If I Was the Only One Who Voted for the Emmys, Vol. 4
“I would do anything to keep the ugliness of the world from touching you.”
The window of Emmy eligibility used to correspond with the traditional network television schedule. Therefore, the last day of May not only falls in between sweeps and upfronts; it marks the last day a series can be eligible for the upcoming Emmy Awards. Otherwise, shows will have to wait a year and risk being forgotten in favor of shiny recency bias. Since the TV landscape has shifted away from networks and become more entrenched in premium cable and streaming, there have been a few instances where the schedule hasn’t quite lined up for the Emmys darlings. Game of Thrones, Fleabag, and Succession, for example, were more comfortable in the summer release season than in attempting to air episodes from September to May with a break during the holidays and whatever sports league’s playoffs interrupted their primetime runs. This year, though, the absolute glut of shows being produced for more outlets than ever before collided with the hard and fast deadline that used to serve as demarcation for summer breaks. Now, it’s just a way for streamers and studios to game the system. Better Call Saul and Stranger Things both divided their episodes into pre-Emmys deadline and post-Emmys deadline to stretch their role in the conversation to two awards seasons. Obi-Wan Kenobi debuted at a time when episodes would release on the same days as Ms. Marvel, likely because Disney wanted to get Ewan McGregor into the Limited Series category. Conversations with Friends came in right at the buzzer. And that’s without even unpacking the onslaught of starry, “ripped from the headlines” series that I couldn’t even find the time for (Pam & Tommy, The Dropout, Joe vs. Carole, WeCrashed, The Girl from Plainville, Gaslit, The Staircase). As such, this year’s collection of shows and specials eligible for my own Emmys (following Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol. 3) required more wading and culling than I’ve ever had to do before. While this resulted in some unfortunate snubs (frequently, I ran out of room for nominees to represent Winning Time, Stranger Things, Girls5eva, and MacGruber in various categories), it also allowed for the nominations and winners to be as strong as they’ve ever been. It was a stellar year for television. Perhaps one of the best! And without any legacy juggernauts coming to an end (Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Dickinson ended, but they’re just not at the top, top, top tier that The Good Place, Game of Thrones, Veep, and The Haunting of Hill House were when they wrapped), it allowed for a fairly balanced year, too! Let’s get into it.
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series
“How to Remember Your Dreams” by John Wilson, Michael Koman, Susan Orlean, and Conner O’Malley (How To with John Wilson)
“Lorde” by Alex Baze and Seth Meyers (Late Night with Seth Meyers)
“They Said That to Me at Dinner” by Patti Harrison, Zach Kanin, Tim Robinson, John Solomon, and Brooks Wheelan (I Think You Should Leave)
“Will Forte/Måneskin” by Michael Che, Alison Gates, Colin Jost, Streeter Seidell, and Kent Sublette (Saturday Night Live)
“You Sure About That? You Sure About That That’s Why?” by Patti Harrison, Zach Kanin, Tim Robinson, and John Solomon (I Think You Should Leave)
The “Previous Winners” section of this category is going to be a damn essay by the time 2026 rolls around. Five writers join the winners fold this year with the first episode of I Think You Should Leave’s second season, which was also nominated for its third episode. It was fun to see Conner O’Malley join the How To writing staff; the 1927 Yankees of silliness are cooking up gold with Tim Robinson’s variety corner of Netflix. Interestingly, O’Malley stems from the Seth Meyers writing tree (Meyers’ “Day Drinking” segment was stellar with Lorde last year) and Meyers obviously hails from Saturday Night Live. The funniest from SNL year (bringing back Forte for MacGruber among other not-soon-enough brilliance) hardly compared to Robinson’s I Think You Should Leave output, though. The sketches in the winning installment include the man sneaking hot dogs into a meeting when he misses lunch, the “There’s too much shit on me” guy from the prank show, the Little Buff Boys, and the man asking about ghosts’ ejaculation during a haunted house tour. Tens across the board.
Previous Winners: “Searching for Mr. Larson: A Love Letter from the Far Side” by Duffy Boudreau and Bill Hader (Documentary Now!), “Eddie Murphy/Lizzo” by Michael Che, Colin Jost, and Kent Sublette (Saturday Night Live), “Night-Time!” by Tom Armstrong, Mark Samual Bonanno, Broden Kelly, Sam Lingham, Max Miller, and Zachary Ruane (Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun)
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special
Bill Barretta, Kirk Thatcher, and Kelly Younger (Muppets Haunted Mansion)
“Book V: Gospel” by James and Mike Flanagan (Midnight Mass)
“Maggie” by Christopher Miller (The Afterparty)
“Moment of Silence” by B.J. Novak (The Premise)
“New Day” by Mike White (The White Lotus)
Honestly, just pick an episode of The White Lotus at random and you’ll have a win for the show in this category. Every nominee could’ve been from that HBO miniseries written and directed by Mike White, but that would’ve been less fun, so I ultimately sided with “New Day.” It’s the second episode of The White Lotus and the one that fully figures out what the strongest rhythms, patterns, and motifs are for the series. The most crucial character dynamics are established in this installment, which is a strong showcase of White’s writing. But the scene between Paula and Olivia on the beach finding their drug stash is outright hilarious. The other nominees listed here are all strong in their own rights, but The White Lotus is the heavyweight of the Limited Series category this year.
Previous Winners: “The Bent-Neck Lady” by Meredith Averill (The Haunting of Hill House), “When the Doorman Is Your Main Man” by John Carney (Modern Love), “East/West” by Noah Hawley and Lee Edward Colston II (Fargo)
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
“Chapter Four” by Soo Hugh and E.J. Koh (Pachinko)
“Good News About Hell” by Dan Erickson (Severance)
“Hit and Run” by Ann Cherkis (Better Call Saul)
“Retired Janitors of Idaho” by Tony Roche and Susan Soon He Stanton (Succession)
“Too Much Birthday” by Georgia Pritchett and Tony Roche (Succession)
Even though this category addresses dramatic shows, I found that the two Succession nominees here were among the funniest episodes of television I saw this year. Kendall’s obsession with his own birthday and the mental breakdown of Logan Roy both made for hilarious centerpieces around which Succession could revolve. Pachinko’s fourth episode smartly and emotionally deviated from the original, also-brilliant Min Jin Lee novel. Better Call Saul paired Mike and Kim together for a scene in “Hit and Run” and it did not disappoint. But the pilot for Severance is impeccably written. The entire episode establishes the stakes for the characters and rules of the world with a perfect blend of clarity and mystery to keep audiences interested while also being “with it.” Plus, that in media res opening is among the best beginnings to a television drama since Lost.
Previous Winners: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” by Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones), “This Is Not for Tears” by Jesse Armstrong (Succession), “Gold Stick” by Peter Morgan (The Crown)
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
“Balancing” by Van Robichaux and Evan Susser (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
“I Think I’m a Sex Addict” by Rupinder Gill and Vanessa Baden Kelly (The Sex Lives of College Girls)
“Man City” by Jamie Lee (Ted Lasso)
“…stalked my own mother” by Chris Schleicher (Never Have I Ever)
“True Crime” by Steve Martin and John Hoffman (Only Murders in the Building)
As mentioned in the intro, it hurts to not find room for Girls5eva here. It has one of the best joke densities of any comedy. But alas, the rules are arbitrary and we only have five nominees here. What can you do? Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in its final season, still delivered hilarious installments. The Sex Lives of College Girls, in its debut, did the same. And how lucky are we to have Steve Martin still writing for all of us? Ultimately, though, I sided with a standout episode of Ted Lasso’s sophomore season. What starts as a lightly charming and always clever episode of the Apple comedy quickly veers into darker territory after the father of Jamie Tartt storms the Richmond locker room. The subsequent character beats for Jamie, Roy Kent, and Ted himself are among the highest highs of Ted Lasso and of the past year in television overall.
