A few weeks ago I received a mysterious email from a Netflix publicist. “Where will you be on Monday? ” they asked. “I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but we have a few specific people delivering something. I know, it’s super vague.
These “specific people” came to the Variety costumed offices like the mysterious guards (aka “pink soldiers”) from “Squid Game”, complete with signature circle/triangle/square masks. They came with an invite to Netflix’s FYSee Emmy event space at Raleigh Studios, along with a box of donuts.
The brutal South Korean drama about class, power, wealth and children’s play clearly remains a priority for the streamer, especially after this year’s SAG Awards picked up wins including male actor (Lee Jung-Jae) and female actor (Jung Ho-yeon). Lee also won the Independent Spirit Award for Outstanding Male Performance in a New Scripted Series and Drama Actor at the Critics Choice Awards. (Plus, O Yeong-su won this year’s non-televised Golden Globes for his supporting actor in a drama.)
In almost every case, “Squid Game” has gone down in history. For the Globes, O was the first Korean-born actor to win the award. And at the SAG Awards, ‘Squid Game’ was the first non-English series to win, or even be nominated, for the prize. Quite a change from the days when the idea of a language other than English, let alone subtitles, was considered a non-starter in television. Remember when it was so important that Jin and Sun were allowed to speak Korean on “Lost”?
In some cases, the languages weren’t even subtitled — better to create anxiety in viewers who don’t really know what’s going on and instead have to rely on body language and tone of voice.
Of course, it was the streaming revolution that finally made it much easier for audiences to find non-English dishes (rather than searching for them on PBS stations, independent broadcasters or smaller cable channels).
And it was also the streaming revolution that suddenly made some non-English speaking international productions eligible for the Primetime Emmys. Until recently, most overseas broadcasts were very specifically sent to the Intl. Emmy Awards for the competition. And it was pretty clear what was eligible, given that English-language American networks weren’t tasked with airing non-English fare. But streamers are global, which means those American companies making local productions in international territories can still be entered into the Primetime Emmy competition.
“Any production produced in the United States in a language other than English is eligible for the Primetime Emmys,” this year’s rules state. Besides “Squid Game,” this year’s contestants featuring languages other than English include comedy “Acapulco” and dramas “Pachinko,” “Tehran” and “Lupin.”
The ‘Squid Game’ frenzy has evidently died down in recent months after its run as a phenom last fall – but Netflix is hoping for the same kind of lust for making history that helped turn ‘Parasite’ into a Oscar winner might push the show back. in conversation. It’s already a contender, with another show from last fall – Season 3 of HBO’s “Succession” – its most formidable contender.
Will ‘Squid Game’ become the first non-British drama to win an Emmy, or will its stars repeat their wins from the winter awards season? Don’t mess with those pink soldiers.