Jennifer Lopez experienced a big disappointment on Jan. 13 when her acclaimed performance in Hustlers was passed over for an Oscar nod. She didn’t let it get her down for long. Less than three weeks later, she and Shakira headlined the Super Bowl LIV half-time show. Today (July 28), the two superstars received their first Emmy nominations for that performance, in the category of outstanding variety special (live).
This is the sixth time that the Super Bowl half-time headliners have received Emmy nominations. Bruce Springsteen (2009), Beyoncé (2013), Bruno Mars (2104), Katy Perry (2015) and Lady Gaga (2017) were also nominated. In addition, the half-time shows headlined by Prince (2007) and Coldplay (2016) were nominated, but in those years the performers weren’t recognized.
The Emmys are the first EGOT-level awards show to announce their nominations since COVID-19 brought awards shows to their knees in March. Tony nominations were scheduled to be announced on April 28, but they were postponed indefinitely because of the pandemic. Here are other top storylines, mostly music-oriented, from today’s Emmy nominations.
A tie for top music show: The Voice (NBC) received its ninth nomination for outstanding competition program, which enables it to tie the show that paved the way for it, American Idol. Remarkably, the two shows have never been nominated in this category in the same year. Idol was nominated for nine straight years from 2003-11 (though it never won). In 2012, The Voice effectively replaced it in the category. The Voice has been nominated every year since, winning four times.
Zendaya’s breakthrough: Zendaya was a surprise nominee for outstanding lead actress in a drama series for her role as Rue Bennett on Euphoria (HBO). Zendaya, 23, rose to fame a decade ago on the Disney Channel series Shake It Up. Zendaya took the spot many expected to go to Elizabeth Moss for The Handmaid’s Tale.
RZA is a VIP: RZA, a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, is nominated for outstanding main title theme music for Wu-Tang: An American Saga (Hulu). His competition includes two entries by Nathan Barr—Carnival Row (Prime Video) and Hollywood (Netflix).
Ross & Reznor on the march: Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor received two nominations—outstanding music composition for a limited series, movie or special and outstanding original music and lyrics, both for their work on the HBO series Watchman. Ross and Reznor already share an Oscar for The Social Network and a Grammy for The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo.
Minor’s major achievement: Rickey Minor has two of the five nominees for outstanding music direction, for The Oscars (ABC) and the Kennedy Center Honors (CBS). His competition includes Let’s Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince (CBS), on which Sheila E., Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were music directors.
Labrinth’s labors pay off: Labrinth also received two nominations—outstanding music composition for a series and outstanding original music and lyrics for his work on Euphoria (HBO).
Females dominate scoring category: Three women are nominated for outstanding music composition for a documentary series or special (original dramatic score). Amanda Jones is nominated for Home (Apple TV+), Pinar Toprak as one of two composers on McMillion$ (HBO) and Laura Karpman for Why We Hate (Discovery Channel). Karpman received a second nod for outstanding original main title theme music for that same show.
Ken Burns snubbed: Ken Burns’ Country Music (PBS) failed to receive a nomination for outstanding documentary or non-fiction series. The nominees in this highly competitive category were American Masters (PBS), Hillary (Hulu), The Last Dance (ESPN), McMillion$ (HBO) and Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Netflix). Burns won in this category for The Civil War (1991), Baseball (1995) and The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2010).
Grammys Snubbed…Again: The 62nd annual Grammy Awards received four nominations, but was passed over for a nod for the big one—best variety special (live). The Grammys have never won in this top category (or its predecessor categories). This was Ken Ehrlich’s last chance to win that award as executive producer of the Grammys. Ehrlich, a 46-year TV vet, has yet to win an Emmy.
Music docs dominate: Three music docs are nominated for outstanding documentary or non-fiction special. They are The Apollo (HBO), Beastie Boys Story (Apple TV+), and Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time (Epix). A fourth music doc, The Black Godfather (Netflix), about legendary exec Clarence Avant, missed the cut. Three music docs have won in this category in the past: George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2012), What Happened, Miss Simone?, about Nina Simone (2016) and Leaving Neverland, about sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson (2019).
