12 Things I Learned Perusing All 886 Pages of the Emmy Ballots

The nominating ballots for the 76th Primetime Emmy Awards went up online last Thursday, the first day of voting. They were separated into 35 separate fields covering 106 of the Emmys’ 118 categories, with the other 12 categories not included on the ballots because they’re decided by juries or panels.

The ballots covered a total of 886 pages, with a high of 239 pages for the 17 performer categories and a low of two pages for the 26 contenders in Outstanding Emerging Media Program.

We’ve looked through the ballots, and here’s some of what we learned.

Fewer contenders

Fourteen categories, most notably Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie, had more entries than they did the previous year. Three categories had the same number. And 89 categories, a staggering 84% of the included categories, had fewer entries than 2023.

A LOT of “SNL” submissions

Kenan Thompson as a professor, Mikey Day as Butt-Head, Ryan Gosling as Beavis and Heidi Gardner as a NewsNation anchor on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC)
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC)

Every one of the 20 “Saturday Night Live” hosts in Season 49 were submitted in the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series category, making up almost 12% of the 172 actor and actress contenders. For the record, the “SNL” host lineup consists of Nate Borgatze, Josh Brolin, Bad Bunny, Timothee Chalamet, Pete Davidson, Adam Driver, Ayo Edebiri, Jacob Elordi, Shane Gillis, Ryan Gosling, Jake Gyllenhaal, Dakota Johnson, Dua Lipa, Kate McKinnon, Jason Momoa, Maya Rudolph, Emma Stone, Sydney Sweeney, Kristen Wiig and Ramy Youssef. And why not? Over the last five years, 17 “SNL” hosts have received Emmy nominations.

You could argue that the all-in strategy means that “SNL” is single-handedly responsible for two categories having seven nominees this year. To trigger that many nominees, a category must have at least 161 submissions. Without the 12 male “SNL” hosts, the guest actor category would have had 160 entries, which would have stuck it at six nominees; with the hosts, it was bumped up to seven. And Emmy rules say that there must be gender parity in comparable categories – so Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, which only had 79 entries and would have been allowed only five nominees if it were judged on its own, got bumped up to seven as well to make the guest actor and actress fields equal.

The same strategy applied to “SNL” cast members, too. The performers who’ve been nominated before, Kenan Thompson and Bowen Yang, were submitted in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy category this year as well, and so were Michael Che, Mikey Day, Andrew Dismukes, Marcello Hernandez, James Austin Johnson, Colin Jost, Michael Longfellow and Devon Walker – and, in the supporting actress category, Chloe Fineman, Heidi Gardner, Punkie Johnson, Molly Kearney, Ego Nwodin, Sarah Sherman and Chloe Troast. That’s every one of the season’s 12 repertory players and all five of the featured players.

Plus eight songs written for “SNL” episodes were entered in the Outstanding Music and Lyrics category.


Ryan Gosling performs “I’m Just Ken” at the 2024 Oscars (Getty Images)
Ryan Gosling performs “I’m Just Ken” at the 2024 Oscars (Getty Images)

The variety choreography category also includes the Oscars, whose submission singles out two choreographed numbers: The dance that went with the In Memoriam film, which most people don’t remember, and the “I’m Just Ken” number by Ryan Gosling, Slash and others, which was pretty much everybody’s favorite part of the show.

Actors playing themselves

Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (Credit: HBO)

The last thing the Emmys need to do is add new categories – but if they do, how about Outstanding Performance as Yourself? This year’s performer ballots feature 17 people who have been entered in the guest acting categories for playing themselves (and that doesn’t even count John McEnroe’s truly great “Never Have I Ever” narration as himself).  The main contributor to the roster of self-performances is the final season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which is responsible for entries from Ted Danson, Lori Loughlin, Sienna Miller, Conan O’Brien, Jerry Seinfeld and Bruce Springsteen, all of whom played versions of themselves on the show.

Others include Benjamin Bratt from “Loot,” Matthew Broderick and Mel Brooks from “Only Murders in the Building,” Bradley Cooper from “Abbott Elementary,” Flea from “Painting With John,” Richard Kind from “Girls5Eva,” Simu Liu from “The Other Two,” Vincent Pastore and Rachael Ray from “The Curse” (the only person entered from a drama rather than a comedy), Jason Ritter from “Gen V” and Charlie Sheen from “Bookie.”

And while it might not seem like a stretch, there is precedent for being nominated for playing yourself. Morgan Freeman was nominated in 2021 for doing it in “The Kominsky Method.” So was Mel Brooks in 2015 for “The Comedians” and Michael J. Fox in 2012 for “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Actors competing against themselves

Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen in "Platonic" (Credit: Apple TV+)
Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen in “Platonic” (Credit: Apple TV+)

Dozens of actors are competing in multiple categories for different shows, but how about ones who are competing against themselves? This year’s ballots of have lots of those.

