I love the Emmy Awards because they break all the rules: The awards show is devoted to film’s low-brow sister, it takes place in September, months away from winter “awards season,” and this year it airs on a Monday. Random! But as with all awards shows, Emmy nominee announcements bring out the inner TV critic in even the most casual viewers, with fans rallying behind their favorite shows, actors and creators, critiquing the supposedly less deserving nominees and crying snubbery on behalf of those robbed of recognition. Every couch potato has opinion — including me!
Fast facts: Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update anchors Michael Che and Colin Jost host the 70th annual Emmy Awards Sept. 17 (8 p.m. on NBC). For the first time in 17 years, HBO did not bring home the most nominations. In a true sign of the TV times, Netflix snatched that crown with 112 nods (HBO came in second with a formidable 108, followed by NBC with 78). However, the premium cable network’s juggernaut drama Game of Thrones — noticeably absent from last year’s Emmys since its mid-July premiere didn’t make the cut-off for the 2017 show — leads in nominations with 22. The rest of the top 10 is rounded out with Saturday Night Live (21), Westworld (21), The Handmaid’s Tale (20), The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (18), Atlanta (16), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (14), Barry (13), The Crown (13) and Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert (13). Let’s dive into the top categories.
Outstanding Drama Series
Game of Thrones
The Handmaid’s Tale
This Is Us
A pretty predictable category, each nominee completely deserving. Handmaid’s swept last year — but Game of Thrones wasn’t in the mix then. I’d love to see The Americans bring home some awards for its final stellar season, but that’s a long shot. And, despite being a fan, I’m kind of over the high praise for This Is Us.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Claire Foy, The Crown
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Keri Russell, The Americans
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Queens across the board! Moss could easily bring home the win again. Killing Eve star Oh is the first Asian actress to ever be nominated in this category, so, finally.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Jason Bateman, Ozark
Ed Harris, Westworld
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld
After scanning Twitter for some initial reactions, I was shocked to see so many people butt-hurt about Bateman and Ozark getting Emmy love. Why? Our boyish, blue-eyed Bluth took a fantastically dark turn as a money-laundering family man in Ozark, which I picked up on late but thoroughly enjoyed nonetheless. My money’s on Harris, but my heart is with Wright, who killed it with his performance as a brokedown bot.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things
Vanessa Kirby, The Crown
Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale
Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale
Thandie Newton, Westworld
Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale
One of the Handmaid’s actresses will likely take this, but Headey sure did take Cersei to another level last season…
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
David Harbour, Stranger Things
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Matt Smith, The Crown
Joseph Fiennes, The Handmaid’s Tale
Dinklage. Always. Though I love a heartfelt Harbour acceptance speech.
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Kelly Jenrette, The Handmaid’s Tale
Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale
Cherry Jones, The Handmaid’s Tale
Cicely Tyson, How to Get Away With Murder
Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones
Viola Davis, Scandal
Obviously the odds are ever in Handmaid’s favor (rightfully so), but Rigg killed it with her short but poignant last moments as Lady Olenna.
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
F. Murray Abraham, Homeland
Cameron Britton, Mindhunter
Matthew Goode, The Crown
Ron Cephas Jones, This Is Us
Gerald McRaney, This Is Us
Jimmi Simpson, Westworld
Simpson could win for his smaller role this season as Bad William, but Britton’s transformation into serial killer Ed Kemper still haunts my dreams and deserves recognition.
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
Alan Taylor, “Beyond the Wall,” Game of Thrones
Jeremy Podeswa, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” Game of Thrones
Jason Bateman, “The Toll,” Ozark
Daniel Sackheim, “Tonight We Improvise,” Ozark
The Duffer Brothers, “Chapter 9: The Gate,” Stranger Things
Stephen Daldry, “Paterfamilias,” The Crown
Kari Skogland, “After,” The Handmaid’s Tale
Gotta go with one of the Thrones eps.
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
David Benioff and DB Weiss, “Beyond the Wall,” Game of Thrones
The Duffer Brothers, “Chapter 9: The Gate,” Stranger Things
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, “Nine Face,” Killing Eve
Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, “Start,” The Americans
Peter Morgan, “Mystery Man,” The Crown
Bruce Miller, “Jane,” The Handmaid’s Tale
Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Tough call. Curb made a triumphant return, Atlanta’s sophomore season was stellar and Barry was a pleasant surprise.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Pamela Adlon, Better Things
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Issa Rae, Insecure
Jane Fonda, Grace and Frankie
Allison Janney, Mom
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie
JUSTICE FOR ISSA
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Donald Glover, Atlanta
Bill Hader, Barry
William H. Macy, Shameless
Can’t let a year go by without nominating Macy for Shameless, can we? But seriously, there are too many great performers to pick and such very different performances for each show.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Zazie Beetz, Atlanta
Betty Gilpin, GLOW
Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne
Aidy Bryant, Saturday Night Live
Leslie Jones, Saturday Night Live
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Megan Mullally, Will & Grace
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Louie Anderson, Baskets
Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live
Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Henry Winkler, Barry
Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
I’d love to see Burgess win, but Henry is also a contender.
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live
Wanda Sykes, Black-ish
Maya Rudolph, The Good Place
Jane Lynch, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Tiffany Haddish, Saturday Night Live
Molly Shannon, Will & Grace
Haddish will win, and I hope she wears that white Alexander McQueen dress for the millionth time.
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
Katt Williams, Atlanta
Sterling K. Brown, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Bryan Cranston, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Donald Glover, Saturday Night Live
Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live
Miranda playing an assholish version of himself was absolutely hilarious. But so was Williams, in another self-inspired role.