SNL extends its record: Saturday Night Live (NBC), which was already the most-nominated series in Emmy history with 270 Emmy nominations, received 15 more nods, including outstanding variety sketch series. This is SNL’s 25th nomination in this category or a predecessor category, outstanding variety series.
SNL’s MVPs: Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson are nominated for outstanding supporting actress/actor in a comedy series for their work on SNL. This is McKinnon’s seventh nomination as a performer for her work on the show; Thompson’s second; Strong’s first. McKinnon thus ties Tina Fey for the most nominations by a performer in SNL’s 45-year history. In addition to these series regulars, Eddie Murphy, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Brad Pitt and Maya Rudolph were nominated for guest appearances on the show. Pitt was cited for his performance as Dr. Anthony Fauci, Rudoph for playing Sen. Kamala Harris.
Today’s top comedian: Dave Chappelle has two of the six nominees for outstanding variety special (pre-recorded). He is nominated for his latest stand-up special, Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones (Netflix) and for The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize For American Humor (PBS) on which he was the honoree. Chappelle won in this category two years ago for Dave Chappelle: Equanimity. Chapelle has won the Grammy for best comedy album the last three years running. He won in January for Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones, an album release of the currently nominated special.
Kimmel is variety’s perennial bridesmaid: Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC), starring this year’s Emmy Awards host, Jimmy Kimmel, received its ninth nomination for outstanding variety talk series. The show has yet to win. Only one other show has been nominated this many times in this category without winning — Real Time With Bill Maher, which snagged 12 nominations without a win.
Curb is comedy’s perennial bridesmaid: Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO) received its ninth nomination for outstanding comedy series, a record equaled or bettered by only three series in TV history — all of them all-time classics. M*A*S*H and Cheers were each nominated 11 times. All in the Family was nominated nine times. (The big difference is that these other shows all won in this category at least once. Curb has yet to win.)
Legacy networks lag: Just one series on a legacy network, The Good Place (NBC) is nominated for outstanding comedy series. This is the third year in a row that legacy networks (ABC, CBS or NBC) have been represented with just one show in that marquee category, which legacy networks completely dominated from the ‘50s into the early ‘90s. Worse, no series on a legacy network are nominated for outstanding drama series for the first time in four years. This is the ninth consecutive year that legacy networks have been represented with just one (or no) series in this marquee category.
RuPaul could make history: RuPaul Charles is nominated for outstanding host for a reality or competition program for RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1). He has won in that category the last four years running. If he wins again, he’ll become the top winner in the history of the category. He is currently tied with Jeff Probst, a four-time winner for Survivor.
Strike a Pose: Billy Porter, who won best actor in a drama series last year for his role on Pose (FX), is back to defend his title this year. Porter won both a Tony and Grammy for his role in Kinky Boots.
Best Bette: Bette Midler, who has already won three Emmys, is nominated for outstanding guest actress in a comedy series for The Politician (Netflix). Another Emmy would be nice, but what Midler really needs is an Oscar. Then she’ll be an EGOT.
Dern’s dream year: Less than six months after winning an Oscar for her supporting role in Marriage Story, Laura Dern is nominated for an Emmy for outstanding performance by a supporting actress in a drama series for her work in Big Little Lies (HBO).
The sitcom king: Ted Danson is nominated for outstanding performance by a lead actor in a comedy series for his work on The Good Place (NBC). This is his 14th nomination in the category, which extends his lead as the actor with the most nominations in the history of the category. Alan Alda and Kelsey Grammar share second place with 11 nods. Danson received 11 nods in this category for his role on Cheers.
Versatile stars: Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell and Jason Bateman, who first gained fame on sitcoms, are nominated for outstanding lead actress and actor in a drama series. Aniston and Carell are nominated for their roles on The Morning Show (Apple TV+). Aniston received three nominations (including one win) in the lead comedy actress category for her decade-long role on Friends. Carell received six nods for his seven-season stint on The Office. Bateman is nominated for the third year in a row for his role on Ozark. He was previously nominated in the lead comedy actor category twice for his role on Arrested Development.