Previous Winners: “Honeymoon” by Neil Campbell (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), “Whenever You’re Ready” by Michael Schur (The Good Place), “Alf Musik” by Lauren Gurganous and Michael Koman (Girls5eva)
Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series
“The Cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine” by Alexander J. Vietmeier (Late Night with Seth Meyers)
“Everyone just needs to be more in the moment.” by Alice Mathias (I Think You Should Leave)
“How to Remember Your Dreams” by John Wilson (How To with John Wilson)
“Jimmy Kimmel, Hugh Jackman, Bridget Everett, and Red Hot Chili Peppers” by Dave Diomedi (The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon)
“Jonathan Majors/Taylor Swift” by Don Roy King (Saturday Night Live)
To begin with, John Wilson’s direction on How To is always a feat of nature and I was impressed with The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live! pulling off a Jimmy swap back on April Fool’s Day. But ultimately, I gave the win to November’s Jonathan Majors and Taylor Swift episode of Saturday Night Live. For one, it’s a well-directed episode — not for any one sketch in particular, but for the live debut of the ten-minute version of “All Too Well.” The overall construction of the performance and the lighting for Swift is angelic and I’ve watched it well over ten times by now; it’s quite sumptuous. For another, though, this was one of the last SNL episodes ever directed by Don Roy King. He retired after the Paul Rudd/Covid disaster episode before Christmas and Liz Patrick took his place. But King was a legend at SNL all the way to the end of his tenure and this installment is proof of that.
Previous Winners: “Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Hamilton Cast, José Andrés, and Bad Bunny” by Dave Diomedi (The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon), “Brad Pitt/Miley Cyrus” by Don Roy King (Saturday Night Live), “How to Put Up Scaffolding” by John Wilson (How To with John Wilson)
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special
“Book V: Gospel” by Mike Flanagan (Midnight Mass)
“Echoes” by Katie Ellwood and Amber Templemore-Finlayson (Hawkeye)
“The Lotus-Eaters” by Mike White (The White Lotus)
Taylor Swift (All Too Well: The Short Film)
“Yasper” by Christopher Miller (The Afterparty)
This was a tough category to narrow down and to select a winner for. It was hard not to find room for both Muppets Haunted Mansion and a slew of episodes from Conversations with Friends. Ultimately, I had to side with the five nominees seen above. Mike White’s direction on The White Lotus was impeccable throughout. Obviously, I’m going to find room for Taylor Swift whenever I can, but her work on the short film for “All Too Well” was carefully rendered and intimate. I thought the action on Hawkeye was up there with the best of many MCU projects, thanks in large part to the direction of Ellwood and Templemore (known also as Bert and Bertie). And Christopher Miller’s direction through a ton of genres for The Afterparty hit its peak with Yasper’s musical episode. Ultimately, Midnight Mass was another work of genius from Mike Flanagan, my favorite horror director of all-time. From a visual standpoint, Midnight Mass is obviously a winner. Flanagan and his creative team developed an inordinate amount of gorgeous shots and clever cinematography tricks that could belong in museums dedicated to both filmmaking and New England maritime. But his dedication to the show’s personal nature and the balance between the spiritual and the supernatural is where his true direction shines. And it’s never brighter than in the show’s fifth episode.
Previous Winners: “Two Storms” by Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House), Paul Dugdale (Taylor Swift: City of Lover Concert), “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience” by Matt Shakman (WandaVision)
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
“Chapter Four: Dear Billy” by Shawn Levy (Stranger Things)
“Chapter One” by Kogonada (Pachinko)
“Lamentis” by Kate Herron (Loki)
“Plan and Execution” by Thomas Schnauz (Better Call Saul)
“The We We Are” by Ben Stiller (Severance)
Like I said before, I kept trying and failing to find room for Winning Time in many of the major dramatic categories. That’s what happened here, as Adam McKay’s pilot for the Lakers series just missed out. Instead, I turned to tension-heavy episodes of Stranger Things (featuring Max “running up that hill”), Loki (with Loki and Sylvie going full Before Sunrise), Better Call Saul (love to the Hamlins), and Severance (didn’t even need an hour!). Despite that recurring motif of high-octane plotting, it was Pachinko I sided with. There are occasional moments of tension in the first episode of Pachinko, sure, but not at the level of genre phenomenons like Loki and Stranger Things. Instead, the beauty of Kogonada’s (a wonderful auteur) direction in Pachinko is that it sets the tone of humanity, struggle, and brief glimpses of a life less miserable for the rest of the series. Translating Pachinko from page to screen was a daunting task, but enlisting Kogonada for the series’ debut was a key decision towards making it a successful one.
Previous Winners: “The Bells” by Miguel Sapochnik (Game of Thrones), “Chapter 8: Redemption” by Taika Waititi (The Mandalorian), “The Grey” by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (For All Mankind)
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
“The Boy from 6B” by Cherien Dabis (Only Murders in the Building)
“Carol of the Bells” by Declan Lowney (Ted Lasso)
“Grief is a Mouse” by Laura Terruso (Dickinson)
“Schmigadoon!” by Barry Sonnenfeld (Schmigadoon!)
“starting now” by Bill Hader (Barry)
Barry, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, and Dickinson are the three prior winners in this category. All three of them had a good shot at winning again this year. I mean, Dickinson’s penultimate episode had a Taylor Swift needle drop and the season finale of HSM (from Joanna Kerns and Kimberly McCullough) called back achingly to the show’s pilot! Yet, despite those two shows coming for a second crown in comedy directing and Only Murders in the Building swinging for a high-concept installment, it was Barry that won out. Many episodes from Barry’s third season were considered, like “710N” with its incredible chase sequence (Bill Hader directing an action movie when?). However, “starting now” (the season finale) dabbled in both cleverly designed action sequences and wistful, dreamlike escapism — both literally (for Gene and Sally) and figuratively (for Barry and NoHo Hank). It’s Bill Hader’s finest directorial achievement. So far.
Previous Winners: “ronny/lily” by Bill Hader (Barry), “The Auditions” by Tamra Davis (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series), “Split the Lark” by Silas Howard (Dickinson)
Outstanding Episode of Television
“California Dreamin’” (Reservation Dogs)
“Carol of the Bells” (Ted Lasso)
“Chapter Four” (Pachinko)
“The Last Day” (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
“New Day” (The White Lotus)
“Part 1: Days 1–7” (The Beatles: Get Back)
“Rock and Hard Place” (Better Call Saul)
“starting now” (Barry)
“They Said That to Me at Dinner” (I Think You Should Leave)
This is always a fun category. It feels more like an ESPY category to me, but I don’t know. The ESPYs have some fun aspects! You wouldn’t see “Best Episode” at the real Emmys, but why not? Celebrate all the facets of television, am I right? Pit them all together! Here we have a three-hour episode from the Beatles doc, a sketch comedy ep from Tim Robinson, a midseason MCU check-in, and a standalone character episode that transitions the story from vibey, amusing hangout to meditation on trauma. Anything goes in this batch! Unless you’re Winning Time, in which case you were the last one chopped. Poor Winning Time. Sixth in the categories with five nominees, eleventh in the one with ten. Anyway, there are plenty of stellar installments here from some shows I truly treasure. I mean, come on! The Brooklyn Nine-Nine series finale! The moment when Pachinko became a ten out of ten! But the winner has been a no doubter since it aired last summer. I even wrote a whole separate piece simply dedicated to that episode. It’s the Ted Lasso Christmas episode. Completely standalone from the rest of the season, but absolutely gorgeous and never once skimping on the fun of the series. I love “Carol of the Bells” with my whole being and it is so deserving of entering the pantheon of the best television episodes ever made.
