by Julian Spivey
The 75th annual Emmy Awards were held on Monday, January 15 nearly four months after they were supposed to have happened in September 2023 due to the actors and writers strikes of last year.
The celebration was dominated by “Succession” in the drama categories, “The Bear” in the comedy categories and “Beef” in the limited series categories, which set some – both viewers and entertainment journalists – to grumbling about the same shows winning all of the awards.
This is a trend the Emmys have seen over the last handful of years with sweeps of the major awards happening more and more often like we’ve seen in recent years with “Schitt’s Creek,” “Ted Lasso” and “The Crown.”
But I don’t quite get the hubbub about it. In fact, couldn’t you argue it’s a good thing that select shows are dominating the competition – doesn’t that prove those shows are the rightful victors of the medium and pinpoint them as the supreme shows of the now and surefire future classics?
HBO’s drama “Succession,” which aired its fourth and final season in early 2023, and the FX/Hulu production “The Bear,” which was being honored for its first season that aired back in the summer of 2022, each won six of the seven categories they featured in on Monday night. The only loss for “Succession” was J. Smith Cameron failed to beat Jennifer Coolidge for “The White Lotus” in the Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category and “The Bear” didn’t have an eligible candidate for the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category, which went to Quinta Brunson for ABC’s “Abbott Elementary.”
The Netflix limited series “Beef” won five of the seven awards it was eligible for in the Limited Series categories with only Maria Bello losing out on Supporting Actress in a Limited Series to Niecy Nash-Betts for Netflix’s “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” and both Joseph Lee and Young Mazino losing Supporting Actor in a Limited Series to Paul Walter Hauser for his performance in AppleTV+’s “Black Bird.”
All three shows were considered among the best on television in their respective years of eligibility by critics. Now, critics aren’t among the body that votes for the Emmys, but if they believe the shows are deserving I don’t think you can fault the Television Academy voters for also thinking the same.
So, what’s the deal with complaining?
Is it just that the same shows winning the majority of the awards makes for a boring telecast? If that’s the case, let me remind you that this is an award show for artistic merit and not a sporting event. There was an NFL Playoff game on at the same time as the Emmy Awards that you could’ve been watching and judging by the all-time low TV ratings for the Emmys many people were indeed doing so.
Award shows aren’t about participation trophies. It’s not an Oprah situation where you look around and say, “’Barry’ you get a trophy, ‘Ted Lasso’ you get a trophy, ‘Only Murders in the Building’ you get a trophy.”
If you’re thinking, “I wish my favorite show had won instead of ‘Succession’” or something similar it’s a valid feeling. If I had a vote I would’ve been very tempted to have written down HBO’s “The Last of Us” in the Outstanding Drama Series slot instead of “Succession.” But it doesn’t make it wrong that “Succession” won and it certainly doesn’t mean since it won Outstanding Drama Series that Sarah Snook should miss out on her potentially once in a lifetime Emmy winning moment so Bella Ramsey (“The Last of Us” or Melanie Lynskey (“Yellowjackets”) could win to “spread the love around.”
And if you’re complaining about shows winning awards that you haven’t seen take these moments of domination by “Succession,” “The Bear” and “Beef” as a recommendation that you should probably watch those shows. You may not like them – “Beef” certainly wasn’t my cup of tea – but if something is winning that many honors it must have a lot of love from a lot of people.
At the end of the day if a body of voters are picking the same shows over and over again for awards we should realize these shows must be pretty damn good. There’s no reason to complain about excellence.
by Julian Spivey
Good Grief – Netflix – Friday, January 5
Dan Levy of “Schitt’s Creek” fame makes his directorial debut with Netflix’s “Good Grief,” about a man (played by Levy) grieving the deaths of both his husband and mother while traveling to Paris with his two best friends (Ruth Negga and Himesh Patel) for a weekend getaway. The film is sure to be heavy but in the hands of Levy should also have plenty of laughs and provide something heartwarming to begin your year with.
Criminal Record – AppleTV+ - Wednesday, January 10
I’m interested in anything Peter Capaldi and Cush Jumbo are doing after enjoying their work in previous shows (mostly “Doctor Who” for Capaldi and “The Good Wife/The Good Fight” for Jumbo). Here they star in an eight-episode British crime thriller from creator Paul Rutman that has Capaldi as a veteran detective and Jumbo as a younger one clashing about a murder case from years before when new evidence arises.
Self Reliance – Hulu – Friday, January 12
There’s always been something about Jake Johnson that interests me as an actor going back to when I first was introduced to him through his role as Nick Miller on Fox’s sitcom “New Girl.” I’ve gone with him nearly everywhere he’s gone since and now look forward to seeing his director skills in “Self Reliance,” his directorial debut. The film, a comedy thriller, sees Johnson playing a man who receives the opportunity to win $1 million in a reality series on the dark web if he can outwit and keep hunters from killing him for 30 days. There’s a loophole to the game, though, he can only be killed if he’s alone so he spends the time trying to convince anyone he can to remain with him 24/7. The film has a supporting cast that includes Anna Kendrick, Natalie Morales, Emily Hampshire and Christopher Lloyd.
June – Paramount+ with Showtime – Tuesday, January 16
June Carter might be primarily known today as the wife of country music superstar Johnny Cash but Carter via her first family of country music The Carter Family was a superstar long before she met Cash. It’s nice to see a documentary about her life from documentarian Kristen Vaurio, one of the producers behind Alex Gibney’s acclaimed “Going Clear: Scientology & The Prison of Belief.” Cash is one of my musical heroes but I feel I don’t know as much as I’d like about Carter, so I’m thrilled this documentary exists so I can learn about her career and legacy.
Masters of the Air – AppleTV+ - Friday, January 26
“Masters of the Air” is the highly anticipated, long-awaited companion series to HBO’s critically acclaimed WWII miniseries “Band of Brothers” (2001) and “The Pacific” (2010) that follows the 100th Bomb Group of the United States Army Air Forces, which earned the nickname the “Bloody Hundredth.” The miniseries was created by John Shiban and John Orloff based on the 2007 book Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany by Donald L. Miller and executive produced by Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The nine-episode series features an all-star cast of Austin Butler (Oscar-nominee for “Elvis”), Barry Keoghan (Oscar-nominee for “The Banshees of Inisherin) and Ncuti Gatwa (“Doctor Who”) and will surely be one of the early frontrunners for Outstanding Limited Series for the 2024 Emmy Awards.