The Game Is Over, and So Is Veep’s Term
My Predictions for this Year’s Emmys: Part 1, Best Drama Series
Every year, I express my frustration at the way Emmys do business. This year I’m not going to, and I have very good reason why.
With Game of Thrones finally gone from the Emmy scene, that means the dragon that has been taking up space in every acting, directing and writing category for most of the 2010s is finally gone. New blood will finally have to occupy the Drama series nominations in nearly every category, even if some of it comes from series that spent most of last year on the bench because they didn’t want to get crushed by the Thrones juggernaut.
What is more, that will also be spread among the comedies. With Veep and Fleabag gone, and Russian Doll and Barry on hiatus, a large number of new comedy series — and just as likely, several of the older series that are heading towards a deserving finale — are sure to be in the competition.
And in the greatest nod to the level of quality yet, the Emmys has decided to add one more nomination to all categories in Drama and Comedy series. (I’m less sure about the Limited Series, but we’ll get to that in a bit.) Perhaps this will lead to the possibility of some actors and actresses who have been ignored for years finally getting their due, even if it is too late.
Keeping up with my tradition of predicting these shows, I will give a list of the series I think most deserve to be nominated in my mind, as will as one prediction for everybody’s consideration. Let us begin the search in the brave new world.
BEST DRAMA SERIES
A lot of series held off premiering last year cause they didn’t want to fight in the Game of Thrones juggernaut. A lot of good candidates ended up winning anyway, so maybe they shouldn’t have been so scared. Trying to figure out which shows will fill the gap is going to be a problem — The Morning Show and The Good Fight may not be in formats people watch, and Ozark may suffer because stronger contenders are there. So I’m going to admit I’m going in blind. That said, I still think I have some good choices.
Better Call Saul (AMC)
There are other likely contenders, but at this time, this series is my odds on favorite to win the whole thing. It’s ridiculous that in four exponentially better seasons the series has yet to win a single trophy. And Season 5 launched it into the stratosphere that Breaking Bad has occupied. Watching Jimmy embrace Saul until he realized just how horrifying his life would become, watching Mike recover from his murder of an innocent was great enough. But seeing all these characters not in the parent show — Kim’s rejection of her soulmate, and then her decision to marry him, as well as embrace his flaws; Nacho’s increasingly desperate attempts to get out of the cartel only to get deeper in with each move, Lalo’s behavior demonstrating that he is the darkest member of the Salamanca clan we have let met — makes us watch in terror, wondering who will get out alive — and we pretty much know there’s little chance of that. This isn’t just a series about how Jimmy McGill made the rise to Saul Goodman. It’s a contender for one of the greatest shows of all time. It deserves a shelve full of trophies.
Big Little Lies (HBO)
I fully admit I had real doubts when it was announced that David E. Kelley and his cast of dazzling actresses were going to turn one of the greatest mini-series of all time for another season. As I’ve mentioned in multiple reviews, those doubts lasted about five minutes, when Meryl Streep walked onscreen and took command of the show as Mary Louise, Celeste’s mother-in-law. Watching the ‘Monterey Five’ deal with their new sets of the struggles in the aftermath of Perry’s murder was frankly one of the great joys of 2019. Every lead duplicated, and in the case of Zoe Kravitz, surpassed their exceptional work in the initial season. When Season 2 was announced, I thought everybody was crazy. When it was over, I wanted more than anything else for there to be a Season 3. I know that every actress in the cast is very busy, but they’ve all said they’d be willing to do it again. A boatload of nominations would probably help the process.
The Crown (Netflix)
Exceptional in its first two seasons, Netflix’s brilliant series on the reign of Elizabeth II took an even bigger risk when it replaced all of its leads with older actors and actresses with Olivia Colman more than adequately filling the shoes of the incomparable Claire Foy. But what made Season 3 even more worthy was watching the show expand from mostly the perspective of Elizabeth to the entire royal family, and doing exceptionally. From Philip’s malaise at dealing with middle age, to Margaret’s trying and failing to live with her new love, to Prince Charles being pushed by his family in every perspectives, including his affair with Camilla. Whether you know the history or not (and considering how much license has been taking), you can see just how uneasy lie the heads that not only wear the crown, but have to work in perspective with the ones who do.