Previous Winners: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” (Game of Thrones), “Whenever You’re Ready” (The Good Place), “The Grey” (For All Mankind)
The Julia Louis-Dreyfus Lifetime Achievement Award
Betty White and Michael K. Williams
As I did with the Oscars, I decided to have two recipients of the Lifetime Achievement award this year. Two titans of television passed this year [and that’s without even mentioning so many other greats, like Norm Macdonald (SNL), Bob Saget (Full House), Edward Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Jessica Walter (Arrested Development), Cloris Leachman (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Gavin MacLeod (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Tony Sirico (The Sopranos), Estelle Harris (Seinfeld), and Louie Anderson (Baskets)].
Betty White had long been considered the celebrity no one wanted to die. It was the one thing everyone could agree on. Sadly, on New Year’s Eve and right before her one hundredth birthday, Betty White did pass. But she was a treasure all the way to the end! (Gracing People on back-to-back weeks is an excellent flex.) She was a mainstay on television since 1949, racking up plenty of character guest spots and game show wins. (She was particularly deft at Match Game and Password.) Most notably, White portrayed the superficial Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the dimwitted St. Olaf resident, Rose Nylund, on The Golden Girls. Her career experienced a resurgence when she hosted Saturday Night Live in 2010, leading to two last series regular roles on Hot in Cleveland and Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. Her final role was as a voice on Forky Asks a Question, but no show could have ever been the perfect capper to a perfect television career. She was so sweet and funny, but also filled with an edge at every turn. If there’s one person you can’t tell the story of television without, it’s Betty White. She’s the truest icon of the medium.
While White’s career was largely present on the traditional broadcast networks, Michael K. Williams’ acting tenure was found on the new frontier of the medium. Since The Sopranos (on which Williams guest starred in 2001) debuted in 1999, HBO has redefined how television is viewed in the explosion of premium cable and streaming. No actor is more synonymous with that movement or with the service itself than Michael K. Williams. Sure, you could see the venerated New York actor turn up on Law & Order or Community or Boston Legal or CSI, but he thrived on HBO. He was a main character on Boardwalk Empire, The Night Of, and Lovecraft Country. And while he excelled in all of them (and was quite funny on The Spoils Before Dying, the sequel series to The Spoils of Babylon, on IFC), he will surely be best known to all as Omar Little on The Wire. Bubbles is my favorite character from The Wire, but there’s no denying that Omar was that show’s heart and mind and soul and — pretty much — everything. The Wire went where Omar went. It was at its most tragic when Omar suffered and paid consequences. It was at its highest when it seemed like Omar might have hope after all. And that’s all because of the vulnerable, empathetic, raw performance by Williams, which never wavered in its immaculate interpretation. He made the form better.
I’m still in the weeds on a spreadsheet for my Emmy picks for each year/decade, like I did with the Oscars last winter (I mentioned it when I wrote about Ridley Scott and Emma Watson for my own Oscars), but there’s no doubt that Betty White will be in contention every time The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls pop up. The same goes for Michael K. Williams on The Wire and I did nominate him for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Lovecraft Country last year. It’s sad that I won’t be able to nominate White or Williams for anything again, but it’s right to honor them here. They are two icons of television and they both come from different eras. How sad and tragic to lose them both in the same year, but what legacies they leave behind for all of us and for their loved ones.
Previous Winners: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Schur, Dick Van Dyke
Outstanding Host for a Reality, Competition, or Talk Series
Dave Chang (The Next Thing You Eat)
Jimmy Fallon (The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon)
Jeff Probst (Survivor)
Adam Richman (Adam Eats the ‘80s)
Jon Stewart (The Problem with Jon Stewart)
This is a Dave category if there ever was one. Look, who knows when Dave Chang, Adam Richman, and Jon Stewart may host shows again — if they ever will! I wanted to make sure that, when I look back on these many Emmy categories years from now, some of my all-time TV faves were represented with nominations. Additionally, my girlfriend got me hooked on Survivor this season, so let’s welcome Jeff Probst to the perennial fray! And while two previous winners were pushed out as a result (sorry, Seth and Amber, but I wanted to give others a chance; you’ll be back), I think it’s time for the coronation for one of my favorite celebrities — television or otherwise — of all-time. I’ve loved Jimmy Fallon ever since I saw him sing “The 12 Days of Christmas” with the Muppets on Late Night in 2009. Since then, I’ve been on a journey with Fallon as one of his most ardent defenders. As a high school student, I stayed up late in February 2014 to watch his debut on The Tonight Show! I broke my foot watching a best-of compilation for the Late Night denouement! I love him and the energy he brings to the landscape. I want to finally honor him in my fourth Emmys go-around. This year, he put in great work with plenty of standout episodes and guests like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Nick Jonas, Emilia Clarke, Matt Damon, Taylor Swift, Paul Rudd, Will Ferrell, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Plus, his April Fool’s swap with Jimmy Kimmel was a memorable, breakthrough moment for a television genre that has fewer and fewer. Fallon, you’re one of the best and I’m happy to provide this meaningless honor to you, even though you’re very meaningful to me.
Previous Winners: Seth Meyers (Late Night with Seth Meyers), Alex Trebek (Jeopardy!), Amber Ruffin (The Amber Ruffin Show)
Outstanding Voice-Over Performance
David Attenborough as Narrator (Prehistoric Planet)
H. Jon Benjamin as Bob Belcher (Bob’s Burgers)
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa (What If…?)
Mindy Kaling as Val Little (Monsters at Work)
Kyle Mooney as Randy (Saturday Morning All-Star Hits!)
Similarly to Fallon, it’s time honor a stalwart of television who can be very easily overlooked by flashy, new contenders every year if we don’t take the step back to recognize that he has always been excellent at what he does. I’m speaking, of course, about H. Jon Benjamin, one of the finest voice actors of the twenty-first century. Flashy and new? Kyle Mooney and Mindy Kaling. Time-honored? David Attenborough and Chadwick Boseman. Flashy and time-centric? Miss Minutes! (Get it?) But Benjamin is the stalwart here and I don’t want him to go overlooked in the same way that Steve Carell was with the real Emmys. As the titular Bob on Bob’s Burgers, Benjamin is constantly balancing manic energy with bemused patriarchal commentary. It may seem easy, since he’s just doing his normal voice essentially, but it never feels cheap. Benjamin always puts his sincerest heart into the role of Bob (I have not seen Archer, but I gather he’s more sardonic there) and that work was elevated when the creative team needed it most as they ramped up production on The Bob’s Burgers Movie. H. Jon Benjamin is deserving, stellar, and capable of being funny with just a groan.
