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"Nosedive" is the first episode of the third series of British science fiction anthology series Black Mirror. Michael Schur and Rashida Jones wrote the teleplay for the episode, based on a story by series creator and showrunner Charlie Brooker, while Joe Wright acted as director. Max Richter composed the soundtrack. It premiered on Netflix on 21 October 2016, together with the rest of the third series.

"Nosedive"
Black Mirror episode
Black Mirror - Nosedive.jpg
Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) gives a rating using her phone. Howard's performance was well-received and earned a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination. The episode's pastel colours distinguish it from most Black Mirror episodes.
Episode no. Series 3
Episode 1
Directed by Joe Wright
Story by Charlie Brooker
Teleplay by Michael Schur
Rashida Jones
Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey
Original air date 21 October 2016 (2016-10-21)
Running time 63 minutes
Recurring/Guest appearances
Episode chronology
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"Playtest"
List of Black Mirror episodes

The episode is set in a world where people can rate each other from one to five stars for every interaction they have. Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a young woman overly obsessed with her ratings, and is chosen by her popular childhood friend (Alice Eve) as the maid of honour for her wedding. On her journey to the wedding Lacie gets angry at a customer service worker, beginning a rapid reduction in her rating .

"Nosedive" had a larger budget than episodes in previous series, and was given a different style based on pastel aesthetics. The episode was filmed in South Africa, with Seamus McGarvey as director of photography and Joel Collins as the production designer. As it is part of an anthology series, production was similar to making a short film. In interviews, several people who worked on the episode have expressed negative views towards social media.

The episode has received mainly positive reviews, and is mostly ranked in the top half in critics' lists of Black Mirror episodes by quality. The pastel aesthetics and the plot's relevance to the modern world have been praised by many reviewers; Max Richter's soundtrack and Howard's performance have also been complimented. The tone of the episode is less dark than other Black Mirror episodes, and in particular the ending is less bleak than usual for the series; reaction to this has been polarised, with some reviewers approving of it and others disliking it. Many critics noted the similarity of the episode to other media—in particular, "App Development and Condiments" (an episode of Community) and the real world app Peeple. The episode has been nominated for several awards, including a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Howard.

Contents

PlotEdit

Lacie Pound (Bryce Dallas Howard) lives in a world where everyone can rate one another's interactions and social media posts from one to five stars. Lacie has a rating of 4.2. She is obsessed with her rating, maintaining superficially positive relationships with everyone she meets, and staging social media posts. One day, she is given low ratings by several coworkers for accepting a free smoothie from Chester, as Chester and his boyfriend Gordon have broken up and the office workers are siding with Gordon. By the following day, Chester's rating has dropped so far he is no longer allowed into the building where he works; Lacie then shuns him. Lacie lives with her brother Ryan (James Norton), who has a lower rating than she does, though he does not care. Lacie is eager to improve socially and materially and wants to live in the chic new housing development Pelican Cove, but in order to live there, she must either pay an exorbitant rent or earn a discount by having a rating of 4.5 or above. After consulting with a ratings expert, she is told that she is receiving many positive ratings from service workers, but such ratings do not matter as much as ratings from people with high rankings, so she should cultivate their approval.

After Lacie posts a picture of her teddy bear, Mr. Rags, whom she and her childhood friend Naomi (Alice Eve) made together, Naomi asks Lacie to be her maid of honour at her wedding, and deliver a speech. Naomi has a rating of 4.8 and many highly rated friends; Lacie believes the speech will boost her rating to a 4.5. However, at the airport, she learns her flight is cancelled. There is an available seat on another flight, but she needs a 4.2 rating to get it. Due to an earlier argument with Ryan and several unfortunate encounters with strangers, Lacie's rating has dropped to 4.183, so she is refused the seat. Frustrated, Lacie causes a scene, and security gives her a 24-hour punishment that temporarily lowers her rating by one point and activates "Double Damage", which doubles the effect of all low ratings she receives. After being asked to leave the airport, Lacie is forced to rent a car to make the nine-hour drive to Naomi's wedding.

