I may be going out on a shaky limb on a windy day, but I’m currently predicting that “Looking: The Movie” will earn an Emmy nomination for Best TV Movie. After all, television academy members are marking their ballots from June 12 to June 26, right in the middle of LGBT Pride Month, so it’s really a no-brainer.
Okay, you don’t have to tell me that “Looking” is an underdog. HBO discontinued the series in 2015 after two acclaimed but low-rated seasons that didn’t earn any Emmy nominations. However, the network did give the green light to a farewell TV movie to wrap up the show’s storylines (keep that in mind, Netflix, in case you’d still like to give “Sense8” fans some closure). The “Looking” film aired 11 months ago, on July 23, 2016. That’s forever ago in Emmyland. Some voters might not even remember it’s eligible for this year’s awards, but those who do might be enough to push it into the Emmy race thanks to a few key factors.
First, Best TV Movie is the most open program race at the Emmys. TV and streaming services are saturated with comedies, dramas and limited series these days, but TV isn’t producing as many original films as it used to. In this year’s race “Sherlock” is the only proven winner, having claiming this award last year for “The Abominable Bride”; this year the detective series has entered “The Lying Detective” for consideration. Netflix’s anthology “Black Mirror” also has a lot of watercooler buzz, and it too is entering a single episode as a telefilm: “San Junipero.” Then there are a couple of high-profile HBO telefilms that seem reasonably safe: “The Wizard of Lies” and “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” That’s four. The fifth slot seems more or less up for grabs, with several lower-profile projects jockeying for position.
“Looking” may have an advantage against some of its rivals in that it already built up good will over the course of its two seasons on the air. It never had enough support to break through in comedy categories, but whatever support it might have had could translate better to the less crowded TV Movie race. And it wouldn’t be the first time. HBO’s “Treme” also struggled to get on the Emmy radar when it competed as a drama series for three seasons, but it earned nominations for Best Miniseries and Best Movie/Mini Writing for its abbreviated final season.
“Looking” also boasts respected industry figures in its cast and crew. Co-writer and director Andrew Haigh helmed the acclaimed indie film “Weekend” and then directed Charlotte Rampling to a Best Actress Oscar nomination in “45 Years” (2015). And star Jonathan Groff won a Grammy and earned a Tony nomination in 2016 for his role in Broadway’s “Hamilton.” The film even boasts a cameo by Emmy darling Tyne Daly as a justice of the peace — though she isn’t on the Emmy ballot for her brief appearance.
Possibly the most important factor working in favor of “Looking” is its network. HBO has long been an awards juggernaut, especially in longform categories. Last year HBO had two nominees for Best TV Movie: “All the Way” and “Confirmation.” In 2015 the network had three: “Hello Ladies: The Movie,” which was also the conclusion of an HBO comedy series, “Nightingale” and the winning film “Bessie.” Looking back over the last decade the premium network also had a trio of nominees in this category in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Then when movies and miniseries were combined from 2011 to 2013, HBO had three nominations in one of those consolidated contests (2011). So even though HBO already has “Wizard of Lies” and “Immortal Life” on the ballot, that doesn’t mean “Looking” will be left by the wayside. The rising tide could lift all boats.
So yes, it’s risky to predict a nomination for a show that Emmy voters haven’t recognized before when they had the chance, but contending for Best TV Movie could be the game-changer the show needs to finally earn some overdue recognition. And if it pulls off a surprise next month, July will be almost as big an LGBT Pride Month as June is. I’ll personally throw it another parade.
Be sure to make your Emmy predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our Emmy odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on July 13. Join in the fierce debate over the 2017 Emmys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our TV forums. And visit our home page for the latest in entertainment news.