An amped-up Emmy campaign season sees big names, bigger parties and some rule breakers

Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- Voting for this year's Emmy nominations runs through Monday, the culmination of a three-month deluge of premieres and parties, star-studded conversations and gluten-free grub as well as a small scandal that resulted in a handful of votes being disqualified.

Members of the Television Academy might have needed a week and a half just to scroll through their ballots this year. Some 2,313 actors submitted their work for Emmy consideration, making the act of voting an exercise in attrition.

That mind-numbing volume -- the ballot also lists 732 programs, including 165 drama series and 108 comedies -- continues to force television networks and streamers to go to great lengths to remind voters to consider their shows -- or simply to remember they exist.

Netflix enlisted Martin Scorsese to interview Bruce Springsteen at the kickoff event for its Emmy Awards space in May, plugging the filmed version of the rocker's Broadway show. (Maybe Springsteen will return the favor later this year when it comes time to campaign for Scorsese's expensive Netflix Oscar contender "The Irishman.")

Amazon Studios again took over the Hollywood Athletic Club, hosting events for such contenders as "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" and "Homecoming." Voters and guests could appraise the 15 "Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" dresses on display, sit on the "Catastrophe" couch and then snag a free "Maisel" lipstick on their way out the door. Amazon is also partnering with the online food delivery service Postmates, offering Angelenos and New Yorkers a free "Maisel" meal pack through Friday -- proof you don't have to be an Emmy voter these days to get a free pastrami sandwich.

Do these promotions work? Zach Galifianakis manned a Hollywood Arby's takeout window for several hours last year, handing out dozens of roast beef sandwiches to Television Academy members. Maybe the meal didn't sit well. After being nominated for "Baskets" in 2017, Galifianakis wasn't among last year's nominees.

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This year's Emmy races feature stuffed categories across the board, with new shows like "Pose" and "Russian Doll" battling for spots and past favorites "Game of Thrones" and "Veep" looking to go out on top. Television Academy voters, like balloters in other elections, tend to reward incumbents. But that doesn't mean the rest of the pack doesn't want to take a shot.

"You do these events because you have to," says one veteran Emmy campaigner, who asked anonymity given the sensitivity of campaigns. "Showrunners pay attention to what's being promoted. You can't tell them their program isn't worth the effort."

The for-your-consideration events tend to be earnest affairs, featuring a screening, followed by a rote Q&A and then a reception, affording voters the chance, per one network consultant, to "put three sliders in their bag so they can have something for lunch the next day."

Sometimes, though, the talent displays a winning self-awareness about the campaign stops. Springsteen performed a couple songs after his conversation with Scorsese, noting with a laugh that he was here "begging complete strangers for their votes."


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