CityBeat TV Critic Jac Kern Gives Her Emmy Nomination Breakdown

Jac offers her thoughts on television’s biggest award show nominees

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! 

click to enlarge Jac Kern is the Emmys - Photo: CityBeat
Photo: CityBeat
Jac Kern is the Emmys

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.

DRAMA

Outstanding Drama Series

Game of Thrones

The Crown

The Handmaid’s Tale

The Americans

Stranger Things

This Is Us

Westworld

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

See above. 

COMEDY

Outstanding Comedy Series

Atlanta

Barry

Black-ish

Curb Your Enthusiasm

GLOW

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Silicon Valley

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

Beetz FTW

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

Genius: Picasso

The Alienist

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Godless

Patrick Melrose

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

Fahrenheit 451

Flint

Paterno

The Tale

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

Leguizamo…really?

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

TBD 

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). 

More snubs:

  • 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.

More love:

  • 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.