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Adrien Brody as Josh Aaronson (Succession)
Robert Englund as Victor Creel (Stranger Things)
Richard E. Grant as Classic Loki (Loki)
Alexander Skarsgård as Lukas Matsson (Succession)
Sean Patrick Small as Larry Bird (Winning Time)
The Succession cast was stacked all the way to the guest acting slots this year, but it was not enough to power one of their movie star pop-ins past the first guest acting performance I loved this year: Richard E. Grant as Classic Loki. (Or, for increased MCU clarity, a version of Loki from another universe who was not killed by Thanos and instead disguised himself as a piece of debris from the Asgard refugee ship. Clearer, right?) The fifth episode of Loki was filled with fun variations on the Norse trickster god, but it was Classic Loki who maintained the “glorious purpose” and emotional resonance of what it meant for a more reflective Loki to sacrifice himself. I’ve always loved Grant, having first become familiar with him through his role as Bob Cratchit in Patrick Stewart’s Christmas Carol. Seeing him crush a Disney Plooos guest spot was a treat.
Previous Winners: Michael McKean as Chuck McGill (Better Call Saul), Damon Herriman as Charles Manson (Mindhunter), Timothy Olyphant as Cobb Vanth (The Mandalorian)
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Gillian Jacobs as Chris Riley (Winning Time)
Sanaa Lathan as Lisa Arthur (Succession)
Dasha Nekrasova as Comfry Pellits (Succession)
Mari Yamamoto as Hana (Pachinko)
Yu-na as Childhood Kim Sunja (Pachinko)
Like I said, Succession’s guest stars were strong, but there were just stronger performances lurking elsewhere. Both Yu-na and Mari Yamamoto helped ground Pachinko across the decades (they represent the earliest and to-date latest points in the series’ adapted timeline in season one), but I was drawn more to the heart-wrenching nature of Yamamoto’s performance. Because of the nonlinear storytelling, we can see how vivacious and full of life Hana was and — spoiler — how crushing the ultimate end for her character is. It’s tricky to play both sides of that, but Yamamoto achieves it deftly and shows how dire and tragic Pachinko can be. Almost as if it’s in defiance of that joyous opening credits sequence (the best on TV, I feel.) It’s a testament to Yamamoto’s humanity that her character’s role still feels attuned to the show’s sensibilities.
Previous Winners: Carice van Houten as Melisandre (Game of Thrones), Holly Hunter as Rhea Jarrell (Succession), Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II (The Crown)
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
Billy Eichner as Walt Whitman (Dickinson)
Liam Neeson as Himself (Atlanta)
Sam Richardson as Edwin Akufo (Ted Lasso)
Craig Robinson as Doug Judy (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Sting as Himself (Only Murders in the Building)
This has always been a strange category. I mean, look at the previous winners below. Every winner has essentially played a version of themselves. This year, that could’ve happened again if I sided with Sting’s turn as a murder suspect or Neeson’s cameo that sees him reckoning self-deprecatingly with the racist comments he made a couple years ago. Instead, I finally go directly for a character-centric performance. Not the final appearances of Doug Judy or Walt Whitman, though. And Nathan Lane was great on Only Murders, but he was more supporting than guest starring. Instead, I was delighted by Sam Richardson playing Edwin Akufo, a put-together man of wealth and confidence who quickly devolves into a tantrum when he doesn’t get his way. Many of our finest TV comedies have figured out a perfect formula (like Veep): when you add Sam Richardson to your cast, he makes everything funnier.
Previous Winners: Adam Sandler as Host (Saturday Night Live), Jon Hamm as Himself (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Steve Burns as Steve (Blue’s Clues & You!)
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Chloe Fineman as Sylvia Plath (Dickinson)
Patti Harrison as Various Characters (I Think You Should Leave)
Claudia O’Doherty as Mary Bonnet (Our Flag Means Death)
Tracey Ullman as Irma Kostroski (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Harriet Walter as Deborah Welton (Ted Lasso)
I’ve always had a soft spot for Tracey Ullman in these things; this is not the first time she’s nominated! The real Emmys love her, too, so I was surprised that she did not net a nom for her portrayal of Irma Kostroski, an insufferable love interest for Larry David on the latest season of Curb. The Emmys did celebrate Harriet Walter (she was dynamite), but it was up to me to recognize Ullman. (The Emmys also largely snubbed Our Flag Means Death, Dickinson, and I Think You Should Leave, so leave those to me, too.) Curb always presents top-notch guest acting spots and in a year when I didn’t feel compelled to nominate any hosts from SNL, it only makes sense to honor one of the best figures in the history of the medium. May we always be blessed with Tracey Ullman’s prowess.
Previous Winners: Toks Olagundoye as Kemi Talbot (Veep), Zosia Mamet as Louisa May Alcott (Dickinson), Cordelia Blair as Nurse Cordelia (Master of None)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Jon Bernthal as Chase Milbrandt (The Premise)
Kit Harington as Michael (Modern Love)
Fred Hechinger as Quinn Mossbacher (The White Lotus)
Jake Lacy as Shane Patton (The White Lotus)
Ben Schwartz as Yasper (The Afterparty)
Let’s run through these nominees. Kit Harington is like Tracey Ullman. When he shows up in something on television, he’ll probably show up here, too. Aside from B.J. Novak’s writing, Jon Bernthal was definitely the highlight of the (probably) short-lived FX anthology, The Premise. Of course, you can expect to see plenty of White Lotus actors in the limited categories. Here, I thought Fred Hechinger became the unexpected heart of the show and Jake Lacy was masterful in his turn from the typical “nice guy” to a complete asshole. Ultimately, I went with Ben Schwartz, who is part of the ensemble cast of The Afterparty. Schwartz has been great for years as characters like Dewey from DuckTales and Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Recreation, but The Afterparty let him shine with his most nuanced character to date. Watching Schwartz take that next leap with the Yasper character was unequivocally excellent.
Previous Winners: George Clooney as Lieutenant Scheisskopf (Catch-22), John Slattery as Fred Schlafly (Mrs. America), Ben Whishaw as Rabbi Milligan (Fargo)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Alexandra Daddario as Rachel Patton (The White Lotus)
Ilana Glazer as Chelsea (The Afterparty)
Sasha Lane as Bobbi Connolly (Conversations with Friends)
Samantha Sloyan as Bev Keane (Midnight Mass)
Sydney Sweeney as Olivia Mossbacher (The White Lotus)
Even more White Lotus actors, as promised! I felt that Sydney Sweeney was so funny on the show — pretty much from her opening scene. It was Alexandra Daddario, though, who I felt was in the top top tier of Lotus performances. On paper, her character is fairly digestible: the class-riser who is weary with buyer’s remorse over how spoiled and Oedipal her new husband is acting. The rhythms of the character that come out over the course of the six episodes place her into something of a tragic, detestable-yet-sympathetic role. Because of how lived-in Daddario was the entire time, though, all of those complications came through with complete clarity. Our other nominees were top-notch, too. Sasha Lane and Jemima Kirke were standouts on Conversations with Friends, even though I could only find room for the former. Ilana Glazer played mysterious well on The Afterparty and Samantha Sloyan returned to the world of Mike Flanagan with an absolute piece of shit character who represents the worst of modern society. Yet, Daddario is still my pick! I’m a Lotus guy.
