My Picks for This Year’s Emmy Nominations: (Game of Thrones Free Zone)
Best Drama Picks
Each year, it becomes a little easier to go through the Emmy nomination process. Over the better of the 2010s, the Emmys have become more inclusive than they have perhaps at any time in their history. And even if you disagree virulently with their final choices, you can understand why they’re getting there.
But this year’s Emmys come at a transitional time for television. Many of the better series — as well as some of the more repeated nominees — are either ineligible this year or have left the stage entirely. There’s a very good reason for that (especially in the Drama category) but I prefer to look it as a sign that the Emmys may be ready to adapt again. And with the reboot factor less likely to be consequential, a lot of the series will probably emerge in the comedies as well.
In keeping with last years process, with each category, I will discuss the likely nominees, and then predictions for what I would nominate, I will also give a long shot nominee that will likely be ignored, but deserves to be considered.
Let’s get this party started.
As I’ve made clear repeatedly in this column, I loathe Game of Thrones. I never understood why it was beloved so much, and I don’t appreciate the way the Emmys has overindulged over superior series. (The way it absolutely smothered The Americans last year is just reason number 814 why I hate the series so much, and will be glad to see it gone.)
But as a result, a lot of other series have putting off trying to go against it, until next year. Stranger Things, Westworld, The Crown, and The Handmaid’s Tale are all waiting until next time out, and Homeland is delaying its final season til later this year. As a positive, this lack of obvious contenders means that the Emmys will have to recognize some new blood again, and there’s a very good chance that some of them will be players in the decade to come. What are they? So glad you asked.
Better Call Saul (AMC)
The one series that never flinched from a fight with Thrones, and currently the contender for greatest series on the air, Better Call Saul long since passed the phase of being the greatest origin story in TV history. It’s still not at the same level as Breaking Bad, but it has entered the conversation for being at least as great a series as it’s parent show. Watching Jimmy McGill finally begin to embrace his inner con man, as well as begin the process of isolating himself from everyone who might care for him, brings an element of tragedy to the series that Breaking Bad never quite managed for Walter White. And seeing the origin stories of Mike Ehrmantraut’s first real cold-blooded decision, and the true depths of the feud Gus Fring has with the Salmanaca clan are so terrifying brilliant they’ve managed the impossible: make you forget that these characters are just a couple of years away from their date with Heisenberg.
It seems a good possibility that HBO’s Succession, a dark drama about a family fighting for control of a telecommunication empire, will probably gain one of the slots for Best Drama. It’s worth noting that Billions got there first when it came to brilliant dramas about money and power, has been doing for longer, and is far better at it. Watching the shifting of struggles and alliances — Axe and Chuck’s is one you could never anticipated in Season 1 — and all of the blood struggles between Axe and Taylor Mason, with the Rhoades’ marriage becoming collateral damage — is one of the most fascinating series in TV. This series deserves to be considered as a titan, and this is probably its best chance at it.
The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
The Kings have no luck. They create the greatest series on broadcast TV, and the Emmys ignore it because they’ve decided that Downton Abbey is more relevant. Now, they have a spinoff that’s just as good, with the curses and nudity that the other series lacked, and now no one nominates because it’s, what, too hard to find? Well, there’s room this year, so this is the Emmys chance to nominate a great series that reflects the chaos and madness of our era better than any other show anywhere, and features the brilliant acting, strong female roles, and biting humor that its mother show created. Oh yeah, and Audra McDonald as Christine Baranski sung this year? What the hell are you waiting for?
A stark unique series that was only originally recognized for Julia Roberts return to TV, Homecoming is so much more than that. Sam Esmail brings his unique level of direction and editing to create one of the most magnificently shot series since… well, Mr. Robot. But rather than rely on the foibles of anarchy, Esmail relies on Hitchcockian style in camera work, paranoia, and the ability to play the audience like a piano. You want to believe Julia Roberts is really a sign of warmth, but Bobby Canavale’s industrious businessman convinces you something dark is beneath the surface. What is Homecoming’s true agenda? Why did Heidi lose her memory? What happened to Victor? This series is so brilliantly like Esmail’s best work, its astonishing to know he hasn’t written a word of it. It deserves to be at the center of any discussion of great shows this year.
Killing Eve (BBC America)
One of 2018’s breakout series, the inevitable complaints about a sophomore slump began the minute Season 2 premiered. But watching the dance of two women — one an ordinary government official, the other an assassin who just likes killing — is one of the more dazzling works of art in television. Should it have ended when Eve stabbed Villanelle? It’s part of a multi-book series, so why should it? Sandra Oh has finally landed the golden role, and it’s a tribute to Jodie Comer that she’s created a true original when it comes to television — the psychopath who makes Dexter Morgan seem balanced by comparison. Yes, there’s some grand conspiracy afoot, but does it matter? It’s all of the women involved, and the sex and the killing that make us realize this is the series that finally will put BBC America on the map for something other than Doctor Who
I’m a late comer to this Netflix Missouri set drama about a money launderer in over his head with a Colombian cartel, and its rather sad to say that the only reason this series will get nominated is because Stranger Things and The Crown are on hiatus. But take a closer look. Watching the dance of two families — the Byrdes and the Langmores — two clans joined together despite their best endeavors and with no clear exit in site — makes you realize that this is Netflix’s Breaking Bad. Marty is far more committed criminal than Walter was when we met him, but he’s a lot savvier and a lot more sympathetic. And watching this peerless cast makes you realize this is one of the less showy and quietly engaging series on Netflix, and one that may be its future with so many of its original hitmakers going off the air.
This is Us (NBC)
The series continues to demonstrate, even with its major mystery gone, that there is still far more to learn about the Pearsons. The Vietnam sequences revealed a side to Jack we hadn’t seen before — and it was a very unpleasant one. We got to learn Beth’s backstory and it was one of the more surprising ones we’ve had so far. We saw Beth and Randall’s marriage — the rock at the center of the show — unravel because of their conflicting dreams, and though it seemed to be healed, there may be structural damage that we are not aware of. And we got a glimpse into the future that may have been the saddest thing we’ve seen this show do. ‘The Waiting Room’ episode alone was one of the highlights of 2019 so far, and demonstrates why this series remains one of the last bastions of greatness on network TV.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
The Bold Type (Freeform)
There are a lot of very good female based dramas out there, but most of them center around being dark and oppressive. My submission is one of those series that is the opposite of so many considers because of its joyful optimism. Centered around three twentyish female besties working at a women’s magazine, this series delves into issues like romance, bullying, being black and gay, and racial profiling, and never stops being entertaining or likable. This is a tonic to the Lena Dunham based series — a show that is about female empowerment that never stops being pleasant and fun first. Freeform has a lot of engaging, fun series, but this is their greatest triumph — so far.