The Emmys shouldn’t matter, but they do.
Emmy wins and losses can’t actually change your opinion of a series. You’re not going to think any less of The Wire for its utter lack of Emmy recognition. But the Emmys are still the closest thing TV has to a historical record of what was considered the best in a particular year, or era. Decades from now, pop culture historians are going to look back and assume Modern Family was one of the greatest comedies ever made, or that Alan Shore on Boston Legal was a more indelible role than Josiah Bartlet or Gregory House, or Al Swearengen.
So when I get annoyed that certain work fails to win (Amy Poehler going oh-for-Parks and Rec) or be nominated (the final season of The Leftovers was the best thing on TV this year, and was shut out of all major categories), or that some shows and people win year after year (Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a comedy god who has deserved every one of her Emmys, but it would be nice if that wealth could be shared a little), it’s not because I’m going to think any more or less about any work as a result, but because the more casual public consensus, both now and in the future, is heavily informed by this stuff.
That’s the guiding philosophy I’ll have in mind with my picks for who should win some of this year’s major category Emmys during Sunday night’s ceremony (telecast on CBS, with Stephen Colbert as host): not only what deserves to win right now, but what will reflect well on both the medium and the Emmys years from now.
As for my predictions for what will win? Well, I’ve historically been awful at that, and pretty much keep doing them to provide gambling advice of what not to pick, and/or as entertainment for people who like to laugh at bad prognostication.
Outstanding Comedy Series
Master of None (Netflix)
Modern Family (ABC)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Should win: All due respect to several other shows that had really strong seasons (Master of None in particular), but it’s Atlanta, and it’s not really close. Donald Glover’s inventive, dreamy, completely unpredictable half-hour had an all-time debut season, establishing a clear voice even as the tone and style and substance of each episode could feel wildly different from the ones before and after. A special show.