iCarly’s Great Awards Hope, and More Revelations From This Year’s Emmy Ballot

Only by glancing at this year’s ballot would you realize that Paramount+’s icarly has a pretty decent chance at receiving a major Emmy nomination next month. The reboot of Nickelodeon’s popular Miranda Cosgrove vehicle is among just seven multi-camera series submitted for consideration in the directing category. This is notable since the Television Academy has, since 2018, required that at least one comedy-directing nominee be in a multi-camera format. It’s how sitcoms like B-Positive and the Will & Grace reboot have found representation at the main Emmys ceremony in recent years, despite lacking any other primetime nominations—and why The Big Bang Theory showed up here multiple times.

It’s a strange rule given that the format is so out of date among broadcast networks—even old-school CBS’s strongest comedy play this season is the single-camera hit ghosts. The competition is so anemic and strange that Cedric the Entertainer could get his first directing nomination for The Neighborhood— or, yes, that icarly could be a nominee.

There are few better snapshots of the weirdness of modern TV than the Emmy ballot, released to the public annually on the day nomination voting commences. As ever, this year’s ballot is filled with perplexing omissions, excessive studio confidence, fatal inaccuracies, and demonstrations of cutthroat campaign strategy.

Any strong contender must, for starters, decide on how many episodes to submit in the key writing and directing categories. It’s where front-runners assert dominance and underdogs find their narrow path. Because votes are unranked for both nominees and winners, saturating a category too heavily might mean canceling yourself out of a nod—or, if you manage multiple nominees, even a win. This happened to ted lasso last year: The overwhelming comedy front-runner won three acting trophies and best series, while somehow losing both writing and directing to Hacks. why? lasso had three noms in directing and two in writing, while Hacks—its biggest challenger—only had one in each. Nope Hacks votes got split because they only submitted a single episode per category.

The 2022 Emmys will find both ted lasso and drama champ Succession defending their titles. The latter has proven deft in this game of category-crunching. For its first two seasons, HBO fielded just one episode for writing, and won the category both times. It’s doing that again this year with Jesse Armstrong‘s end. (lasso meanwhile has two scripts on the ballot, fewer than last year but still risky when it comes to winning.) In directing, meanwhile, Succession have you six eligible episodes. The acclaimed drama won the category in 2020 despite multiple nominations, and got every nomination in their category at the Directors Guild of America awards back in January. If it can be similarly dominant here, it’ll squash anyone in its way.

Then again, it could also be a sign of overconfidence in a competitive drama field (rivals like Squid Game are submitting just one episode for directing). Along those lines, you have to wonder about ted lasso‘s four directing submissions. Its primary returning challengers—Hacks, Barry, Atlanta—also played it conservative with single submissions, all but guaranteeing their nominations, while the strongest freshmen in Abbott Elementary and Only Murders in the Building entered two episodes apiece. That’s to say nothing of the two-to-three entrants of recent directing contenders The Great, The Marvelous Mrs. Maiseland The Flight Attendant. ted lasso has the most to gain and, in turn, lose; it could lead the field in names again, or end up with nothing.

In other words, here’s a litmus test of just how strong the Apple breakout is as it goes for a second straight best-comedy win. If Abbott or only murderers outdoes it here, watch out.

A few niche tidbits from this year’s ballot that might surprise you: Emmy winner Baby Neuwirth was bizarrely not submitted for her supporting turn in Juliadespite the show being a well-regarded HBO hit likely to have strong appeal with a particular voting demographic. Tim Robinson‘s beloved I Think You Should Leave is on the ballot, though instead of competing in variety-sketch where it’d seem most fitting, it’s submitted in short-form series, alongside seth meyers‘s online-only corrections extension, the Fear the Walking Dead prequel Dead in the Waterand something called Pandemic Pillow Talk. (Sketch series, meanwhile, will yield only two nominees yet again, with a mere eight shows on the ballot. This system needs to change.)

The starriest performer category might not be any of those limited-series acting races, but outstanding narrator, which features Jessica Chastain, Ruth Negga, Lupita Nyong’o, Helena Bonham Carter, Julianne Moore, Jeff Daniels, Ewan McGregor, and many more (among them, Our Great National ParksPresident Barack Obama.) No camera tests needed! You’ve also got to hand it to Hackswhich has a murderer’s row of guest actresses in contention: Kaitlin Olson, Laurie Metcalf, Harriet Sansom Harris, Susie Essman, and 2021 nominee Jane Adams. They all have terrific showcases; the category that’s long been the domain of Saturday night Live hosts may just find a new favorite series.

For writing, directing, and guest acting categories, episode titles and descriptions are listed for all voters to see as they make their choices. This could mean trouble for Abbott Elementary, which submitted its snappy pilot for writing but which, as of publication, mistakenly had the finale’s synopsis underneath the title. meanwhile Atlanta guest contest Liam Neeson will need Academy members to remember his canny self-effacing performance on their own, since the included episode description reads simply, “Al and Darius walk around Amsterdam. Psssh, I could make a way better tv show than this.” Another submitted guest actor, Laura San Giacomo—who plays a theater director in HBO’s Barry—made it to the ballot but will be deemed ineligible whether she gets nominated or not; Academy rules mandate any guest-acting nominee must appear in less than half of a season’s episodes and San Giacomo was in four of Barry‘s eight. (Infamously, peter mac nicol‘s veep nomination was revoked for this reason, despite getting enough votes.)

If I had one hope, it’s that Michael Mando would’ve been submitted as a guest actor, rather than supporting, for his final run on Better Call Saul. Historically, voters have used the guest-acting categories to recognize previously unheralded veteran cast members—including one such Better Call Saul star in Michael McKean. That did not come to pass for Mando. His character of him Nacho met a tragic end on the perennial Emmy favorite this season, enough so that he only appeared in three of seven eligible episodes. AMC still submitted him one last time in support, a tough field where he seems unlikely to make the cut.

It takes many of these odd, specific tricks to work the Emmy ballot to your advantage.. It’s deep in the weeds, sure—but bet that those who overperform come nominations day managed to do so, in part, by thinking through every inch of voters’ strange habits.

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