Emmy ballots were sent out to Television Academy voters on Monday, and they’re also available for the rest of us to download from the Emmy website. And as I like to do every year at about this time, I’m going to go through the major categories and tell you who I would pick if I had a vote(*).
(*) To become a voter, you have to work directly in the TV industry. It’s an award voted on by your peers.
I often complain about the laziness of Emmy nominations and wins — the result of people working in television who don’t have much time to actually watch television — but this was a hard task even before the days of Peak TV. Now, it’s damn near impossible. As I combed through the ballots, I frequently found myself feeling one of three emotions: 1) Surprise at learning of the existence of a show I’d never heard of, 2) Frustration at seeing the name of a show I hadn’t gotten to yet, or hadn’t watched in much too long (black-ish somehow fell out of my viewing rotation this season), and 3) Angst as my list of potential nominees ballooned to two or three times more than six per category. As more and more quality shows prove themselves worthy of consideration, the process of narrowing each group down to six begins to feel like bailing water out of a sinking ocean liner with nothing but a Dixie cup.
But I’ll give it a try, with the usual rules in mind:
1. I can only consider what’s on the ballot, and where. If someone didn’t submit work I admired, I can’t give them a write-in vote. And if someone submitted in what feels like the wrong category — a lead actor cheating by going in the supporting category, or a comedy I think is really a drama — I still have to consider them in that category.
2. I can’t consider someone whose show I didn’t watch enough of, or at all, this year. As alluded to previously, I think I saw three black-ish episodes this season. So while I’m confident Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, and the show itself merit consideration, voting for them would be like the Emmy voters still picking House of Cards because they have last watched it in season one. Ditto Eva Green in Penny Dreadful, or Tatiana Maslany on Orphan Black, or Robert De Niro in Wizard of Lies, or a lot of other people whose work fell victim to my Peak TV triage. (For this reason, I’m not bothering at all with lead actor in a miniseries or movie, since I could only come up with a few names from the shows I watched in that category, and two of them were the stars of The Night Of.)
With that out of the way, let’s go:
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
Master of None (Netflix)
Get used to me lamenting how brutal a category is, and this one left me with no room for FX’s Better Things or Baskets (which in their best moments were the equal of some of the other auteur shows on this list), or the funniest Always Sunny season in years, the sparkling debut of the new One Day at a Time, the terrific victory laps for Girls and Review, the continued excellence of Veep and Transparent and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, or the sheer joy I felt each week watching Speechless. But the two Amazon shows beautifully mixed comedy and tragedy, Atlanta and Master were delightfully versatile and sharp and stunning from episode to episode, Brockmire made me laugh more than anything else I watched this year, and Brooklyn had its best season ever.
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
The Americans (FX)
Better Call Saul (AMC)
Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
The Leftovers (HBO)
Also get used to me raving about the final season of The Leftovers wherever possible. It’s in a class by itself, but I fear the show being shut out in its two previous years make nominations this year unlikely, even with the good timing to get all those rave finale reviews right before nominations opened. The Americans was the last, and toughest, addition to this list — I had also considered The Crown, Stranger Things, Sneaky Pete, Underground, and the fourth season of Orange Is the New Black (the most recent season will be eligible next year) — after the show went through its weakest season, but the great moments were still great enough to get the nod from me. With Game of Thrones ineligible this year, this category was ripe for Americans to win. Instead, I wouldn’t be shocked if some new blood like Handmaid’s or This Is Us swoops in to take the big prize.