Remember that extra-long “Game of Thrones” break between seasons six and seven, those dull months when you started biting your nails and took up fidget-spinning?
Well that break has put the HBO epic out of the running at this year’s Emmy Awards, which air Sunday night on CBS with host Stephen Colbert. As a result, there are plenty of newcomers in the drama categories, most notably “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Westworld,” “Stranger Things,” and their lead and supporting actors. And, as loyal Emmy viewers know, newcomers can make those protracted Emmy nights far more intriguing and bearable. When a first-time nominee seemingly comes out of nowhere to win, as Rami Malek of “Mr. Robot” and Louie Anderson of “Baskets” did last year, it can cast a spell over the night.
This year may turn out to be a politically-tinged one for the Emmys, not in terms of acceptance speeches calling out the president — although we can probably expect some of those — but in terms of what wins. “Saturday Night Live” got a striking 22 nominations this year, thanks to a creative resurgence grounded in memorable political satire by Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump, Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton, and Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer. Surely voters are eager to read Trump’s tetchy Twitter response if Baldwin gets the gold.
This year may also signal a fundamental shift in the show’s emphasis, as the once bland limited-series categories have become just as competitive and exciting as the drama categories. It’s not only that big names and Oscar winners are up against one another, including Nicole Kidman, Robert De Niro, and Jessica Lange; it’s that all of the contenders are quite deserving. Hey, how’s that for a twist?Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.