My Annual Predictions (And Hopes) For This Year’s Emmy Nominations
Week 1, Part 1: Outstanding Comedy Series
Well, here we are again. Every time I try to predict the Emmy nominations, it’s inevitably the best of times and the worst of times simultaneously. The best, because I have reason to hope that the Emmys will actually recognize some of the greatest series in this year. The worst, because they inevitably and excruciatingly inevitably make ridiculous choice. Just for one exhibit, the ridiculous number of nominations that The Handmaid’s Tale and Hamilton got last year, essentially drowning out qualified Supporting Actor and Actress nomination in Drama and Limited Series respectively. On the bright side, Handmaid’s Tale isn’t eligible this year, but Succession is. And Ozark.
Admittedly things might be different in the lion’s share of nominees for Drama and Comedy because almost all of the major nominees in the drama category are ineligible having either aired their final season (Pose, Lovecraft Country) or were ineligible (The Mandalorian, The Crown and hurray The Handmaid’s Tale.) The only series from the previous year in the drama category that are eligible are This is Us and Bridgerton and the latter didn’t qualify in many of the acting categories.
As for Comedy, the alternative is the case. So many great series that have been absent from the air for at least a season have returned, and often in spectacular fashion. It is very unlikely there will be an aberration such as Emily in Paris returning especially when there are better Netflix comedies eligible. (I’ve also changed my mind on two of the series that I ignored last year; both Hacks and Pen15 more than deserved their nominations for Best Comedy.)
So what will happen? I’m not sure. But I’m going to proceed as usual. I’m going to deal with every major category in Comedy, Drama, and Limited Series. I’ll list the nominees I think will get there and those that I think should get there. For each category, I will also put a choice that I think the Emmys will overlook but deserve recognition.
Because I spent more time this year watching comedies than dramas, I’m going to break my rule and start with Comedy series.
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Two of the major winners from last year, Ted Lasso and Hacks are certain to be nominated again; I’ve seen enough of both series to make some good decisions as to why. There are three major series that have been absent from the ranks for the past three years that are almost certain to be recognized; I believe two are among the best shows of the year and the third was exceptional viewing. I believe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is worthy but since I haven’t actually seen it yet; I’m going to withhold judgment for most of the nominees. There’s at least one freshman comedy that looks a sure thing by the day and then we have to choose between several exceptional FX comedies. Here are my picks:
Abbott Elementary (ABC)
Here’s the workplace comedy none of us knew we needed until ABC brought it to us last December. Quinta Brunson takes up the mantle of African-American female showrunner that Issa Rae vacated with the final season of Insecure (Abbott Elementary premiered weeks after the last episode of Insecure which made the baton passing more symbolic) and takes up a world that most of us have vacated. I expect Brunson to receive multiple nominations for her work, especially as Janine the grade school teacher we all need. The co-stars that surround are all dazzling to watch and many of them (especially the incredible Janelle James deserve nominations of their own). This is the single best network comedy to debut since The Good Place in 2016 and considering the world we live in today, it’s just as appropriate to this era as that show was to the one that was coming. I suspect Brunson and her colleagues will dominate the awards circuit for years to come.
A lot of people didn’t know entire what to make of the much of the third season of Atlanta as showrunners Donald Glover and Hiro Murai spent nearly half the season in an alternate universe that seemed to have nothing to do with Paperboi’s European tour. (Though given the final shot of the season, maybe it did.) But I enjoyed most of what I saw as a venture into the surreal world that we have come to expect from Glover over the previous two seasons. And there was a lot of absurdity in Europe — Paperboi went on one of the weirdest drug trips imaginable where meeting Liam Neeson wasn’t the weirdest thing that happened; Earn found himself trying to deal with managers and battles for cell phones. And Van spent most of the season seemingly in another world until in the memorable season finale we saw just how lost she truly was. Whatever you may have thought of the season as a whole, Atlanta more than deserves to be back at the Best Comedy series.
According to numbers at websites, Barry and almost all the cast members are coming on strong in almost every major category. If you’ve seen the third season of Barry, you don’t need to be told why. Barry himself spent most of the season in increasingly dark territory, trying desperately to earn forgiveness but realizing near the end where he’s going and who he’s taking with him. Almost every other character went through a similarly dark journey — Sally finally had the success she dreamed of, only to have it snatched from her the next day and within a week going to darker place she never dreamed of. Noho Hank found himself in love with a rival drug dealer, but their path to romance has led to a bloodbath so great you don’t know if there’s any chance for happiness. And Gene finally seemed to have a chance to revive his career, only to find in the season finale that he might lose everything — and turned on his student. Bill Hader deserves as many Emmy nominations as he can get and is in my mind the frontrunner for his third Emmy. Barry is one of the darkest shows you’ll ever watch and also incredibly funny often in the same sixty seconds.
