The 69th Emmy Cheat Sheet
The 2017 Emmy Awards are just about to start tonight. What should you know? Who’s going to win? Did they deserve to win? Who’s not there that should be? I’ve got all the answers for all the important questions you were asking about TVs most important night besides the season premier of Game of Thrones.
- “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
- “Stranger Things” (Netflix)
- “The Crown” (Netflix)
- “Westworld” (HBO)
- “Better Call Saul” (AMC)
- “This Is Us” (NBC)
- “House of Cards” (Netflix)
A wholly unsurprising batch of nominees once again this year. House of Cards and Better Call Saul once again getting in on the success of past years—Better Call Saul on the back of past seasons of a different show somehow. But this is a two-man race at the end of the day. Come Sunday, we are all but assured that either The Handmaid’s Tale or Stranger Things will go home with the best drama award.
I flip back and forth between what I think is more deserving of the award on what seems like an hourly basis. At times, I think the craft of Stranger Things and immersion that its attention to detail provides the audience. From the score to the camera that seems to drift in and out of scenes, to the haze that hangs over the show. There is a lot about Stranger Things that elicits a feeling of pure joy that makes you forget that at its core this show is really about kids being murdered by a multi-dimensional monster. On the other hand, The Handmaid’s Tale is your quintessential piece of art. Doing its source material justice and giving its cast a lot of room to run it is as harrowing a watch as it is technically impressive. The technical execution of the show is all the more impressive when you consider it is shot with a writer/director schedule more akin to its network counterparts than the likes of HBO or Netflix. With five directors and seven writers over its 10 episode first season the unified aesthetic is an impressive achievement. I know a lot of people that truly enjoyed watching The Handmaid’s Tale on the other hand just as many people I know did not enjoy the first season. I myself fall into the latter category. I appreciate it in its execution, Bruce Miller and Elizabeth Moss have a modern classic on their hands if they can continue this quality throughout the show’s run. But should enjoyment come into consideration when objectively evaluating a show? I have never really been able to come up with a good answer to that question. On one hand television is an entertainment medium. On the other hand there is no good art that is universally enjoyed—nor should there be. I had this same reaction to Search Party last year; a show whose quality was evident to me if I personally did not enjoy it.
I have talked a lot about the third season of The Leftovers on the podcast. I will do my best to excuse the Emmy board here, it is possible because an episode falls out of the qualification period that the season isn’t eligible. I don’t think that’s how it works but it’s the only thing I can think of to explain its absence on this list.
However there are plenty of shows that aired entirely in the qualification period that deserve a spot on this nomination list. Broadchurch followed up a weak second season with a real return to form this year. The third season was one of the better detective dramas I’ve seen from the UK in some time. The English shows as a whole were snubbed—typical American bullshit. All of Peaky Blinders, Taboo, and Humans had great years but it comes as no surprise that they weren’t nominated for the Emmy favorites House of Cards and Diet Breaking Bad. The list of shows that are better than at least some of the nominee list is quite long but the most disappointing absence has to be Legion. Watching Noah Hawley flex all over a lesser known Marvel hero this year was one of my favorite things this year.
- “Atlanta” (FX)
- “Veep” (HBO)
- “Master of None” (Netflix)
- “Black-ish” (ABC)
- “Silicon Valley” (HBO)
- “Modern Family” (ABC)
- “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)
It’s Atlanta. Atlanta was not just the best comedy series this past year it was the best show this past year. There’s far less to talk about here than there was in the drama category. I love Veep but even Veep at its absolute best is not as good as Atlanta and this was not Veep’s best season. Veep is more than likely going to win tonight but that’s for different reasons than quality. Again, we have the legacy nominees but that’s not surprising. Modern Family and whatever Tina Fey show is on right now will get nominated until they’re gone; Big Bang Theory had to get to the point where it was actually unwatchable before it stopped getting the knee jerk nominee. It’s a shame that when Master of None gets its first nominee it’s up against two juggernauts that it has no chance of winning against because Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang have something special with this second season. I love Black-ish and Sillicon Valley but there is no real argument for either show as the best comedy this past year.
