Emmy spotlight: ‘Black-ish’ could celebrate ‘Juneteenth’ with breakthrough nominations for its most ambitious episode

Black-ish” is an adventurous show, balancing humor with a wide variety of challenging subjects from racism to postpartum depression and even to Donald Trump. But its fourth season premiere, “Juneteenth,” was ambitious even by the show’s usual standards. The episode explored the African-American holiday commemorating June 19, 1865, the day the abolition of slavery was announced in the state of Texas. As it turns out the television academy will be marking their Emmy ballots when the holiday rolls around this year — 153 years after the original Juneteenth — and “Black-ish” is overdue for an Emmy breakthrough.

The series has been well received in top categories since it debuted. It has earned three straight nominations for Best Comedy Actor (Anthony Anderson, 2015-2017), two straight noms for Best Comedy Actress (Tracee Ellis Ross, 2016-2017) and two noms in a row for Best Comedy Series (2016-2017). But over the course of its first three seasons the show has accumulated only eight nominations, and it hasn’t won any. To compare, “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” each earned more nominations in 2017 alone (17 and 10, respectively), while “Saturday Night Live” won more awards last year (nine) than “Black-ish” has ever even been nominated for.

Perhaps the most surprisingly, “Black-ish” has never been nominated for writing or directing, despite past episodes like “Hope” and “Lemons” that were praised for their “deft, fiercely smart” handling of police brutality and the 2016 presidential election in the context of a family sitcom.

The show has never been nominated below the line either. But it’s going all-in on “Juneteenth” this year, submitting it in at least eight categories: Best Production Design (Half-Hour or Less), Best Cinematography (Single-Camera, Half-Hour), Best Contemporary Costumes, Best Hairstyling (Single-Camera), Best Music Supervision, Best Sound Mixing (Half-Hour and Animation), Best Comedy Writing and Best Comedy Directing. Emmy voting for music composition follows a different procedure, so those ballots aren’t publicly available.

“Juneteenth” merits the full-court press given its stylistic departure from the usual “Black-ish” format. It takes the show’s familiar themes of race and family and intercuts them with animated and musical segments “inspired in turns by ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Schoolhouse Rock’.” It’s “a powerful history lesson,” “a work of education and an indictment” and represents the show “at its most ambitious.”

We talked to “Black-ish” costume designer Michelle Cole about the episode when she joined us for our “Meet the BTL Experts” panel on June 5. “It was a great piece to do. I was so proud of it,” she said about the intricate design work required to execute that episode. “Our show is very fast,” she added. “We have 10 to 13 changes per character when we have flashbacks, so it’s a very busy show. It’s non-stop.” (Watch the complete discussion below.)

So will the Emmys give more recognition to “Black-ish” this year? Voting started on June 11, and it will continue until 10:00pm Pacific on June 25.

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on July 12. And join in the fun debate over the 2018 Emmys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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