Why Isn’t ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Nominated For Outstanding Drama Series At the 2019 Emmys?

One of the most celebrated TV series of the past few years, The Handmaid’s Tale, completed its third season last month. However, at this weekend’s 2019 Emmy Awards, it isn’t a contender for Outstanding Drama Series. Read on the learn why, and what the Emmys “hanging episodes” rule is about.

What is the Emmys ‘hanging episodes’ rule?

The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 8 "Unfit"
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 8 “Unfit” | Sophie Giraud/Hulu

When Emmys rules were established, most series followed the school year, meaning they began in the fall and ended in the spring. However, this isn’t the case anymore, and so the Emmy eligibility period, which is from June 1 to May 31 of the following year, makes things a bit more complicated. Thus the introduction of the “hanging episodes” clause.

Here’s the wording per the Emmys rulebook: “If an ongoing series has enough episodes in the current eligibility year to qualify as a series and has one or more episodes that are part of the series season, included the season/series finale, that fall into the subsequent eligibility year, the ‘hanging episodes’ that are in a contiguous rollout on the same distribution platform join in eligibility the already-qualified-as-eligible episodes of the series, as long as the hanging episodes air prior to the start of nomination-round voting.”

Season 1 of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ took home a host of Emmys

Season 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale premiered on April 26, 2017. The first three episodes began airing on Hulu that day, and the subsequent seven episodes were released one each week until June 14, 2017. Because of this, most episodes were released before the cut off date of May 31, 2017.

The first season was very well-received. In fact, it took home one of the top prizes of the night: Outstanding Drama Series. It was the first streaming service to do so. Additionally, Elisabeth Moss won for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series for portraying Offred/June.

When was Season 2 released?

In 2018, the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale was nominated for 20 nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series once again. The season kicked off, the same as the year before, at the end of April. And the hanging episode rules applied here.

The Season 2 episodes that aired before the cut off date of May 31, 2018, were eligible for the 2018 Emmy Awards. Additionally, the three episodes from the previous season were also eligible, meaning Seasons 1 and 2 were competing alongside one another. Thus the large number of nominations.

Season 3 of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ isn’t eligible this year

This could have been a pattern that continued for years. However, Hulu decided to simplify things, knowing that that might make this a lean year for them at the Emmys. Season 3 premiered on June 5, 2019, meaning the entire season will be up for awards at the 2020 Emmys if all goes as planned.

Because only three episodes from Season 2 are eligible at the 2019 Emmys, it doesn’t meet qualifications for the larger awards, like Outstanding Drama Series. But each of the three hanging episodes of Season 2 has been nominated, and guest actors Cherry Jones and Bradley Whitford won for their appearances during those episodes.

When is Season 4 due out?

And chances are, 2020 isn’t the last Emmys Awards the cast and crew of The Handmaid’s Tale will attend. On July 26, 2019, the series was renewed for a fourth season. There’s no word yet as to win it will premiere, but if we had to guess, we’d say Summer 2020 makes the most sense.

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