Welcome to my (kinda) annual rant at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for picking some, but not all, of the shows that I think should be recognized for their excellence in the year previous. I haven’t posted this in the past couple of years because 1. who cares, really? and 2. it feels like screaming into the void. But at special request, I’ve decided to give it a go again because, hey, why the hell not.
A note: this is not by any means the complete list of nominees. For my own sanity, I’ve opted to not include categories like Directing and Writing, or into the weeds categories like Choreography or Casting because come the fuck on.
ALRIGHT. LET’S ARGUE.
“Better Call Saul” (AMC)
“The Crown” (Netflix)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
“House of Cards” (Netflix)
“Stranger Things” (Netflix)
“This Is Us” (NBC)
Look. All six of these series are “good” shows and I’m not angry at any one in particular for receiving a nomination. A network hit like This Is Us is an obvious shoo-in — I imagine after the first time the network watched the pilot, they just got up and dusted off a spot for the Emmy. Better Call Saul is one of the most — if not the most — interesting character dramas on air right now. And then there are Westworld, The Handmaid’s Tale and Stranger Things, all terrific examples of how interesting and daring television has become in recent years.
But then we get to my two problem series, House of Cards and The Crown. The bottom line is that while they are both really good series, I don’t think either should be on this list of nominees when The Leftovers, Legion, The Americans, Homeland or American Gods were left off of it.
In fact, let’s play a quick game. One of the things to note about this year is that Game of Thrones didn’t qualify for an Emmy nomination because this season didn’t debut during the window of eligibility. But if it had qualified, which of these series do you think would not have made the cut? My guess: The Crown.
Because the bottom line is that while House of Cards and The Crown are competent, grown-up shows, they are also perfectly safe. Too safe. They didn’t push boundaries, they didn’t present anything new, they didn’t tell their stories in challenging and novel ways that resonated on a deep, emotional level. They were fine! But in this television landscape, fine and competent aren’t enough anymore.
In the end, it’s a moot point because This is Us is going to emotionally manipulate itself all the way to the win.
Who Will Win: This Is Us
Who Should Have Won: The Leftovers. A thousand times, The Leftovers.
Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”)
Claire Foy (“The Crown”)
Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Keri Russell (“The Americans”)
Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”)
Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)
As if The Leftovers being left off of Best Drama wasn’t insult enough, now you’re going to go and leave out Carrie Coon for her breathtaking performance as a woman who has lost everything and is willing to do anything to get it back? Everyone on this list is terrific, but you’ll never convince me that Evan Rachel Wood as a dead-eyed robot gave a better performance than Carrie Coon, just stop.
Who Will Win: Elisabeth Moss and I’m not (that) angry about it.
Who Should Have Won: Carrie Coon for The Leftovers
Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”)
Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”)
Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”)
Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”)
Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”)
Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”)
Milo Ventimiglia (“This Is Us”)
Liev Schreiber? But no Justin Theroux? Are you drunk, Emmy voters? And what about Rami Malek for Mr. Robot? Or Billy Bob Thornton who elevated Goliath into something much more fun than the writing would otherwise have suggested?
Who Will Win: The This Is Us vote will probably split, and my best guess is that Matthew Rhys or Anthony Hopkins will win. If the This Is Us vote doesn’t split, Sterling K. Brown takes it.
Who Should Win: Bob Odenkirk
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
John Lithgow (“The Crown”)
Jonathan Banks (“Better Call Saul”)
Mandy Patinkin (“Homeland”)
Michael Kelly (“House of Cards”)
David Harbour (“Stranger Things”)
Ron Cephas Jones (“This Is Us”)
Jeffrey Wright (“Westworld”)
Before I begin, let me note that all of the nominees are terrific and this is more of a problem of too much talent and not enough slots.
But I’m sorry, where is Michael McKean for Better Call Saul? Where is Ian McShane or Orlando Jones for American Gods? Or if you’re so eager to nominate a Schreiber, what about Pablo for American Gods? Where is Christian Slater on Mr. Robot? Rupert Friend for Homeland? Or … and this is more controversial … but what about Jeffrey Dean Morgan for his surprisingly nuanced performance on The Walking Dead? And not that it needs any more Emmy love, but what about Chris Sullivan as Toby on This Is Us?
Who Will Win: Ron Cephas Jones
Who Should Win: Jeffrey Wright
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Ann Dowd (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Samira Wiley (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Uzo Aduba (“Orange Is the New Black”)
Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”)
Chrissy Metz (“This Is Us”)
Thandie Newton (“Westworld”)
Carly Chaikin was the lynchpin of — and very best thing on — this season of Mr. Robot and deserved a spot on this list, as did Maura Tierney for her performance this season on The Affair. Also deserving for a little recognition: Emily Browning and Gillian Anderson for American Gods. That said, I don’t know who I would take off of this list to make room for the two of them. With all of the terrific television out there right now, maybe it’s time to expand the number of nominees to 10.