Because of her low ranking, Lacie can only rent an old car with controls that are in Czech. After driving for some time, the electric car needs to be charged, but Lacie cannot find an adapter that fits it. She attempts to hitchhike, but passing motorists refuse to stop due to her rating, and even downvote her as they pass. Eventually she manages to get a ride from a truck driver with an extremely low ranking, Susan (Cherry Jones), who reveals she too was obsessed with ratings until her husband was passed over for vital cancer treatment because he was a 4.3 rather than a 4.4.

As Lacie is hitchhiking with fans of a science fiction show she is pretending to enjoy in order to win their assistance, Naomi calls Lacie and tells her she is no longer welcome at the wedding, as her rating has now dropped to 2.6. Enraged, Lacie drinks a thermos of whiskey given to her by Susan and trespasses onto the island to crash the wedding reception. Lacie drunkenly performs her speech, calmly at first, but then she insults Naomi's new husband Paul (Alan Ritchson). Her speech becomes more frantic, nonsensical and angry, and the guests rate her down until she has a rating of 0. When Paul attempts to take away her microphone, Lacie threatens him with a cake knife. As Lacie continues to rant, security restrain her. She is jailed, and has her ranking technology removed. While in her cell, Lacie begins to exchange insults with another prisoner (Sope Dirisu), each delighted that they are free to speak to each other without fear of being rated.

ProductionEdit

Rashida Jones and Mike Schur, who wrote the script for "Nosedive".

"Nosedive" is the first episode of the third series; all six episodes in this series were released on Netflix simultaneously on 21 October 2016. Brooker says it was selected to be the season premiere "partly to slightly ease people in", as "we thought [it] was probably one of the most accessible episodes".[1] Alongside "San Junipero", "Nosedive" was first shown in 2016 ahead of its Netflix release at the Toronto International Film Festival.[2] Two days prior to the release of series 3 on Netflix, Den of Geek! published an interview in which Brooker hinted that "Nosedive" is "a pastel, playful satire about modern insecurity."[3]

Whilst series one and two of Black Mirror were shown on Channel 4 in the UK, in September 2015 Netflix commissioned the series for 12 episodes (split into two series of six episodes),[4] and in March 2016 it outbid Channel 4 for the rights to distributing the third series, with a bid of $40 million.[5] Due to its move to Netflix, the show had a larger budget than in previous series,[6] which one critic suggests is responsible for the "impressive line-up" which was noted by many reviewers.[7] Another critic called this episode the show's "most ambitious yet";[8] due to its larger episode order, series 3 was also able to vary its genre and tone more than previous series.[9] One reviewer also noted that "Nosedive" contained "only American characters".[2]

The episode is based on an idea by series creator Charlie Brooker. In a 2016 interview, Brooker states that the original idea, from five years previous, was similar to Brewster's Millions and based on the idea of a high status person trying to reduce their ranking.[10] Later, Brooker wrote either a three[11] or four[12] page outline for the episode, wanting it to be "comedic, darkly".[11] Rashida Jones and Mike Schur wrote the episode. Known for comedy and sitcoms, the pair had previously worked together on many shows, including Parks and Recreation, but had never written anything together before "Nosedive". Both fans of Black Mirror, Jones had been in contact with Brooker for a few years beforehand; Schur wrote the first half of the episode (up to "[Lacie] finding out that [Naomi] doesn't want her to come"), while Jones wrote the second half, and the two then "blended and mixed" their scripts. In 2016, Schur had accounts on Twitter but not Facebook or Instagram, as "there's a bunch of strangers talking shit about you in there", and Jones expressed a similarly negative attitude, stating "I do have very strong, very conflicted feelings about rating systems and social media."[12] Jones believes that the episode, as with all Black Mirror episodes, "pushes you into the near future", while Schur considers it to be more of a "parallel reality". Brooker has described the episode as "like a cross between Pleasantville and The Truman Show".[11]

 
Joe Wright, the episode's director.