Fleabag! FLEABAG! FLEABAG! FLEABAG! I keep shouting it into the wind but it seems to no avail. Fleabag was only second to Atlanta this year for comedy series. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is absolutely brilliant and for it to be entirely snubbed at these Emmys is as upsetting as it is unsurprising. I thought it was strange there was no love for The Good Place; the Emmy board seems to jump at the opportunity to nominate any quality network shows and The Good Place certainly was just that. No shock that the brilliant, recently cancelled, Man Seeking Woman went it’s whole run without a nomination but a boy can dream nevertheless.
- “The Night Of” (HBO)
- “Big Little Lies” (HBO)
- “Feud: Bette and Joan” (FX)
- “Fargo” (FX)
- “Genius” (National Geographic)
The tightest of any of the categories I would say. The Night Of and Big Little Lies are so close in quality if you asked my tomorrow which I thought was better I am just as likely to say Big Little Lies as I am The Night Of. The Night Of had the higher peaks—the first episode is still my favorite episode of TV last year and possibly the best episode of television so far this decade—sorry “Ozymandias” fans—also “The Wheel” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” aired in 2007 so I’m safe to say such a heinous thing. But Big Little Lies had more sustained quality. The final seconds of the series are darkly beautiful in a way that most shows struggle to achieve on screen. Even though this wasn’t the best Fargo season both it and Feud are more than deserving of these nominations. Genius slides in just because there is a much smaller pool of limited series to pull from.
You could make a compelling argument that Guerrilla deserves a spot on this list. But Guerrilla wasn’t good enough to muster any passion in me to make that argument. Also I fucking refuse to reward Showtime for its constant mediocrity interrupted only briefly by stinks of sheer incompetence.
- Claire Foy (“The Crown”)
- Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
- Keri Russell (“The Americans”)
- Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”)
- Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”)
- Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)
Okay I know, it’s a hot take. And it’s almost a foregone conclusion that Elisabeth Moss is going to win best actress in a drama series tonight—and well deserved it would be. I watched all of The Crown, a show about how one rich white lady marrying a divorced rich white man made life slightly more difficult for another rich white lady. Claire Foy’s incredible performance, along with the rest of the stellar cast, carried my all the way through that show. And I will probably come back for more in its second season. Elisabeth Moss has better material to work with for sure and I found myself in awe of her performance but when Foy was on screen I couldn’t look away.
No snubs here. I loved Elizabeth Debicki’s performance in The Kettering Experiment but it wasn’t a particularly good show besides her performance and she really only gets to be sad and scared in the gothic horror so I have no real issue with her being left off this list. But this is best six actresses this year when Viola Davis and Robin Wright are bringing up the rear in any list you’re talking about a very elite group of talent.
- Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”)
- Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”)
- Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”)
- Milo Ventimiglia (“This Is Us”)
- Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”)
- Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”)
- Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”)
This is Us is really just a soap opera. It’s a soap opera with less evil twins and more world class actors. It is a cast full of incredible performers: Chris Sullivan, Chrissy Metz, Ron Cephas Jones, Justin Hartley, Susan Watson, and best of them all Sterling Brown. And this nominee seems like it’s a flex by NBC since Chrissy Metz got nominated for supporting with I think the same amount of screen time, at least it felt like it was the same amount. There’s a gap between Brown and Hopkins whose performance in Westworld is captivating but nothing special. Why is Live Schreiber nominated instead of Paul Giamatti, Damien Lewis, or Dominic West if we’re going to nominate just any leading man from some incredibly average Showtime show?
If you define snub as any performance better than at least one of the nominees there is going to be a long list. So I won’t waste the word count or your valuable time going through all of those. But I think Cillian Murphy has a real case for best actor this year and for him not to even get nominated seems shortsighted.
