If I Ran the Emmys
No one would want me to actually run the Emmy Awards.
BUT here’s what would happen this year, at the 69th edition (nice), if they did.
Best Variety Talk Series
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Late Night with Seth Meyers
Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Jimmy Kimmel Live
It has been a weird time for late-night TV (reminder that these Emmys are for series airing between June 1, 2016 and May 31, 2017). Under Trump, many of them are floundering. Jimmy Fallon, once the king (in terms of ratings) has lost some relevance because he is steadfast in remaining apolitical. Colbert has surged ahead of Fallon for the first time since the week he premiered. Meanwhile, John Oliver remains as reliable as ever, Jimmy Kimmel gave late night’s most memorable moment of the year with the healthcare debate-adjacent story about the birth of his son. Samantha Bee and Seth Meyers have, somewhat quietly, been the most insightful during this fucked-up period. I would have to give the edge here to Samantha Bee.
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Michael McKean — Better Call Saul
Christopher Eccleston — The Leftovers
Costa Ronin — The Americans
Delroy Lindo — The Good Fight
Toby Huss — Halt and Catch Fire
Frank Langella — The Americans
It’s nice that Game of Thrones won’t be involved this year, since it opens up some spots in many categories, including this one. In its penultimate season, The Americans gave its supporting players some of its meatiest attention, and both Ronin and Langella benefited from increased screentime and intensity. Delroy Lindo was a standout in The Good Fight, a show that remains underseen since being relegated to CBS All Access. Toby Huss made John Bosworth into a character of real humanity and grace as the conflicted father figure in a powerhouse season of Halt and Catch Fire. But it comes down to McKean and Eccleston, the unlikable assholes in their respective series. Saul and Leftovers owe much of their strength and moral complexity to these performances, finding the inner person hiding beneath their surfaces. But I’ll give it to Michael McKean, in what was truly his season of Better Call Saul.
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Amy Brenneman — The Leftovers
Rhea Seehorn — Better Call Saul
Emily Browning — American Gods
Ann Dowd — The Handmaid’s Tale
Thandie Newton — Westworld
Holly Taylor — The Americans
Whatever the show’s many flaws, Thandie Newton was undoubtedly the best thing about Westworld. Holly Taylor tackled her increased presence this season very well on The Americans, often standing toe-to-toe with Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. Emily Browning emerged from the beautiful mess of American Gods to become its beating heart (which is ironic, if you’ve seen the show). It was fantastic to see Ann Dowd in such a villainous role in Handmaid’s Tale, chewing her scenery and commanding the screen as Aunt Lydia. Amy Brenneman was the centrepiece of one of the most moving episodes of TV in recent years on The Leftovers, complicating our understanding of Laurie as a character and drawing tears from my eyes. But I have to favour Rhea Seehorn, giving both supporting actor and actress to Better Call Saul because Seehorn is unstoppable as Kim, juggling an obnoxiously ambitious professional career with Jimmy McGill-related personal life dramas with elegance, wit and determination. She may have reached her breaking point this season, but damn it, she deserves a break.
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Zach Woods — Silicon Valley
Tituss Burgess — Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Jaime Camil — Jane the Virgin
Andre Braugher — Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Patrick Warburton — Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
William Jackson Harper — The Good Place
There were some very difficult ones to cut here: Timothy Simons on Veep, Bryan Tyree Henry on Atlanta (and Lakeith Stanfield), Pete Gardner on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Warburton was ideal casting for Lemony Snicket. William Jackson Harper was a phenomenal straight-man in The Good Place, reinventing that archetype into something newly hilarious. Tituss is still Kimmy Schmidt’s greatest treasure, just as Woods is Silicon Valley’s. Braugher is as reliable as ever. But Jaime Camil put in some amazing work on this past season of Jane the Virgin, processing grief with characteristic individuality and oozing warmth.
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Donna Lynne Champlin — Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Zazie Beetz — Atlanta
D’Arcy Carden — The Good Place
Andrea Martin — Great News
Clea DuVall — Veep
Yvonne Orji — Insecure
I would not be surprised if zero of these amazing women are actually nominated, but they all should be. I have purposefully chosen actresses not only in underseen shows (Martin in Great News) but also those that are doing very difficult things to pull off in a comedy, such as DuVall’s woodenness that kills me every single time she interacts with Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer. But I’m actually going to give this to Carden, who similarly plays the robotic Janet on The Good Place and manages to imbue her with the slightest sense of humanity, but mostly she’s responsible for some of the biggest deadpan laughs of the year.
Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Rob Delaney — Catastrophe
Donald Glover — Atlanta
Andy Daly — Review
Ted Danson — The Good Place
Aziz Ansari — Master of None
Randall Park — Fresh Off the Boat
Each of these actors, in their way, offer something inimitably unique. Delaney gives a brutally honest portrayal of a fallible family man. Park is, by contrast, an achingly earnest dad. Glover steers the ship of Atlanta with finesse. Danson manages to pull off one of the best twists in a TV comedy, ever, with aplomb. Ansari, though overly ambitious creatively, delivers a perfectly manic and empathetic performance. But Andy Daly, in the brief and final season of Review, is all pathos as Forrest Macneil. It is a shame to be losing that singular series, and Daly never wavered from its inherent darkness.
Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Constance Wu — Fresh Off the Boat
Sharon Horgan — Catastrophe
Rachel Bloom — Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Gina Rodriguez — Jane the Virgin
Minnie Driver — Speechless
Julia Louis-Dreyfus — Veep
Just missing the cut are Phoebe Waller-Bridge for Fleabag, Issa Rae for Insecure, Aya Cash for You’re the Worst, and Kristen Bell for The Good Place. I almost took off Dreyfus, because she keeps winning, but goddamn if she doesn’t deserve it. Truly in a league of her own. Horgan, Driver and Wu are all forces of nature, and Driver in particular walks the line between broad humour and grounded compassion. But it’s really a showdown between Bloom and Rodriguez, both at the centre of two of TV’s absolute best current shows. Rodriguez is one of the coziest and big-hearted actors on TV, but I’m going to side with Bloom, who has the added benefit of being her show’s creative genius while simultaneously portraying an exceedingly complicated character.
Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Justin Theroux — The Leftovers
Matthew Rhys — The Americans
Bob Odenkirk — Better Call Saul
Scoot McNairy — Halt and Catch Fire
Lee Pace — Halt and Catch Fire
Rami Malek — Mr. Robot
As much as I was turned off by the second season of Mr. Robot, it’s impossible to deny Malek’s magnetic performance. My two Halt and Catch Fire boys somewhat pale in comparison to their female co-leads, but both are exceptional at exposing their own personal neuroses. Odenkirk has been actually nominated twice, and he better get another one this year. Both Theroux and Rhys had troubled seasons, or at least their characters did. Theroux masterfully played the reluctant divine being, while Rhys carefully depicted the exhausted believer. That’s right — it’s a tie.
Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Kerry Bishé — Halt and Catch Fire
Elisabeth Moss — The Handmaid’s Tale
Mackenzie Davis — Halt and Catch Fire
Carrie Coon — The Leftovers
Keri Russell — The Americans
Eva Green — Penny Dreadful
Apologies to the equally deserving Christine Baranski (The Good Fight) and Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder), but this is just a stacked category. Moss is mesmerizing in the otherwise uneven Handmaid’s Tale, and it is seriously obscene that she never won an Emmy for Mad Men. Russell and Green are both vigorous performers, playing fearless women who came closer to exposing their vulnerabilities than ever before. It hurts me deeply to not give this to Carrie Coon, because Nora is an all-time best TV character and her work in the final season of The Leftovers — especially in the finale — was unparalleled. But Mackenzie Davis, slightly outdoing her partner, Bishé, is nuanced and explosive and stubborn and unguarded and wholly complex. It’s true, much of that would be moot without Bishé to play off of, but Davis is otherworldly.
Best Comedy Series
Jane the Virgin
The Good Place
I swear, if Modern Family is nominated this year, I will…I don’t know, be very upset. Because there is an absurd amount of comedic riches to be had in TV today. I had to cut Silicon Valley, Veep, BoJack Horseman, Master of None, Fleabag, Insecure, You’re the Worst, Fresh Off the Boat, and many others. In many ways (and I am far, far from being the first one to say this), comedy is where the most interesting TV is these days. All of these shows are a testament to the genre’s flexibility and risk-taking. I’m tempted to give it to The Good Place, for being consistently excellent but also for pulling off the rare surprise twist that makes the show more interesting. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin are really making the case for The CW as the reigning champ of network television (along with Riverdale!). I feel so much joy watching Speechless, and so much cringe-y discomfort watching Catastrophe. Atlanta was bold from the beginning, and I hope its surreality is only increased in season two. And Review, like I said, is a devastating depiction of a man obsessed. But I’m going to go with my initial temptation: The Good Place was the past year’s best comedy.
Best Drama Series
Better Call Saul
Halt and Catch Fire
The Good Fight
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale and Stranger Things (much like the almost-included American Gods) are deeply flawed but endlessly fascinating series. The Good Fight, despite its rather under-the-radar existence, continued the tradition set by The Good Wife by responding thoughtfully and provocatively to current events in a way that managed to (mostly) stay entertaining and insightful at once, despite some muddled messages. Better Call Saul, I think, keeps getting better and better, and the season-long battle between Jimmy and Chuck was eminently captivating. The Americans faltered only slightly in its penultimate season, but has expertly set expectations for its final one. The Leftovers, one of the wildest and most bizarre experiences you can find on TV, stuck its own landing in a completely satisfying yet ambiguous manner, perhaps absolving Damon Lindelof from his Lost haters (probably not, though). It was a powerful season of television, teaching us about the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. It’s hard to deny it the win. But I think I may be Halt and Catch Fire’s biggest fan. It is undeniable in its confidence and evolution. It seems to grow and grow with each episode, emerging as a perfect package of performance, writing, directing, music, production, editing, costuming, and theme. I find it watchable unlike any other series, and I simply can’t wait to see what they do to finish this story in its fourth season. If you haven’t watched, do it now.