What the Creative Arts Awards mean for the Emmy telecast

What happens Saturday at the Creative Arts Emmys will foreshadow what’s to come at the Primetime Emmy telecast on September 18. For instance, multiple technical awards for a program can indicate broad support before the major categories are bestowed the following week, meaning we might expect more wins to come. But along with technical and craft awards, the Creative Arts Emmys also reveal the winners in guest acting for dramas and comedies; because winners in the guest categories traditionally become award presenters the following week., fans of this year’s nominees Zach Galifianakis (“Saturday Night Live“), Julia Stiles (“Dexter“), and Nathan Lane (“Modern Family“) will find out tomorrow evening if those stars will make appearances at the main event.


Last year’s acting winners John Lithgow (“Dexter”), Ann-Margret (“Law & Order: SVU”), Neil Patrick Harris (“Glee“), and Betty White (“Saturday Night Live”) all turned up at the Primetime Emmys to confer awards. Whether or not Hollywood superstars like Gwyneth Paltrow (“Glee”) or Matt Damon (“30 Rock“) deign to appear on next Sunday’s telecast may be directly dependent on their winning in advance.

Though Jeff Probst publicly complained about his category, Best Reality Host, being shifted to the Creative Arts ceremony last year, the “Survivor” host nevertheless showed up the following week as a presenter after winning for a third consecutive time. As he’s heavily favored to win a fourth this year, he’s likely to hand out a telecast award yet again. However, a surprise loss to Cat Deeley (“So You Think You Can Dance“) or Ryan Seacrest (“American Idol“) would shake up the list of presenters.

The array of technical and craft awards given out can hint at what will win top honors during the live Emmy show. In 2005, then-freshman series “Lost” won big at the Creative Arts Awards, taking casting, music, picture editing, and visual effects; the next week, it was named Best Drama Series and J.J. Abrams won for directing. Similarly, numerous losses can demonstrate weakness. It was clear following the Creative Arts last year that “Lost” would not mount an Emmy comeback for its sixth and final season. The show won editing, but lost guest actress (Elizabeth Mitchell), art direction, sound mixing, sound editing, and music. At the subsequent awards ceremony, “Lost” didn’t win a single prize. Instead, last year’s casting and hairstyling champ “Mad Men” claimed Best Drama Series for the third time.

In 2010, Best Miniseries victor “The Pacific” relied on the Creative Arts Emmys to rack up multiple wins. It took home seven technical awards that night, and then bested “Return to Cranford” in the Best Miniseries race. This year “Mildred Pierce” could set an Emmy record if it wins most of its twelve Creative Arts categories. “Pierce” has 21 total bids, doubling up in some of the six additional categories they’ll contend in at the Primetime Emmys. A strong showing on Saturday would prepare “Mildred Pierce” to overtake “John Adams,” which won thirteen awards in 2008, as the most honored miniseries in Emmy history.

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“The West Wing” set the record for most wins by a series in 2000, when it claimed nine trophies for its first season. For “Mad Men” (19 nods) or “Boardwalk Empire” (18) to claim that title this year, they’ll need to sweep at Creative Arts. And big wins by newcomer “Boardwalk Empire” in categories “Mad Men” is strong in, like casting or hairstyling, might hint at an eventual upset in the top category.

Tomorrow night, Gold Derby will provide coverage of the Creative Arts Emmys as they take place at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. An edited version of the awards ceremony will air September 17 on Reelz.

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