Joe Wright directed the episode, Seamus McGarvey was director of photography and Joel Collins, working for VFX company Painting Practice, was the production designer.[13] The episode was shot in four weeks,[14] on an island an hour from Cape Town, South Africa; "San Junipero" was also filmed in South Africa.[15][13] In an interview with Variety, McGarvey noted that the episode was shot in 4K resolution at the request of Netflix; he said the colour scheme was "a sort of peppermint green, duck egg blue [and] strange peach colors", and that props and "even the drinks people are drinking" were chosen with care to create a "sickly pastel feel".[14] Brooker pointed out that directors of Black Mirror episodes (in this case, Wright) have more "power" than in serialised television shows, as "it is like making a short film", and he said that Wright had "been feeling quite bruised after doing Pan and [Black Mirror] was a good thing for him to get his teeth into which wasn't the full five-year commitment of a movie".[1] McGarvey had worked with Wright previously.[14] The scenes in which Lacie is driving utilise a computer generated landscape designed by Dan May, the episode's art director.[13]

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Lacie, the episode's main character. Howard gained 30 pounds for the role, saying an an interview with Marie Claire that body shaming is a "huge part of the subtext of the story". Howard first joined social media during Thanksgiving 2015, and was approached with the treatment of the episode a fortnight later, in December 2015.[16][17]

Max Richter, a "conservatoire, university-trained classical composer",[18] composed the episode's soundtrack. Richter first met the director, Joe Wright, in London before the shooting of the episode had been completed, and quickly began coming up with ideas for the score. Richter aimed to "support" the episode's display of "incredible anxiety hovering beneath this smiley surface [...] while at the same time not flattening out the emotionality of it", commenting in an interview that Wright's camerawork had a "dream-like quality" and that Brooker's "story was fantastic".[19] In another interview, Richter said he was aiming for the episode to have "warmth and a fairytale quality throughout" with "darkness underneath it", and notes that his composition was based on "the sentiment and the emotional trajectory of the characters". Richter also composed the sound effects which play when one character rates another, and incorporated these sounds into the score itself.[18]

In November 2016, to tie in with the episode, Netflix released a tongue-in-cheek app called Rate Me. The app allows users to rate people, by their Twitter handle, and view their own rating and the ratings of others.[20]

Critical receptionEdit

The episode received mostly positive reviews from critics. In a four out of five star review in The Independent, Jacob Stolworthy calls the episode "a unique treat - and one that's a joy to unpack on a visual level", compliments Max Richter for "blending the diegetic sounds of the app with the non-diegetic score evoking our protagonist's struggle to determine reality and fiction" and summarises that the episode "is more prescient than you first suspect".[21] Benjamin Lee of The Guardian gives this episode, alongside "San Junipero", a rating of four out of five stars, noting that the episode "is more traditionally Black Mirror in its tale of the sinister side of technological progress" but has "a freshness that prevents it from ever feeling heavy-handed"; Lee also comments that it "manages to create a believable and aesthetically impressive mini-universe without the need for tiresome exposition".[6] Suchandrika Chakrabarti of Daily Mirror also gave the episode four stars out of five, opining that "it's a credit to the writing that we do feel the danger that presses in on [Lacie's] sunny existence".[22]

Emefa Setranah of The Mancunion gives the episode 3.5 out of five stars, stating: "This introductory episode does not fall short of Black Mirror's reputation. [...] However, it is a tune that has been played one too many times. The show's warnings against technology are becoming repetitive and predictable."[23] Mark Monahan in The Telegraph gives the episode three out of five stars, praising the setting for being "superbly and thought-provokingly drawn", but criticising the episode for being "weakened by spoon-feedingly schematic characters and a plot [...] that fails to exploit its more interesting tainted-by-association potential".[7] Another three star review comes from Pat Stacey of Irish Independent, who criticises: "Like all the best Black Mirrors, this is just a few short steps from current reality. It's not one of the best, though. It sets up the premise crisply, then spends far too much time labouring the point."[24]

 
Max Richter's soundtrack for the episode was well received.

