‘The Boys,’ ‘House of the Dragon’ and More Genre TV Shows Hoping to Break Through at Emmys

Could 2023 be the year of genre? Thanks to a pandemic that created a deep desire for escapist TV, there are more shows that fit into that box now than ever, many of which are eligible for Emmys this season. They include Amazon Prime Video’s “The Boys” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” HBO’s “House of the Dragon” and “The Last of Us,” Showtime’s “Yellowjackets,” Disney+’s “Andor” and “The Mandalorian,” Paramount+’s “Star Trek: Picard,” Netflix’s “The Sandman” and AMC’s “Interview with the Vampire.”

Of the eight series that Variety senior awards editor Clayton Davis has predicted will get a nomination in the drama category, three would fall into the sci-fi or fantasy field: “Game of Thrones” offshoot “House of the Dragon,” video game adaptation “The Last of Us” and critical darling “Yellowjackets.”

Two years ago, Prime Video’s “The Boys” became the first-ever comic book adaptation to land a nomination for top drama series in the Emmys race. At the time, even showrunner Erik Kripke was surprised by the nod.

“In our internal conversations, we would say, ‘You know, if you scratch beneath the surface of the superhero thing, there’s a lot going on here that feels worthy of some recognition,’” Kripke said then. “But no, I never expected this at all. I mean, at the end of the day, I was really hoping we’d get some technical Emmys, because my team is just doing incredible work. And that’s what I wanted. This would have been a great day if we’d gotten two or three technical Emmys.”

His shock was warranted: Technical categories are usually the best bets for shows like “The Boys.” In the end, “The Crown” won the Emmy trophy for drama in 2021, the last year that “The Boys” competed due to scheduling reasons; Rebecca Sonnenshine was nominated for writing but similarly lost to “Crown” scribe (and creator) Peter Morgan.

The “genre” genre is subjective, more of a you-know-it-when-you-see-it classification, not as clearly defined as a procedural or a period piece. But for the sake of argument, genre series incorporate themes of fantasy, supernatural, horror, superheroes, dystopian landscapes, alternate reality and, of course, comic-book and video game adaptations. In the modern era, HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and ABC’s “Lost” blazed trails on the kudos circuit for the genre gang.

Even though “The Boys” wasn’t eligible last Emmy season, many other genre shows were — and four landed nominations for drama series: “Yellowjackets,” Apple TV+’s “Severance,” Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and “Squid Game.” In 2021, additional genre fare such as “Lovecraft Country,” “Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Mandalorian” competed against “The Boys,” though they all lost to a more traditional drama, “The Crown.”

“It’s not surprising that fantasy and similar escapist-genres has begun to seep into the drama category,” says Fandom CEO Perkins Miller. “We’ve seen a 23% increase in fantasy-centric and superhero content consumption during the last few years, beginning in 2020 during the pandemic.”

Miller’s findings come from Fandom’s proprietary “Fan DNA” data, collected from the habits of 350 million monthly visitors and 250,000 wiki communities across Fandom.com, a number of which are dedicated to these genre TV series.

“’The Last of Us’ was a true blockbuster, we saw that community increase 244% when the series aired, and ‘Yellowjackets’ was another surprise genre hit with a 763% traffic increase among that fanbase during Season 2,” Miller says. “And fantasy audiences are among the most passionate entertainment consumers of drama content — they’re five times more likely to watch ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ and four times more likely to watch ‘Russian Doll’ than the average viewer.”

But will fandom favorites be reflected in the TV Academy’s Emmy choices? Genre dramas will be competing against last year’s winner, “Succession,” in addition to “The White Lotus,” which has moved from the limited series category to drama. According to one top talent PR exec, “No matter how many fantasy or genre shows are in competition, it doesn’t seem like anything can top ‘Succession’ or ‘White Lotus’ this Emmy season.”

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