Wine, Pickleball, Mustaches and Lots of Penis: Emmy Contender Trends

Given the volume of TV out there, it’s no surprise that viewers are seeing double or even triple, with overlapping trends and actors seemingly everywhere you look. As my colleague Emily Longeretta recently noted, stars like Elle Fanning (“The Great,” “The Girl From Plainville”), Chloë Sevigny (“Russian Doll,” “Plainville”), Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve,” “The Chair”), Julia Garner (“Ozark,” “Inventing Anna”) and Nicole Byer (“Grand Crew,” “Nailed It!”) are just some of the performers eligible for multiple projects in this year’s Emmy race.

That’s a tremendous trend among actors. It’s also pretty clear that 2022 will go down as the year of true-crime adaptations, both of the murder (“Candy,” “The Staircase,” “Dr. Death”) and the non-murder (“The Dropout,” “WeCrashed,” “Pam & Tommy”) varieties. And then there are just the good ol’ fashioned “adapting a true story because it’s a good yarn” entrants such as “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” and “Angelyne.”

As I’ve noted before there are so many damn shows this year that the titles start to merge: “Anatomy of a Scandal” versus “A Very British Scandal.” “Shining Girls” versus “Shining Vale.” “Station Eleven” and “Station 19.” And my favorite: “Pam & Tommy,” in which you find out the truth about Pam Anderson. Or “The Thing About Pam,” in which you don’t. (Thankfully, “Mayor of Kingstown” and “Mare of Easttown” did not air in the same year.)

Remember those simpler times when it was just the broadcast networks airing shows like “The Wonder Years,” “Law & Order” and “The Equalizer”? Oh yeah, that was also this year.

But if you start watching way too much TV, an occupational hazard here at Variety (high-class problem, I know), you start to no- tice bizarre trends that clearly no one thought to check. Perhaps they say something about where we are as a society … or maybe indicate like-minded writers.

I know many viewers — myself included — have guzzled more than their fair share of wine over the past few years. Blame the pandemic, point to the frightening march toward fascism in the nation … and a few glasses of pinot have helped. This libation fuels shows like NBC’s delightful and underrated “Grand Crew,” about a group of young, Black Angelenos who meet up over pours at a hip Highland Park wine bar.

Also on the cabernet train: Hulu’s “Life & Beth” stars Amy Schumer as a New York-based wine distributor who escapes to the countryside when her life turns sideways. ABC’s canceled “Promised Land” centered on a wine-growing Latino family in Sonoma County. “The Kings of Napa” is an OWN soap about a wealthy Black family in the wine industry as well.

Another bouncing ball across the TV landscape this year: Soccer — and not just on Apple TV+’s Emmy-winning “Ted Lasso.” The “Yellowjackets” team is traveling o a soccer championship when their plane goes down. Soccer shows up in university life on “The Sex Lives of College Girls.” Episode 5 of “Station Eleven” features the game.

Soccer not your thing? Try pickleball, the growing sport that played a role this season on CBS’ “Ghosts,” TruTV’s “Tacoma FD” (the game was even invented on nearby Bainbridge Island) and Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules,” which featured a viciously competitive match in Palm Springs.

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Tony Dalton as Lalo Salamanca in “Better Call Saul”
Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Meanwhile, move over, Magnum, the mustache is back in a big way in television — and on some of this year’s top actor contenders. Tony Dalton spent the first 20 years as an actor without facial hair. But his bold mustache has been a defining characteristic of his “Saul” character, Lalo Salamanca, as well as his recent part on “Hawkeye” as Jack Duquesne. Now, he says, “It’s gonna be there for a while. It worked!” Murray Bartlett, as Armond, sports a thick one on “The White Lotus.” Charlie Barnett didn’t have one in Season 1 of “Russian Doll” but he does now. “Severance” overindexed with mustaches thanks to Tramell Tillman and John Turturro. Jason Sudeikis, as “Ted Lasso,” is constantly asked about his folksy character’s signature look. And then there are the mustache GOATs, still going strong after all these years: Sam Elliott (“1883”) and the legendary Tom Selleck (“Blue Bloods”). Says Dalton: “I think maybe I can have for the next 20 years!”

But there’s another male appendage that is having its moment in the TV sun: the penis. From Sebastian Stan as Tommy Lee in “Pam & Tommy” (and the elaborate lengths that producers went through to make his little Tommy talk) to “Minx” very likely breaking the record for most per-capita penis shots in TV history, it’s been quite a year for the organ. There are no Emmy categories for such trends, but perhaps there should be a way to award TV’s MVPs, from in-demand actors … to their body parts.

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