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As I’ve done for years now, in anticipation of next week’s Emmy nominations, I’ve put together my dream Emmy ballot. Not all of these people and shows will be nominated…but they should be. And to be extra helpful, I’ve even mentioned who should win. I typically only do drama and comedy because even though limited series has gotten a lot more interesting in recent years, there’s so much of it I don’t watch, I don’t feel confident in those opinions. Whereas with drama and comedy….I’ve watched most of it, for better or worse (aka that means if a show’s not here…it’s not an accident). So here we go.
Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Rob Delaney, Catastrophe
Chris Geere, You’re The Worst
Donald Glover, Atlanta
Pete Holmes, Crashing
Holmes is extremely likable and sells his underrated show with a lot of heart and authenticity, Danson is just fun in a quirky and clever performance, Delaney is funny in a way that’s often heartbreaking whereas Glover is the sure headed anchor of the smart, funny, bizarre and truly special slice of life he’s delivering each week (whenever he’s not disappearing for long periods of time to go play Star Wars), able to be hilarious while still subtle and extremely vulnerable as well. My two top picks would be Ansari who is just like a hyper lovesick child and he completely wins you over in Master of None, maybe even more so than season one, and after leaving the meatiest stuff to Aya Cash in season two of You’re The Worst, Geere went to some really dark, broken places this season and was blistering funny through every second of pain.
Outstanding Actress in a Comedy
Drew Barrymore, Santa Clarita Diet
Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Logan Browning, Dear White People
Aya Cash, You’re The Worst
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
I liked Santa Clarita Diet a lot more than some and I’d be tickled to see Barrymore’s completely nuts, go-for-broke performance get a nod, Logan Browning is such a natural talent and did terrific work navigating tricky material and always delivering with the appropriate humor or weight of any given moment, Aya Cash continues to be a relentless comedic force on You’re The Worst while Ellie Kemper’s performance is is one of the brightest (and funniest) spots on television. I’ve often said that as long as JLD plays Selina Meyer she probably deserves to win and that may be true, but her storyline was probably the weakest part of this most recent season (even if she remained outstanding) and I’d love to see a new talent take the prize. It took me a while to warm up entirely but I’m fully converted to the cult of Rachel Bloom and would be floored to see her get nominated (and win!) for her brilliant performance that mixes comedy, drama and hilarious musical numbers on a weekly basis.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Desmin Borges, You’re The Worst
Titus Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Jaime Camil, Jane The Virgin
Terry Crews, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Matt Walsh, Veep
Zach Woods, Silicon Valley
I thought I’d switch things up a little this year. I always say Tony Hale should be nominated–and really, he always should–but we could fill up this entire category with Veep actors and I decided to go with Walsh this year because Mike was extra pathetic this season and it made me laugh a lot. I also typically include Andre Braugher–who remains brilliant–but switched him out for Crews who is consistently funny on B99 and really knocked it out of the park in this season’s racial profiling episode. Camil remains a national treasure as Rogelio on Jane The Virgin and Borges’ performance as Edgar is one of the most sweetly funny things you’ll see on TV and his PTSD-centric spotlight episode was exceptional. Still, I do tend to lean towards the funniest performances in this category and no one made me laugh more than Burgess and Woods this year. I think I like Titus possibly more than ever and Jared just keeps getting creepier and creepier in the best, most hilarious way so either of those guys winning would be great in my book.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
D’Arcy Carden, The Good Place
Kether Donohue, You’re The Worst
Yael Grobglas, Jane The Virgin
Antoinette Robertson, Dear White People
Kristen Schaal, The Last Man on Earth
Mary Steenburgen, The Last Man on Earth
There are two types of people on this earth: people who find Lindsay from You’re The Worst hilarious and those who are wrong. Yes, I would love to see this entire cast nominated and I’ve got no shame about it. I found Janet maybe funnier than I should in The Good Place and D’Arcy Carden’s delivery of the line “I am not human and I cannot feel pain” was enough to earn her a nomination for me. Yael Grobglas continues to do criminally underrated and incredibly funny work on Jane The Virgin and enough cannot be said about Robertson’s nuanced, moving and frequently hilarious performance on Dear White People. If I had to pick winners, I’d go with one of the Last Man actresses. Steenburgen is always great and Gail remains the standout character on that show but, in large part due to Schaal’s performance, Carol has gone from being kind of annoying in the show’s early days to one of the most consistent sources of big laughs.
Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Carrie Coon, The Leftovers
Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder
Claire Foy, The Crown
Katherine Langford, 13 Reasons Why
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Keri Russell, The Americans
I’ll get to some of my thoughts on The Americans’ disappointing season later but Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys would always deliver a moment or two in every episode that completely wrapped me back up in those characters, even if the story was dragging. There’s a lot of talk about expectations that The Crown will dominate and I don’t think it necessarily deserves to, but it was very well acted and though I ended up not going with Matt Smith and John Lithgow in their categories (though both great), I made room for Foy here who gives a very strong performance. Davis continues to deliver on a ludicrous show that is so beneath her (and I say that as a fan) and Langford gave a haunting breakout performance in 13 Reasons Why. Elisabeth Moss really impressed me in The Handmaid’s Tale and most years, she’d probably be my pick, but Carrie Coon….I mean, what can you even say? The Leftovers is gonna dominate my drama picks because it is truly a spiritual experience, a work of art unlike anything else on TV and Carrie Coon is a standout among standouts.
Outstanding Actor in a Drama
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Freddie Highmore, Bates Motel
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Justin Theroux, The Leftovers
Aden Young, Rectify
Yes, you guessed it. If I was to pick the winner, I’d go with Theroux who fully committed to every crazy thing The Leftovers asked of him and the results were sometimes insane, often funny, shocking, terrifying, and surprisingly enough, evenly quietly poignant when the occasion called for it. But I love all these other guys too. Highmore has gotten better every season and he got to be truly psychotic (pun very much intended) in the final year of Bates and if his performance gave you nightmares, you could switch over to This Is Us where Randall (the wonderful Sterling K. Brown) and his family always stole the show in my book. Malek continues to give a bold and intriguing performance, Rhys is excellent as mentioned above and Aden Young would be my runner up choice as Daniel Holden on Rectify, for so many reasons but his heart-crushing monologue in the season’s first episode is a good place to start.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Nina Arianda, Goliath
J. Smith Cameron, Rectify
Amy Brenneman, The Leftovers
Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things
Carly Chaikin, Mr. Robot
Aubrey Plaza, Legion
Okay, so I like Goliath a lot more than everyone else and thought Arianda gave a really hilarious performance that helped make the show so I’d like to see her nominated but between the other five? I don’t know who I’d pick to win. Daniel’s relationship with his mother became central to the final season of Rectify and Cameron gave such a powerful, beautiful performance. Brenneman has done such tremendous work chronicling Lori’s complicated journey and her spotlight episode was really good, particularly her last scene with Kevin. I had mixed feelings on Legion but very clear feelings about my love for Plaza’s performance and Chaikin’s spotlight episode of Mr. Robot was the best of the season and her performance was gripping. I might give the slightest edge to Millie Bobby Brown because young actors so often get overlooked for their work and I’d love to see her recognized for an out of this world breakout performance.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Mahershala Ali, Luke Cage
Norbert Leo Butz, Bloodline
Christopher Eccleston, The Leftovers
David Harbour, Stranger Things
Ron Cephas Jones, This Is Us
Michael McKean, Better Call Saul
I’m infamously agnostic when it comes to Better Call Saul but I’m halfway through catching up with this season and am liking it better than I typically have and McKean is killing it. I have been having Twitter meltdowns over my displeasure in the way Bloodline ended but there’s no denying that all the performances are incredible (perhaps the most frustrating part of the whole thing, really) and Butz really ran with playing a frantic, unhinged man growing more and more frantic and unhinged this season. Rewatching Stranger Things recently, I found myself admiring Harbour’s performance even more than before, he’s just a natural in this role and I think it distracts us from recognizing how great he is and Mahershala Ali owned the screen every second he was on Luke Cage. The Leftovers did a lot of dealing with the complications of faith, a subject close to me so I was always drawn to Matt and Eccleston’s performance and he was incredible this season, no question, so I’d love to see him win. But I also love Ron Cephas Jones in This Is Us and “Memphis” was one of my favorite episodes of TV this year; I’d love to see him recognized for shattering our hearts with such grace.