- Donald Glover (“Atlanta”)
- Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”)
- Zach Galifianakis (“Baskets”)
- Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”)
- Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”)
- William H. Macy (“Shameless”)
Master of None is an incredible show. A masterwork by Aziz Ansari. Nominating him for best actor though is a little silly. I don’t even think Ansari would say his acting is one of the best parts of the show. An elite writer and director and show runner, an at best average actor. Jeffery Tambor’s performance in Transparent has stayed constant in quality over the three seasons of the show but Transparent as a show has taken a dip in its second and third season and that hurts Tambor’s case. But the top three here all have solid cases for the award. Donald Glover is the best performer in the best show by far while Tambor and Glafinianakis get more emotional range to work with in their respective performances.
William H. Macy got nominated. So clearly there is some room for improvement on this list.
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”)
- 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”)
I’ll be honest I haven’t watched Mom or Kimmy Schmidt since about halfway through the first season of each. And I won’t. Unless they have made a drastic uptick in quality since that time I don’t think there is much need for me to watch them. Pamlea Adlon gives a strong performance on an otherwise okay show but Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won the award five years in a row for a reason. I’m not sure Adlon’s performance is strong enough, nor is Better Things a good enough show, to stop that streak tonight.
My voice is still horse from screaming about Fleabag so I won’t bother this time. But I mean come on: Phoebe Waller-Bridge gave the best performance by an actress in a comedy without question. Can you tell I thought Fleabag was really good? Can you? Tig Nataro’s performance in One Mississippi has been criminally underrated both when it comes to annual awards but also in the cultural conscious. For such a beloved comedian I thought that Nataro’s One Mississippi and especially her performance would garner much more attention. And when Lisa Kudrow got nominated over Aya Cash in 2015 I knew the book had been written on Cash’s Emmy chances for You’re the Worst—still worth mentioning her absence from this list.
Limited Series Actor
- Riz Ahmed (“The Night Of”)
- Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock: The Lying Detective”)
- Robert De Niro (“The Wizard of Lies”)
- John Turturro (“The Night Of”)
- Ewan McGregor (“Fargo”)
- Geoffrey Rush (“Genius”)
It’s hard to argue that Riz Ahmed isn’t the best in this category. As hard as I ride or die for Sherlock Riz Ahmed has had quite the year the peak of which is his performance as Naz in The Night Of. Watching a nice school boy transform into the monster that everyone accused him of being was hardly a “fun” watch but incredibly well done by Ahmed still.
Nothing to see here.
Limited Series Actress
- Nicole Kidman (“Big Little Lies”)
- Susan Sarandon (“Feud”)
- Jessica Lange (“Feud”)
- Reese Witherspoon (“Big Little Lies”)
- Carrie Coon (“Fargo”)
- Felicity Huffman (“American Crime”)
Still weird to me that Carrie Coon was nominated for Fargo and not for The Leftovers. Nicole Kidman’s performance in Big Little Lies was stoic and unassuming and managed to steal the show. Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange as beautiful to watch in Feud and it’s just a shame those performances has to come in the same year as something so brilliantly done as Kidman’s performance as Celeste.
In a year with far less limited series or movies than in most recent years it’s a smaller talent pool to draw from and these nominees are a pretty fair representation.
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
- Ron Cephas Jones (“This Is Us”)
- Jeffrey Wright (“Westworld”)
- John Lithgow (“The Crown”)
- Michael Kelly (“House of Cards”)
- Mandy Patinkin (“Homeland”)
- Jonathan Banks (“Better Call Saul”)
- David Harbour (“Stranger Things”)
It’s Ron Cephas Jones. A man who has been the best part of almost everything he’s been in. I liked Jeffrey Wright’s performance—even considering it gets undercut slightly by the reveal that his character is a robot and then he becomes more of a prop than an actor—hopefully all that will be forgiven come Westworld season 2. John Lithgow’s performance as Winston Churchill felt like a caricature but that may be because Churchill was pretty nuts in his later years.
