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THR’s Guide to the Emmys: Everything You Need to Know Before Tonight’s Show

Welcome to the time warp.

Technically, the awards being doled out live from the Peacock Theater at 5 p.m. PST are the 2023 Emmy awards. The telecast had been scheduled to air back in September, but, like so much else in Hollywood, the Emmys were sidelined by the strikes. Now, four months later, the show will go on — on Fox, with Anthony Anderson as the evening’s emcee.

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So, what does it all mean for the show? Let’s break it down.

1. Voting members of the TV Academy cast their votes as planned last summer for programming and performances that aired between June 1, 2022 and May 31, 2023. The complete list of nominees was announced July 12, two days before the SAG strike began, which feels like an eternity ago in Hollywood years. Had the Emmys remained on schedule, none of it would seem so odd. But now, all these months later, it means The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, for instance, is vying for an Emmy, despite being off the air since late 2022 — and The Bear, season 2, which dropped in late June, won’t be eligible until the next Emmys, which, if you’re still following, will be the 2024 Emmys.

2. The Bear’s first season, however, is what is in contention tonight, even though it aired more than 18 months ago. Now here’s where it gets interesting: TV Academy members were voting while the second season was being released and the series captured the zeitgeist. So, yeah, they weren’t voting for season 2, but it would be hard to deny that second season’s impact. (Ironically, the old campaign playback suggested summer was a dead zone for legitimate Emmy contenders, which typically rolled out in the spring.) To further confuse matters, the FX series and its stars took home big wins at last weekend’s Golden Globes, and those were for season 2.

3. The Golden Globes have never been a bellwether for what will happen at the Emmys. The former typically has aired months later, and the group (formerly known as the HFPA) was hellbent on getting as many A-listers as possible in the room. But that was the old HFPA, which has been reimagined post scandal, and it’s too early to know how the new group will vote. Nevertheless, the big winners last weekend — Beef (limited), Succession (drama) and The Bear (comedy) — are also the frontrunners at tonight’s Emmys. For those keeping tabs at home, that same trio took top honors at Sunday’s Critics Choice Awards as well.

4. Anthony Anderson will be tonight’s host, and, following the show, you’ll be able to either thank or blame Fox for that choice. The emcee is a selection made by the host network, and the host network rotates from year to year. Some networks have deeper talent benches than others. ABC, for instance, has late night host Jimmy Kimmel, who it frequently taps to emcee its awards show too. (He’ll be back for this year’s Oscars.) Fox does not have that luxury. In fact, the last time Fox hosted the Emmys, in 2019, it went host-less, which, for the record, was not a good idea. At this point, the network relies on a lineup of sports, cartoons and – and this is where Anderson comes in — reality shows. Earlier this month, Anderson and his mom, Doris Bowman (aka Mama Doris), began hosting the network’s new music game show, We Are Family. And, so, voila! Asked how quickly he said yes to hosting the Emmys, a job that many see as thankless (if you’re wondering why, we urge you to Google Globes host Jo Koy), Anderson joked: “I said yes to hosting the Emmys, maybe, 15 years ago; they’re just now getting around to asking me to host.” As he’ll no doubt mention, the former Black-ish star is 0 for 11 at the show.

5. Expect to see a fair amount of Mama Doris, too. She is now Fox talent, after all. Anderson’s mom has been a staple of her son’s output for years; she appeared with him on Celebrity Family Feud, joined him while he hosted ABC’s To Tell the Truth, and, in 2023, the two traversed Europe for E!’s Trippin’ with Anthony Anderson and Mama Doris. We’re not sure how serious Anderson was, but he did say he was flirting with the idea of having Mama Doris replace the awkward play-off music when speeches run too long. “Every now and again, you may see her peek out from behind the curtain and tap her watch,” he teased last month. “Like, ‘Come on, baby, I got to be out of here by 11, I got a date at the bingo hall. Let’s go, wrap it up. Don’t nobody want to be here all night.’”