Who Will Win: Chrissy Metz
Who Should Win: Thandie Newton
Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline” — “Part 32”)
BD Wong (“Mr. Robot” — “eps2.3_logic-b0mb.hc”)
Hank Azaria (“Ray Donovan” — “Norman Saves the World”)
Denis O’Hare (“This Is Us” — “Last Christmas”)
Brian Tyree Henry (“This Is Us” — “Memphis”)
Gerald McRaney (“This Is Us” — “The Big Day”)
This is one of those impossible categories, in that it’s difficult to remember every small performance on every show and pick out a few that were snubbed. Maybe Orlando Jones in American Gods, or is that a “Supporting Actor” role? Unclear. So I am going to stick with the nominees at hand and say that I am genuinely torn between Gerald McRaney and Brian Tyree Henry for their moving performances on This Is Us. That said, I give the advantage to Henry, mostly because of this soul-shaking performance:
Who Will Win: Gerald McRaney
Who Should Win: Brian Tyree Henry
Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Alison Wright (“The Americans” — “The Soviet Division”)
Alexis Bledel (“The Handmaid’s Tale” — “Late”)
Cicely Tyson (“How to Get Away with Murder” — “Go Cry Somewhere Else”)
Ann Dowd (“The Leftovers” — “The Most Powerful Man In The World (And His Identical Twin Brother)”)
Laverne Cox (“Orange is the New Black” — “Doctor Psycho”)
Shannon Purser (“Stranger Things” — “Chapter Three: Jolly, Holly”)
Hey, Barb got a nod for Stranger Things, and we have our first — and shamefully only — nomination for The Leftovers, so that’s something. But I would like to point out that Cloris Leachman, Kristin Chenoweth and Betty Gilpin were all terrific on American Gods in what I assume are considered “Guest Actress” level appearances.
Who Will Win: Alexis Bledel
Who Should Win: Alexis Bledel
“Master of None” (Netflix)
“Modern Family” (ABC)
“Silicon Valley” (HBO)
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)
WHY IS MODERN FAMILY ON THIS LIST? Why? Why! WHY?
A short list of other comedies that are better than Modern Family:
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Catastrophe, Fleabag, Speechless, Better Things, Baskets, Shameless, Transparent, High Maintenance, The Good Place, Insecure, Difficult People, Girls, Vice Principals, Jane the Virgin.
Any one of those deserve that spot before Modern Family, which is just going through the motions now. THIS MAKES ME ALMOST AS MAD AS THE LEFTOVERS BEING OVERLOOKED AND NOW I AM YELLING.
Who Will Win: Veep
Who Should Win: Atlanta
Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”)
Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”)
Zach Galifianakis (“Baskets”)
Donald Glover (“Atlanta”)
William H. Macy (“Shameless”)
Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”)
Where are Rob Delaney or Billy Eichner or Thomas Middleditch? And while Macy and Tambor are both brilliant, I would argue that Shameless and Transparent are more drama than comedy (even though I just included both of them in my Best Comedy rant above — my point being that if we’re going to count them as comedies, they are BETTER THAN MODERN FAMILY).
That out of the way, what I will say is that I fully expect Donald Glover to win this Emmy for what is unquestionably the best comedy on television this past year. But! This is not the Emmy that show deserves. While Atlanta is entirely Glover’s baby and his performance is very good, he is so overshadowed by his cast mates Brian Tyree Henry and Lakeith Stanfield — NEITHER OF WHOM WERE NOMINATED FOR SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY, BUT WE’LL GET TO THAT IN A MOMENT — that it doesn’t feel exactly like the best comedy performance out there. I worry, though, that they are going to give Glover this Emmy as a consolation prize after they give Best Comedy to Veep again. And I love Veep! I’m pretty sure Veep is the funniest show on television! But Atlanta was special and exciting and maybe the best comedy on television.
Meanwhile, Galifianakis is giving the dual performance of a lifetime over on Baskets and no one seems to be paying much attention.
Who Will Win: Donald Glover
Who Should Win: Zach Galifianakis
Pamela Adlon (“Better Things”)
Tracee Ellis-Ross (“black-ish”)
Jane Fonda (“Grace and Frankie”)
Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”)
Allison Janney (“Mom”)
Ellie Kemper (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”)
Two nominations for Grace and Frankie; zero for Catastrophe, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Speechless, Fresh Off the Boat, Insecure, Girls, Jane the Virgin, The Good Place or for the best comedic performance of the year, for Fleabag? I CAN NOT WITH ANY OF THIS.
