Emmy season is upon us again, and in the age of peak TV, one could argue that this particular Hollywood awards ceremony has become far more relevant than the Oscars. And with stalwarts like Better Call Saul and Veep out of contention this year (those shows did not air episodes during the eligibility period of 1st June 2017 – 31st May 2018), spots in both the comedy and drama categories have opened up to hot new contenders.
The nominations were just recently announced, all the attention has been focused on the heavy-hitters: Game of Thrones with 22 nominations, Saturday Night Live and Westworld with 21, and The Handmaid’s Tale with 20. Over in the absurdly competitive comedy, Atlanta led with 16, while fresh faces (which we’ve written at length about) like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Barry made huge first impressions with 14 and 13 respectively.
Notably, this is the first year where Netflix has overtaken HBO for the most nominations, signalling streaming’s growing influence. In other highlights, Killing Eve’s Sandra Oh makes history the first Asian woman to be nominated for Best Actress, while Issa Rae finally gains recognition as the driving force behind Insecure. Interestingly, The Good Place’s Ted Danson also beat the odds to claim his first comedy nomination since Cheers!
The comedy categories this year are absurdly competitive, mostly down to a glut of prestige dramedies like Better Things and Baskets taking over from dying network sitcoms like Modern Family. Meanwhile, it’s refreshing to see the drama race shift it’s attention to the ladies this year as Lead Actress is headlined by defending champion Elisabeth Moss of The Handmaid’s Tale, alongside last chance standouts Keri Russell and Claire Foy who are nominated for their final seasons on The Americans and The Crown respectively.
But even as we get excited over the excellent ballot (the Emmys really did get a lot right this year), we couldn’t help but notice that some of our favourites failed to make the cut. We have big bones to pick with the comedy, animated, variety, and miniseries categories in particular. So without further ado, here are the forgotten (but amply deserving) titles and talent that deserve a second look, if not from the Emmys, then from our readers at least.
“Outstanding Comedy Series”
The Good Place
Nominees: Atlanta, Barry, Black-ish, Curb Your Enthusiasm, GLOW, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Silicon Valley, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Why: The Good Place’s inventiveness and profound existential humour, alongside Better Things’ bittersweet brilliance should have been locks for this category. Replace the depreciating Silicon Valley and the very good (but not amazing) Black-ish with these two.
“Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series”
Hank Azaria (Brockmire)
Zach Galifianakis (Baskets)
Nominees: Anthony Anderson (Black-ish), Ted Danson (The Good Place), Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Donald Glover (Atlanta), Bill Hader (Barry), William H. Macy (Shameless)
Why: Hank Azaria’s turn as the acerbic and self-destructive baseball announcer Brockmire and Zach Galifianakis’ performance as literal sad clown Chip Baskets both balance cutting comedy with deep pathos. Neither will beat Barry’s Bill Hader, but they deserve a shot.
“Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series”
Alison Brie (GLOW)
Alia Shawkat (Search Party)
Logan Browning (Dear White People)
Nominees: Pamala Adlon (Better Things), Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Ms, Maisel), Allison Janney (Mom), Issa Rae (Insecure), Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish), Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie)
Why: Wow, this category is ultra competitive. But Alison Brie is hilarious as an 80s’ pro wrestler, while Alia Shawkat and Logan Browning delivered the performances of their career this past season. Unfortunately, not too many watch Search Party or Dear White People.
“Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series”
Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta)
Nominees: Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta), Henry Winkler (Barry), Louie Anderson (Baskets), Alec Baldwin (Saturday Night Live), Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live), Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Why: Darius’ journey in “Teddy Perkins” alone should have nabbed Lakeith Stanfield not just a nomination, but an outright win in this category. Likewise, Andre Braugher’s deadpan delivery as Raymond Holt is frequently the highlight of the best network sitcom of this era.
