If I had an Emmy ballot 2015: Who should be nominated?

Senior Television Writer
06.29.15 79 Comments


Voting closed for Emmy nominations on Friday. Ordinarily, I would have already completed my usual If I Had An Emmy Ballot exercise by now, but various other projects got in the way, which means what I'm about to post is even more hypothetical than usual, since it's after the voting deadline.

As always, I'm working with the choices listed on the actual Emmy ballots, which means I have to go along with where various shows and actors were categorized and submitted. So I have to consider “Orange Is the New Black” a drama, have to consider Key and Peele supporting actors on their own show, and can't go off the ballot to try nominating an actor like Max Greenfield from “New Girl,” who didn't even put his name up for submission.

Also, while I've done these as a bunch of separate posts the last few years, this thing's already so late that I'm just going to hit most of the big categories in one go.

As always, these aren't the people and shows I think will be nominated, but the ones I would most like to see on the list when the nominations are announced on July 16. And as always, I'm trying to only choose shows/performances where I saw the majority of the season. More than ever, it's easy to understand the dilemma of actual Emmy voters, who don't have enough time to see all the great work being done in TV, because even professional TV-watchers like me can't keep up with it all.


“Broad City” (Comedy Central)
“Jane the Virgin” (CW)
“Parks and Recreation” (NBC)
“Transparent” (Amazon)
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)
“Veep” (HBO)
“Louie” (FX)

Brutal, brutal category, and that's even with “Orange” reassigned to the other half of the field. This era of TV is more defined by its great dramas, but there are so many great comedies right now, of so many different flavors – from the melancholy of “Transparent” to the soap/comedy hybrid hijinks of “Jane” to the relentless joking of “Kimmy Schmidt” and “Veep” – that I had a much harder time winnowing this one down, and in the process had to leave off a bunch of terrific shows like “Silicon Valley” and “You're the Worst,” among others. 


“The Americans” (FX)
“The Leftovers” (HBO)
“Better Call Saul” (AMC)
“Mad Men” (AMC)
“Justified” (FX)
“Rectify” (Sundance)
“Orange Is The New Black” (Netflix)

This one I was at least able to quickly narrow down to a top seven – albeit one lacking “The Knick,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Banshee,” “Game of Thrones,” “Manhattan” and a number of other award-worthy dramas. “Leftovers” is my favorite of the group, but between recency bias (its last episode aired in early September) and the show's overall divisiveness, I'm not expecting it to make much of an Emmy showing, alas.


Louis CK, “Louie”
Chris Geere, “You're the Worst”
Chris Messina, “The Mindy Project”
Thomas Middleditch, “Silicon Valley”
Andy Samberg, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

Jim Parsons is likely to win the actual award – Tambor's the only other guy who has a shot (and predominantly dramatic performances in comedy categories have mixed success) – but these six nicely represent the breadth of what's happening in TV comedy these days. Messina makes everyone around him on “Mindy” better, CK can be whatever he's crafted that week's episode of “Louie” to require, Middleditch is the nervous, vulnerable, funny center of one of TV's best comedies, and Geere and Samberg play two very different, but equally appealing, comic/romantic leads.


Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Timothy Olyphant, “Justified”
Clive Owen, “The Knick”
Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”
Justin Theroux, “The Leftovers”

If Hamm hasn't won by now, I doubt he will on the way out the door. I love all six of these performances – with Odenkirk's the most surprising of the bunch, not because I didn't think he could play drama, but that I didn't know he could play this level of drama, and also carry a show to the degree that he did – and I hope that if the Academy winds up voting for a movie actor deigning to work in TV, it'll be Owen and not Kevin Spacey.


Ilana Glazer, “Broad City”
Abbi Jacobson, “Broad City”
Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”
Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer”

Everybody but Louis-Dreyfus is playing for second place, though her work on “Veep” is a Cranston on “Breaking Bad” situation: you'd like to see someone else win at some point, but the work is so unequivocally great that it's hard to argue with the repetition. I came very close to flipping a coin between the two “Broad City” stars – in an attempt to make room for Constance Wu from “Fresh Off the Boat,” Aya Cash from “You're the Worst,” or the perennially-great (and perennially-ignored) Emmy Rossum from “Shameless” – but ultimately like them too much as a package deal.