Hacks (HBO Max)
I’m not saying that dismissing Hacks after just two episodes into its first season was my biggest mistake as a critic (ignoring Breaking Bad until Cranston’s third consecutive Emmy was a far more obvious one) but it’s pretty high up there. I rectified it by the time I finished the first season. Now, having only seen the first two of the second season I am more than prepared to justify its inclusion. This is one of best written and directed shows on television; period and Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder are two of the funniest actresses on television, full stop. Will I end up ranking the second season of Hacks as high in my top ten list this year as I did last time (it was Number 3 for the record)? We’ll have to wait and see. But I do know that everyone connected with this series — including Paul Downs, who doesn’t seem capable of making a mistake — deserves to contend this year. No one on this series deserves to be considered by the title reference.
There is a very really possibility that this extraordinary comedy series may be shortchanged by the Emmys in this category by another female-hyphenate run series — I could see Marvelous Mrs. Maisel knocking this one out of contention. But as one of the great triumphs in comedy history, Issa Rae’s quietly remarkable comedy about being a black woman anywhere was a groundbreaking series that has never gotten its due from, really, any major awards show. Everyone in the cast, from Rae to Yvonne Orji and everybody in between has become a sensation in some way. The series deserves a boatload of nominations as it goes out the door. So what if it really didn’t end with any big surprises? Does every series need to go out with a bang?
Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
One of the most astonishing freshman comedy series in a season full of them. Only Murders doesn’t just work as a brilliant comedy featuring two of the greatest comedians in history doing some of their best work. It works as a satire of a mystery series. It works as a mystery. It works as a satire of podcasts. Like Hacks it demonstrates the bonds between two wildly disparate generations (I never thought Selena Gomez would be the comic equal of Steve Martin). It understands New York perfectly. And it can demonstrate levels of genius that you don’t expect from dramas (I still marvel at the dialogue-free episode that was simultaneous hysterical and revealed the core of the mystery.) My feelings about Handmaid’s Tale aside, Hulu continues to demonstrate that it may be the most brilliant of the major streaming services when it comes to exceptional and versatile entertainment. Only Murders is just the most recent in that world
Reservation Dogs (FX on Hulu)
I had a choice of two very different but extraordinary Taiki Wahiti’s produced comedy series for this slot: this show or the equally astonishing What We do in the Shadows. Of the two, I think the latter series is more likely to be nominated — it received fifteen nominations for its second season after all. But I would make the argument that Reservation Dogs is the bolder and more imaginative series. Reservation Dogs may take place in the real world, but it sure as hell is likely to be less known than the New York that WWDITS takes place in. It’s bold and scary and in many ways more subversive than the vampire based comedy. And considering how revolutionary it is in being the first series of any kind with an entirely indigenous people cast and creative staff, it’s hard to argue that it’s more than time for a series like this. Also, in every way possible, it’s really funny and daring. WWDITS returns next month; I’m actually more breathless for whenever season 2 of Reservation Dogs does. It’s gotten its share of award nominations so far, some Emmy love would be nice.
Ted Lasso (Apple+)
Yes, I know a lot of people are pissed about how Season 2 turned out. There are a lot of people who don’t like Ted Lasso to begin with. Those people are the kind of critics who can’t stand nice. Granting I’m basing this on only the first three episodes, but in my opinion there is absolutely no reason at all that Ted Lasso hasn’t earned all of the award nominations and wins it has gotten from the SAG Awards and the Critics Choice Awards. Jason Sudeikis is just as entertaining to watch this season as he was last year, and everybody in the cast from Brett Goldstein’s breakout Roy Kent to the exceptional Hannah Waddingham deserves all the love in nominations that they will likely get. Do I think that they and the series itself deserve to repeat? That’s a discussion for another day, and I will have it in a few months. But to deny Ted Lasso the show love is like denying Ted the man your admiration: it’s an exercise that you just don’t have the heart to put yourself through.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
The Wonder Years (ABC)
I could take this spot to advocate for other series I truly loved this season that are long shots at this point — Russian Doll and Breeders come to mind. But in the end, I’m going to advocate for a series that represents something almost as astonishing as a remarkable cable comedy — the reboot that justifies its existence. The new Wonder Years does everything the original does and actually does it better — it gives it a look at the 1960s that in many ways the original never could while simultaneously paying tribute to the original in ways true fans never expected. The original got more than its share of love from the Emmys. The reboot deserves just as much.
Tomorrow: My picks for the nominations for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy.