Part 1 of a Ongoing Series: Best Drama
It’s always a bit frustrating whenever the Emmy nominations come out. The major problem is, there are literally so many good series on the air, that it is inevitable that a lot of the deserving contenders will be shut out. It doesn’t help matters that Emmy voters have the problems of nominating the same old series year after year after year.
But over the past three years, it keeps getting less of a strain. More series that have deserved to be nominated keep getting recognized. And with eligibility deadlines happening, several series that tend to dominate the nominations are not eligible. In addition, some series that have been dominant in the past have the stink of scandal about them not, that I will try to avoid going into unless absolutely necessary. Of course, we also now live in the age of the reboot, which will immensely complicate things in a couple of categories. However, there are a couple of noteworthy exceptions that deserve recognition.
I’m going to do things a bit differently that I have in the past. For each category I discuss, I will give a preliminary list of what I think the likely nominees will be. Then I will give my own list of what they should be, along with one long shot that I think might slip under the radar. I’m also going to do some looking at TV movies this year, for reasons that will soon become obvious.
So, once more into the breach. As always, we begin with drama
Based on the other major critics groups (Golden Globes, SAGS, Broadcast Critics), the four absolutely certain nominees are The Crown, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, and This is Us. With Better Call Saul and House of Cards both ineligible, it is likely that Westworld and Handmaid’s Tale will take two of the spots. I have some agreement with these choices, but I have only preferences, as I will list below.
The Americans (FX)
As I have listed in the last couple of months, this brilliant Cold War drama not only had one of the great final seasons of all time, but one of the great last episodes of all time. Given the facts that the Emmys has recognized the series more frequently the last two season, how absolutely incredible the last episode was, and that there’s going to be at least one clear vacancy, I can’t see any real possibility that the Emmys can ignore it, and be true to their own high standards that have recognized The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. This is one of the most timely and relevant series on television — which is even more amazing considering it started out as a period piece. And given the brilliance of the one-act play that was that confrontation between Stan and the Jennings in the parking lot, it may have moved this dark horse into front runner status.
The Crown (Netflix)
Even with the absence of John Lithgow, this insight into Queen Elizabeth II was perhaps even more remarkable than last season. If it were just for viewing the brilliant work of Claire Foy as Elizabeth, dealing with the many fluctuations of the monarchy and her role in it, it would be enough. But the series took a deeper look at the royal family this year — Philip’s struggles as youth and accepting his role, Margaret finding herself and love (though we know it won’t last) and the first insight to the life of Prince Charles. A new group of actors will take over the aging royal family next year. Even considering their impressive pedigrees, they’ll have to be exceptional to surpass this case.
The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
Here I am pushing for another King family saga about Chicago attorneys. And given the Emmys shaky history honoring The Good Wife, I think the odds are against it being recognized. But considering that it has one of the most impressive casts in television (the judges alone could make a spinoff), that it adds vitality to a genre that has been heading for the respirator in recent years — who’d have thought the courtroom drama needed this much help? — and that it has more impressive minority leads than Shonda has created in her entire run — it needs to be run. Besides, the show tries to impeach Trump. If Hollywood wants to prove how elitist it is, this is its best chance.
I’m not a hundred percent show this is even the best series on Showtime right now. But I have to admit, it was an impressive season. A female president acting like a dictator was shown to be shaken to core from an assassination attempt that lead to an impeachment. Carrie revealed once and for all that she could not be a brilliant agent and a mother. Russia’s involvement in our Internet revealed to have even more deadly consequences than we could imagine. Homeland started out as in the world of Howard Gordon as a more humane version of 24. It has now become a mirror of the world we live in, one that not even Jack Bauer could save. In its penultimate season, it is worthy of returning to the Emmy pantheon.
Stranger Things (Netflix)
By far, the most astonishing and incredible production Netflix has yet created. A brilliant combination of sci-fi, 80s nostalgia and pre-adolescent drama, this is an incredibly entertaining, enthralling and awe-inspiring series to watch. This is one of the best casts and writers ever assembled — especially the young actors led by the marvelous Millie Bobby Brown. And even though were some times its faltered, the doors that were left open had so many possibilities, I can’t wait for Season 3. This is one nominee from last year I have no objection if it repeats. Besides, if you can dominate the MTV awards and Dragon-Con, you’re doing something right.
This is Us (NBC)
The rarest of things in the Golden Age — a broadcast series that has huge critical acclaim and better ratings. We finally learned what ended up leading to Jack’s death, and it was literally heartbreaking. We saw the Big Three all have incredible struggles that made us all weep — and surprisingly laugh. The ‘Super Bowl Sunday’ episode already ranks as one of the greatest moments in TV. I expect to see Emmy nominations for the entire cast, all of them well deserved. And considering how well this series introduced flashforwards in Season 2, I expect this series to be even more impressive in the future. Hopefully, things will get better for the Pearsons, but then again, if they did, we wouldn’t be so drawn to them.
This series has all the majesty of a J.J. Abrams project or Christopher Nolan movie — you don’t understand a lot of what’s going on, but the visuals and performances are so brilliant, you don’t really care. I’m still trying to unpack half the stuff that’s going on, if anyone he is a human being, and where the hell this park is. But the performances are universally excellent, the series is willing to make more decisions as to what humanity can be, and some of the stories are as radically told since the early days of Mr. Robot. It deserves to be back.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
The Deuce (HBO)
In all candor, this is the HBO series that the network should be pushing. Yes, I know its a David Simon series, so it has two strikes against it just to start, but the performances from James Franco (both of them) on down are as good as anything. It explores territory that Simon himself hasn’t tried to look at in nearly twenty years of writing for TV. And , like The Americans, it is a period piece that is painfully relevant. I figure Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal will be pushed hard for Emmys, but the series itself should be recognized. please?