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Emmys 2017: What's in store for this year's big event

Television’s glitterati gather for their annual shindig as talk-show king Stephen Colbert ascends to the podium for the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards

Elisabeth Moss in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. Courtesy NBC
Elisabeth Moss in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. Courtesy NBC

Despite having won nine Emmys for his work on The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, having a track record means nothing here. Stephen Colbert is effectively throwing himself to the lions of public opinion by taking the podium as host of the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards this weekend.

Colbert has always been at his best when he finds his “voice” – a persona to inhabit that lets him unleash his satirical wit to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted in American society. As a gung-ho caricature of conservative political punditry on The Colbert Report (2005-2014), he slew political dragons and even introduced new words like “truthiness” and “mantasy” to the modern lexicon.

But when the 53-year-old Washington native took the tiller of The Late Show from David Letterman about two years ago – his dream job by all accounts – he stumbled creatively and tumbled behind the ratings of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Apparently, just being himself wasn’t enough. But the shock coronation of the divisive United States President Donald Trump saw Colbert regrow his mojo – in almost nightly assaults on “Trumpiness” – and he finally edged ahead of Fallon in total viewers last May by a fraction of a percentage point, and has grown his lead to 27 per cent since then, with no signs of slowing down.

For Emmy viewers, what this means is Colbert is red-hot and ready to rumble at the Microsoft Theater when the stars of our new golden age of television gather for their annual awards bash – and it’s the perfect cap to Colbert’s comeback year. His Late Night even scored an Emmy nomination where Fallon got none.

“This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period. Both in person and around the globe,” says Colbert, slyly echoing Trump’s braggadocio about the size of his inauguration crowd. Striking the right tone here is everything, however, as past Emmy hosts could attest, from the grating snark of Ricky Gervais to the gentler zingers of Jimmy Kimmel, or the Broadway pizzazz of Neil Patrick Harris to the likeability of Ellen DeGeneres.


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But what can we expect? Which “voice” will Colbert assume? Will he go easier on Trump before a well-heeled crowd? So far, he’s keeping his strategy close to his vest, describing the Emmy ceremony as “an incredibly fun show to go to every year when you win. If you lose, it’s an enormous waste of time. But everyone’s going to win this year. I’ve talked with these guys and we want everyone to have fun, so everyone will win the Emmys this year. Spoiler. Spoiler alert.”

Pack leaders

First, a moment of silence for HBO’s Game of Thrones; the perennial Emmy darling did not qualify for any nods this year, due to its hiatus during the switchover to winter filming.

Leading this year’s pack, and filling the Westeros void, is HBO’s cyber-cowboy adventure Westworld, which tied a resurging Saturday Night Live, with 22 nominations apiece. (In fact, with this year’s tally, SNL has set a new historical record with 231 nominations overall.)

The nostalgic, sci-fi series Stranger Things reeled in 18 nominations for Netflix, which grew its list to 91 nods over last year’s 54 – an increase of almost 69 per cent. HBO better be nervous, despite having 111 nominations this year.

It’s no easy feat to grab one of the half-dozen slots in a major category. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences received 180 submissions for best drama series, 140 for best actor in a drama and 113 for best actress in a drama.


In all, 43 stars received their first Emmy nod this year. Even august, established talents such as multiple Oscar winners Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer are Emmy fresh this year as co-stars of the Wall Street-scandal movie The Wizard of Lies.

Other movie stars who took a chance on television – Reese Witherspoon, Alexander Skarsgård and Shailene Woodley of Big Little Lies – also find themselves invited to the merrymaking for the very first time this year.

Milo Ventimiglia, left, and Mandy Moore in ’This Is Us’, a drama and a strong contender to receive a gong. Courtesy NBC
Milo Ventimiglia, left, and Mandy Moore in ’This Is Us’, a drama and a strong contender to receive a gong. Courtesy NBC

The powerful new family drama This Is Us by Dan Fogelman, about interconnected lives – perhaps the finest American broadcast network drama in years – also propelled its stars Milo Ventimiglia and Chrissy Metz into Emmy’s good graces for a career first, as The Handmaid’s Tale did for the stars Samira Wiley and Alexis Bledel (of Gilmore Girls fame).

So snub me, Emmy!

Joining Jimmy Fallon on the no-go list are Michael McKean, who brought a righteous brotherly intensity to Better Call Saul, and living legend Rita Moreno who brought her special zing to the One Day at a Time reboot on Netflix.

Even long-time TV czarina, billionaire and icon Oprah Winfrey couldn’t catch a break from Emmy despite her critically acclaimed acting performance in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, while the series Girls and its stars also got diddly.

Top-drawer series that were turned away in their categories include: The Leftovers, Insecure and The Americans.

The 69th Primetime Emmy Awards airs live at 4 am and is repeated at 8pm on Monday on OSN Series First HD

Updated: September 16, 2017 05:01 PM