For the second year in a row, the partially-made-in-Utah series “Westworld” got a lot of Emmy nominations. A total of 21, just one behind the front-runner.
The big question is whether the HBO series can improve on 2017, which turned out to be … well … rather disappointing.
Not that winning four Emmys is a bad thing. But a year ago, “Westworld” was the most-nominated show on TV (tied with “Saturday Night Live”). The 22 nominations included best drama, four actors, directing and writing.
But after winning four technical awards (for hairstyling, makeup, sound mixing and visual effects) at the creative arts Emmys presented a week before the main show, “Westworld” was shut out.
Can “Westworld” break through and win one of the big ones this year? Is there even a chance it could be named best drama?
Well, it certainly won’t be the favorite. There is one show that has even more nominations — and the last time “Game of Thrones” was eligible, it won a dozen Emmys (including its second in a row as best drama), increasing its overall total to 38, the most ever by a single series.
(“GoT” was not eligible in 2017 because it didn’t air any original episodes from June 2016 to May 2017.)
This year’s best-drama contenders also include last year’s winner, “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu), as well as “The Americans” (FX), “The Crown” (Netflix), “Stranger Things” (Netflix) and “This Is Us” (NBC). If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet on “Westworld.”
That’s not a slam against the show, although I don’t think Season 2 was as good as Season 1. But keep in mind that the Emmys are not always fair and have rewarded shows for less-than-stellar seasons.
Once again, “Westworld” has a slew of nominations in technical categories. But it’s also nominated in some of the heavy-hitter categories in addition to best drama — best actor (Ed Harris and Jeffrey Wright), best actress (Evan Rachel Wood), best supporting actress (Thandie Newton), guest actor (Jimmi Simpson).
A win in any category is Utah’s chance to claim partial ownership of a Primetime Emmy. Sort of.
Utah itself plays a supporting role in “Westworld.” About 95 percent of Season 2 was shot on locations and soundstages in Southern California; the other 5 percent was filmed on locations in Utah.
But the Beehive State has a pivotal role. Much of Season 1 was filmed in the Moab area, Castle Valley and Dead Horse Point State Park, and Season 2 returned to the state to film at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Lake Powell and Kanab.
The state has a couple of even more tenuous ties to nominees. One of the “Queer Eye” guys, Tan France, has adopted Salt Lake City as his hometown — and that Netflix series got four nominations, including as “outstanding structured reality program.” (That’s really a category.)
Lifetime’s “Project Runway” got three nominations, including one for casting — and that included casting two Utahns, Ayana Ife and Brandon Kee.
Ana Breton, who’s not only a former Utahn but a former Salt Lake Tribune reporter, is among those nominated for her work on “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” — shes a digital producer, and the show is a nominee for best interactive program.
If we really want to stretch for a Utah connection, there’s Netflix’s “Godless.” It wasn’t filmed in Utah. It wasn’t set in Utah. But the seven-episode miniseries features bad guy Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels), who grew up to be a villain after his family was murdered by Mormons at the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
“Godless” is nominated in 10 categories, including best limited series, Daniels as best supporting actor, Michelle Dockery as best actress and Merritt Weaver as best supporting actress.
A win in any category would be an opportunity for a speech mentioning Mormons and Mountain Meadows — although that seems rather unlikely.
We’ll find out on Sept. 17.