Previous Winners: Aya Cash as Joan Simon (Fosse/Verdon), Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem (Mrs. America), T’Nia Miller as Hannah Grose (The Haunting of Bly Manor)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy (Succession)
Matthew Macfadyen as Tom Wambsgans (Succession)
Michael Mando as Nacho Varga (Better Call Saul)
Lee Min-ho as Koh Hansu (Pachinko)
Jason Segel as Paul Westhead (Winning Time)
Time to honor Kieran Culkin. Succession has spoils upon riches of supporting acting caliber to the point where it seems like the real Emmys have expanded the total number of allowed nominees just for them. I settled on Matthew Macfadyen (genius this season) and Kieran Culkin for the two Succession stars I could justify. Lee Min-ho makes for a riveting pseudo-antagonist on Pachinko and Michael Mando got a phenomenal showcase in the first half of Better Call Saul’s final season (though, the same can be said for Patrick Fabian). Jason Segel is one of our finest thespians (and I wish I could have found room for Solomon Hughes, who portrayed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the same show). But the supporting categories belong to Succession this year. I think Roman is the most fun character on the show and while Culkin brought all of those streaks, he also brought the ache behind him in season three. He’s doing great work over on HBO.
Previous Winners: Joe Keery as Steve Harrington (Stranger Things), Tony Dalton as Lalo Salamanca (Better Call Saul), Michael Dorman as Gordo Stevens (For All Mankind)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Patricia Arquette as Harmony Cobel (Severance)
Sally Field as Jessie Buss (Winning Time)
Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield (Stranger Things)
Sarah Snook as Shiv Roy (Succession)
Youn Yuh-jung as Old Kim Sunja (Pachinko)
Let’s keep the Succession train rolling. Sarah Snook is long overdue to win one of these fake, hypothetical Emmys, but damn it if she doesn’t deserve it all the same! Shiv vacillates between laughably cold and devastatingly overlooked. It’s Snook who is the thread throughout that. Because of how warm she is as an actor, it can be so hard to root against her ever. I feel like she’s the best choice to succeed her father at the head of Waystar Royco simply because she’s the most charismatic performer in the mix, in my opinion. But none of that warmth comes across in the character of Shiv Roy, who can just be downright evil. It’s like the natural conclusion of what Lindsay Bluth would become if she wasn’t a cartoon character. Snook is doing exceptional work and I will not overshadow her this year. Sally Field can turn in an award-nominated performance in her sleep and in her waking hours; Youn Yuh-jung is another Oscar winner who is crushing it; Sadie Sink gave the first truly great Stranger Things performance since Joe Keery; Patricia Arquette is the tip of the riches embarrassment that Severance has when it comes to acting. But we need to make sure Sarah Snook has her due and there’s no better time than in her career-best performance in Succession’s third season.
Previous Winners: Maisie Williams as Arya Stark (Game of Thrones), Ruth Wilson as Marisa Coulter (His Dark Materials), Emma Corrin as Princess Diana (The Crown)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Matt Cornett as E.J. Caswell (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series)
Phil Dunster as Jamie Tartt (Ted Lasso)
Brett Goldstein as Roy Kent (Ted Lasso)
Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Atlanta)
Henry Winkler as Gene Cousineau (Barry)
There is a sprawling cast of great supporting actors on Ted Lasso and it’s just impossible to recognize them all. Brett Goldstein was my winner last year for making Roy Kent an automatic TV icon, but this year, I’m celebrating Phil Dunster. In the real awards race, it seems like Dunster is the only supporting performer not in the conversation. But I’m always a sucker for a redeemed character who goes on the journey from douchebag to lovable. That’s Jamie Tartt to a T (and two more Ts). During a few of the season’s best episodes, Dunster was the heart of the show and that’s not easy to pull off when you’re surrounded by scene stealers. Another redeemed character is Matt Cornett’s E.J., who is the best part of HSM: TM: TS (and it’s not close with Olivia Rodrigo departing). And then there’s two more performers who probably should have won this award already. Fortunately, Henry Winkler won a real Emmy for his sensational Gene Cousineau performance. Maybe the Emmys will recognize the greatness that is Brian Tyree Henry’s Paper Boi one day, too. Or maybe it’ll be up to me. For now, I’ll take Jamie Tartt, do-do-do-do-do-do.
Previous Winners: Timothy Simons as Jonah Ryan (Veep), William Jackson Harper as Chidi Anagonye (The Good Place), Brett Goldstein as Roy Kent (Ted Lasso)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Paulina Alexis as Willie Jack (Reservation Dogs)
Sarah Goldberg as Sally Reed (Barry)
Renée Elise Goldsberry as Wickie Roy (Girls5eva)
Amy Ryan as Jan (Only Murders in the Building)
Hannah Waddingham as Rebecca Welton (Ted Lasso)
First, some quick honorable mentions: Zazie Beetz on Atlanta and Juno Temple on Ted Lasso. Second, my chosen winner: Sarah Goldberg on Barry. The character of Sally was in dangerous territory on this season of Barry. Both literally — she almost died — and metatextually. The character teeters into so many outrageous, nearly cartoonish territories that a lesser actor would completely flanderize her with over-the-top acting. Fortunately, Goldberg is the opposite of a lesser actor and it is a travesty the real Emmys did not nominate her. She might be doing the best work of anyone on Barry. Watching her on the show was a gift every single week and I can’t wait to see where she takes the character next. As for the other nominees, Waddingham and Goldsberry both return from nominations last year (and both are as good as they were in their debut seasons). Paulina Alexis is the breakout from Reservation Dogs, a show with three other swell performances around her. And Amy Ryan’s role on Only Murders is just delicious. Good for her. Good for all of them.
Previous Winners: D’Arcy Carden as Janet (The Good Place), Natasia Demetriou as Nadja (What We Do in the Shadows), Renée Elise Goldsberry as Wickie Roy (Girls5eva)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Joe Alwyn as Nick Conway (Conversations with Friends)
Murray Bartlett as Armond (The White Lotus)
William Jackson Harper as Marcus Watkins (Love Life)
Hamish Linklater as Father Paul Hill (Midnight Mass)
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
Before we get to what I think is probably the best television performance of the year, I want to talk about some of the double nominee potentials that didn’t go through. There are some double nominees you’ll learn about soon, but this category didn’t produce them. I nearly nominated Sam Richardson for leading The Afterparty here; Tom Hiddleston couldn’t spread Loki love to The Essex Serpent (I did watch every episode of that Apple series, though, as I felt I owed Hiddleston’s non-Marvel work); Oscar Isaac couldn’t net a nod for either Scenes from a Marriage or Moon Knight. But we do have two actors who received nominations in previous years: William Jackson Harper (The Good Place) and Ewan McGregor (Halston). I thought Joe Alwyn was very hot and sad in Conversations with Friends. I think Hamish Linklater would’ve won this in any of the previous years. But it’s Murray Bartlett. He was the one actor I knew had won from the minute I saw his performance. The tortured politeness of a looked-down-upon hotel manager is deep-seeded throughout his performance until it finally explodes. He is the reason why The White Lotus works so well in a sea of stars. No hesitation: Murray Bartlett is the winner.
Previous Winners: Michiel Huisman as Steven Crain (The Haunting of Hill House), Domhnall Gleeson as Billy Johnson (Run), Colman Domingo as Ali (Euphoria: Trouble Don’t Last Always)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Jessica Chastain as Mira Phillips (Scenes from a Marriage)
Alison Oliver as Frances Flynn (Conversations with Friends)
Kate Siegel as Erin Greene (Midnight Mass)
Sadie Sink as Her (All Too Well: The Short Film)
Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop (Hawkeye)
This one was not as obvious to me at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew. I’ve seen The Haunting of Hill House five or six times now and I always come away from it wishing I could see more of Kate Siegel’s Theo. Erin is far from Theo, but that’s what makes Siegel such a clear pick for the win here. She’s been doing powerful work in the Flanagan foray for years and Erin might be her best work yet. She’s not the show’s lead initially, but she develops to become that and the heart of Midnight Mass. In a way, the role was also a route for watching her grow to the next level as a performer. Elsewhere, I did feel that Chastain was the standout of Scenes and Oliver has thankless work to do on Conversations, but she mostly succeeds. Sadie Sink — a double nominee! — makes for a heartbreaking young Taylor Swift avatar. Hailee Steinfeld is the most exciting new MCU character since Valkyrie? Vision? Iron Man himself? And with all the White Lotus love, it’s probably surprising to see no Jennifer Coolidge here, but I’m just never on her wavelength. And with all the past American Crime Story love, no Beanie Feldstein for “Impeachment” is probably also surprising, but I’ll say my problems with the show were not her fault.
Previous Winners: Michelle Williams as Gwen Verdon (Fosse/Verdon), Merritt Wever as Ruby Richardson (Run), Kate Winslet as Mare Sheehan (Mare of Easttown)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Tom Hiddleston as Loki Laufeyson (Loki)
Quincy Isaiah as Magic Johnson (Winning Time)
Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill (Better Call Saul)
Adam Scott as Mark Scout (Severance)
Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy (Succession)
The honorable mentions are really starting to pile up now, so I’ll mention Pachinko’s Jin Ha, Succession’s Brian Cox, and Winning Time’s John C. Reilly quickly. (I also wanted to find room for Turner & Hooch’s Josh Peck, but I had to be honest with myself.) Ultimately, I do feel good about these five, though. Quincy Isaiah is so good as Magic Johnson, but the casting director was on another level there, too. Tom Hiddleston continues to deepen our decade-long relationship with the Loki character. Adam Scott is one of my favorite actors ever and I’m so excited that we’re all celebrating him now; he deserves it! Jeremy Strong? Doing some of the best HBO acting work ever. But it’s Bob Odenkirk’s time. I refreshed Twitter more frequently when he suffered a heart attack than I did during the 2020 presidential election. I badly wanted Odenkirk to just be okay. Thankfully, he was, and now we get to celebrate him in the way he’s always deserved to be. He understands everything about this character, from Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman (and, next year, beyond), so effortlessly that it’s easy to forget how demanding the acting work he’s doing is. This is a character that’s been fully formed since 2009 and Odenkirk still manages to mine new emotions, new nuances, new everything from him — even in a prequel! God, he’s just electric in a role that is traditionally tacky and stuffy. So glad to give him a fake trophy here. Hopefully he lands a real one.
Previous Winners: Kit Harington as Jon Snow (Game of Thrones), Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy (Succession), Jonathan Majors as Atticus Freeman (Lovecraft Country)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great (The Great)
Britt Lower as Helly Riggs (Severance)
Kim Min-ha as Young Kim Sunja (Pachinko)
Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler (Better Call Saul)
Zendaya as Rue Bennett (Euphoria)
Here’s another category where I couldn’t find room for two Stranger Things performers: Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown. No knock on them, but look at the five who are here. I’m out on Euphoria, but Zendaya’s tour-de-force performance is so incredible that it still belongs here. Elle Fanning is the best part of The Great, which is funny, but not a comedy. No category fraud allowed here. Rhea Seehorn has won here before and (like Bill Belichick with Coach of the Year) should probably win every year. Britt Lower on Severance would’ve been the breakout of the year if it wasn’t for Kim Min-ha as Sunja on Pachinko. There are lots of Sunja portrayals (all three are nominated, I might add), but Min-ha gets the most to do and she blew me away every episode. She is the anchor of this sprawling, generation-spanning, intercontinental drama with an epic, four-season plan. That’s not an easy job! But the entire core of the show is depicted through her eyes. What it’s about, what every creative force is striving to do. It’s all there in Kim Min-ha’s performance and I hope she remains the lead for the entire run.
Previous Winners: Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones), Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler (Better Call Saul), Jurnee Smollett as Leti Lewis (Lovecraft Country)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Will Forte as MacGruber (MacGruber)
Bill Hader as Barry Berkman (Barry)
Steve Martin as Charles-Haden Savage (Only Murders in the Building)
Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso (Ted Lasso)
Wow. Look at these nominees. I know my favorite era (read: the one I grew up with) of SNL was the mid-to-late 2000s, but the strongest evidence for that is the nominations of Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, and Bill Hader here. That’s four of the five! And Steve Martin is a prolific, synonymous SNL host, at that! (He’s the most perfect on Only Murders, to me.) It’s almost too on brand. But I’ve nominated Samberg a lot and Brooklyn did come to an end this year (plus, he’s so funny on it). Sudeikis just won last year, so that’s expected! And I know not many watched MacGruber, but Forte’s performance on it is so refined even over ten years later. (Yes, I know it’s also not for everyone.) It’s Hader’s turn, though. I’ve given him two awards for directing before, but his acting has to be commended. I don’t share the surprise some had that he was Stefon and Barry. In fact, I think Stefon is an excellent piece of acting. It’s just that he has so many notes to play as Barry Berkman and in season three, he was more frazzled, caring, violent, and strung out than ever before. And, of course, some more honorable mentions: Rhys Darby for Our Flag Means Death, Jake Johnson for Minx (when am I going to find space for Jake Johnson to win? He deserves it!), Tim Robinson for I Think You Should Leave, Donald Glover for Atlanta, and Martin Short for Only Murders in the Building.
Previous Winners: Rob McElhenney as Mac (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Ted Danson as Michael (The Good Place), Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso (Ted Lasso)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Selena Gomez as Mabel Mora (Only Murders in the Building)
Issa Rae as Issa Dee (Insecure)
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi Vishwakumar (Never Have I Ever)
Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson (Dickinson)
Cecily Strong as Melissa Gimble (Schmigadoon!)
It is time! For months last year, Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson was my pick for this category, but then Naomi Ackie just blew me away on Master of None. Not this year, though. In the final season of Dickinson, Steinfeld took an already masterful performance of a character (who’s also my favorite poet, I should mention) to another echelon that I didn’t know could exist. Her work in the Dickinson finale, specifically, is utterly remarkable and something that has stayed with me a long time. It’s a shame she wasn’t nominated for a real Emmy because Steinfeld’s work on the anachronistic, Alena Smith-created romantic comedy is the kind of performance that should have defined this new era of television and become a flagship for Apple. In a just world! Elsewhere, the future of this category remains vivacious and intriguing. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is now two-for-two on nominations here. Cecily Strong successfully flexed her comedic and musical muscles away from SNL with a vibrant Schmigadoon! performance. Issa Rae captured my heart for the final season of Insecure. And Selena Gomez held her own against two classic comedians. There are some I couldn’t find room for here. Rose Byrne is impressive on Physical; Devery Jacobs is a revelation on Reservation Dogs; Reneé Rapp is doing the best work on The Sex Lives of College Girls. Yet, I’m happy with these five and even happier with a Steinfeld victory.