A positive review by Tasha Robinson in The Verge summarises the episode as an "exaggerated morality play about the dangers of conformity and the small pleasures of individuality". Robinson opines that the episode "can be strident and obvious" but "understands human nature very well". Commenting on the episode's aesthetics, Robinson writes, "Wright gives parts of the episode a gorgeous, sunlit gleam that powerfully highlights the difference between the eternal-magic-hour world of the haves and the grubby reality of the have-nots", and particularly approves of the point at which "the bleeps of [Lacie's] plummeting rating start showing up in the episode's soundtrack."[25] Adam Chitwood of Collider commented that the "lush world and bitingly hilarious script of 'Nosedive' brings some much-welcomed levity to the Black Mirror universe", and notes that the episode has a "pastel-filled palate" and "keeps everything focused on the characters", which is different to director Joe Wright's usual style.[2] Matt Fowler of IGN described the episode as "both fun and frustrating [but] it works well when you consider that the next two episodes get a lot more grounded and grim", and complimented the "very compelling score by Max Richter".[26]

Alex Mullane of Digital Spy gave a positive review, saying it is "as funny – and uplifting – as Black Mirror has ever been". Mullane opines that Bryce Dallas Howard is "fantastic in the lead role, carrying the piece brilliantly", and Alice Eve is "excellent". Mullane also writes, "the real success of 'Nosedive' comes within the final scene", because "the climax might be bleak in some ways, but in others, it's a moment of sheer, fist-pumping joy" as "Mike Schur knows how to end a series on a wonderfully uplifting note, and it's a trick he pulls off here with panache".[27] Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode an A–, commenting that the first half of the episode is Black Mirror at "its most unsettling and its most predictable", but that the second half "[adds] depth and sincerity" to something that "bordered perilously close to smug". Handlen says that the "final scene in the jail is a little too perfect", but that the episode is "clever and hatefully plausible".[28] Sophie Lee of The Atlantic gave the episode a mixed review, praising Howard's performance and saying that the "lush, calming visuals of 'Nosedive' clash nicely with the mounting anxiety", but opining that the episode is "about 15 minutes too long" and describing the ending as "too cute".[29]

"Nosedive" appears on many critics' rankings of the 13 episodes in Black Mirror's first three series, usually in the top half. Charles Bramesco of Vulture places the episode second, compilmenting its "hilarious, moving, supremely unsettling script". Bramesco writes: "Seldom is the guiding theme of Black Mirror — the insidious ways in which technology alters human behavior — expressed with more lucid clarity."[30] "Nosedive" appears fourth in TheWrap's ranking of Black Mirror episodes, with the authors summarising that it is the "perfect sendup of our obsession with social media approval".[31] James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly ranked the episode sixth, decribing it as "a successful shift into comedy" and a "social media spoof that takes online reviews to their ultimate desperate extreme".[32] Aubrey Page of Collider also places the episode sixth, calling it "a perfect choice as Black Mirror's Season 3 opener" but says that it "lacks the sadistic snap of Brooker's usual work", which "undercuts a bit of the episode's self-seriousness", and "feels woefully surface-level and a bit off-brand" because of its predictability.[33] Mat Elfring of GameSpot puts the episode seventh, due to the fact that it is "one of the more thought-provoking episodes and a dynamite way to kick off the third season".[34] "Nosedive" also comes seventh in Morgan Jeffery's list in Digital Spy, accompanied by the summary that "Lacie's Instagram-perfect world of social status defined by 'likes' is instantly recognisable to anyone who's ever been to school, and like the best Black Mirror episodes, presents us with only a slight adjustment to our own reality."[35] In Esquire, Corey Atad ranked "Nosedive" eighth, summarising that Howard's performance is "delightfully unhinged" and that the episode "in some ways a tad too simplistic, but as a nearly feature-length film, it's totally engaging".[36]

