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9 Things We Learned From This Year's Emmy Ballots

Stop over-submitting, people

Joyce Eng

Emmy nomination voting started Monday (June 12), which means the submission ballots are online. So grab a snack, get comfortable and see which canceled shows shelled out a submission fee for a completely unrealistic shot at Emmy glory!

...Or maybe you don't have time to sift through 438 pages (that's just for performers!) of potential nominations? No prob. We took a look through, and here are our biggest takeaways:

1. Over-submitting is still rampant: The No. 1 rule of Emmy submissions is to not over-submit -- in any category, really, but most importantly in writing and directing. As I explained last year, nominations in those categories are essential to winning the series prize. You want support to coalesce around your one or two top episodes (three max, but only if you're a top-tier contender) to get into the category. Anything more is just asking for a split vote and a goose egg. It's also overwhelming for voters to open a ballot and see 11 Fear the Walking Dead titles staring back at them (as was the case last year in writing). Don't toss everything against the wall to see what sticks; go with your best.

Better Call Saul is one of the best shows on TV. It has only earned one writing nod (two years ago for "Five-O") but zero in directing. It was shut out in both races last year and might be again this year thanks to their seven submissions each in both categories (it submitted seven in writing and nine for directing last year, so improvement?). All they had to do was submit the sterling "Chicanery" in both, but now they have to hope it will still stand out enough to voters, like "Five-O" did among BCS' six submissions that year, to snatch a spot.

AMC, which repeatedly over-submitted with Mad Men and Breaking Bad -- it was less of an issue with Mad Men in the early days of Peak TV, and they probably falsely inferred from Mad Men's wins that that route was OK -- also over-submitted for The Walking Dead (six in writing, eight in directing) and Fear the Walking Dead (seven in writing, seven in directing).

Other over-submitters: House of Cards sent in six options for directing; Black-ish submitted seven for directing (just go with "Lemons"!); Bates Motel tossed in eight for directing; Speechless has six in writing. But most bewilderingly, This Is Us submitted a whopping five in writing and eight in directing, and neither of them contained the pilot -- a go-to, reliable submission for freshman shows. The pilot and "Memphis" were all they needed, and now they might miss out.

​Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul

Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul

Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

2. Good submitters: A slow clap to the shows who kept their submissions to a minimum: The Americans, The Crown and Billions all sent in one episode each for writing and directing. Silicon Valley and Stranger Things submitted one in writing and two in directing, and The Handmaid's Tale went with one in writing and three in directing (Stranger Things and Handmaid's submitted their pilots in both categories). Atlanta did two in each, while Veep and reigning comedy writing champ Master of None submitted two in writing and three in directing. These guys know how to play the game.

3. No three-peat for Jill Soloway: At least not for Transparent. Soloway, who won the comedy directing Emmy the past two years, was not one of the show's three directing submissions. That's because she chose to submit herself for I Love Dick instead (directors and writers can only be submitted once -- Matthew Weiner used to get around this for Mad Men with lots of co-written submissions).

4. The Emmys could be a potential Dawson's Creek reunion: Obviously Joshua Jackson (The Affair), Katie Holmes (The Kennedys -- After Camelot) and Busy Philipps (Vice Principals) are submitted, but blink and you might miss Philipps' BFF IRL on the ballot. That's right, Michelle Williams is in the limited series/TV movie lead actress category (the same as Holmes) for Suite Francaise. WTF is that, you ask? Well, it was a Harvey Weinstein potential Oscar player from a few years back that quietly got Grace of Monaco'd to Lifetime last month.

5. Oops: Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg are entered in the host category for Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party -- or as printed on the ballot, "Snoop Dog" is. :/ But at least he was not submitted twice for the same thing: Rectify's J. Smith-Cameron shows up in the drama supporting actress ballot as "J. Smith Cameron" and "J. Smith-Cameron," with a different headshot for each. Which intern messed that up?
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6. Category fraud: Category fraud is not as excessive at the Emmys as it is at the Oscars, but every now and then, you have your Rob Lowes who insist on submitting themselves in lead when Ben Wyatt was way more of a lead than Chris Traeger. (Lowe is in lead now for Code Black.) This year, we have Great News' John Michael Higgins, Preacher's Ruth Negga, The Good Place's Ted Danson and Criminal Minds' Kirsten Vangsness in lead when they're all indisputably or, at the very least, arguably supporting. At least Danson's and Negga's placements can be explained with his legend status and her clout after her Oscar nod this year for Loving. The Leftovers' Liv Tyler submitted in supporting when she appeared in two episodes (and was barely in the season premiere) and would've had a better shot in guest.

Conversely, we have John Lithgow submitting in supporting instead of lead for Trial & Error, giving him a very good shot at landing double nominations (he's a virtual lock on the drama side for The Crown). And after years of submitting as a lead, LL Cool J is giving it a go in supporting for NCIS: LA -- the reverse of Allison Janney's previously announced move from supporting, where she's won twice for Mom, to lead (Janney did the same upgrade for The West Wing and won two more Emmys in lead).

7. Four your consideration: There are a ton of actors submitted twice in one category, three stars with three submissions in one race (Alfred Molina, Terry O'Quinn and Kristen Wiig), but only one with four in one: Maya Rudolph. She is on the comedy guest actress ballot for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Documentary Now!, Nobodies and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Rudolph is also submitted in comedy actress for Maya & Marty for a grand total of five.

8. Gilmore Girls' miscalculation: Gilmore Girls is still in search of its first major Emmy nod (it won non-prosthetic makeup in 2004), and successfully petitioned to enter in limited series/TV movie instead of drama for its Netflix revival. The show has two entries in directing, "Fall" and "Summer," and in case you've since blocked it out of your head, yes, "Summer" is the one with the interminable musical that shed approximately 7.46 years off your life. Nice try, guys. Thankfully, it did not submit "Summer" for editing.

9. Sob: The Leftovers gave us one of the most exquisite shots on television last season: Nora (Carrie Coon) sobbing on a bed while water from fire sprinklers rained down her eyelashes. It's beautiful, brilliant and haunting -- and it won't win an Emmy. Not because it won't be nominated, but voters won't even have a chance to. The episode, "G'Day Melbourne," wasn't submitted for directing -- director Dan Sackheim opted for Better Call Saul's "Chicanery" and that's hard to argue with, tbh. But we shouldn't ask for too much here. The Leftovers has never been nominated for an Emmy of any kind, so a nod anywhere is a win.


Emmy nominations will be announced Thursday, July 13. The 69th Primetime Emmy Awards airs Sunday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on CBS.
GIF via Giphy