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8 Ways This Is Us Could Make Emmy History

It could end a few droughts

Joyce Eng

This Is Us scored 11 Emmy nominations on July 13, including one in drama series, marking the first time a broadcast show has made the lineup since The Good Wife in 2011. It's also NBC's first nomination in the category since another Milo Ventimiglia show from 10 years ago: Heroes.

But more history is in store and a lot of streaks (or droughts, depending on how you look at them) are at stake if This Is Us actually converts some of its nominations -- seven of which are for acting -- into victories.

Here are eight feats it could accomplish:

1. First broadcast drama series winner since 2006
Fox's 24 was the last broadcast champ in drama series 11 years ago, before basic and premium cable started rolling, with six wins for AMC, three for HBO and one for Showtime since then. (Streaming has made a killing in landing nominations since online series were cleared to compete in 2008, but no streaming show has won a series award yet.) With a new expanded voting system that favors popularity and uses a plurality vote instead of a ranked ballot, a crowd-pleasing hit like This Is Us could end that broadcast dry period.
Emmys: See the list of nominees

2. NBC's first drama series winner since 2003
NBC's last drama series nominee was in 2007, but its last win was way back in 2003, when The West Wing scored its fourth straight and final trophy. A victory by This Is Us would also extend NBC's record of most drama series wins to 22 (CBS is next closest with 18).

3. First drama series winner with more than 13 episodes in a season since 2006
In the age of Peak TV, less is more. As in episodes (or if we're being grammatically correct, "fewer episodes is more"). 24 was the last drama series winner to produce a traditional full season's worth of episodes -- 24 (duh), two more than the typical 22. Since then, no drama series winner has had more than 13 episodes in a season -- Mad Men's four straight wins consisted of 13 episodes each year -- as cable (and streaming) stick to shorter seasons. Breaking Bad holds the record for lowest number of episodes for a drama winner, when it twice won with its split final season of eight episodes each, beating 2007 champ The Sopranos' count of nine, which was also a split final season. The Good Wife notoriously played up the disparity between the cable/streaming vs. broadcast episode count in its 2014 Emmy campaign.

This Is Us produced 18 episodes -- the most of all the drama series nominees -- so it's still technically not a full season, but it's still the most in recent history. Any more episodes might've put it at more of a disadvantage. There's too much TV and not enough time now. The good news for a success story like This Is Us is that most voters probably have already seen all or most of the season, so they won't have to seek it out and feel discouraged after seeing it's 18 episodes long when it comes time to vote.

Chrissy Metz and Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

Chrissy Metz and Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

NBC, Ron Batzdorff/NBC

4. First family drama to win drama series since 1973
The Waltons was the last show focused exclusively on a family to win the top prize 44 years ago. Since then, workplace dramas -- namely of the legal, cop, political medical variety -- and the recent antihero fare have dominated. You could argue that two-time champ Picket Fences is a family drama, but it wasn't solely one, since David E. Kelley combined a bunch of the Emmys' favorite things into that baby: family drama, cop drama, doctor drama, lawyer drama, weird locals and murder! This Is Us has been given a lot of credit for putting a twist on the genre and being a tonic to TV's darker, cynical offerings, so maybe it's time the family drama made a comeback at the Emmys.

5. First drama series winner without writing or directing nominations since 1999
This is a biggie. As I've detailed, writing and/or directing nominations are crucial to a series win. This Is Us has neither, likely because it over-submitted five episodes in writing and eight (!) in directing. Only 11 dramas (and five comedies) have won the series award without either of those VIN (very important nominations), with the most recent being Kelley's The Practice 18 years ago. Of This Is Us' rivals, only House of Cards -- for the third year in a row -- has also failed to get a nod in either writing or directing.
Emmys snubs and surprises: No Leftovers or Gilmore Girls, but SNL makes a big splash

6. First drama series winner without an editing nomination since 2008
An editing nomination is a low-key harbinger of Emmy success. The category was created in 1975 and since 1980, when the categorizations became more standardized, nine shows have won drama series without contending in editing, the most recent -- and only one this century -- being Mad Men nine years ago for its first season. (Five of these nine wins were for shows from Kelley.)

This Is Us submitted four episodes for editing consideration but none of them made the cut. This is especially shocking since it won the guild equivalent, the ACE Eddie, in January, and there is lots of overlap in membership between the groups. The Emmy category is also partial to shows with clear and/or flashy editing (24 and Breaking Bad have the most wins at four each), so a flashback-heavy series like This Is Us should've cracked the shortlist.

7. Sterling K. Brown would be the first black winner in drama lead actor since 1998
And only the fourth total in the category. Bill Cosby, who won three times for I Spy from 1966 to '68, James Earl Jones (Gabriel's Fire, 1991) and Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street, 1998) are the others. Brown is also the first black nominee in the category since Braugher 16 years ago, for Gideon's Crossing. (Ironically, Braugher was dropped from comedy supporting actor this year after three straight nominations for Brooklyn Nine-Nine.)
Gilmore Girls: Rory and Jess are going to the Emmys

8. NBC's first acting winners since 2011
Like with the drama series award, broadcast has been on the downswing in the acting races too, at least for the Peacock. NBC's two most recent wins were in the guest categories: Paul McCrane in 2011 for Harry's Law and Ann-Margret in 2010 for Law & Order: SVU. The drought is even longer in the regular acting categories: 2006 was the last time NBC series regulars won, thanks to Mariska Hargitay (SVU) and Alan Alda (The West Wing). (Kyle Chandler won in 2011 for Friday Night Lights, but the show had moved to DirectTV's 101 Network by then.)
2006 was also the last time NBC fielded a nominee in drama lead actor, with both Martin Sheen (The West Wing) and Christopher Meloni (SVU). Brown's and Ventimiglia's nominations make This Is Us the eighth show to produce double drama lead actor nominees. This was quite common in the '90s and early '00s, but didn't occur for 12 years until True Detective's Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey nabbed nods in 2014.

The 69th Primetime Emmy Awards airs Sunday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)