Previous Winners: Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer (Veep), Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop (The Good Place), Naomi Ackie as Alicia (Master of None)
Outstanding Live Television Event
2020 Summer Olympics (NBC)
94th Academy Awards (ABC)
AFC Divisional Round: Buffalo Bills v. Kansas City Chiefs (CBS)
An Audience with Adele (NBC)
MLB Baseball, June 25: Boston Red Sox v. New York Yankees (NESN)
Sunday Night Football: New England Patriots v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NBC)
I guide you now to the major rule change for my version of the Emmys. Every category from this one to the end will have six nominees. I know the real Emmys have expanded to ten nominees in a lot of categories, but I like the specificity and I don’t watch as many shows as Emmy voters do. So while the prior categories will stick to the five, all of the categories that attempt to encapsulate the best of shows and specials will allow for six each. There’s just so many submissions! Here, there were a few sporting events I found worthy of being nominated. The NBC/Peacock split for the Olympics was complicated, but the live coverage was still sound. NBC’s Sunday Night Football peaked with Tom Brady playing against the Patriots. And there were plenty of quality playoff games, but CBS’ manic coverage of Bills v. Chiefs was exceptionally done. You might notice there’s no Super Bowl here. I’ll never forget the horrendous halftime report from the studio as everyone screamed over each other. And no amount of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock could top NESN’s pre-game coverage of a Red Sox loss. It’s not the game, though; it’s Dustin Pedroia’s retirement ceremony. From the returning guests to the montages to the speeches, it was a superb job of celebrating everything Pedroia meant to Boston sports. Am I biased? Yes. But you only get one of these as a star athlete and Pedroia’s the best I’ll ever love.
Previous Winner: NFC Wild Card Round: Chicago Bears v. New Orleans Saints (Nickelodeon)
Outstanding Reality, Competition, or Documentary Program
The Beatles: Get Back (Disney+)
Behind the Attraction (Disney+)
Captain Ahab: The Story of Dave Stieb (YouTube)
Prehistoric Planet (Apple)
Tom Brady: The Man in the Arena (Disney+)
While I found room for Dave Chang’s hosting talents earlier, I couldn’t make room for The Next Thing You Eat here. I mean, Jon Bois released an incredible documentary about Dave Stieb! ESPN and Disney collaborated on a definitive Tom Brady documentary! David Attenborough returned to nature documentaries with dinosaurs! There just wasn’t room. Coupling that with a deep-dive docuseries into Disney Parks attractions/resorts and two of the best Survivor winners coming out of the year and I had to let the cooking show go. Ultimately, though, none could compare to The Beatles: Get Back. Peter Jackson’s reclamation project for the countless hours of footage of The Beatles working on the Let It Be album before they irrevocably splintered exceeded all of my expectations. I could’ve sat in those recording booths and on those rooftops for a lot more than three, hours-and-hours-long episodes. It made some of the best art ever created seem so accessible and this was never more true than we were all privy to Paul McCartney writing “Get Back” in real time. It’s far and away the greatest achievement of this category.
Previous Winners: Crikey! It’s the Irwins (Animal Planet), The Imagineering Story (Disney+), Down to Earth with Zac Efron (Netflix)
Outstanding Variety Special or Television Movie
All Too Well: The Short Film (YouTube)
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts (HBO Max)
Michael Bublé’s Christmas in the City (NBC)
The Most Magical Story on Earth: 50 Years of Walt Disney World (ABC)
Muppets Haunted Mansion (Disney+)
Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special (Netflix)
What a hodge podge category! So many of these things were nice to see. It’s always nice to see the Disney Parks. It’s nice to see Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint together again. It’s nice to have a Michael Bublé Christmas special to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his famed holiday album. It’s nice to have one last stand-up special from Norm Macdonald. But really, this category came down to two entries that transcended “nice.” All Too Well: The Short Film might be Taylor Swift’s finest accomplishment as a budding filmmaker and woman in control of her own work. The visual buttress of the song many (including both Rolling Stone and my girlfriend) consider to be her career apex was worthy of measuring up to the peaks of Red (Taylor’s Version). However, I just think Muppets Haunted Mansion is one of the best things Disney Plooos has done and certainly the best Muppet output since their 2011 revival film, The Muppets. I’m obviously a Muppet fan and a Disney Parks nerd, but I remember watching this special and soaking in the loving recreation of the Haunted Mansion. It was replete with Muppet spins on the material (the ballroom sequence features classic “At the Dance” jokes from the Muppet Show era) and an authentic sequence of how the ride progresses. I loved it so dearly.
Previous Winners: Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh (Netflix), John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch (Netflix), Euphoria: Trouble Don’t Last Always (HBO)
Outstanding Variety Series
The Graham Norton Show (BBC)
How To with John Wilson (HBO)
I Think You Should Leave (Netflix)
Late Night with Seth Meyers (NBC)
Phantom Gourmet (MyTV 38)
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC)
You could probably guess where this was going from other categories. Shows like Late Night and The Tonight Show are pretty much always nominated here, but there does tend to be a variety show that is hilarious, inventive, or both that just nabs the victory in a runaway every year. I Think You Should Leave is no exception as the absurd, linguistically riveting Tim Robinson series took a step up in its second season, in my opinion. It deserves the honor! I’ve espoused Fallon already, but Meyers had a good year, too. He day drank with Lorde, hosted a Brooklyn Nine-Nine finale conference, and welcomed David Letterman back to his old stomping grounds. (Not to mention, Meyers hosted Dave faves like Jason Sudeikis, Taylor Swift, Michael Schur, and B.J. Novak.) For the first time, Graham Norton is nominated here, thanks to stellar episodes with Tom Holland, Zendaya, and Rachel Zegler. And if you’ve never heard of Phantom Gourmet before, that’s okay. It’s a local food review show from New England that is hosted by Dan Andelman. I appreciated the progress the show made this year and as I moved away from Massachusetts, I found myself missing the comfortable locality and tantalizing tastes of the purple-hued series. I sought it out on YouTube and it’s as good as it’s ever been.
Previous Winners: Documentary Now! (IFC), Middleditch and Schwartz (Netflix), How To with John Wilson (HBO)
Outstanding Animated Series
Bob’s Burgers (Fox)
Monsters at Work (Disney+)
Saturday Morning All-Star Hits! (Netflix)
What If…? (Disney+)
The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse (Disney+)
This category’s honorable mention, even with six nominees, is Rise Up, Sing Out from Disney Junior and The Roots. Don’t worry about Disney, though; they have three representatives here! The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse, the latest iteration of the madcap Mickey Mouse shorts, was nearly the victor, in fact. Instead, Bob’s Burgers finally nabs the top honor (just like H. Jon Benjamin earlier) because of how funny and wholesome it managed to be even while the show anticipated its cinematic story at the end of May. There are even some clever, long-drawn connections and build-up moments for the movie in the show’s twelfth season. Even The Simpsons was slipping by its twelfth season (don’t even get me started on SpongeBob’s late-stage)! But Bob’s Burgers remains impossibly consistent. Speaking of the downhill, Arthur reached the finish line and I did make time to watch the last couple episodes on PBS. It was a stalwart! The other three nominees are all debut shows from the 2021–22 television year. Monsters at Work continued the story of Monsters, Inc. in a more juvenile fashion; Saturday Morning All-Star Hits upended late-1980s/early-1990s after-school cartoons in classic Kyle Mooney fashion; What If…? played around with the MCU in surprisingly grisly fashion. Ultimately, this is the year of Bob’s Burgers in animation, though.
