Netflix first made its presence known at the Emmys with David Fincher’s political drama “House of Cards,” starring two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. It scored nine nominations for its first season in 2013, including Best Drama Series, but then its second season earned 13 nominations in 2014. That is currently the record for the most bids for a Netflix program in a single year. “The Crown” and “Stranger Things” prepare to make their debut at the Emmys this year, so they will look to surpass “House of Cards” to set a new record and stake a claim as the premier drama on Netflix.
“Stranger Things,” which premiered last July, tells the story of a group of young misfits in the 1980s who set out to find their missing friend with the help of a mysterious girl, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). Meanwhile, the police sheriff (David Harbour) and the boy’s grieving mother (Winona Ryder) confront mystical forces in their own efforts to get him back. The show picked up Golden Globe nominations for Best TV Drama Series and Best TV Drama Actress (Ryder). Then Ryder and her scene-stealing co-star Brown were both nominated at the SAG Awards for Best Drama Actress, and the show won Best Drama Ensemble, making history as the first Netflix drama to do so.
“The Crown” premiered a few months later in November. It’s Netflix’s most ambitious production to date, reportedly costing $125 million. It’s about the early reign of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and has a pedigree that’s hard to ignore. All 10 episodes in season one were written by Peter Morgan, who won a Golden Globe and was nominated at the Oscars for his original screenplay for “The Queen” (2006). He also received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for his adapted script for “Frost/Nixon” (2008). Morgan has long been an expert in portraying Her Majesty, having also penned the original play “The Audience,” which won its star Helen Mirren a Tony in 2015.
Netflix’s investment has definitely paid off. “The Crown” won the streaming service its first Golden Globe for Best TV Drama Series. Claire Foy also picked up Best TV Drama Actress for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth, and John Lithgow was nominated for Best TV Supporting Actor for playing Winston Churchill. Then at the SAG Awards both Foy and Lithgow took home individual acting prizes for Best Drama Actress and Best Drama Actor, while the cast was also nominated for Best Drama Ensemble. With the “Stranger Things” victory in the Ensemble contest, this marked the first time Netflix swept SAG’s drama categories.
“Stranger Things” doesn’t premiere its second season until Halloween, so it won’t have new episodes to flaunt while Emmy voters are considering season one. That could be a disadvantage for the series. Another potential roadblock is its youthful cast: Emmy voters don’t usually take kids seriously, which could potentially limit the amount of acting nominations it receives.
On the plus side, “Stranger Things” did receive lots of crucial support from industry guilds. That includes a surprise victory at the PGA Awards for Best Drama Series, a DGA Award nomination for Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer (“Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers”) and two WGA Award nominations for Best Dramatic Series and Best New Series. But what will ultimately make or break the show’s nominations total is how many below-the-line nominations it can rack up. In total 14 different guilds either awarded or nominated “Stranger Things,” so it looks like it’s in great shape going into the summer’s Emmy gauntlet.
“The Crown” did not perform as well as “Stranger Things” at the guild awards, but still was able to make an impression. It earned nominations and wins from five different industry groups. However, the BAFTA TV Awards might have dropped a hint as to how “The Crown” will perform stateside: it received 12 nominations from the Brits. Those included the following:
Best Drama Series
Best Drama Actress (Foy)
Best Drama Supporting Actor (Lithgow, and Jared Harris as King George VI)
Best Drama Supporting Actress (Vanessa Kirby for her portrayal of Princess Margaret)
Best Costume Design
Best Drama Director for Stephen Daldry (“Hyde Park Corner”)
Best Photography & Lighting
Best Production Design
Best Special Visual and Graphic Effects
Best Titles and Graphic Identity
Best Drama Writing (Morgan)
If “The Crown” should repeat in all of its corresponding categories at the Emmys it will still need some extra help to get it past 13: perhaps Matt Smith (who portrays Prince Philip) for Best Drama Actor, and/or a few more below-the-line citations?
However, “House of Cards” will release its fifth season on May 30, right at the very end of the eligibility period, so it’ll be the drama freshest in mind to Emmy voters. It is possible that with its timely political themes it may be the one to break its own record of 13 nominations. The two-time reigning Emmy winner for Best Drama Series, HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” isn’t airing episodes during this eligibility period, so this could be Netflix’s best chance to finally take home the series prize.
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