Written by: Anne Gavin
It’s Emmy time and Starz and Outlander fans have been tweeting up a storm hoping this year our favorite Time Travel/Historical Drama will garner much deserved nominations and awards for some of its actors and technical/production crew. But, what of this mysterious Emmy process? How does it work and what are the secrets to getting lesser known but critically acclaimed shows the recognition they deserve? Let’s take a look inside the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences nomination and award process and see if we can learn a thing or two about how it all works, or doesn’t work…
More after the jump…
I wish I could say it’s simple to explain, but the Emmy nominations process is a convoluted, complicated maze of eligibility requirements, arcane rules and multiple rounds of voting and scoring. When researching this blog post, I came across one article titled “The Emmy Nomination Process is Completely Insane.” Ha! Well, at times, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and we are often left wondering after nominations are announced how this show or that show was left out. I’ll do my best to explain it here and then we can talk a little about Outlander and how we think it might fare in this year’s nominations.
First thing we must ALL admit. There is a heck of a lot of GOOD television on the airwaves now. Emmy categories will inevitably be filled but that will still leave a lot of quality television programming on the sidelines. The television and entertainment industry has evolved to the point where we often see niche programs that viewers obsess over (like Orphan Black or even Outlander ) but are only watched by a relatively small number of people if you are to go by the live Nielsen ratings – which is something the television industry still cares A LOT about. However, the primary reason why we oftentimes find ourselves scratching our heads at the nominations each year is that the TV Industry suffers from what many other industries have – a failure to evolve with the times. Only recently has the Academy started accepting (and nominating) programs on Netflix for consideration of major awards. That was a step in the right direction but still the paperwork is daunting and the process overcomplicated. If you are really into torture, try reading through the over 70 plus pages of Rules and Procedures around submitting for an Emmy nomination. It’s no wonder that some of the larger networks get their shows nominated again and again and again. They are the only ones with the money and wherewithal to not only fill out the reams of paperwork required to be considered as part of the nomination process but also have the biggest budget to flag the attention of Emmy voters via marketing and PR.
But, nominations matter, even if you don’t win. The Television Academy has a tendency to keep nominating things over and over and tends to have a bias towards the “new.” Some shows that get nominated a few times then fall out of the nominations (like The Good Wife ) have a hard time breaking back in. But, this is good news for Outlander. Outlander received one Emmy nomination last year – and that was for our wonderful Bear McCreary and his Outlander score. That said, given this is only Season 2 for Outlander and the critical acclaim of the series has been generous, it has a very good chance of catching some attention from the Emmys this year if past is prologue. Basically, if the Emmys don’t pay attention to you within one or two seasons, they probably aren’t ever going to. Always some exceptions to this but generally, that’s been how it has shaken out. Another confusing thing about the Emmys is that while the awards are given out at the end of the summer, they are actually for performances from the previous season. Eligibility dates are from June 1st of the year before through May 31st. In Outlander’s case, this means only Season 2 episodes that aired BEFORE May 31st of this year could be eligible for consideration. So, unfortunately, some of the latter Episodes, like “Je Suis Prest”, “Prestonpans” and the Season Finale which we all expect will be a show case for actors and writers alike, CANNOT be considered for this year’s Emmy awards in the series category.
So, assuming all paperwork was submitted correctly, now what? All submitted names, shows, etc. get placed on a lengthy ballot with everybody else who correctly filled out paperwork. At this point, if you don’t have a ton of name recognition, then things could get dicey. The exception here is when a potential nominee is on a network (or production company) that has lots of CASH to burn mounting a giant PR campaign. Or, maybe a potential nominee is on a network that has a large percentage of voting members within the Academy. Note: HBO has by far the most people in the Academy and also consistently gets the most Emmy nominations. Not a coincidence. Pretty much anything HBO puts on the air will get serious Emmy consideration. Size does matter when it comes to your audience and also genre. This is where the going could get tough for Outlander and some of its biggest contenders for nominations. Outlander is still considered in the “Sci-Fi” genre and while audience numbers for Season 2 have consistently been near a million or slightly over per episode, Starz is still a bairn as far as the cable networks are concerned. Even with Caitriona Balfe’s Golden Globe nomination, it’s still tough to get noticed by the Emmy voting members given the show’s genre, network and relatively mediocre audience numbers. You also have a better chance of getting noticed if you are a critically acclaimed FILM actor. Think Paul Giamatti, Kevin Spacey and Liev Schreiber. Success in film is a distinct advantage given the Emmy’s inferiority complex with its grown up big brother – the Oscars. Well known film actors almost always get a second look by Emmy voters. For the most part, principal actors in Outlander are relative unknowns in the Big Screen world.
