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A look at the odd situations Emmys voters face this year as voting ends

(SOUNDBITE OF NICHOLAS BRITELL'S "SUCCESSION (MAIN TITLE THEME)")

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

That's the theme song for HBO's "Succession." The blockbuster drama is the most nominated TV series in the 2023 Emmy Awards. Today is the last day members of the TV academy can cast ballots for the winners even though the awards themselves have been pushed back to next January because of the writers and actors strikes. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans is here to help us sort out all the odd situations Emmy voters face in this singular year. And he might take a last opportunity to talk up his picks while he's here. Hey, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi.

SHAPIRO: You say the Emmy Awards this year are wrestling with a number of issues, including the question of what exactly is a TV comedy. How have these lines between comedy and drama been blurring?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, what's happened basically is that the producers can decide what they want to submit their show for. And let's look at something like the best comedy series nominee "The Bear," which is a show about a gourmet chef who takes over running his family's greasy spoon eatery in Chicago. Now, "The Bear" doesn't have conventional jokes, and it mostly feels like a drama thanks to scenes like this, where Chef Carmy Berzatto gives his pastry chef Marcus a pep talk. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BEAR")

JEREMY ALLEN WHITE: (As Carmen Berzatto) I started a fryer fire night after I won Food and Wine's best new chef - nearly burned the place down.

LIONEL BOYCE: (As Marcus) For real?

WHITE: (As Carmen Berzatto) For real. You have this minute where you're watching the fire and you're thinking, if I don't do anything, this place will burn down, and all my anxiety will go away with it.

BOYCE: (As Marcus) Then you put the fire out.

WHITE: (As Carmen Berzatto) Then you put the fire out.

SHAPIRO: I would never have thought of "The Bear" as a comedy. How do these shows that appear to be a drama get classified in these categories that may or may not be a perfect fit for them?

DEGGANS: Yeah. Well, as I said, you know, the producers usually submit their shows for whatever category they think it belongs in. And there's a lot of shows that ride that fine line these days. I mean, "Succession" is a dark comedy, but it gets submitted as a drama. There's a tendency to put shows with half-hour running times in comedy anyway. And comedy is a less competitive category. I mean, "The Bear" is getting a lot of buzz. So depending on how academy voters feel about it being classified as a comedy, that might affect how it competes against more conventional shows like Apple TV+'s "Ted Lasso" or Prime Video's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

And as an extra twist, "The Bear's" nominated for its first season, which aired in 2022, not its most recent season, which was this year and had these amazing cameos from stars like Jamie Lee Curtis. So personally, I think "The Bear" has lots of awards coming next year. And I think this year's Emmy Award for best comedy series should go to "Abbott Elementary," which revived the network TV comedy with an authentic, touching look at teachers.

SHAPIRO: Is the best drama series category any less confusing?

DEGGANS: OK, it's a little. Here we've got HBO's popular drama "The White Lotus." It cleaned up as a limited series in last year's Emmy Awards. And it's now in the drama series category against "Succession," which has 27 nominations for this final season that was considered a TV classic. Now, there's so many shows in this category that deserve that Emmy, including the final season of "Better Call Saul" and the thrilling first season of "The Last Of Us." But I've got a feeling that "Succession" is just going to run the table for a masterful final season. That's going to be tough to deny.

SHAPIRO: Well, I would call "The White Lotus" a comedy anyway, given Jennifer Coolidge's performance. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Thanks for the preview.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF PETE ROCK'S "TAKE THE D TRAIN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.
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