The central concept of the HBO limited series “Years and Years” is to follow current societal trends to their scariest extremes as one British family lives through technological, geopolitical and economic upheaval. Since it started airing in June it won’t be eligible for Emmys until 2020, but that might actually be the perfect time for the six-part drama to make an impact. It could follow “Black Mirror’s” British dystopian footsteps to the Emmy stage just as we Americans are preparing for our own potential dystopia: the next presidential election.
“Black Mirror” explores the unsettling possibilities of technology, and it has won two Emmys in a row for Best TV Movie (for “San Junipero” in 2017 and “USS Callister” in 2018). “Years and Years,” on the other hand, follows a single story as members of the Lyons family witness the rise of a charismatic demagogue (Emma Thompson) amidst a refugee crisis, an economic crisis, and a potential nuclear war instigated by Donald Trump himself. At times the social unrest it depicts is also reminiscent of another Emmy-winning speculative drama, “Mr. Robot.”
“Years and Years” scored 77 on MetaCritic based on 20 reviews — 16 positive, 3 mixed, and just 1 outright negative. It has been described as “gripping,” “emotionally involving” and “one of the best shows of the summer.” It could be a disadvantage to air a whole year before the 2020 Emmy nominations are decided, by which point it might be out of sight, out of mind, but other HBO miniseries have been remembered by voters long after they aired, like “Olive Kitteridge” and “The Night Of.” A bigger challenge for the show might turn out to be that it’s too current, an uncomfortable sit for voters who may be burned out on politics in the middle of the American election campaign. Then again, that has never hurt “Veep.”
The series was created by Russell T. Davies, the writer behind current Emmy contender “A Very English Scandal” as well as “Doctor Who,” “Torchwood” and the original “Queer as Folk.” He has yet to be nominated for an Emmy, but he could end up like another “Who” showrunner who finally got the TV academy’s attention for a later project: Steven Moffat, who won twice for “Sherlock.” How fitting that would be since “Years and Years” is, like “Doctor Who,” about journeying into an uncertain future.
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