HBO’s “Westworld” vastly over-performed at the Emmys with 22 nominations, putting it in a great position to win Best Drama Series. The sci-fi western is tied with NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” as the most-nominated show this year and could very well pick up where “Game of Thrones” left off last year by winning the top series prize. (See complete list of 2017 Emmy nominations.)
If HBO had jitters about the Emmys because “Game of Thrones” was not eligible, they are clearly calm now. In addition to being nominated for Best Drama Series, “Westworld” is represented in every major acting category: Best Drama Actor for Anthony Hopkins (as Dr. Robert Ford), Best Drama Actress for Evan Rachel Wood (as Dolores Abernathy), Best Drama Supporting Actor for Jeffrey Wright (as Bernard Lowe), and Best Drama Supporting Actress for Thandie Newton (as Maeve Millay). The series also received nominations for Best Drama Directing and Best Drama Writing for “The Bicameral Mind,” the Season 1 finale.
As for the technical categories, “Westworld” picked up many of the nominations (and wins) that “Game of Thrones” typically gets, including Casting, Cinematography, Costumes, Hairstyling, Makeup, Picture Editing, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects. Voters clearly fell head over heels for the show, as the only branch of the TV academy that did not give it a nomination in their field is Stunt Coordination.
So why is the awards-predicting community shocked about “Westworld’s” dominance at the Emmys? Some were concerned that the drama may have aired too long ago to have a major presence, with Season 1 airing from September to December. It also did not sustain the same level of cultural buzz as other new dramas in the race, like Netflix’s “Stranger Things” or Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which both ended up over-performing as well. Emmy experts had been predicting Wright and Newton to get nominations and many had Drama Series and Wood getting in, but the nomination for Hopkins in particular was one of the most unexpected surprises of the year.
The question now becomes whether “Westworld” should be taken seriously as a potential Drama Series winner. Considering it received 22 nominations, the answer should be obvious, but there are even more compelling factors in its favor. For one, it has snob appeal. It may be about androids, but many of its characters are dealing with philosophical matters, questioning reality, and figuring out their sense of identity. It also possesses major star wattage, including Academy Award-winning Hopkins, movie star Newton and Emmy winner Wright, in addition to prominent actors like Ed Harris and James Marsden.
Plus, if voters are really missing “Game of Thrones,” “Westworld” is probably the best alternative in the Drama Series race. It has the HBO factor, the fun plot twists, and the sumptuous visuals. Unfortunately for “Westworld,” its direct competition in Drama Series share some of those elements. “Stranger Things” has fantasy elements with scrappy young kids battling monsters, while “The Handmaid’s Tale” has great underdog female characters battling their own kind of monsters. Then there’s “The Crown,” whose focus on kings and queens certainly shares similarities with “Game of Thrones.”
The Best Drama Series race is going to be tough to nail down, but “Westworld” certainly threw down the gauntlet with those 22 nominations, giving Emmy predictors a lot more to think about.
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