Other critics have ranked the six episodes from series three of Black Mirror in order of quality. In The Independent's ranking, "Nosedive" is second, being described as the "most detailed" episode of the third series for "presenting a well-conceived world that could be revisited time and time again".[37] In Forbes, Paul Tassi places the episode third, calling it the "most visually-stunning" of the series, but opining that "I didn't really care for the climactic ending sequence, and I feel like the episode loses its way about two-thirds of the way through."[38]

A Business Insider article by Erin Brodwin notes that the episode shows Lacie fall victim to the hedonic treadmill, as "Every time she gets a four or five-star rating, her bright blue eyes light up. [...] But at the end of the day, Lacie is lonely and unsatisfied." Brodwin points out that scientific studies match Lacie's experience, because "when we engage with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, we may feel a temporary boost from likes or favorites, but there's absolutely no link between social media use and long-term happiness."[39]

Comparisons with other mediaEdit

Several critics compared the episode to a 2014 episode of Community, "App Development and Condiments", which features an app where users assign each other "Meow Meow Beenz" ratings on a scale from one to five; Jack Shepherd of The Independent notes that both episodes "critically [analyse] people's obsession with stature on social media platforms with rating systems".[8] Other reviewers compared "Nosedive" to the mobile application Peeple,[29] an app where users could rate one another, which garnered immediate backlash upon its release.[29][10] Brooker said in an interview that he was not aware of the Community episode when he came up with the idea for "Nosedive", but that he did see advertising for Peeple during pre-production, initially thinking it would turn out to be marketing for a comedy show, and considered whether or not they should still produce the episode.[10] The episode has also been compared to the 2003 novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom,[25] and to the 1980s films Clockwise and Planes, Trains and Automobiles.[7] Following the episode's release, the Facebook page for Black Mirror shared an article in The Washington Post about a rating system proposed by the government of China,[note 1] which Rob Leane in Den of Geek! notes is very similar to the rating system that appears in "Nosedive".[40] Manuel Betancourt of Pacific Standard notes that "Nosedive" is similar to several other works about women and social media, particularly The Circle and Ingrid Goes West, but describes it as "perhaps the most keen-eyed critique of the demographics of social media usage of recent titles".[41]

Critics have also noted the inclusion of Easter eggs within Black Mirror—small details referring to other episodes. In "Nosedive", there is a frame where a social media post from Michael Callow reads, "Just got thrown out of the zoo again :(", a joke based on Callow having intercourse with a pig in "The National Anthem".[42] Brooker has described this Easter egg as his favourite in series three.[43] Another reference to that episode is the fictional show Sea of Tranquility; in "The National Anthem", a special effects expert mentions having worked on the show, while in "Nosedive", Lacie hitchhikes with fans of the show. Additionally, in "Hated in the Nation", a news ticker contains the term "Reputelligent", which is the name of the company that Lacie consults for advice about her rating.[44]

"Nosedive" has been parodied in popular culture, in the 2017 Saturday Night Live sketch "Five Stars". It features Aziz Ansari and Bobby Moynihan desperately trying to impress each other on an Uber journey, in order to boost each other's ratings. The sketch mentions Black Mirror explicitly, with both characters saying "San Junipero" is their favourite episode.[45][46]

AwardsEdit

"Nosedive" was nominated for several awards in 2017; the third season of Black Mirror also received several other nominations.

Award Category Recipients Result Reference
BAFTA Television Craft Awards Best Photography and Lighting – Fiction Seamus McGarvey Nominated [47]
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries Bryce Dallas Howard Nominated [48]
Art Directors Guild Awards Excellence in Production Design for a Television Movie or Limited Series Joel Collins, James Foster and Nicholas Palmer
(Also nominated for "Playtest" and "San Junipero".)
Nominated [49]
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture – Television Rashida Jones and Mike Schur Nominated [50]
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie Seamus McGarvey Nominated [51]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ The article shared was the following: Denyer, Simon (22 October 2016). "China's plan to organize its society relies on 'big data' to rate everyone". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 August 2017. 

