Almost as much fun as finding out who’ll reap Emmy nominations on July 18 is discovering who made the first cut. That’s possible after 6 p.m. Pacific time on Monday on July 10th when nominating ballots are posted to the academy website and voting commences. What is submitted — and what is not — can be surprising and can even spark a scandal.
Fortunately, we already know many jawdroppers thanks to this article by Gold Derby senior editor Chris Beachum, who revealed peculiar category declarations: “Bates Motel” star Freddie Highmore is going supporting; “Arrested Development” star Portia de Rossi is going lead. However, prepare to discover dozens of additional oddities when the official ballot is released. Here’s what to look out for.
Shocking omissions: A poster in the Gold Derby forums discovered in 2008 that Katherine Heigl was missing from the ballot, despite having won the previous year. Asked to comment by Gold Derby, Heigl infamously blasted the writers of “Grey’s Anatomy” for not giving her good material and a very embarrassing and public clash ensued. Others have been more graceful bowing out. In 2009, “Lost” star Terry O’Quinn would have been a strong contender to win Best Supporting Drama Actor for a second time given that he had an episode with a suicide attempt, but he stepped aside to give others a chance. His co-star Michael Emerson prevailed in his absence.
Treatment of canceled shows: Networks vary as to how they treat programs that failed in the ratings. Some have successfully campaigned for nominations, like NBC did for “Harry’s Law” lead actress Kathy Bates last year. Others ignore their axed shows, even if they had past successes with the Emmys. “Pushing Daisies” won three Emmys and received twelve total nominations in 2008. However, when it was cancelled, ABC did not even submit its lead actor Lee Pace, who had been nominated the previous year. Pace paid his own entrance fee to appear on the ballot, but was hopeless for a repeat nomination without a proper campaign. Lately, the networks have gotten crafty with how they submit their failed series. Last year, ABC surprised ballot-readers by submitting a number of its ill-fated shows under the “miniseries” label, which has become increasingly lax about what qualifies. This savvy cheat paid off with a nomination for Ashley Judd as lead actress of the short-lived “Missing.”
One performer, multiple roles: There used to be a rule that a contender could only make one submission per category. That meant that character actors who guest starred in multiple series had to be judicious when selecting their Emmy material. In 2009, most Emmy-watchers assumed that 2008 winner Zeljko Ivanek (“Damages”) would be nominated for an extended “House” episode in which he played a hospital shooter, but when ballots came out, it was revealed that he had instead opted to submit his recurring role on the critically reviled “Heroes” and Gold Derby users correctly dropped him from the conversation. Recently, the Emmys altered their rules to allow multiple roles. Jon Hamm was an early frontrunner to claim Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 2010 for hosting “Saturday Night Live.” Not forced to choose between it and a two-minute cameo in “30 Rock,” reprising an Emmy-nominated role, he submitted both. Voters lazily nominated him only for the one that they had before and he lost.
Too many submissions: Entering the Emmys can be incredibly strategic. Praised aspects of popular series, like the cinematography on “Game of Thrones,” can go overlooked for years if their studios do not play it smart on the ballot. In 2009, “The Office” submitted about a dozen episodes for best writing — one for each of its staff — a strategy that had yielded nominations in prior years. But support for the 2006 winner of Best Comedy Series was waning and, when the program entered a dozen episodes again, their votes a dozen ways. By submitting just one episode in the writing category instead of up to the five that it could have, “Flight of the Conchords” pooled all of its support and got nominated over “The Office.” Some series are popular enough that they can afford to submit seven episodes and still receive multiple nominations, like “Mad Men” in the writing category, while others like “Breaking Bad” are obviously popular among the academy, but not quite enough to be splitting their votes so many ways.
Pictures: Actors have the option of submitting a photograph along with their name. When on-the-cusp contenders forget to include one on the ballot, Gold Derby users like to dismiss their nomination chances. Some performers opt for studio portraits, others for humorous in-character head shots, while others still sneak in pictures that show how handsome they were a decade ago. For years, Elisabeth Moss appeared on the ballot with a naked shoulder, perhaps trying to appeal to a certain demographic of the academy.