After the Creative Arts Emmys was over, “Stranger Things,” which over-performed in key categories, was clearly the Emmy frontrunner for Best Drama Series. This 1980s throwback fantasy drama won five awards. But not so fast, Emmy fans! I think we still have a real race with “The Handmaid’s Tale” playing spoiler. Let’s delve deeper into how both shows performed last weekend in order to gauge whether one show is more out in front than the other.
Sure, “Stranger Things” has won five Emmys so far:
- Best Drama Single-Camera Picture Editing
- Best Main Title Theme Music
- Best Main Title Design
- Best Drama Casting
- Best Series Sound Editing
But it also lost nine times last weekend, including key categories like sound mixing, hairstyling, makeup, period production design, and particularly Best Music Supervision (to “Big Little Lies”).
“The Handmaid’s Tale” on the other hand won three Emmys out of a total of six last weekend:
- Alexis Bledel won Best Guest Drama Actress for her role as Ofglen in the episode “Late.”
- Best Single-Camera (One Hour) Cinematography.
- Best Contemporary/Fantasy Program (One Hour) Production Design.
In the eight categories won by either show so far, “The Handmaid’s Tale” beat “Stranger Things” twice, in Best Guest Drama Actress (Shannon Purser) and cinematography, while “Stranger Things” only bested “The Handmaid’s Tale” once, in Best Drama Casting.
Drilling down into those wins and losses, three things come to mind that give me some pause about not going with the tide and changing my prediction from “The Handmaid’s Tale” to “Stranger Things.”
The picture editing contest is really important. Since 2012, all five winners in that category have gone on to win Best Drama Series (“Homeland” in 2012, “Breaking Bad” in 2013 and 2014, and “Game of Thrones” in 2015 and 2016). This is even more ominous when you look back to 2012, the year that “Homeland” surprised many by dominating the Primetime Emmy night. Pundits were convinced that the show would suffer because it only picked up nine nominations in total that year, precluding it from making a big precursor splash at the Creative Arts Emmys that year. But it did win editing, clearing its path it seems to an almost clean sweep the following week.
Casting can often be a good indicator for Best Drama Series too. Although in the last five years, there was only a correlation three times (“Homeland” in 2012 and “Game of Thrones” the last two years ), this might be explained because in the last three years, the TV academy opened up voting in the casting categories to members of the directors’ and producers’ branches as well as the casting directors’ branch.
Although costume design is rarely a category that gives us clues in the Best Drama Series race, it is notable that “The Handmaid’s Tale” lost this race to “The Crown,” in what should have been an easy win for the Hulu drama. Ane Crabtree‘s designs for the show have become iconic, seen throughout popular culture and even in mainstream politics as a symbol for womens’ rights. It was a huge surprise and could be a telling and ominous misstep for “The Handmaid’s Tale” on its way to the primetime ceremony this weekend.
Looking ahead to Sunday, “Stranger Things” looks formidable in Best Drama Directing, with only one entry (the pilot) in contention against two entries for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which might fall victim to vote-splitting. In Best Drama Writing, both shows contend with one nomination apiece for their pilots, which should make for a fairer fight (I am predicting “The Handmaid’s Tale” to prevail here). And that does not take into account that “Better Call Saul,” “The Crown” and “Westworld” also contend in both categories. And in Best Drama Supporting Actor, consensus is that David Harbour will likely lose to John Lithgow (“The Crown”). This means that “Stranger Things” might only end up with one win on Emmy night before the big Best Drama Series reveal.
On the other hand, “The Handmaid’s Tale” looks like a winner for Best Drama Actress for leading lady Elisabeth Moss, who not only received the best reviews of her career for her role as Ofred, but is also really overdue for an Emmy win after six losses for “Mad Men” and one for “Top of the Lake.” The show could also take Best Drama Supporting Actress, although that category is so much more competitive and could pose a challenge for the Hulu drama given that both Samira Wiley and Ann Dowd contend against each other (again, the dreaded vote-splitting argument).
That leaves Best Drama Series. “Stranger Things” could win one, maybe two Emmys during the televised ceremony. “The Handmaid’s Tale” could do the same, or could even take three trophies that night. With three under its belt from last weekend, I say that the race is far from over and “The Handmaid’s Tale” could easily take the big prize too. Count it out at your peril!
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