Who Will Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Who Should Win: Phoebe Waller-Bridge or Rachel Bloom
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin (“Saturday Night Live”)
Louie Anderson (“Baskets”)
Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”)
Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”)
Tony Hale (“Veep”)
Matt Walsh (“Veep”)
STOP IT WITH THE MODERN FAMILY NOMINATIONS. STOP IT. Ty Burrell is taking a spot that should have gone to Brian Tyree Henry or Lakeith Stanfield or Ted Danson or William Jackson Harper or Vincent Rodriguez III or Timothy Simons or Martin Starr or Kumail Nanjiani or Walton Goggins. STOP TAKING UP SPOTS THAT DON’T BELONG TO YOU, MODERN FAMILY.
Who Will Win: Alec Baldwin
Who Should Win: Brian Tyree Henry or Lakeith Stanfield
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”)
Vanessa Bayer (“Saturday Night Live”)
Leslie Jones (“Saturday Night Live”)
Anna Chlumsky (“Veep”)
Judith Light (“Transparent”)
Kathryn Hahn (“Transparent”)
Look, I’m happy that the ladies of Saturday Night Live are receiving attention — I genuinely believe that must be one of the hardest jobs in show business. I just don’t know that we needed to give half of the spots to SNL ladies, and a third of the spots to Transparent — a show that I am still not convinced is a comedy. This leaves no room for any of the performances on Girls, for Kimberly Hébert Gregory on Vice Principals, for the genius Donna Lynne Champlin on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, for Siann Clifford or Olivia Colman — OLIVIA COLMAN! — in Fleabag.
Who Will Win: Kate McKinnon
Who Should Win: Donna Lynne Champlin or Olivia Colman
Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
Riz Ahmed (“Girls” — “All I Ever Wanted”)
Matthew Rhys (“Girls” — “American Bitch”)
Dave Chappelle (“Saturday Night Live” — “Host: Dave Chappelle”)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Satuday Night Live” — “Host: Lin-Manuel Miranda”)
Tom Hanks (“Saturday Night Live” — “Host: Tom Hanks”)
Hugh Laurie (“Veep” — “Blurb”)
I like Tom Hanks, Tom Hanks was in one of the best SNL sketches of the season (“Black Jeopardy” where he plays a Trump supporter and he and the Black contestants realize they have more in common than they thought). But Aziz Ansari’s hosting gig was like Dave Chappelle’s (who was deservedly nominated), in that it came at an emotional moment in American history — at the inauguration of Donald Trump — and that he, like Chappelle, gave America the cathartic release that it needed. What I’m saying is that four — FOUR! — of the nominees are SNL hosts, and one of them should have been Ansari.
Who Will Win: Tom Hanks
Who Should Win: Dave Chappelle
Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Wanda Sykes (“Black-ish” — “Lemons”)
Carrie Fisher (“Catastrophe” — “Episode 6”)
Becky Ann Baker (“Girls” — “Gummies”)
Angela Bassett (“Master of None” — “Thanksgiving”)
Kristen Wiig (“Saturday Night Live” — “Host: Kristen Wiig”)
Melissa McCarthy (“Saturday Night Live” — “Host: Melissa McCarthy”)
WELL LOOK WHO FINALLY REMEMBERS THAT CATASTROPHE IS A THING.
Let’s talk Melissa McCarthy. McCarthy was easily one of the best things about this season of Saturday Night Live, but we have to be honest — the episode that she hosted wasn’t her best appearance. So basically they are going to give her the Emmy technically for her hosting gig, even though what they really mean is that they want to give her the Emmy for her surprise guest appearances as Sean Spicer. And you know what? Fine. Whatever.
Who Will Win: Melissa McCarthy
Who Should Win: Melissa McCarthy
“Big Little Lies” (HBO)
“Feud: Bette and Joan” (FX)
“The Night Of” (HBO)
“Genius” (National Geographic)
I’d swap out American Crime for Genius, but otherwise, this is a decent list of nominees.
Who Will Win: Big Little Lies
Who Should Win: Big Little Lies
Limited Series Actor
Riz Ahmed (“The Night Of”)
Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock: The Lying Detective”)
Robert De Niro (“The Wizard of Lies”)
Ewan McGregor (“Fargo”)
Geoffrey Rush (“Genius”)
John Turturro (“The Night Of”)
The kid is up against some of the biggest stars in the business, but Riz Ahmed gave a heartbreaking performance in The Night Of, HBO’s quiet crime miniseries. I worry that his vote will be split with his co-star, John Turturro, but he genuinely deserves the Emmy here. As for actors who were snubbed, I can’t think of any off the top of my head. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Who Will Win: If The Night Of vote is split, it will probably De Niro or McGregor; if it’s not, it will go to John Turturro.
Who Should Win: Riz Ahmed
Limited Series Actress
Carrie Coon (“Fargo”)
Felicity Huffman (“American Crime”)
Nicole Kidman (“Big Little Lies”)
Jessica Lange (“Feud”)
Susan Sarandon (“Feud”)
Reese Witherspoon (“Big Little Lies”)
I’m going to be honest with you: any of the women on this list could win the Emmy and I would be fine with it. Completely fine. Totally cool. In fact, let’s give them all Emmys.