The full list: Laura Benanti in “Elsbeth” and “The Gilded Age” (guest actress drama); Rose Byrne in “Physical” and “Platonic” (lead actress comedy); Jamie Camil in “Acapulco” and “Lopez vs. Lopez” (guest actor comedy); Cameron Cowperthwaite in “Fallout” and “Sugar” (guest actor drama); Jim Gaffigan in “Full Circle” and “Unfrosted” (supporting actor limited); Walton Goggins in “I’m a Virgo” and “The Righteous Gemstones” (supporting actor comedy); Forrest Goodluck in “Lawmen: Bass Reeves” and “Pet Sematary: Bloodlines” (supporting actor limited); John Goodman in “The Conners” and “The Righteous Gemstones” (lead actor comedy); Jackie Hoffman in “Night Court” and “Only Murders in the Building” (guest actress comedy); Jake Lacy in “Apples Never Fall” and “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial” (supporting actor limited); Judith Light in “Julia” and “Shining Vale” (supporting actress comedy); Camila Mendes in “Musica” and “Upgraded” (lead actress limited); Tig Notaro in “The Morning Show” and “Star Trek: Discovery” (supporting actress drama); Wendell Pierce in “Elsbeth,” “Power Book III: Raising Kanan” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” (supporting actor drama); Dennis Quaid in “Full Circle” and “Lawmen: Bass Reeves” (supporting actor limited); Anna Sawai in “Shogun” and “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” (lead actress drama); Shaun Sipos in “Outer Range” and “Reacher” (supporting actor drama).

EGOT chasers

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen and Larry David in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO)

By the way, if Bruce Springsteen somehow gets a nomination for his very funny work on “Curb” as Bruce Springsteen, he’ll be on the verge of a semi-EGOT. Springsteen has won 20 Grammy Awards, an Oscar for the song “Streets of Philadelphia” and a special Tony Award for “Springsteen on Broadway” – so if you count his Tony, he’s only an Emmy shy of the showbiz-award grand slam. To get all technical about it, an Emmy win would place him on the non-competitive EGOT list alongside Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, James Earl Jones, Harry Belafonte, Quincy Jones and Frank Marshall, all of whom got one of the four awards with an honorary trophy.

But two other Emmy contenders could secure a real EGOT this year. The only living people on the list of those who are only missing the E in EGOT are songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. (The people who died one E short were Henry Fonda, Oscar Hammerstein II, Alan Jay Lerner, Frank Loesser, Stephen Sondheim and Jule Styne.)  Pasek and Paul probably have a better chance than Springsteen of landing an Emmy this year; they’re on the ballot with “Which of the Pickwick Triplets Did It?” a humorous song from the “Sitzprobe” episode of “Only Murders in the Building.” Pasek, who together with Paul won an Oscar for “La La Land,” Tonys for “Dear Evan Hansen” and “In the Loop” and a Grammy for “The Greatest Showman,” called the song “a roller coaster of insanity” in a recent conversation with TheWrap.

Potential dominators

Olivia Colman in "The Bear" (Hulu)
“The Bear” (Chuck Hodes/FX)

In recent years, the acting categories have often been dominated by a small number of programs to a distressing degree.  Even after the Television Academy changed the voting process in a way designed to cut down on people casting votes for every cast member of their favorite shows, certain shows racked up the nominations: “Succession” got 14 acting nominations twice, while “Ted Lasso,” “The Last of Us” and “The White Lotus” got nine.

This year, who’s positioned to dominate the acting categories? If you’re just going by the number of submissions, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is on top: It submitted 24 actors, 17 of them in the guest categories. But “The Bear” has 18 entries, spread out across six acting categories: one each for lead actor and actress, four for supporting actor, three for supporting actress, five for guest actor and four for guest actress. Elsewhere, “Only Murders in the Building” and “The Morning Show” have 17, “The Righteous Gemstones” and “Hacks” have 15, “The Crown” and “Abbott Elementary” have 12.

In the end, it’s unlikely that anything other than “The Bear” can hit double digits, or that a small number of shows will dominate the acting categories the way “Succession,” “Dopesick,” “The White Lotus” and “Ted Lasso” did in past years. But we’ve underestimated voters’ propensity for turning to the same programs in the past, and we might be doing it again this year.