No love for Joe Gilgun is not a surprise but he was such a pivotal part of what was so great about Preacher’s first season I thought maybe there was a chance that Preacher might get their token nominee here. Also Andrew Buchan’s performance in Broadchurch is so melancholy and enthralling I would have loved to see him get a nomination before the show ended.
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
- Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”)
- Thandie Newton (“Westworld”)
- Chrissy Metz (“This Is Us”)
- Ann Dowd (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
- Samira Wiley (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
- Uzo Aduba (“Orange Is the New Black”)
Why Millie Bobby Brown is nominated for supporting I will never know. But her performance as fan favorite Eleven came out of nowhere. Not in small part because child actors are usually the worst part of shows instead of the best part. Even though I thought Thandie Newton and Chrissy Metz were fantastic in their parts it is probably a safe bet that either of the two actresses from The Handmaid’s Tale will walk home with the award tonight.
My fandom for Mr. Robot may be blinding me. But I think it’s fair to say Portia Doubleday and/or Grace Gummer deserved nominees in this category, right? I’m not crazy for thinking that.
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
- Louie Anderson (“Baskets”)
- Tony Hale (“Veep”)
- Matt Walsh (“Veep”)
- Alec Baldwin (“Saturday Night Live”)
- Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”)
- Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”)
If the weekly Youtube clips of Alec Baldwin are a fair representation of his performance on SNL as a whole this year, he has done an excellent job as Trump and he is the favorite to win for sure. But Louie Anderson continues to be just fantastic on Baskets and as people who have made me laugh the most the two Veep guys are in a league of their own on this list.
You nominate Ted Danson. If you can, you nominate Ted Danson. The Good Place is great and Danson is great on it. It’s a no brainer. You nominate Ted Danson. Also how neither Brian Henry nor Keith Stanfield were nominated is beyond me.
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
- Anna Chlumsky (“Veep”)
- Judith Light (“Transparent”)
- Kathryn Hahn (“Transparent”)
As someone who doesn’t watch SNL nor do I have a recall of enough clips, that circulated about them I don’t think I can say one way or another how good they were in this. Leslie Jones was fucking hysterical in Top Five though if that helps:
- Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”)
- Leslie Jones (“Saturday Night Live”)
- Vanessa Bayer (“Saturday Night Live”)
I can’t watch everything I’m just one man. But between Chlumsky and they two actresses from Transparent I prefer Chlumsky by a hair.
How should I know? I didn’t watch 60% of the nominees.
Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
- Michael K. Williams (“The Night Of”)
- Alexander Skarsgård (“Big Little Lies”)
- Bill Camp (“The Night Of”)
- David Thewlis (“Fargo”)
- Stanley Tucci (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
- Alfred Molina (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
HBO has to be loving these Limited Series categories. I don’t see a world where either The Night Of or Big Little Lies doesn’t take home every award in a limited series category. Between Michael K. Williams and Alexander Skarsgård it’s hard to go wrong here. In a lot of ways they play the same kind of character. A villain that at first hovers back and for the between good and bad leaving you questioning who the real bad guy is. And then it becomes pretty clear they are as evil as you first suspected. The slow burn of two dark characters is fantastically done.
You could pull a few other names from The Night Of or Big Little Lies that could have taken this category. But it’s better that HBO doesn’t look like they’re bullying everyone.
Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
- Laura Dern (“Big Little Lies”)
- Shailene Woodley (“Big Little Lies”)
- Judy Davis (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
- Michelle Pfeiffer (“The Wizard of Lies”)
- Regina King (“American Crime”)
- Jackie Hoffman (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Larua Dern first being loveably hateable on Big Little Lies then mysteriously strange on Twin Peaks. Unless the buzz for American Crime was bigger than I thought this is probably a two woman race between the two Big Little Lies actresses.
None to speak of, The Night Of spends a lot of time in prison and all the bad guys in Fargo are men. It’s a shame but there’s not many more women to pick from in this category.