Lizzy Caplan, “Masters of Sex”
Viola Davis, “How To Get Away with Murder”
Eva Green, “Penny Dreadful”
Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”
Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”
Keri Russell, “The Americans”

There are some very big performances in these categories – Green alone swallowed entire sets every time she was on screen in “Penny” season 1 (the season that's eligible now) – but not every role is meant to be played subtly. Davis' performance was so strong that it kept me watching a show I otherwise had zero interest in, while Henson elevated “Empire” from guilty pleasure into genuine one.


Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
Kevin Dunn, “Veep”
TJ Miller, “Silicon Valley”
Nick Offerman, “Parks and Recreation”
Jordan Peele, “Key & Peele”
Steve Zissis, “Togetherness”

Such an embarrassment of riches in this category that I arbitrarily decided to pick only one person from a show. Hence Braugher but not Terry Crews, Offerman but not Chris Pratt, Dunn as being a fingernail's length better than his “Veep” co-stars, Peele (who had some of this season's more memorable bits, like Reginald VelJohnson's meltdown, or Lil Homie's rampage) over Keegan-Michael Key, etc. Would've liked room for Tony Shalhoub's moving work on the final “Nurse Jackie” season, but I imagine he'll do okay without me, given how much Emmy voters love him.


Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul”
Vincent D'Onofrio, “Daredevil”
Walton Goggins, “Justified”
Ben Mendelsohn, “Bloodline”
Jimmy Smits, “Sons of Anarchy”
Michael Kenneth Williams, “Boardwalk Empire”

I decided to follow a similar One Show, One Nominee policy in this category, which meant Goggins but not Jere Burns, and Williams as the only “Boardwalk” standout. Also, I'm breaking my usual rule about sample size to include Smits. I only watched three “Sons of Anarchy” episodes this year, but he was so extraordinary in all three – only one fewer than Williams appeared in for this final “Boardwalk” season – that I wanted him represented. In an ideal world, the “I BROKE MY BOY!” scene gives Banks the Emmy he arguably should have won for “Breaking Bad” season 5.0, but Mendelsohn was so scorching in the otherwise ho-hum “Bloodline” that I wouldn't be surprised to see him take it.


Anna Chlumsky, “Veep”
Gaby Hoffmann, “Transparent”
Allison Janney, “Mom”
Amy Landecker, “Transparent”
Melanie Lynskey, “Togetherness”
Merritt Wever, “Nurse Jackie”

The “Togetherness” cast pulled a “Friends” and submitted en masse in the supporting categories. Lynskey's arguably a lead, but she's here, and her performance is so multi-layered – particularly in the way she finds so much empathy for a character who, on paper, should be very difficult to like – that I couldn't leave her out. I also easily could have put three “Transparent” stars in here, and wouldn't be surprised or unhappy in the least if Judith Light gets an actual nomination.


Uzo Aduba, “Orange Is the New Black”
Kerry Bishe, “Halt and Catch Fire”
Amy Brenneman, “The Leftovers”
Carrie Coon, “The Leftovers”
Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones”
Lorraine Toussaint, “Orange Is the New Black”

Theater audiences know Coon, but she was largely a mystery to TV viewers when “The Leftovers” debuted, and she continually blew me out of the water on that show. (So, for that matter, did Brenneman, in a role where, outside of a flashback episode, she spoke only one word all season.) This is one where it was tough to not just keep listing actresses from “Orange” (leaving out Danielle Brooks and Samira Wiley in particular didn't make me happy). I imagine Headey's Walk of Shame scene makes her the favorite to win the award, depending on how distracted voters are by the head swap CGI.

So those are my picks in some of the big categories. What are yours? What show, performance, script, piece of direction, etc., would most make you happy to see on the real nominees list in a few weeks?

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