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
Donald Glover, “FUBU,” Atlanta
Hiro Murai, "Teddy Perkins,” Atlanta
Bill Hader, "Chapter One: Make Your Mark," Barry
Jesse Peretz, "Pilot," GLOW
Mike Judge, "Initial Coin Offering," Silicon Valley
Amy Sherman-Palladino, "Pilot," The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
“Teddy Perkins” is one of the most incredible, timely, fucked up, freaky episodes of television (comedy, no less!) I have ever seen. It should be studied in film school. Required viewing for anyone who remotely cares about TV. Murai all the way.
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
Donald Glover, “Alligator Man,” Atlanta
Stefani Robinson, “Barbershop,” Atlanta
Bill Hader and Alec Berg, "Chapter One: Make Your Mark," Barry
Liz Sarnoff, “Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast And Keep Going," Barry
Alec Berg, “Fifty-One Percent,” Silicon Valley
Amy Sherman-Palladino, "Pilot," The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
I think Sherman-Palladino will win, but I’m rooting for Atlanta and Barry.
LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE
First off, I realize the Emmys are already packed with categories. I mean, if you’ve made it this far down, dear reader, bless your soul, because this is long AF. I’m not even including reality series or technical nominees! But this category is in need of a revamp. With the increase in quality miniseries (especially “limited series” that actually get unlimited seasons — lookin’ at you, Ryan Murphy), it feels like there is too much to pack in here. And how does Black Mirror qualify as a movie yet again? I’d suggest separating comedies and dramas, but there’s not much funny fare this year. Just something for the Emmy gods to mull over!
Outstanding Limited Series
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
I admittedly talk a lot of smack on Ryan Murphy because he dominates TV and, despite being pretty brilliant, can deliver some real shit shows (American Horror Story: Cult) and everyone still kisses his ass for it. But Versace was divine. Arguably better than the O.J. season of ACS.
Outstanding Television Movie
USS Callister (Black Mirror)
Black Mirror for everything.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Jessica Biel, The Sinner
Laura Dern, The Tale
Michelle Dockery, Godless
Edie Falco, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
Regina King, Seven Seconds
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Cult
Honestly, of the three performances I’ve seen in this category, none really wowed me.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Antonio Banderas, Genius: Picasso
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose
Jeff Daniels, The Looming Tower
John Legend, Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert
Jesse Plemons, USS Callister (Black Mirror)
Criss gave a performance of a lifetime. I haven’t seen Patrick Melrose yet but Cumberbatch is supposed to be amazing in it. Gotta go with Plemons, though! He played a character that you felt for, then despised, and then liked again.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Adina Porter, American Horror Story: Cult
Letitia Wright, Black Museum (Black Mirror)
Merritt Wever, Godless Sara Bareilles, Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert
Penelope Cruz, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Judith Light,The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Wright! Wright! Wright!
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Jeff Daniels, Godless
Brandon Victor Dixon, Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert
Ricky Martin, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Edgar Ramirez, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Finn Wittrock, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Michael Stuhlbarg, The Looming Tower
John Leguizamo, Waco
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special
Scott Frank, Godless
David Leveaux & Alex Rudzinski, Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert
Barry Levinson, Paterno
Edward Berger, Patrick Melrose
Ryan Murphy, "The Man Who Would Be Vogue," The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Craig Zisk, "9/11," The Looming Tower
David Lynch, Twin Peaks
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special
Kevin & Matthew McManus, "Clean Up,” American Vandal
Scott Frank, Godless
David Nicholls, Patrick Melrose
Tom Rob Smith, "House By The Lake," The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
David Lynch and Mark Frost, Twin Peaks
William Bridges and Charlie Brooker, USS Callister (Black Mirror)
Totally forgot about the hilarious mockumentary American Vandal until just now. God, that was great.
SNUBS AND FINAL THOUGHTS
Why no love for Better Call Saul? The Breaking Bad prequel is proving to be just as solid as the iconic meth drama, so I’m shocked it didn’t get so much as a drama series nod. Michael McKean absolutely deserved a supporting actor nomination.
Speaking of snubbery, where is Billions? I was late to the game (who knew a show about hedge funds could be so fun?) but recently binged all three seasons and fell in love. Paul Giamatti is a shoe-in nominee for any award ever. And Asia Kate Dillon crushed their role as a nonbinary wunderkind, making a case for genderless acting categories (though I realized that’s a double-edged sword when it comes to representation).
- Lakeith Stanfield, Atlanta
- Taylor Kitsch, Waco (actually everyone in Waco — and the series itself — except John Leguizamo, oddly the only nominee from the miniseries.
- Al Pacino, Paterno
- Evan Peters, American Horror Story: Cult (This season was trash but he soared — way more than those nominated for the show)
- The Good Place (as a comedy series)
- Insecure (as a comedy series)
- The Sinner (as a limited series)
- Twin Peaks (as a limited series)
- Transparent (all drama categories): How do we reconcile honoring deserving series (and even just enjoying them) with taking a firm stance against accused abusers — here, star Jeffrey Tambor — in the #MeToo era? It’s a tough call.
- I think all TV and film awards need a category for actors who appear in multiple productions in one year — let’s call it the Michael Stuhlbarg Award for Overachieving. And my pick for this fictional prize is definitely Julia Garner, who appeared in The Americans, Ozark and Waco and is a treasure.
- And I don’t know if I’d call it a snub, because it’s gotten its fair share of praise year after year, but it’s worth noting that Modern Family only received a sound mixing nomination and none for its cast.
- One of my favorite series of the year, Netflix doc Wild Wild Country, earned a well-deserved five nominations. Also happy to see the new and improved Queer Eye get a nod.
- Ending on a somber note, Anthony Bourdain is honored posthumously with six nominations for Parts Unknown. I think I speak for every human when I say he is so loved and missed. Thanks for showing us the world, Tony.
Got any Emmys hot takes? Let me know @jackern.