“Outstanding Drama Series”
Halt and Catch Fire
Nominees: The Americans, The Crown, Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, Stranger Things, This Is Us, Westworld
Why: David Fincher’s psychologically unsettling Mindhunter runs artistic circles around the latest seasons of Game of Thrones and Stranger Things. Likewise, Halt and Catch Fire’s poignant and compelling final season deserved better than a consolation prize.
“Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series”
J.K. Simmons (Counterpart)
Nominees: Jason Bateman (Ozark), Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us), Ed Harris (Westworld), Jeffrey Wright (Westworld)
Why: Forget Game of Thrones, Westworld or Stranger Things – the best genre show this past season was easily Counterpart. J.K. Simmons gives an acting masterclass in dual roles as spies from alternate universes in this intelligent and addictive Kafkaesque espionage thriller.
“Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series”
Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Deuce)
Jodie Comer (Killing Eve)
Nominees: Sandra Oh (Killing Eve), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Keri Russell (The Americans), Claire Foy (The Crown), Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale), Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld)
Why: We couldn’t ignore Maggie Gyllenhaal’s revelatory performance in David Simon’s 1970s’ drama about the rise of the porn industry. Similarly Jodie Comer’s delightfully psychotic turn and interplay with Sandra Oh was integral. Nominating one without the other makes no sense.
“Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series”
Noah Emmerich (The Americans)
Nominees: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), David Harbour (Stranger Things), Matt Smith (The Crown), Joseph Fiennes (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Why: No offence to the Game of Thrones actors here, but they really didn’t have much to do in season seven. On the flip side, Noah Emmerich quietly immersed himself in The Americans’ excellent final season in an un-showy performance of intelligence and inner turmoil.
“Outstanding Limited Series”
Nominees: The Alienist, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Genius: Picasso, Godless, Patrick Melrose
Why: With the exception of Patrick Melrose, the rest of these nominees are good to above average at best. The Terror’s sophisticated and slow-burning survivalist horror and American Vandal’s razor-sharp satire of true-crime documentaries bear greater merit.
“Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie”
Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks: The Return)
Nominees: Antonio Banderas (Genius: Picasso), Darren Criss (The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story), Benedict Cumberbatch (Patrick Melrose), Jeff Daniels (The Looming Tower), John Legend (Jesus Christ Superstar), Jesse Plemons (Black Mirror: USS Callister)
Why: This isn’t just one amazing performance getting overlooked – it’s three! Twin Peaks: The Return was divisive but Kyle MacLachlan’s triple-duty turn (as the heroic Dale Cooper, the menacing Mr. C and the hapless Dougie Jones) was revered by fans and critics.
“Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie”
Sarah Gadon (Alias Grace)
Hayley Atwell (Howards End)
Nominees: Jessica Biel (The Sinner), Laura Dern (The Tale), Michelle Dockery (Godless), Edie Falco (Law and Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders), Regina King (Seven Seconds), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story: Cult)
Why: Sarah Gadon was a tour-de-force as the enigmatic and entracing Grace Marks. Likewise, Hayley Atwell’s indelible performance in this update of E.M. Forster’s classic novel gave the great Emma Thompson (who won an Oscar for the same role) a run for her money.
“Outstanding Animated Program”
Nominees: Baymax Returns, Bob’s Burgers, Rick and Morty, The Simpsons, South Park
Why: Four seasons running and still no nominations for the obvious best animated series of our time – BoJack Horseman. Perhaps voters found the show too depressing and too real, or perhaps BoJack’s incisive critique of Hollywood’s vapid culture cuts too close home.
“Outstanding Variety Sketch Series”
Nathan For You
Nominees: At Home with Amy Sedaris, Drunk History, I Love You America with Sarah Silverman, Portlandia, Saturday Night Live, Tracey Ullman’s Show
Why: Probably the most egregious of all the snubs. Nathan For You‘s parody of reality TV tropes, outrageous schemes, and clever critique of capitalism and mass media is genius. It’s heartbreaking and cathartic episode “Finding Frances” alone should have merited a nom.