6. This is the 75th Emmy Awards, and given that the show will air in one of the busiest corridors in award show history, nostalgia will be its point of differentiation. The show producers have already revealed a series of cast reunions — The Sopranos, Martin and Ally McBeal, among them. “We’re going to pay homage to 75 years of this award show and the iconic shows that changed the landscape of not only television but entertainment,” added Anderson. “So, we’ll be celebrating those shows and the people who made those shows possible, from the creators to the actors.” The “In Memoriam” segment, which will be performed by Charlie Puth and husband-and-wife duo The War and Treaty, is expected to prominently feature TV icons Norman Lear and Matthew Perry as well.

7. For the first time in years, the late night race is, well, actually a race. The TV Academy announced a few new rule changes ahead of this year’s show, including a shakeup in the variety categories. The variety talk and variety sketch awards have been replaced by new categories: outstanding talk series and outstanding scripted variety series. Here’s why it matters: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver will now qualify in the latter category alongside Saturday Night Live. In previous years, Oliver’s HBO series would compete against other late-night shows like The Daily Show, The Late Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live, and win every time. This year, the talk category is wide open with The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Apple’s since-ended The Problem with Jon Stewart. At the same time, perennial winner SNL will have stiff competition for a change.

8. Speaking of shakeups, there was a time when tonight’s show was not going to include the award for writing a variety series or special. But that decision didn’t go over well, particularly with the Writers Guild. First came an open letter; then, in late Dec., a petition was signed by more than 1,400 union members that declared the decision to remove the category from the primetime telecast “dismisses writing as. The foundation for excellence in television and devalues our profession as a whole.” The petition continued, “We implore the Television Academy to do the right thing.” By early Jan., it had. The TV Academy and Fox announced it had reached an agreement with the guild, and the category would return to the primetime telecast. For those paying attention, that brings the tally to 27 awards that need to be crammed into tonight’s three-hour show.

9. Lest it were not already clear, the TV Academy loves itself a good shakeup, which brings us to The White Lotus, which aired way back in October 2022. The last time the Mike White series was at the Emmys, it cleaned up – in the limited series category. Now, it’s back, and despite an arguably stronger second season, it’s no longer the frontrunner and it’s no longer a limited series. The series was forced to move into the drama category once HBO announced the show would be returning with Jennifer Coolidge and her storyline. Now, Beef is the limited series to beat – and while it, too, is expected to return for a second season, creator Lee Sung Jin has been careful to note that he pitched the series as an anthology with all new beef and all new characters season 2.

10. If you’re just here for some emotional speeches, may we suggest you root for anyone involved with Better Call Saul. The series ran six beloved seasons, and has no Emmys to show for it. Plus, star Bob Odenkirk suffered a heart attack while filming one of the show’s final episodes, which brought an already tight-knit cast even closer. To that end, it’s hard to imagine a win wouldn’t be hugely emotional for both Christina Applegate (Dead to Me) and Jeff Bridges (The Old Man), both of whom had contend with serious medical woes during the making of their shows. On a lighter note, tonight will be the last time that long-running series like Succession and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel could grace the Emmy stage — though, unlike Saul, neither lacks for hardware.

11. While on the topic of Succession, let’s nip this one in the bud: Succession star Kieran Culkin doesn’t really have beef with The Last of Us’ Pedro Pascal — though if either win, a playful jab at the other’s expense wouldn’t be surprising. After all, upon winning his Globe last weekend, Culkin leaned into the mic and quipped, “Suck it, Pedro. I’m sorry.” He then held his statue up to Pascal, and added: “Mine!” We can’t make this any clearer: There is no rivalry here — just two actors who are having a little fun on the often self-serious awards circuit. Culkin and Pascal also share a publicist and, as evidenced by their hilariously chummy performance at this spring’s THR roundtable, have a fabulous rapport.

And that’s it, enjoy the show!

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