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An Emmys Stealth Move: The Power of a Summer Premiere Date

Conventional wisdom says: If you want to win a big Hollywood award, release your project as late as possible.

That would explain the glut of Oscar bait dumped in the final months of the calendar year, as studios and streamers hope their fall releases will be fresh on Academy voters’ minds when they receive their ballots in January. There are, of course, always outliers; Everything Everywhere All at Once, this year’s Oscar winner for best picture, hit theaters in March 2022 and still managed to maintain momentum throughout awards season to claim Oscar victory.

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Similar unwritten rules apply to the Emmys. The Television Academy’s eligibility window runs from June 1 to May 31 — which is why many of this year’s Emmy-nominated series saw their seasons premiere in spring 2023. Unlike the Oscar season, there is a lack of precursor awards ceremonies that can help keep contenders at the front of the race (even the TV award components of Critics Choice and the SAGs take place six months before the Emmys).

While a late release date for a new series that proves a fan favorite may seem to be an ideal scenario to capture an Emmy for best comedy series, what may be even more perfect is if a fan favorite drops its second season during the eligibility window. Just look at Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso, which took home the top comedy prize in the past two years. The series first landed on the streamer in August 2020, when Apple debuted the first three episodes. The comedy centered on English football was the perfect TV drop five months into the COVID-19 pandemic; the jovial fish-out-of-water tale that preached the power of collaboration and humility both on and off the pitch was quick to win an obsessive audience, and that fandom helped earn it a whopping 20 Emmy noms the following year in 2021.

Then the comedy returned to Apple TV+ on July 23, 2021 — 10 days after that month’s Emmy nominations announcement. Suddenly, the cast and creatives extended their already busy press tour for the second season into an Emmy campaign for the first. The sophomore outing’s critical acclaim — it scored 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes — added fuel to the fire. Not only would Ted Lasso score a win for best comedy, but it also netted Emmys for stars Jason Sudeikis, Brett Goldstein and Hannah Waddingham. While season three wouldn’t drop on Apple until March 2023, Ted Lasso fever continued through the 2022 Emmy season, and the show and Sudeikis won second consecutive Emmys for comedy series and lead actor, respectively.

This year, the producers behind another comedy frontrunner may be hoping its second-season premiere can boost its chances at the Emmys just like Ted Lasso did with its debut.

The Bear’s Jeremy Allen White.

The Bears Jeremy Allen White. Matt Dinerstein/FX

FX/Hulu’s The Bear premiered June 23, 2022, to widespread acclaim from critics and audiences alike and turned its castmembers Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri into stars. They were shoo-ins for lead actor and supporting actress in a comedy for 2023, respectively, particularly since they had both gathered accolades well before the Emmy campaign season: White picked up a Golden Globe and a SAG Award for his performance, while Edebiri won an Independent Spirit Award.

But The Bear‘s season two premiere date — June 22 — was a fortuitous one: All 10 episodes hit Hulu just four days before the June 26 close of the Emmy nomination voting window; Nielsen reported the next month that the second season drew 853 million minutes of viewing time, making it the second-most-watched original series between June 19 and 25. There’s no way to prove that this propelled the show to its 13 Emmy noms, but it certainly couldn’t have hurt it — and possibly helped Ebon Moss-Bachrach earn his nod for supporting actor, and reacquainted viewers with nominated guest stars Jon Bernthal and Oliver Platt, who return in season two.

As the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes have minimized Emmy campaigning — actors are wholly barred from doing press to promote their shows — FX and Hulu might be relying on their current seasons to keep their previous Emmy-nominated iterations at the top of voters’ minds.

Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez in Only Murders in the Building

Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez in Only Murders in the Building Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu

That could definitely help Hulu’s other comedy contender, Only Murders in the Building, nominated for 11 Emmys for its second season. Those episodes rolled out last August and, despite the star power of its growing ensemble, earned nominations only for lead actor Martin Short and guest star Nathan Lane a year later. With those two unable to campaign, the third season may serve as Hulu’s best bet to remind Emmy voters of the show and its stars’ merits — particularly as the upcoming season drops Aug. 8, just nine days before the final Emmy voting gets underway.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Source: Hollywood

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