The pandemic has affected nearly every show in some way, and production delays come at the same time as another phenomenon: more high-profile streaming services in existence than ever before. Less available original American programming means that broadcast networks and subscription platforms alike have taken to importing plenty of foreign series. Acorn TV, Sundance Now, and BBC America have been doing this for years, but we’re now seeing this on an incredible scale – one that sets the stage for a potential international infiltration of year-end TV awards.
It’s important first to distinguish that second-run programming isn’t necessarily eligible for awards. Examples include Manhunt: Deadly Games, which aired on CBS months after first premiering in the prior season on Spectrum, and LA’s Finest, which debuted season one on CBS around the same time that season two began on Spectrum. CBS All Access also reruns The Good Fight and Star Trek: Discovery on CBS, often multiple years after their debut on the premium subscription service. The CW, on the other hand, could be eligible for Coroner or Devils, acquired from Canada and Italy, respectively, but not Swamp Thing, which streamed on DC Universe more than a year ago.
There are a slew of series – mostly British – that have been awards players in the past for seasons that premiered first in their home countries and then a few weeks or months later in the United States, but during the same season. As far as drama and comedy series go, the list isn’t long, led by Bodyguard, Downton Abbey, Schitt’s Creek, and Fleabag. The limited series category is far more plentiful, with recent inclusions like A Very English Scandal, The Night Manager, Wolf Hall, The Honourable Woman, The White Queen, and Luther all garnering substantial attention.
There are actually relatively few cases of a show contending for American awards in a separate season than the one in which it first debuted somewhere else. Dancing on the Edge started in the UK on BBC Two in February 2013 but didn’t begin airing on Starz until October of that year. Carlos was on Canal+ in France in May 2010 before premiering in October on the Sundance Channel, but that’s also a complicated example because some organizations considered it a film. The earliest and most public instance of this happening was the original iteration of The Office, which triumphed at the Golden Globes in 2003 for episodes that had aired in the UK two years earlier before coming to BBC America.
What does all that mean for this year? Well, there’s a wealth of content that’s awards-worthy, and it’s just a question of if people are actually watching and taking note of the international series’ quality. From same-season selections, Hulu’s Normal People, already nominated for a few Emmys earlier this year, and PBS’ Roadkill, starring Hugh Laurie, are decent bets. HBO Max’s Two Weeks to Live and AMC’s Quiz also have awards-friendly stars, like Maisie Williams, Sian Clifford, and Matthew MacFadyen, who could boost their chances. Israeli thriller Tehran, from Apple TV Plus, might be another popular choice, though the fact that it’s not in English might hamper its chances.
There are also a number of shows that aired either earlier in 2020 or at some point in 2019 and have just recently arrived in the United States. Peacock’s The Capture is similar to Bodyguard, though it remains to be seen if awards bodies are actually watching that new streaming service. Two Australian series, Netflix’s immigration drama Stateless and Peacock’s living-situation dramedy Five Bedrooms, are deserving of attention. Showtime’s We Hunt Together could appeal to fans of Dexter or Killing Eve. Lighthearted comedies like the CW’s Dead Pixels, Peacock’s Intelligence or Peacock’s Hitmen, all of which have already been renewed for a second season, might have their fans. I would love to see enthusiasm for HBO Max’s Pure, which concluded back in February 2019 on Channel 4 in the UK but wasn’t renewed after its initial six episodes. There are so many more contenders that mostly fall under this classification, including Cobra and Flesh and Blood, from PBS, Gangs of London and The Salisbury Poisonings,from AMC+, The Duchess,from Netflix, and Canadian series Transplant and Nurses, from NBC.
The best hope for any of these series is likely at the Golden Globes, in part because the HFPA is a group of foreign journalists. They’ve also demonstrated in the past that they’re open to out-of-the-box choices that other awards bodies haven’t seemed to notice, like Boss or Prison Break. The Critics Choice Association has also shown similar creativity recently with selections like American Gods, My Brilliant Friend, David Makes Man, and Patriot over the past few years. The other help is that there just aren’t as many returning past nominees to check off automatically, so there’s room for new series to break in. Could this be the year of international TV awards domination?