Back in 2009 there was no show more popular than “Glee.” Its young stars Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Amber Riley, Chris Colfer and the rest of their on-screen team were everywhere during that breakthrough first season. So even though SAG typically prefers familiar faces and new shows often have to wait a year or more to get recognized, “Glee” and its popularity were hard to ignore and its cast took home the SAG Award for Best Comedy Ensemble. Fast-forward to 2017 and Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” Now its young cast — including Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, and Caleb McLaughlin — are hoping their popularity will translate into a SAG Award for Best Drama Ensemble.
“Stranger Things,” set in the 1980s, tells the story of a group of misfits who set out to find their missing friend with the help of a mysterious girl, Eleven (Brown). Meanwhile, the police sheriff (David Harbour) and the boy’s grieving mother (Winona Ryder) also confront mystical forces in order to get him back. (See our Top 11 ‘Stranger Things’ moments from Eleven.)
Ryder, a two-time Oscar nominee and now a five-time SAG nominee, lends the show industry respectability. Similarly, “Glee” was led by well-respected character actress Jane Lynch, who gave grownups a reason to tune in who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in a show about a teenage show choir. So having an established star will help balance “Stranger Things” young-skewing ensemble.
The show is so popular that even though it wasn’t eligible yet for Emmys, that didn’t stop Brown and the boys from taking the stage at the awards last September as the warm-up act singing “Uptown Funk,” and later delivering sandwiches to the audience during the telecast on their bikes. Then at the Golden Globes, Brown and her co-stars appeared in Jimmy Fallon’s “La La Land”-inspired opening number rapping about their characters. Those kids have been everywhere taking selfies with celebs they’ve admired — everyone wants to meet the young stars of “Stranger Things.”
“Glee” used a similar media-saturation approach, singing the National Anthem at the MLB World Series, appearing on the covers of magazines, and even making an appearance on “Oprah.” Becoming such instant media and industry darlings could make the difference when it comes time for members of that industry to cast their ballots.
According to Gold Derby’s exclusive odds as of this writing “Stranger Things” is in fourth place with odds of 10/1. Currently expected to win is “Game of Thrones,” which is the all-time biggest Emmy champ, but is still looking for its first SAG Ensemble victory with odds of 11/8. Right on its heels are two British productions: another Netflix show, “The Crown,” with odds of 3/1, and directly behind them is three-time reigning champ “Downton Abbey” with odds of 4/1; both of those productions will be each other’s biggest hurdle since they risk splitting votes due to their similar styles and subject matter. In a close race, anything can make the difference.
“Stranger Things” over-performed at SAG, not only getting nominated for Drama Ensemble but also picking up individual nominations for Brown and Ryder as Best Drama Actress. Brown’s nomination was unexpected as the Screen Actors Guild typically doesn’t acknowledge pre-teens, proving the show’s strength. Its competitors scored nominations more or less as predicted, so we could be underestimating the actors’ love of this show.
If “Stranger Things” does pull off a win it will help re-energize its Emmy chances as both the show and Ryder recently lost at the Golden Globes after Brown was unexpectedly snubbed. The show is already at an Emmy disadvantage in terms of its timing; it aired last summer, so any awards attention along the way will help to keep the show from being out of sight and out of mind.
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