As Voting Begins, the Emmys Are Still Reeling From Hollywood’s Strikes

The SAG-AFTRA strike ended more than seven months ago in early November 2023. The Writers Guild strike ended more than eight months ago, in late September of last year. So why, with the strikes ended and Emmy nomination voting underway, do those labor stoppages feel so current and immediate?

Because they have shaped this season, that’s why. Their effect starts with the calendar: This year’s Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony is taking place on September 15, 2024, exactly eight months (244 days) after last year’s Emmy Awards, which actually took place this year.

It’s the shortest time between shows in Emmy history because when the strikes hit, the show that should have happened in September 2023 was delayed to January 2024 in order to ensure that writers and actors could actually show up. So the Television Academy gave out awards for the TV shows of 2022-23 in ’24, and now they’ll have a second ceremony in the same calendar year for the first time ever.

But it’s not just the timing that has changed because of the strikes — so has the field of contenders. Emmy ballots in most of the 118 categories were posted on the Television Academy website on Thursday, and the most obvious takeaway was how much smaller the field of contenders was. The drama series and comedy series categories dropped by more than 35%, and some acting categories had fewer than half the number of entries they had in 2023.

Of the 106 categories where a direct comparison was possible between the number of eligible contenders this year and last year, only 14 had more entries this year, three had the same number and 89 had fewer submissions.

Crucially, many of the shows that would have been top contenders are missing in action, particular in the Outstanding Drama Series category. For example, let’s look at last year’s nominees in that category. One of them, “The Crown,” is eligible again this year. Two, “Succession” (which won) and “Better Call Saul,” have ended their runs.

The remaining five nominees were derailed by the strikes. “Andor,” “The Last of Us,” “The White Lotus,” “House of the Dragon” and “Yellowjackets” will be competing for awards in years to come — but because of the work stoppage, all five had their upcoming seasons delayed. “HOTD” Season 2 was pushed back to after the May 31 eligibility cutoff date and the others have all been moved into 2025.

If you look at the dramas that weren’t nominated last year but did make the cut in previous years, the landscape is no better. Past nominees “The Boys” and “Squid Game” similarly did not make the May 31 cutoff date, while “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Stranger Things” are also planning to drop new seasons in 2025.

Meanwhile, the fourth season of “The Mandalorian” is in limbo after the announcement of a 2026 “Mandalorian” feature film; the third season of “Euphoria” was postponed indefinitely after a stop-and-start production schedule; and “Severance” went into production on Season 2 back in 2022, was shut down and finally wrapped earlier this year. Plus, 2019 nominee “Bodyguard” has had a second season teased every so often for years — including on April Fool’s Day 2022, so we can take that with a grain of salt.

The closest thing to a former nominee back in the running, “Bridgerton,” dropped the first four episodes of its second season during the eligibility period. But Emmy rules specify that a series must air a minimum of six episodes to qualify for awards, so it’s out of the picture, too.

The bottom line is that this year’s drama lineup won’t have more than one past nominee, a situation that hasn’t occurred for 50 years. The last time there was only one returning nominee in the category was 1974, when defending champion “The Waltons” was joined by the first seasons of “Kojak,” “Police Story” and “Upstairs, Downstairs” and the second season of “The Streets of San Francisco.” Since then, the fewest past nominees came in 2002, when only two out of a category of five had been nominated prior; and 2017, when “Better Call Saul” and “House of Cards” were joined by five first-year shows.

In the comedy category, things are a little better: Among last year’s nominees, “Wednesday” was delayed, with its next season due to premiere outside the eligibility window. But three of the other 2023 nominees — “Abbott Elementary,” “Only Murders in the Building” and the winner, “The Bear” — had finished filming their next seasons before the strikes began and are eligible. Three others — “Barry,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Ted Lasso” — have ended their runs (though “Ted” is fudging about whether the series is really over). The final 2023 nominee, “Jury Duty,” might have a second season at some point in the future.

The final tally: Out of 16 comedy and drama series nominees last year, only four are back in the running this year.

That’s what you get on the heels of a year in which premieres of new and returning television programs fell by 21%. The first half of 2024 wasn’t much better as studios, networks and streamers thought twice about restarting everything they’d been working on (the strikes only reinforced the doubts they’d been having since the pandemic hit and transformed Hollywood). Even unscripted programs and reality shows, which grabbed the available space because they weren’t affected by the strikes, took a hit: The three reality program categories had a total of 116 entries this year, more than 35% down from the 182 they had last year.

Late last year, Simulmedia founder and executive chairman Dave Morgan told TheWrap that he expected networks to take “a full year or more to re-energize their entertainment programming.” So if this year’s (second) Emmys feel a little rushed and a little skimpier than usual, make no mistake: We’re still hearing the echoes of the strikes.

A version of this story first appeared in TheWrap’s awards magazines. Read more from the Emmy-season issues here.

Feud: Capote vs. The Swans cover
Feud: Capote vs. The Swans cover

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