So, remember – getting on the ballot doesn’t mean you will be nominated. 6 nominees are given the nod in each major category with 7 nominees allowed for Best Drama and Best Comedy. However, if you come in 7th for any of the major categories, you might still be nominated as long as your vote total is within 2 percent of the actual nominees. Say what? If votes were 1.2 percent out of 6th place, you get to be nominated. See what I mean – insane. So, if nominated, then each network picks the one episode that best represents an actor, writer or producers’ work and it gets submitted to a blue-ribbon panel that will judge against other nominees in that category. A series can submit two episodes. Who are these “judges” then? Sounds a bit shady but supposedly the Academy selects the judges in a secret process. Judges are only allowed to serve two consecutive years as judges in a category. Each acting category has between 50 to 75 judges and the series categories have between 750 and 900 judges. Judges rank their ballots from 1 to 6. The winner will have the lowest score – the most 1’s. The Academy tends to like hammier work vs. more subtle acting. One reason given why Mad Men for so many years lacked any acting wins. Therefore, the more dramatic and affected work, the better. Any wonder why Bryan Cranston became such an Emmy magnet?
So, what of Outlander ? It was learned through a variety of sources that were sent Starz’s Emmy PR package that Starz submitted Episodes 2.01 “Through a Glass, Darkly”; 2.02 “Not in Scotland Anymore”; 2.06 “Best Laid Schemes” and 2.07 “Faith” for Emmy consideration. Given the eligibility requirements, I can understand why Starz landed on these episodes. Certainly Episode 2.01 showcases both Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies acting chops quite well. And, Episode 2.02 was written by Ron Moore’s consigliere and BFF, Ira Steven Behr. 2.02 also highlights some of costume designer Terry Dresbach’s amazing Parisian creations including the infamous “Red Dress.” 2.06 and 2.07 provide great canvas for our leading actors, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, as well as some of the supporting characters/actors including Dominique Pinion’s Master Raymond, and Frances de la Tour’s Mother Hildegard. I’m betting on a Guest Actor nomination for Frances de la Tour. In fact, I have to hand it to Starz, as they managed to complete and submit paperwork for 14 of Outlander’s performers to make it on to the Emmy ballots. You can see who at this link. Several like Dominique Pinion, Frances de la Tour and Simon Callow (for his role as the Duke of Sandringham) were submitted under the “Guest Actor” category.
As I mentioned previously, it’s unfortunate that primarily only the “Paris-based” episodes were eligible for submission for series consideration. The only “Scotland” episode that aired prior to the deadline was Episode 2.08 “The Fox’s Lair” and I can definitely see why that episode was not included. However, if Sam Heughan gets a nomination, I am thinking the episode that will be submitted for him would likely be Episode 2.06. Unfortunately, some of Sam’s best Season 2 work fell after the eligibility deadline. Likely, the best of Sam is still to come. However, perhaps Starz will look to focus some of its PR efforts on Sam for next year’s Emmy nods.
It could be a do or die year for Outlander and the Emmys. If no nominations this year, despite the efforts Starz has made to hype the show, I fear Outlander will get lost in Emmy obscurity. Nomination voting began June 13th and will end June 27th. Starz has asked fans to Tweet #EmmysforOutlander during this voting period.
Nominations are announced on July 14th and throughout the month of August multiple rounds of final viewing and voting takes place. We all know the power of the Outlander fandom. However, in this case, it’s not the Outlander fans who will be casting votes – it is members of the Television Academy. Hoping our crew gets their just rewards when the nominations are announced. For fledgling network Starz and for upstart Outlander , just being nominated would be a triumph. And, most importantly, will keep Outlander in the Academy members’ collective minds so as we proceed with Seasons 3 and 4, hopefully, Outlander will start taking home the top prizes.
So, remember to tweet early and often for Outlander – between now and June 27th. #EmmysforOutlander. Can’t hurt!
The 68th Annual Emmy Awards will be telecast on September 18th on the ABC television network.
Of the submitted Episodes, which is your favorite? Which do you think is Sam Heughan’s best episode to date in Season 2? And Caitriona Balfe’s best?