My Reactions To This Year’s Emmy Nominations, Part 2: Drama
Or: How Selfish Billionaires, A Ruthless Family of Criminals and Whatever the hell Euphoria Is Triumphed Over This Is Us
Let’s deal with by far the biggest problem with the nominations for Dramas this year. Besides the usual shutout of brilliant series like Evil and The Good Fight, the continued pretense that Big Sky doesn’t exist, the fact that Yellowstone doesn’t seem to even register on the Emmys radar. It is the inexplicable decision to basically pretend that the final season of This is Us did not happen. And there are some very clear reasons as to why.
I can accept if not understand why the Emmys decided to recognize with more than twenty nominations Succession, a series where the fact that everybody is horrible and nothing ever happens are apparently selling points. I can comprehend why Ozark, despite the general dislike of it by millions was recognized for its final season — as I’ve said multiple times that it is the definition of an Emmy bait series. But the nominations for Euphoria — both for Best Drama and Zendaya over Mandy Moore — appall me. They didn’t come as a complete shock — when the HCA nominated it last week, I had to accept it as a probability. But somehow I had thought that a series that recognized the fundamental goodness in people, that had its characters suffer through real crises, not hyperimagined ones, where every single character was a real human being and not the equivalent of a caricature, where the torment we have gone through with was earned and not utterly manufactured, and perhaps most importantly, was one of the greatest series of all time in its final season could somehow earn nominations over a series like Euphoria which — as I described in detail yesterday — is a parody of what most people HBO dramas are without having to watch them. Apparently, I was mistaken.
I don’t know if Euphoria is the worst series to ever be nominated by the Emmys for Best Drama. I haven’t seen nearly enough series. But the decision to nominated in and so many of its cast and writers over This Is Us has to rank as one of the worst collective decision the Academy has ever made, right up there with basically deciding to shaft The Wire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica. I’d actually argue its worse because none of those series ever had the advantage of incumbency which guarantees that once you get in, you’re in for life. The decision to shaft This is Us for so many inferior series with so many more likable characters and realistic situations in it has made it clear the path the Emmys will make going forward when it comes to dramas. I don’t just mean the decision to emphasis the dystopian and depressing or the best in broadcast over the worst in cable, which they made years ago. No, it’s the fundamental decision that the struggles of the every man and the average family, no matter how realistic or human they are, will always come in second to the superficial and the awful.
I may rethink this decision in years to come — the signs of voters loving kindness in comedies such as Ted Lasso last year and Abbott Elementary this year may point a way forward. But the fundamental decision of the Emmys to ignore the brilliance of similar themed dramas like A Million Little Things does not leave me feeling hopeful. The end of This is Us was the end of an era. And the Emmys chose, much as they did with The Good Wife several years earlier, to pretend it was irrelevant.
End of the second rant. I will now move on to my reactions to the individual nominations, but there will be a fair amount of venting going forward.
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
I’ve already vented about three of the choices. As for the rest. I have absolutely no problem with Better Call Saul or Yellowjackets; I predicted the nominations of Squid Game and Stranger Things, and I will later this month, finally get around to watching Severance. As to the rest, well I’ve ranted about those series for months and no doubt will again about two of them. You know the series that I thought were superior that were shafted. At this point, I don’t have the heart to say anything else.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Now, to be clear four of the six nominated actors I thought would recognized were. I really wanted Bob Odenkirk and Adam Scott to be nominated, I expected Jeremy Strong and Lee Jung-Jae to be nominated, and its really not much of a stretch to think that Brian Cox would have.
Now I admit it was always a strong likelihood, a near certainty in fact that Jason Bateman would be nominated for Ozark. The question becomes, why couldn’t they have found room for Sterling Brown who has been nominated for This is Us every year the series has been eligible. I don’t know who you could have justifiably left out; I acknowledge what a strong field this is, and that’s before you consider the shut out of Kevin Costner. Couldn’t the Emmy have found a way? I just don’t know.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Let’s just set Zendaya aside for now; I made it very clear when I went through this category a month ago that she was going to be nominated whether I liked it or not. I also was fine with Laura Linney and Sandra Oh being nominated; I advocated for both of them. I wanted Melanie Lynskey to be nominated for Yellowjackets and I’m overjoyed she was. (Juliette Lewis was a pipe dream.) But how can the Emmys justify overlooking Mandy Moore?
Jodie Comer, I understand why she was nominated even though Killing Eve was basically shutout the rest of the way. And as someone who was thoroughly angered at how Reese Witherspoon went 0 for 3 in the 2019–2020 season, I would be fine with her being nominated. Hell, I’m actually happier she was chosen over Jennifer Aniston who I thought would be nominated. But…couldn’t they have waited another year? Witherspoon and Aniston will have other opportunities. This was Moore’s last chance, and now its gone. I may never forgive the Emmys for this. The Gilded Age…there will be more chances.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
All right, they expanded it to eight nominees which I’m grateful. Let’s pick it apart.
Kieran Culkin and Matthew MacFayden, I advocated for both of them even though I don’t like Succession. Billy Crudup, I’m fine with that.
I think the biggest problem I have is that three shows took seven of the nominations. I’ll withhold my commentary on John Turturro and Christopher Walken until after I see Severance, but I don’t foresee much of a problem. Both the actors from Squid Game; I will have to watch a lot of it to be sure. But what is it that so many people see in Nicholas Braun on Succession?
Perhaps the real issue is that there isn’t a single nomination for any of the brilliant actors on Better Call Saul. Giancarlo Esposito can get nominated for all of his other series but not Saul. The window for Jonathan Banks keeps closing. And I’ll admit Michael Mando’s nomination was a longshot but after the HCA I had hope. Emmys, this is where you blew it the most. But at least you didn’t nominate Eric Dane.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Honestly this category I have very few problems with any of the nominees.
Understandably I’m over the moon that Rhea Seehorn was (finally!) nominated for her work on Better Call Saul. I am just as elated that Christina Ricci was nominated for her work on Yellowjackets. I had hoped that J. Smith Cameron would join Sarah Snook as a nominee from Succession. I expected that both Jung Ho-Yeon for Squid Game and Julia Garner for Ozark would be nominated. I might find it in my heart to see the reason behind Patricia Arquette’s nomination for Severance when I see the series.
What do people see in Sydney Sweeney? And to be specific, what does she have that Millie Bobby Brown or Sadie Sink on Stranger Things and Susan Kalechi Watson or Chrissy Metz on This Is Us apparently don’t in the eyes of the Emmys? It’s not as inexplicable as the love for Zendaya but its close.
Guest Actor and Guest Actress in a Drama…to quote Bill Murray whenever he was asked to consider the winners in Supporting Actor and Actress for the Oscars: “Who cares?” I certainly can’t bring myself to. Seven nominees from Succession; two from Euphoria. I can’t even bring myself to work up enthusiasm for such actors I admire as Alexander Skarsgard or Hope Davis because of the series they’re nominated for. Usually I love watching the Guest Actors and Actress on the Creative Arts Emmys. This year, I may change the channel.
As for directing: I will pull for Yellowjackets and Severance. And in writing, I will hope that the midseason finale for Better Call Saul will finally get it an Emmy over the series finale for Ozark and the season finale for Succession. I’m not optimistic though.
Tomorrow I will wrap things up by covering Limited Series and a few more errata. I have to tell you, I’m only marginally happier with the choices there.