld ended up with five.

This year, Game of Thrones led the nominees with 22, followed by Westworld (21), Saturday Night Live (21) and The Handmaid’s Tale (20). As of the Creative Arts Emmys, Game of Thrones and Saturday Night Live are tied with seven wins, with Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert following with five and The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story with four. (Atlanta, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Westworld trail with three each.) With 24 Emmys yet to be handed out, it’s still technically any show’s to win -- but the biggest battle will be between SNL and Game of Thrones.

How will The Handmaid’s Tale and Westworld do up against Game of Thrones? When Games of Thrones was absent from the 2017 Emmys, it opened the door to a new front runner in the drama categories. It was The Handmaid’s Tale -- not HBO’s other pedigree series Westworld, which also doesn’t seem like much of a contender this year -- that dutifully stepped up to the plate, winning Hulu’s first major Emmy awards. Now, with momentum behind it, can the Hulu drama hold off the celebrated return of Game of Thrones? Following the Creative Arts Emmys, GOT leads all other dramas with seven wins, but our TV expert thinks that The Handmaid’s Tale will hold onto the top prize, adding, “There's no reason to think any other series on this shortlist will be able to trump it.”  

With Julia Louis-Dreyfus absent, who will win the Lead Actress in a Comedy category? The Television Academy’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus Award for Excellence in Comedy is up for grabs for the first time in seven years. The Veep star has consecutively won the award for playing Selina Meyer since 2012. But with the show on hiatus so the actress can focus on her battle with cancer, she’s (temporarily) out of the race, which is now wide open. The front runner is Rachel Brosnahan, who our TV expert says was “charmingly pitch-perfect as one can be as Midge Maisel.” But if the Academy goes with Issa Rae or Tracee Ellis Ross, history will be made in the category that has only awarded one other black actress in the past. Meanwhile, Allison Janney is gunning for an Emmy Grand Slam, and then there’s Lily Tomlin, who still deserves some sort of Emmy for charming the West Wing for so many seasons.

Will RuPaul’s Drag Race finally win the Reality-Competition category? In the category’s 15-year history, only three shows (!) -- The Amazing Race, Top Chef and The Voice -- have ever won. But in 2018, it’s time for things to change -- especially if Queer Eye’s win for Structured Reality Series is any indication. RuPaul’s Drag Race is coming off its biggest season ever, earning 10 nominations plus another two for its aftershow, Untucked. At the Creative Arts Emmys, RuPaul won his third consecutive Emmy for hosting, with the show taking home four Emmys total. While The Amazing Race is a reliable juggernaut, having won the category 10 times, it’s not having the same zeitgeist moment as RPDR. Our TV expert agrees, predicting the show will make history.

For the first time ever, all the Guest Acting awards went to black performers. Will the Academy continue to make history on Monday? While the Emmys has made strides in recent years, recognizing people of color in major categories, there’s no erasing 70 years of missed opportunities. And this year is no different, with plenty of milestones at stake: Either Ross or Rae could make history in the Comedy category by becoming the second black woman to win the Lead Actress prize in 37 years, while Sandra Oh could become the first Asian actress to win any Lead Actress prize. Darren Criss, who is part Filipino, is the only other Asian actor nominated -- and if Criss and Oh both win, that’d be a first for Asian performers. There are more Latinx actors nominated this year than before -- and any win would be significant, considering no Latinx performer has won any of the categories the current nominees are up for.    

Will the Emmys be one long episode of Saturday Night Live? There’s no denying the synergy of this year’s Emmys, which will air on NBC two weeks before the sketch comedy series, which is up for 21 awards, returns with season 44 on Sept. 29. Not only are Colin Jost and Michael Che the current Weekend Update anchors -- and are expected to bring some of that humor and commentary to the show -- but they’re also the upcoming season’s co-head writers, and creator Lorne Michaels is stepping in as producer this year. And when it comes to Monday’s ceremony, Variety reports that “various SNL associates [are] lending a hand both onstage and behind the scenes,” with “a sketch involving Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen believed to be in the works.” There’s no shortage of SNL cast members and alum expected on Monday night, with Alec Baldwin, Andy Samberg, Ben Stiller, Kate McKinnon, Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan all confirmed to present awards, not to mention nominees Aidy Bryant, Bill Hader, Kenan Thompson and Leslie Jones in the audience. Put simply by NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt: “I’m just trying to co-opt [Michaels'] whole organization to the benefit of the Emmys,” he told Variety

How political will the show get? Known for their sharp political humor on Weekend Update, it’s no surprise that Che and Jost are expected to tackle Donald Trump and recent headlines. But Michaels tells Variety that the jokes “will be of the moment,” with a focus on entertainment first. Then again, “We might have to tell a joke about President Pence,” Che says. “Who knows?”

How will the Emmys address the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements? This is the first Emmy Awards since accusations of sexual misconduct were levied against Harvey Weinstein (who denies all allegations) in October and the subsequent launch of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. The industry has been rocked by the fallout from allegations about Aziz Ansari, Jeremy Piven, Kevin Spacey, Les Moonves and Louis C.K., as well as the trial of Bill Cosby. Previous awards shows -- the Golden Globes, SAG Awards and Oscars -- handled it differently, from wearing all-black on the red carpet to making pointed speeches and comments on stage. How will the Emmys address nearly a year of scandal and the push to end systemic sexual harassment and gender disparity in the industry?    

Will Burt Reynolds make it into the In Memoriam montage? No matter what year or what awards show, the In Memoriam segment is always a point of contention. Should the audience mic be on so viewers can hear the applause? Who should perform, and what song? Who is included and -- more importantly -- who was overlooked? This year, Reynolds, who died on Sept. 6, will be included along with Aretha Franklin, Craig Zadan, Neil Simon, Robin Leach and ER’s Vanessa Marquez. The full list is here.

It looks like this year's biggest surprise may be who introduces the segment. Earlier this year, Samantha Bee made a pitch on Full Frontal about why she should be a presenter at the Emmys, saying, “All I want is one or two minutes to talk on the stage, with a celebrity of equal or greater value, look down the barrel of the prompter and say whatever it is you tell me to. I’m so versatile, I can do anything! You want me to introduce the In Memoriam reel? I will crush it!” All we can say is that Bee is confirmed to present at this year's ceremony. 

Will anyone watch?! Look, the ratings have not been kind to awards shows, with the 2018 Oscars the Academy's lowest viewed ceremony ever. The same goes for the 2018 GRAMMYs, which dropped by 24 percent and was its lowest rated ceremony ever. As for the Emmys, last year’s ceremony was the lowest rated overall, drawing 11.4 million viewers. How will the show fare this year? That’s up to you.   

The 70th Creative Arts Emmy Awards were handed out over two days, on Sept. 8 and 9, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. A telecast of the awards will air Saturday, Sept. 15, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FXX.

The 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, co-hosted by Colin Jost and Michael Che, will air live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Monday, Sept. 17, starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on NBC. Check out the full list of nominees and ET’s ongoing Emmy coverage here.



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