Mr. Robot (USA)
I’ll admit this is a real longshot, considering that it’s moment may have passed. But watching the final season of Sam Esmail incredibly cyber-story was one of the most exceptional works of television even in the history of the New Golden Age. With the body count rising, and unlike with Game of Thrones, it actually hurt to see the characters die, Esmail brought about some exceptional pieces of TV, from an episode done almost in silence, to a commercial free five act play that revealed just how truly broken Eliot was, to the finale that seemed to take place in an alternate world — and instead had one of the most incredible revelations of all time. The final act of Mr. Robot revealed that saving the world from an evil corporation was not nearly as hard as repairing Eliot’s psyche. There are a lot of great shows up for contention this year. But this season proved that Mr. Robot was one of the great ones.
I completely missed the boat on this show in Season 1, I admit it. But if anything the second season was angrier, and given everything that’s now going on in the world, far more relevant than the first. The eighties world of African American gays, transgenders, and everyone else proved just how real a family could be and how hard it can be to hold together in a time of tremendous change. Watching this cast, trying to move through 1980s New York, facing a world that doesn’t care about them if they live or die was heartwrenching, painful, and yet dazzlingly entertaining. Ryan Murphy’s final show for FX is one of his most brutal and most simple, and the entire cast from Billy Porter on down is inspirational. The category should be: Winners!
Stranger Things (Netflix)
The other 1980s set drama on this list couldn’t be more different except in one critical way — it’s brilliant. Has it lost some of the zest from the first two seasons? A little. But it’s still incredibly fun, enjoyable, and has one of the greatest young casts in the history of television As they grow older, these kids are going to be mega stars from Millie Bobby Brown on down. And as we watch the world of the Upside Down being invaded by the Soviets, it’s hard to think that this could’ve been the most frightening part of our Cold War. Thank God we had Eleven. I suspect that this series and Ozark will fight it out for a spot at the dais. This series deserves to be there because it’s far more original.
Another series I was late to the party on, having watched most of Season 2, its really hard to admit that this show isn’t any less relevant than so many of the other series on HBO. Watching the Roy family try to build themselves to be too big to fail while dealing with a sex scandal that could bring the company down was engaging enough. But as always, the family dynamic is what makes this arresting. Watching Brian Cox try to maintain control, to the children positioning themselves for power, to Logan acting like the perfect sacrificial lamb — until he didn’t. The early statistics show that this series is the favorite for the Emmys. I’m not certain I agree. But I do believe its one of HBO’s best offerings.
This is Us (NBC)
Is it getting a bit hard to watch the Pearsons suffer? Yes. Is it any less dramatically riveting? Not by a long shot. From the season premiere which brought a new group of characters into the Pearsons orbit, to the week where every member of the Big Three seemed to have a crisis, to the long-simmering feud between Kevin and Randall that has led to a huge breach, this was an exception run for them. And everybody in the case, from Sterling K. Brown and Mandy Moore, to Griffin Dunne and Pamela Adlon, continued to demonstrate the very best that network television can offer. I don’t know when Season 5 will come, but I really need to know what will happen next.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Robert and Michelle King can’t seem to catch a break from the Emmys; from five seasons of keeping The Good Wife from the Best Drama title, to not even acknowledging The Good Fight at all. There may be a chance that the latter show will be nominated this year, but I would rather see them push forward their network approach. This series may be the greatest horror-sci-fi meld since the early days of The X-Files. Dealing with skepticism and religious dogma in equal measure, some genuine frightening demons, to an antagonist who just might be the greatest personification of evil we’ve seen in some time. (Welcome back, Michael Emerson.) Maybe there’s something supernatural going on. Maybe it’s all in your head, and the world’s just a scary place. The show doesn’t take sides, and that’s why Robert and Michelle are now the Kings of horror as well.