“Succession,” HBO’s operatic saga about a media dynasty and a two-time best drama winner, scored 27 Emmy nominations for its farewell season on Wednesday morning, the biggest haul of any series.
That tally helped propel HBO and its accompanying streaming service, Max, to one of its strongest years, with 127 nominations, the most of any network. Netflix finished in second place with 103.
HBO dominated the best drama category, with nods not only for “Succession” but for the second season of “The White Lotus” as well as for “The Last of Us,” its popular video game adaptation, and “House of the Dragon,” its “Game of Thrones” prequel. It was the first time since 1992 that a single network landed four nominations in the category.
“Ted Lasso,” the Apple TV+ awards favorite, notched 21 nominations, the most of any comedy, for its third season, which is believed to be its last. The race for best comedy is shaping up as a showdown between “Ted Lasso,” “The Bear,” an FX show on Hulu, and ABC’s “Abbott Elementary,” which would be the first network show to win the category in nine years.
Though Emmy nominations day is normally a joyous affair for the television industry to toast the best in the business, the timing of this year’s announcement was decidedly awkward.
More than 11,000 television and feature film writers have been on strike for 72 days. The union representing 160,000 actors has been in negotiations with the major Hollywood studios for over a month — with its contract expiring later Wednesday, mere hours after the nominations are announced. Organizers have privately concluded that if the strike — or, worse, a pair of strikes — continues for another two or three weeks, they will have to postpone the September ceremony, likely by months.
Frank Scherma, the chair of the Television Academy, which organizes the Emmys, alluded to the labor disputes before presenting the nominations. “We hope the guild negotiations can come to an equitable and swift resolution,” he said. As he signed off, he noted that the ceremony was “currently planned” for Monday, Sept. 18.
Although Netflix ran a bit short on top competitors in the drama and comedy categories, the streaming giant can at least count on having the two top favorites in the Emmys’ limited series category: Ryan Murphy’s “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” which scored 13 nominations overall, and “Beef,” which became a hit for the streamer.
“The Crown,” Netflix’s lavish chronicle of the British royal family, and the best drama winner at the 2021 Emmys, was also nominated in the category this year — though some critics had a hard time warming up to the show’s fifth season, which featured a new cast.
The moment of triumph for HBO is coming at a time of transition for the network, which since last year has been run by a debt-ridden parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery. The network is now part of a streaming service that removed its call letters (bye HBO Max, hello Max). And, for the first time, HBO is in the process of licensing revered older series — “Insecure,” and soon “Six Feet Under,” “Band of Brothers” and “True Blood” — to its archrival, Netflix, in an attempt by Warner Bros. Discovery to drum up cash.
HBO had the three most nominated shows: “Succession” (27), “The Last of Us” (24) and “The White Lotus” (23). The race for best actor in a drama is shaping up as yet another “Succession” Roy family competition, pitting the one-time winner Jeremy Strong against the two-time nominee Kieran Culkin and the four-time nominee (and one-time winner, for a 2000 mini-series) Brian Cox. And HBO completely swept the best supporting actor in a drama category: eight out of eight, all split between performers from “Succession” and “The White Lotus.”
Of course, the last time a single network earned four nominations in the best drama category, 31 years ago, it came home empty-handed. It was in 1992, when NBC landed nominations for “I’ll Fly Away,” “L.A. Law,” “Law & Order” and “Quantum Leap.” All four series lost to that year’s winner, “Northern Exposure,” from CBS.
This year’s best actor in a comedy category will pit Jason Sudeikis, who has won two years in a row for playing the title role in “Ted Lasso,” against Jeremy Allen White, who plays an ambitious and anxious chef in “The Bear.” The other nominees in the category are Bill Hader for “Barry,” Jason Segel for “Shrinking” and Martin Short for “Only Murders in the Building.”
Award prognosticators believe that Quinta Brunson could be on a glide path to winning for “Abbott Elementary.” Brunson took writing honors at the Emmys last year for her good-natured ABC workplace comedy, and would be the first Black woman to win best actress in a comedy since Isabel Sanford won in 1981 for “The Jeffersons.” She will face Christina Applegate from “Dead to Me,” Rachel Brosnahan for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Natasha Lyonne for “Poker Face” and Jenna Ortega for “Wednesday.”
This year the Emmys will crown a new king of late night. John Oliver, whose HBO show, “Last Week Tonight,” was named the best variety talk show seven years in a row, has been moved to a new Emmy category this year — outstanding scripted variety series.
That gives an inside track to hosts like Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel or Seth Meyers to win for best talk series for their current late-night shows for the first time. (Colbert’s old Comedy Central series, “The Colbert Report,” won best variety series twice, in 2013 and 2014.) Trevor Noah, who recently left “The Daily Show,” received a nomination for his final months in the chair, and Noah’s predecessor, Jon Stewart, a former runaway winner at the Emmys, was nominated for his Apple TV+ series, “The Problem With Jon Stewart.” (Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” has not been nominated in the category since 2016.)
In the scripted variety series category, Oliver will now compete against “Saturday Night Live,” the show that has won more Emmys than any other series. “S.N.L.” represents stiff competition, but there are signs of weakness for the NBC stalwart. After going on a very strong Emmy run during the Trump years, “S.N.L.” has garnered just nine Emmy nominations for each of the past two years. That was its lowest tally since 2015. “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” which was recently canceled by HBO, was also nominated.
There were a number of performers who earned multiple nominations. Pedro Pascal, the star of “The Last of Us,” was nominated for best actor in a drama, as well as best guest actor in a comedy (for his hosting duties on “Saturday Night Live”) and for best narrator (for CNN’s “Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the World”). Those are Pascal’s first Emmy nominations.
Other notable multiple honorees include Melanie Lynskey, who was nominated for best actress in a drama series (“Yellowjackets”) and best guest actress in a drama (“The Last of Us”). Murray Bartlett, last year’s best supporting actor in a limited series for “The White Lotus,” was also nominated twice: for best guest actor in a drama series for “The Last Of Us” (Nick Offerman, who played Bartlett’s romantic partner, was also nominated) and best supporting actor in a limited series for “Welcome to Chippendales.”