We talk quite a bit around these parts about how uninteresting award shows have become (aside from the massive blip that was the 2017 Academy Awards). The element of surprise is hardly there anymore. We know Claire Danes and Kevin Spacey will be nominated, again, for roles that don’t get them nearly as much attention anymore as they did at the start of their tenure as their respective characters. We know that the voters still have a bizarre amount of affection for Modern Family and that if Julia Louis Dreyfus is nominated again, we can all bet on her winning as well (that last one is typically deserved, however). Despite this, every once in (a long) while, something interesting can happen, even for the Emmys. With just how much television there is these days you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who keeps up with everything “prestige” including this critic who only just started Big Little Lies this week, haven’t yet begun Better Call Saul (I know!) and prefers genre fare to typical drama when it comes to what I watch week in and week out.
So, while I doubt 90% of the names and titles I mention below will be hearing their names come Thursday morning, here would be my personal picks if I were allowed to vote. Some are sillier than others, I’ll grant you that (no one can dissuade me from my love of The Magicians goddammit) while many are par the course of what you expect in these lists. The idea was to think both outside the box but also about which performances really deserve recognition, whether I always enjoy the accompanying show or not. Take a look below and see who I’d like to be honored and let us know in the comments, who would make your list.
Honorable aside: There is no convincing me that Samurai Jack and Bojack Horseman don’t belong on the nomination list for Best Animated Series this year. Both are two of the best shows period to come out in the past year.
Master of None
While the dramedies clearly have their hooks in on me, there’s also no denying the madcap charm of NBC’s Superstore, which prioritizes the big laughs. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is truly unlike anything else onscreen right now; Master of None and Atlanta have been comedy game-changers in the past few years with keen, artistic eyes. Brooklyn Nine-Nine had its best season to date, and Catastrophe continues to be the little show that could depicting an honest relationship with all the humor and tragedy that follows.
Actor in a Comedy:
Aziz Ansari – Master of None
Andy Daly – Review
Ted Danson – The Good Place
Rob Delaney – Catastrophe
Bill Hader – Documentary Now!
Donald Glover – Atlanta
This was the easiest list to come up with mainly because actors in comedy had a wonderful year with distinctive roles. Ansari grew more comfortable in his skin in season two, while Andy Daly was never better as the unhinged Forrest, and Ted Danson blew us all away with a single grin. Donald Glover is one of the most exciting voices to come in the limelight in recent years, while Bill Hader is a craftsman and Rob Delaney a revelation in season three of Catastrophe.
Actress in a Comedy:
Pamela Adlon – Better Things
Rachel Bloom – Crazy Ex- Girlfriend
Julia Louis Dreyfus – Veep
Sharon Horgan – Catastrophe
Issa Rae – Insecure
Michaela Watkins – Casual
Listen, Julia Louis Dreyfus is likely winning again, but across the board, the actresses are dynamic, hilarious and raw. Issa Rae impressed in her debut long form series, Sharon Horgan is television’s best kept secret, but Michaela Watkins isn’t far behind. Pamela Adlon brought a warmth and sincerity to her role while Rachel Bloom continues to be spellbinding in a role that in anyone else’s hands would be all too easy to hate.
Supporting Actor in a Comedy:
Desmin Borges – You’re the Worst
Andre Braugher – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Tituss Burgess – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Jamie Camil – Jane the Virgin
Brian Tyree Henry – Atlanta
Zach Woods – Silicon Valley
All of the men on this list are remarkably talented, but I will not shut up about Andre Braugher and just how fucking good he is on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. No one else touches him. The scene below is pure comedy gold.
Supporting Actress in a Comedy:
Lauren Ash – Superstore
Zazie Beetz – Atlanta
Donna Lynne Chaplin – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Kether Donohue – You’re the Worst
Rita Moreno – One Day At A Time
Antoinette Robertson – Dear White People
Antoniette Robertson, Zazie Beetz and Rita Moreno were break-outs of their shows while Lauren Ash, Donna Lynne Chaplin and Kether Donohue all play characters that, again, in the wrong hands, could be easy to hate. Ash is hilarious and has impeccable physical comedy timing and is the least likely to get a nomination out of the women on this list, but she adds a tone to the overall ensemble of Superstore.
13 Reasons Why
The Handmaid’s Tale
I figure if people are going to complain, here is where I’ll stir the pot the most with such a genre dominated list but that’s what’s been the most impressive of the year so far. We can have these incredible, slow burning series such as The Americans up against the insidious and darkly timely portrait of toxic patriarchy in Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale playing against the ridiculous but poignant romp that is SyFy’s The Magicians. There’s no shortage of range in television these days in terms of what types of shows you’re looking to watch.
Actor in a Drama Series:
Sterling K. Brown – This is Us
Dylan Minnette – 13 Reasons Why
Matthew Rhys – The Americans
Dan Stevens – Legion
Justin Theroux – The Leftovers
Aidan Young – Rectify
There is little doubt that Aidan Young, Justin Theroux and Matthew Rhys in perfect worlds would all have their own individual Emmy at this point, instead of going up against one another in wishful thinking Emmy lists. They’re just that good. Dan Stevens also cemented his exciting up-and-comer place in Hollywood with Legion. Sterling K. Brown continued to impress in his series stealing performance in This is Us, while Dylan Minnette played the long and painful game in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.
Actress in a Drama Series:
Carrie Coon – The Leftovers
Viola Davis – How to Get Away with Murder
Katherine Langford – 13 Reasons Why
Mandy Moore – This is Us
Ruth Negga – Preacher
Keri Russell – The Americans
This is another situation where yes, Carrie Coon should obviously win. However that doesn’t diminish from the continued strong work of Viola Davis and the winsome and subtle work done by Mandy Moore in mega hit This Is Us. Keri Russell continues to be amazing, while Ruth Negga won us over as the casually psychotic Tulip in FX’s Preacher, and Katherine Langford broke all of our hearts collectively in 13 Reasons Why.
Supp. Actor in a Drama
Mahershala Ali – Luke Cage
Hale Appleman – The Magicians
Joseph Gilgun – Preacher
David Harbor – Stranger Things
Ron Cephas Jones – This Is Us
Jeffrey Wright – Westworld
This is without a doubt my silliest list, but the names here are all remarkable in varying roles. Joseph Gilgun and David Harbor both work wonderfully carrying easy charisma and shrouded darkness on their shoulders. Mahershala Ali also exudes charm without allowing anyone to forget he’s dangerous while Ron Cephas Jones became the soul of This is Us season one. Jeffery Wright was unsurprisingly understated and powerful, while Hale Appleman wears his role as Eliot like a second skin.
Supp. Actress in a Drama
Millie Bobby Brown – Stranger Things
Emily Browning – American Gods
Thandie Newton – Westworld
Aubrey Plaza – Legion
Kate Walsh – 13 Reasons Why
Samira Wiley – Orange is the New Black
Samira Wiley and her megawatt smile almost made us forget the horrible things we’d just seen on Orange is the New Black; Thandie Newton stole the show from its leads while Emily Browning made an originally underwritten character into something of a hero in American Gods. Millie Bobby Brown possessed maturity and wisdom beyond her years as the mysterious Eleven, and Kate Walsh made us viscerally understand her grief. However, it’s Aubrey Plaza who I’m desperately pulling for. Finally proving her range and versatility, there was simply no taking your eyes off of her whenever she popped up onscreen in Legion.