“Respect and enjoy the peace” is the creed repeated by devoted citizens of the interstellar empire at the center of epic sci-fi drama “Foundation.” But rather than respecting the status-quo, the Apple TV+ epic looks set to crash the upcoming industry guild awards honoring the best of TV in 2021.
In the run up to the Oscars in March next year, various industry guilds and societies will present their annual end-of-year awards for their respective crafts. Oscar pundits and studios will pore over each announcement looking for Oscar signs and portents. But the TV nominees announced by each guild over the next few weeks will also provide a glimpse into what we might expect at the Emmys next fall, and my money is on “Foundation” to assert itself as a force to be reckoned with.
“Foundation” is based on the series of short stories and novels by acclaimed author Isaac Asimov, and is created by David S. Goyer (“The Dark Knight”) and Josh Friedman (“Avatar 2”). After premiering on the streamer on September 24, the streaming giant was so confident about its future that it renewed the show for a second season before the first season had even come to a close.
The series stars Emmy nominees Lee Pace (“Pushing Daisies”) and Jared Harris (“Mad Men” and “Chernobyl”), alongside a sprawling ensemble cast including Lou Llobell, Leah Harvey, Laura Birn, Terrence Mann, Daniel MacPherson and Cassian Bilton. It chronicles the thousand year saga of a band of exiles and a Galactic Empire in decline, across an expansive universe of civilizations.
It has taken 80 years to bring the elaborate space opera to life onscreen because of its sheer scope and magnitude. That’s because the renowned Asimov novels may be the most ambitious sci-fi source material to wrangle into a series ever. As one of the most expensive TV productions ever, “Foundation” boasts elaborate sets, eye-popping visual effects, breathtaking music, extravagant costumes, and impressive makeup, editing, sound and stunts. The level of artistry on display should see it attract attention from many of the below-the-line guilds for the artisans working behind the scenes.
The sci-fi saga will also be aided by a relatively open field among drama series this year, as eligibility for guild awards is generally the calendar year (i.e. January to December) rather than the TV season (i.e. June to May). Alas, creative arts heavyweights “Bridgerton,” “The Crown,” “Lovecraft Country” and “The Mandalorian,” plus other crafts-friendly shows like “The Boys,” “Perry Mason,” “Raised By Wolves” and “Star Trek: Picard” all out of action this year (as their most recent seasons aired in 2020).
“Foundation” has a reasonable shot with the Producers Guild, which nominates five series in its Norman Felton Award for drama series. The category is a clean slate this year, as all five of the nominated series for 2020 (“Better Call Saul,” “Bridgerton,” “The Mandalorian,” “Ozark” and eventual winner “The Crown”) are out of contention.
The Screen Actors Guild is a difficult hill to climb for any new series, so if Pace or Harris don’t land a nomination for Best TV Drama Actor, then the show’s stunt performers might break through in the stunt ensemble category, with only “Cobra Kai” in contention this year (as “The Boys,” “Lovecraft Country,” “Westworld” and winner “The Mandalorian” are out of the running).
The Directors Guild and Writers Guild might also look favorably on the show, especially for a respected writer/director like Goyer, who wrote and directed the explosive season finale “The Leap.” Or, if the guilds continue their penchant for pilots, then director Rupert Sanders and writers (and co-creators) Goyer and Friedman might show up for pilot “The Emperor’s Peace.” Again, the DGA drama category will be a clean slate (“Better Call Saul,” “Bridgerton,” “The Mandalorian,” “Ozark” and eventual winner “Homeland” are all out). “Foundation” also has three chances to nab a nomination, as it bestows awards for drama series overall, for a single dramatic episode and for all new series. Genre-friendly fare does particularly well with the writers, as “The Boys” and “The Mandalorian” featured in the drama series category for 2020, while “Raised By Wolves” featured in the single episode category for its pilot.
The most “Foundation”-friendly guilds will likely be the composers, cinematographers, production designers, costume designers and VFX artists. Composer Bear McCreary should lead the charge among the two peer groups that honor TV musicians. The four-time Emmy nominee is on the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers’ radar, having already won four of its “Screen Music” Awards to date. McCreary might also show up at the 3rd annual Society of Lyricists and Composers Awards in the Outstanding Original Score for a Television or Streaming Production, which was taken out by limited series “The Queen’s Gambit” earlier this year, and which will also see a clean slate of nominees with the other four contenders out of the running: “The Crown,” “The Flight Attendant,” “Lovecraft Country” and “The Mandalorian.”
When the American Society of Cinematographers unveils its nominations, “Foundation” could take a slot in the Best Episode of a One-Hour Television Series – Non-Commercial. Nominees for 2020 included usual suspects “The Crown,” “The Marvelous Mrs Maisel” and “Perry Mason,” plus Netflix sci-fi dramedy “Lucifer” and YouTube sci-fi thriller “Impulse,” demonstrating the ASC’s fondness for genre television. Previous ASC nominee Cathal Watters (“Peaky Blinders”) might be the best bet, having lensed the acclaimed sixth episode of the series “Death and the Maiden,” much of which takes place against the backdrop of a sweeping desert landscape on a far-flung moon.
The Art Directors Guild Awards has a genre-specific category for Best One-Hour Period or Fantasy Single Camera Series, and all five nominees for 2020 are out of the running this year (“Lovecraft Country,” “Perry Mason,” “The Crown,” “Westworld” and winner “The Mandalorian”). So it seems likely that production designer Rory Cheyne will be back at the ADG Awards for a second nomination after his freshman nomination in this category for “American Gods” in 2018.
Emmy-nominated costume designer Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh (“David Copperfield”) should also be a formidable contender at the Costume Designers Guild Awards, which also has genre-specific categories. The Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Television category is up for grabs this year with three of the five nominees out of the running (only “What We Do in the Shadows” and “Snowpiercer” remain in contention, with “The Mandalorian,” “Star Trek: Picard” and winner “Westworld” out).
The Visual Effects Society Awards includes a number of categories across the spectrum of “photoreal” series, with “Foundation” most likely to show up in either the Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode (won by “The Mandalorian” earlier this year) or the Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode (won by “The Crown” earlier this year).
“Foundation” could also pop up in the Best Edited Drama Series for Non-Commercial Television category at the American Cinema Editors “Eddie” Awards, and should make the cut with the Cinema Audio Society, the Motion Picture Sound Editors “Golden Reel” Awards and possibly even the Casting Society of America “Artios” Awards.
As strong as “Foundation” appears, there’s still a crowded field of worthy shows nipping at its heels, with its most likely competitors being Emmy favorites “Succession,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Morning Show,” “Pose” and “This Is Us,” and prestige dramas “Evil,” “Godfather of Harlem,” “The Good Fight,” “The Mosquito Coast,” “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Yellowstone.” Netflix blockbuster “Squid Game” could very well show up if the Korean thriller is deemed eligible, and it could be joined by fellow newcomers “Cowboy Bebop,” “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” “Invasion,” “Loki,” “Lupin,” “Mayor of Kingstown,” “Shadow and Bone,” “The Wheel of Time” and “Yellowjackets.”
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