Shows that defied conventional wisdom

Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga and Tokuma Nishioka as Toda Hiromatsu in “Shōgun” (Katie Yu/FX)
Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga and Tokuma Nishioka as Toda Hiromatsu in “Shōgun” (Katie Yu/FX)

Emmy watchers typically keep a close eye on submissions in the writing and directing categories, under the longstanding consensus that it’s a mistake for a show to submit multiple entries in those categories. Juggernauts like “Succession” have gotten away with it and landed multiple nominations, but conventional wisdom says that a show risks splitting the vote and losing out on a nomination if it submits too many episodes in a category. (Complicating matters is the fact that individuals can submit themselves even if the network or production company doesn’t.)

This year, a handful of shows threw caution to the wind. “Reservation Dogs” may have figured it had nothing to lose in its final season, since Emmy voters have ignored it in the past, submitting six different episodes for directing and eight for writing. “Ahsoka” has six directing entries and “Silo” has three directing and seven writing. And “Shogun,” the series that moved from limited series to drama series categories and immediately became a frontrunner, submitted six different episodes for directing and five for writing.

Shows that stuck with conventional wisdom

Quinta Brunson and Tyler James Williams on “Abbott Elementary” (Disney/Gilles Mingasson)

Most of the big series stuck to one or two submissions in the directing and writing categories. In comedy, “Abbott Elementary” submitted the “Party” episode for directing and “Career Day” for writing; “The Bear” submitted “Fishes” and “Honeydew” for directing  and just “Fishes” for writing; and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” submitted “The Colostomy Bag” and the finale, “No Lessons Learned,” for directing, and nothing for writing, because improvised shows aren’t eligible in the screenwriting categories. In the drama categories, “The Crown” submitted “Dis Moi Oui” and “Sleep, Dearie Sleep” for directing and “Ritz” and “Sleep, Dearie Sleep” for writing, and “Slow Horses” submitted “Strange Games” for directing and “Sleeping With Tigers” for writing.

Category Hogs

Finalists Dakayla, Anthony, and Madison in the season finale of "So You Think You Can Dance” Season 18
Finalists Dakayla, Anthony, and Madison in the season finale of “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 18 (CREDIT: Tom Griscom/FOX)

In the Outstanding Choreography for Variety or Reality Programming category, there are 48 entries. Of those 48, more than half are from only two shows, “Dancing With the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” “DWTS” entered 11 different routines, and “SYTYCD” entered 14.

For the record, “So You Can Think You Can Dance” is the program with the most nominations (43) and wins (12) in this category, with “Dancing With the Stars” second with 22 noms and five wins. But it’s been two years since “DWTS” landed multiple noms in one year, and three since “SYTYCD” did it.

One person, two names

Paulina Alexis as Willie Jack (left), Devery Jacobs as Elora Danan, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai as Bear, Lane Factor as Cheese and Elva Guerra as Jackie in “Reservation Dogs” (Credit: Shane Brown/FX)

Devery Jacobs is on Emmy ballots in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie categories for “Reservation Dogs” and “Echo,” respectively, but that’s not the only name under which Jacobs appears. In the Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance category, she’s on the ballot as Kawennahere Devery Jacobs for “What If…?” She also uses her full name in the directing category for an episode of “Reservation Dogs” – and while writers’ names don’t appear on the Emmy ballot, it’s likely that her entry in the writing category for another episode of “Reservation Dogs” will be under that name as well. Jacobs has explained that when she’s working as a writer, producer or director, and particularly when she’s “telling stories from my culture,” she thinks it’s important to use her full Mohawk name.

The Multi-Cam Wild Card

L-R: Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane and Bebe Neuwirth as Dr. Lilith Sternin in Frasier (2023)
Chris Haston/Paramount+

Outstanding Director for a Comedy Series is one of the categories where entries are separated by genre, multi-camera and single camera. Where the vast majority of comedies these days are of the single camera variety, there are still old-style sitcoms that are shot on a set (typically before a studio audience) with multiple cameras running. This year, out of the 107 total submissions, 13 of them come from multi-cam shows: “Bob Hearts Abishola,” “The Conners,” “Extended Family,” “Frasier,” “How I Met Your Father,” “Lopez vs. Lopez,” “The Ms. Pat Show” and “Night Court.”

Emmy rules dictate that nominees from each of the two genres will be proportional to the number of submissions from each genre, as long as each genre has at least 5% of the entries. The 13 multi-cam submissions are enough to give it one of the six nominees in the category, so the director of one of those multi-cam shows will be nominated.

The last two years, “The Ms. Pat Show” director Mary Lou Belli was the top vote-getter among multi-cam directors, so she surprised people by showing up on the list of nominees both years. This year, though, the heavyweight in the category seems to be “Frasier,” whose two entries were directed by the show’s star, Kelsey Grammer, and by the consensus pick as the giant of sitcom directing, James Burrows. It’s hard not to think that Burrows has a very good shot at his 28th nomination for comedy directing.

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