This feature was originally published in July 2017.
Well, here we are in peak TV (or maybe slightly coming down that mountain), but still the Emmy Awards are not completely reflective of that. For every Atlanta and Stranger Things and The Night Of, we’re missing major nominations from Legion and The Leftovers and Insecure. The Emmy voters are loyal to a fault, finding ways to honor shows like House of Cards, Homeland, and, hell, even Veep as they drift beyond their prime. That’s not to say that this year, the 69th installment of the awards (hehe), is a poor reflection of the contemporary television landscape. There is much to celebrate. But with the sheer amount of quality TV out there, there are bound to be some omissions.
Going into this year, a number of past winners are absent. Game of Thrones pushed back its premiere and, as a result, missed out on qualifying. Orphan Black also didn’t run this year, and Downton Abbey is out to the pasture. That certainly opened up a few doors for new competitors, to which many series and performers took advantage.
But before we get into our picks in the major categories, let’s point out a few notable tidbits from the smaller categories:
— Aside from being nominated for their acting, both Donald Glover and Aziz Ansari are up for writing awards, with Glover also having the opportunity to win for directing.
— In only its fourth year as a category, Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance is finally starting to get interesting, with nominations going outside the expected The Simpsons/South Park/Family Guy realm. Among the nominees this year are Kevin Kline as Mr. Fischoeder on Bob’s Burgers and, our favorite, Kristen Schaal as Sarah Lynn on Bojack Horseman.
— Speaking of animated series, Bojack Horseman is a major omission from this category, which includes The Simpsons and Sofia the First alongside more worthy shows like Archer and South Park.
— Westworld and Stranger Things are both up for Best Main Title Design, and both are quite worthy.
— Hans Zimmer, the dudes from S U R V I V E, Max Richter, and T Bone Burnett are just a few of the names up for awards for their work in television music.
— The much talked about Music Supervision world is now up for Emmys, too, with Big Little Lies, Master of None, Better Call Saul, Stranger Things, and Girls all up for awards (Big Little Lies and Master of None have to be the favorites here, right?)
— A lot of big names in the Guest Actor categories, including both Riz Ahmed and Matthew Rhys for Girls (both of whom are also nominated as leads on The Night Of and The Americans respectively); SNL hosts Dave Chappelle, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Tom Hanks; Hugh Laurie for Veep; Ben Mendelsohn for Bloodline; the late Carrie Fisher for Catastrophe, Angela Bassett for Master of None (this one was really great); Alexis Bliedel for The Handmaid’s Tale (also excellent); and frickin’ Barb from Stranger Things might finally receive justice in the form of a statue.
– In the Reality world, it’s nice to see Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg finally get the credit they deserve.
– For TV Movie, not sure how Black Mirror‘s San Junipero qualified for that, but here’s hoping it snakes out an upset against Sherlock and The Wizard of Lies (and, um, Dolly Parton’s Christmas movie).
But what about the big guns? We’ve got predictions in the 16 major categories. Granted, this isn’t a science, but looking back at historical trends –and just our plain and simple preferences — allows us to make some educated guesses. We’ll find out for real who the winners will be on Sunday, September 17th on CBS.
Best Actress in a Comedy Series
Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Allison Janney (Mom)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish)
Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie)
Jane Fonda (Grace and Frankie)
Who should win: Constance Wu (Fresh Off the Boat)
Who will win: Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish)
Going up against favorites like Allison Janney and Julia-Louis Dreyfus is always tough. Toss in veteran star power like Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda and tough seems like an afterthought. Of course, we’re talking about Ellie Kemper and Tracee Ellis Ross. Not that Kemper has a chance in this category — Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is good, but was hardly part of any conversation in 2017 — but it’s got to be intimidating to see that roster of names regardless.