Previous Winners: BoJack Horseman (Netflix), BoJack Horseman (Netflix), DuckTales (Disney Channel)
Outstanding Limited Series
The Afterparty (Apple)
Conversations with Friends (Hulu)
Midnight Mass (Netflix)
The Premise (FX)
The White Lotus (HBO)
This was also a foregone conclusion after all the categories we’ve been through. The White Lotus ranked in the top three of my favorite shows of 2021 and no spring 2022 limited series rivaled it. In hindsight, Lotus had this sewn up last summer when Mike White concluded the six-episode run. I was already prone to loving the show because of its setting at a tropical resort. Rich character studies, frothy creative decision-making, and expert commentaries made for a phenomenal first experience in the anthology show’s beginning. Elsewhere, there are tons of respectable nominees. B.J. Novak’s The Premise had more hits than misses and Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass cemented his role as a top tier horror auteur. Hawkeye certainly had the edge over Moon Knight, in my opinion — I loved the Christmastime in New York environment! I did prefer Normal People, but Conversations with Friends was an engaging way to bring the gang back together with familiar faces. And The Afterparty was a fun mystery (also about to become an anthology) in a year brimming with whodunnits. This category’s honorable mention, by the way, is Obi-Wan Kenobi, which I wasn’t as down on as many were, but it’s not really possible to please Star Wars fans now anyway.
Previous Winners: The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix), Run (HBO), WandaVision (Disney+)
Outstanding Drama Series
Better Call Saul (AMC)
Winning Time (HBO)
I didn’t have to cut Winning Time from this category, but sadly, Stranger Things and its marathon first seven episodes were in the seventh slot and this completely arbitrary exercise only allows for six shows, of course. It’s hard to argue with the other four nominees, though. Severance had an electrifying puzzle box debut. Succession remains worthy of its win two ceremonies ago. Loki is the best Marvel Studios show to date. Better Call Saul aired the first half of its final season and — oh my goodness — will unquestionably be here next year, too. But the winner is Pachinko. Television dramas are operating at an insane clip unseen since The Americans and The Leftovers were blossoming while Mad Men ended. Any one of these six would be a fine winner, but Pachinko blew me away in every way. Even if creator Soo Hugh didn’t have a four-season plan (and book readers didn’t know all that’s not yet covered), this would’ve been a perfectly realized arc for its debut season. From moving performances to high romance to sumptuous cinematography to the adoration in the ricketiest sales cart and the most lavish international meals, Pachinko is everything someone could want in a TV drama. It’s a moving reminder of what the medium is capable of and will continue to be so in the coming years. I have no doubt.
Previous Winners: Game of Thrones (HBO), Succession (HBO), For All Mankind (Apple)
Outstanding Comedy Series
Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
The Sex Lives of College Girls (HBO Max)
Ted Lasso (Apple)
As good a year as it was for drama, it might’ve been even better for comedy. I mean, I wrote twelve recaps for High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and I didn’t even nominate it here! There was a MacGruber show! Brooklyn Nine-Nine ended! Girls5eva and Never Have I Ever returned! Curb, Always Sunny, and Atlanta returned after even longer absences! What We Do in the Shadows, Our Flag Means Death, Reservation Dogs! The category could’ve nominated any six of those eleven shows and it still would’ve been a remarkable collection. Instead, we have sex that I felt were even better in their most recent arcs. The Sex Lives of College Girls continues Mindy Kaling’s (and Justin Noble’s) streak of killer first seasons of comedies (hopefully that quality persists with its forthcoming second season). Barry might just be the best show on HBO currently, full stop. And who didn’t love the collaboration of Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez for an autumn in New York murder mystery? Yet, Apple dominated the category with half of the nominees. Dickinson’s final season was beautiful and Schmigadoon!’s first was a symphony’s amount of fun. But in a list that is filled with rare back-to-back winners, we have one: Ted Lasso. Everything I loved enough about the first season to give it the top prize was back in season two with a confident charge into a new direction. Most shows would’ve ratcheted up all the critical pros of the first season in the second arc, but Ted Lasso dared to be divisive by going darker and deeper and more honest about what it means to be genuinely good in this world. It’s rare to see a show jump to the pantheon so quickly. Add in a rom-com episode, a Christmas episode, and television’s best jokes and it’s clear. Ted Lasso is the best comedy on television once again.
Previous Winners: Veep (HBO), The Good Place (NBC), Ted Lasso (Apple)
Well, these things just seem to be getting longer and more indulgent. But they’re my absolute favorite pieces to write every year, so I can’t help it! We’ll wrap it up there, though. It was another great year for television and it’s only going to get better. As long as that one moron from Disney and that other moron from Warner Brothers don’t gut their glory. For now, let’s revel in all the glory that came from television this past year. What a lovely landscape! Who would your winners from it be?
Ted Lasso (10)
Pachinko, The White Lotus (9)
Better Call Saul, Only Murders in the Building (7)
Barry, I Think You Should Leave, Midnight Mass, Severance, Winning Time (6)
The Afterparty, Dickinson, Loki (5)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Conversations with Friends (4)
All Too Well: The Short Film, Hawkeye, How To with John Wilson, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Premise, Schmigadoon!, Stranger Things, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (3)
Atlanta, The Beatles: Get Back, Bob’s Burgers, Monsters at Work, Muppets Haunted Mansion, Never Have I Ever, Prehistoric Planet, Reservation Dogs, Saturday Morning All-Star Hits!, Saturday Night Live, The Sex Lives of College Girls, Survivor, What If…? (2)
2020 Summer Olympics, 94th Academy Awards, Adam Eats the ’80s, AFC Divisional Round: Buffalo Bills v. Kansas City Chiefs, Arthur, An Audience with Adele, Behind the Attraction, Captain Ahab: The Story of Dave Stieb, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Euphoria, Girls5eva, The Graham Norton Show, The Great, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Insecure, Love Life, MacGruber, Michael Bublé’s Christmas in the City, MLB Baseball, June 25: Boston Red Sox v. New York Yankees, Modern Love, The Most Magical Story on Earth: 50 Years of Walt Disney World, The Next Thing You Eat, Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Our Flag Means Death, Phantom Gourmet, The Problem with Jon Stewart, Scenes from a Marriage, Sunday Night Football: New England Patriots v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom Brady: The Man in the Arena, The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse (1)
Ted Lasso (5)
Pachinko, The White Lotus (4)
Bob’s Burgers, I Think You Should Leave, Midnight Mass, Succession (2)
The Afterparty, The Beatles: Get Back, Better Call Saul, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dickinson, Loki, MLB Baseball, June 25: Boston Red Sox v. New York Yankees, Muppets Haunted Mansion, Saturday Night Live, Severance, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (1)
Nominations by Network
AMC, FX (7)
HBO Max (5)
ABC, Fox, Peacock (2)
Amazon, BBC, History Channel, MyTV 38, NESN, PBS (1)
Wins by Network
Fox, NBC (2)
AMC, NESN (1)