Outstanding Comedy Series
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW)
Dear White People (Netflix)
Master of None (Netflix)
You’re The Worst (FXX)
I feel like a lot of people slept on season three of You’re The Worst as if it’s not still one of the best comedies on TV because it wasn’t quite as good as season two and I’m not here for that. This was a weaker season for Veep but I still laugh at that show more than any other so yeah, it still belongs here. Atlanta is funny, smart, sweet, different and exciting above all else because you never know what you’re gonna get when you tune in other than some kind of greatness, of course. I don’t know if Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has really gotten that much better or if I’ve just bought in completely but I think it’s just the best, not only very funny but the original musical numbers they come up with week after week have no right being as good as they are. I’m torn on who I’d pick to win here–Dear White People is the smartest, sharpest bit of social satire you’re gonna find right now and the fact that it’s able to tackle all it tackles while being genuinely very funny and getting you to care about all these people as fully realized characters is no small feat. On the other hand, Master of None’s second season was such a masterpiece, this hopelessly romantic movie stretched across a season that also allowed for plenty of laughs and detours into lesser-told stories with the fantastic “New York, I Love You” and “Thanksgiving.”
Outstanding Drama Series
13 Reasons Why (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
The Leftovers (HBO)
Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
With Game of Thrones having an off year, this was really the time for The Americans to take the prize after years of being overlooked. Unfortunately, season five just isn’t great TV. It’s not bad TV. It’s slow, meandering TV with some really excellent performances and a few powerful moments sustaining things (actually, that’s pretty much exactly what Game of Thrones has been for years now too, but most people don’t seem to notice) so although I originally had The Americans still listed on my dream ballot, I decided to make room for shows that I found more exciting this season. I would have enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale more if it wasn’t quite so heavy handed but its exceptional cast and some truly standout episodes did suck me in and I found myself invested in this world and these characters even if I had some qualms. Same goes for the problematic 13 Reasons Why which has its fair share of detractors but I don’t think it can be denied that it’s an extremely well-acted and well-made season of television; one of the most powerful things I watched, for sure. I don’t know what’s happening on this current season of Orange (I just started and I’m nervous) but I thought season four was the show’s best since its first and its Netflix sibling, Stranger Things, absolutely deserves a nod for being such a wonderfully addictive crowd-pleaser. Rectify ended things quietly, as it did all things, and its final season is a truly beautiful stretch of episodes that absolutely everyone should do themselves a favor and seek out but, unsurprisingly, I believe The Leftovers should win in this category. It’s always nice when a show you love ends on such an amazingly high note, so satisfying and so perfect and The Leftovers delivered everything I could hope for and plenty I didn’t know I needed. The finale is one of the sweetest hours of TV this season whereas “G’Day Melbourne” is one of the most heartbreaking and “The Most Powerful Man in The World (and His Twin Brother) is one of the trippiest and funniest. And of course, “It’s A Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World” was the best episode of TV about a sex-crazed lion cult on a boat all season and there were many to choose from. It’s one of the most unique and brilliant television viewing experiences I’ve ever had and it’s been ignored thus far by the Emmys, I really hope this brilliant final season changes that.
Please leave witty comments below agreeing or disagreeing with everything I’ve said.