What Ross has in her favor, though, is a recent Golden Globe win which follows past Emmy nominations. So, if voters are fatigued from championing Dreyfus and Janney, and they can’t come to a conclusion on the Sophie’s Choice of Tomlin and Fonda, they might want to give Ross a chance. Well, it’d be earned, that’s for sure, as she delivers time and time again in Black-ish as Dr. Rainbow Johnson. So, why not toss an Emmy on to her pile? Do it!
On a side note… WHERE THE HELL IS CONSTANCE WU’S NOMINATION????
Best Actor in a Comedy Series
Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)
Aziz Ansari (Master of None)
Donald Glover (Atlanta)
Anthony Anderson (Black-ish)
William H. Macy (Shameless)
Zach Galifianakis (Baskets)
Who should win: Donald Glover (Atlanta)
Who will win: Donald Glover (Atlanta)
Of the four repeating nominees, only Aziz Ansari’s painting outside the lines on Master of None has an outside chance of upsetting the two-time defending champion Jeffrey Tambor from the continually excellent Transparent. Still, this is ultimately a two-actor race between Tambor and this year’s Golden Globe winner for Best Actor, Donald Glover.
But will the goodwill that Atlanta received at the more progressive Globes carry over to the Emmys? It’s hard to say for sure, but one interesting note is that Transparent is not nominated for Comedy Series this year, and it had been nominated for both years that Tambor won. That might indicate some of the support for Tambor and Transparent fading, while the buzz on Atlanta has not wavered. It’ll be close, but Glover should pull this one out.
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Samira Wiley (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black)
Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things)
Chrissy Metz (This Is Us)
Thandie Newton (Westworld)
Who should win: Thandie Newton (Westworld)
Who will win: Chrissy Metz (This Is Us)
Another very strong category here. Uzo Aduba won two years ago, but it’s hard to see her repeating after her show, Orange Is the New Black, has faded so completely from the public consciousness. The two Handmaid‘s actresses should cancel each other out, especially considering that neither gave a total knockout in their role. And Millie Bobby Brown might be the most beloved figure in this group, as her character Eleven became a cultural milestone, but it’s unclear just how high of esteem her less-is-more performance could be deemed as award-worthy. Still, Brown could be a dark horse here.
That leaves a pair of worthy competitors. On one hand, we have Thandie Newton, whose portrayal of the frightening and sympathetic Maeve Millay on Westworld is the best thing about that show. Often times, it felt like Newton was the only thing holding the show together, and a reason to keep revisiting for even the most skeptical of viewers. On the other hand, Chrissy Metz is often the emotional center of This Is Us, and her portrayal of a woman dealing with weight issues is a world we’re not often shown on television. While we’d love to see Newton (or Brown) walk up to the podium, Metz might make for the best TV moment if she wins.
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
John Lithgow (The Crown)
Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul)
Mandy Patinkin (Homeland)
Michael Kelly (House of Cards)
David Harbour (Stranger Things)
Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us)
Jeffrey Wright (Westworld)
Who should win: Michael McKean (Better Call Saul)
Who will win: Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us)
It’s surprising that in a relatively weak category, the Emmy voters wouldn’t just fail to award the year’s best supporting performance, but also fail to nominate it. Michael McKean has been playing against type for the last three seasons of Better Call Saul, shedding his comedy roots and knocking it out of the park as the whip-smart and mentally unstable Chuck McGill. But this year, it went from inspired to unforgettable as Chuck was pushed to the edge by both his brother and his fragile mind. Nothing in this category, especially his grunting cast mate Jonathan Banks, comes even close.
Alas, McKean won’t win. But who will? Michael Kelly has virtually nothing interesting to do anymore on House of Cards, Jeffrey Wright is generally one-note on Westworld, and David Harbour wasn’t particularly memorable on Stranger Things. Really, it feels like only John Lithgow stands much of a chance against the juggernaut that is This Is Us. Does This Is Us‘ potential dominance extend to Ron Cephas Jones and his portrayal of the terminally ill William Hill? You bet.