ReferencesEdit

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  3. ^ Mellor, Louisa (19 October 2016). "Black Mirror series 3 interview: Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones". Den of Geek!. Retrieved 31 August 2017. 
  4. ^ Birnbaum, Debra. "'Black Mirror' Lands at Netflix". Variety. 
  5. ^ Plunkett, John (29 March 2016). "Netflix deals Channel 4 knockout blow over Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror". The Guardian. 
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  7. ^ a b c Monahan, Mark (21 October 2016). "Black Mirror, season 3, Nosedive, review: 'a thought-provoking, pastel-coloured hell'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 August 2017. 
  8. ^ a b Shepherd, Jack (23 October 2016). "Black Mirror season 3 episode 'Nosedive' is very similar to Community episode 'App Development and Condiments'". The Independent. Retrieved 12 August 2017. 
  9. ^ Poniewozik, James (20 October 2016). "Review: 'Black Mirror' Finds Terror, and Soul, in the Machine". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 August 2017. 
  10. ^ a b c Cobb, Kayla (27 October 2016). "Did 'Black Mirror' Creator Charlie Brooker Know About That 'Community' Episode When He Made "Nosedive"?". Decider. New York Post. Retrieved 12 August 2017. 
  11. ^ a b c "Black Mirror postmortem: Showrunner talks season 3 twists". Entertainment Weekly. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2016. 
  12. ^ a b Zuckerman, Esther (22 October 2016). "Rashida Jones and Michael Schur talk about bringing funny to Black Mirror". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 1 September 2017. 
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  14. ^ a b c Turchiano, Danielle (16 August 2017). "'Black Mirror' DP Seamus McGarvey Talks About Finding the 'Photographic Heart' of 'Nosedive'". Variety. Retrieved 1 September 2017. 
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  23. ^ Setranah, Emefa (15 November 2016). "Review: Black Mirror S3E01 — Nosedive". The Mancunion. Retrieved 3 September 2017. 
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  35. ^ Jeffery, Morgan (9 April 2017). "Ranking all 13 episodes of Charlie Brooker's chilling Black Mirror". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 September 2017. 
  36. ^ Atad, Corey (24 October 2016). "Every Episode of Black Mirror, Ranked". Esquire. Retrieved 12 August 2017. 
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  38. ^ Tassi, Paul (25 October 2016). "Ranking 'Black Mirror' Season 3's Episodes From Worst To Best". Forbes. Retrieved 3 September 2017. 
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  40. ^ Leane, Rob (3 November 2016). "How Black Mirror series 3 is eerily coming true". Den of Geek!. Dennis Publishing. Retrieved 12 August 2017. 
  41. ^ Betancourt, Manuel (11 August 2017). "Why Does Hollywood Tell So Many Stories About Women Obsessed With Social Media?". Pacific Magazine. Retrieved 31 August 2017. 
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  44. ^ Whitney, Erin Oliver. "24 Easter Eggs From All Three Seasons of 'Black Mirror', Plus a Timeline Connecting Every Episode". ScreenCrush. Townsquare Media. Retrieved 13 September 2017. 
  45. ^ Holub, Christian (22 January 2017). "Saturday Night Live recap: Aziz Ansari". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 13 September 2017. 
  46. ^ Perkins, Dennis (22 January 2017). "Aziz Ansari confidently anchors a uniformly strong Saturday Night Live". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 13 September 2017. 
  47. ^ "Television Craft Awards Winners 2017". British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). Retrieved 12 August 2017. 
  48. ^ Kelley, Seth (14 December 2016). "SAG Award Nominations: Complete List". 
  49. ^ Hipes, Patrick. "Art Directors Guild Awards Nominations: 'Rogue One', 'Game Of Thrones' & More". Deadline. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  50. ^ Washington, Arlene; Lewis, Hilary (10 February 2017). "Hidden Figures, Loving, and Queen of Katwe nominated". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 12 August 2017. 
  51. ^ "69th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 12 September 2017. 

External linksEdit