Who Will Win: Nicole Kidman
Who Should Win: All of them.
Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Bill Camp (“The Night Of”)
Alfred Molina (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Alexander Skarsgård (“Big Little Lies”)
David Thewlis (“Fargo”)
Stanley Tucci (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Michael K. Williams (“The Night Of”)
The “Limited Series” category is so small that there are not many performances to choose from. If I had to add someone to this list, I might give a little love to Michael Stuhlbarg for his performance as Sy Feltz on Fargo. But considering David Thewlis deserves all of the prizes for that same show, I’m not going to complain.
Who Will Win: Alexander Skargård, maybe. Possibly Molina.
Who Should Win: David Thewlis
Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Judy Davis (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Laura Dern (“Big Little Lies”)
Jackie Hoffman (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Regina King (“American Crime”)
Michelle Pfeiffer (“The Wizard of Lies”)
Shailene Woodley (“Big Little Lies”)
~raises hand~ Um, excuse me, where is Mary Elizabeth Winstead for her terrific performance as Nikki Swango on Fargo?
Who Will Win: Laura Dern
Who Should Win: Regina King because Regina King should always win all of the prizes always.
Variety Talk Series
“Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” (TBS)
“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (ABC)
“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” (HBO)
“The Late Late Show With James Corden” (CBS)
“Real Time With Bill Maher” (HBO)
“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” (CBS)
Yay for including Full Frontal with Samantha Bee! Boo for excluding Late Night with Seth Meyers! Look, I hate-watch Real Time with Bill Maher, and sometimes his bitter brand of nihilism hits the right spot, especially in the midst of this nightmare of an administration, but Seth Meyers is doing intelligent, well-crafted, and FUNNY deep dives into important political stories, the likes of which we only usually see on cable networks. He deserved Maher’s spot.
I suppose I should just be happy that The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon didn’t get nominated.
Who Will Win: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Who Should Win: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
“The Amazing Race” (CBS)
“American Ninja Warrior” (NBC)
“Project Runway” (Lifetime)
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” (vh1)
“Top Chef” (Bravo)
“The Voice” (NBC)
RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE FOREVER. Drag Race is the funniest, most audacious, and most affirmative reality show on television right now. It deserves this nomination and it deserves to win.
Who Will Win: The Voice or Top Chef
Who Should Win: RuPaul’s Drag Race
Host for a Reality/Reality-Competition Program
Alec Baldwin (“Match Game”)
W. Kamau Bell (“United Shades Of America With W. Kamau Bell)
RuPaul Charles (“RuPaul’s Drag Race)
Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn (“Project Runway)
Gordon Ramsay (“MasterChef Junior)
Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg (“Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party”)
These choices are fine, and in some cases downright delightful: Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg, amirite?. The only person I would add would be Cat Deeley for So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation, because she’s Cat Deeley and she’s wonderful. There’s been a lot of hand-wringing that Tom Bergeron and Dancing with the Stars didn’t receive any nods, but, honestly, who cares.
Who Will Win: Hopefully RuPaul will win it again, but if not, watch for Alec Baldwin.
Who Should Win: RuPaul Charles
“Black Mirror: San Junipero” (Netflix)
“Dolly Parton’s Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle Of Love” (NBC)
“The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks” (HBO)
“Sherlock: The Lying Detective (Masterpiece)” (PBS)
“The Wizard Of Lies” (HBO)
Wait, WAIT. Black Mirror, which I would have classified as an anthology or limited series, are individual TV MOVIES? SINCE WHEN? And also, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. If each episode of Black Mirror is a TV movie, then this category should be filled with Black Mirror episodes. “San Junipero” definitely deserves a spot, but so does “Nosedive” and the single most upsettingly relevant episode of the season, “Men Against Fire.”
Who Will Win: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Who Should Win: Black Mirror: San Junipero
Variety Sketch Series
“Billy On The Street” (truTV)
“Documentary Now!” (IFC)
“Drunk History” (Comedy Central)
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
“Tracey Ullman’s Show” (HBO)
I approve of all of these choices, and while I would love to see Billy on the Street or Documentary Now! win, there’s NO WAY anyone is going to beat Saturday Night Live this year. NO CHANCE.
Who Will Win: Saturday Night Live
Who Should Win: Billy on the Street
As for all of the other categories, just imagine me being outraged and screaming “THE LEFTOVERS!” or “FLEABAG!” or “BRIAN TYREE HENRY!” until I’m blue in the face. As for who will win, we have to wait until Sunday, September 17th to find out. Until then, let’s argue about who was the most snubbed. Which of your favorites was left out this year?