Our annual primal scream at the announcement of the Emmy nominations has somehow, against all expectations, transformed into a cry of joy. Could it be? The Emmy nominations were actually good?
The comedy side especially, with a surprise trifecta of major noms for Schitt’s Creek and its stars Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy, is a welcome surprise, as was the run of the board from favorites Fleabag and Russian Doll. Sure, it’s a little frustrating just how much Game of Thrones dominated the drama side. It was inevitable, but still.
And the inevitability is the point: There are over 500 TV series vying for between five and eight slots in each category, and a voting body of 25,000 boneheads with historically patterned preferences and reliably peculiar whims. At this point, a deserved candidate scoring a nod is more of a miracle than a justified achievement.
And you know what? Miracles happened this disgustingly sweaty Tuesday morning! When They See Us scored 16 nominations. Christina Applegate got in for her career-best work in Dead to Me. Emmy nominee Billy Porter!
But make no mistake, we’re still groaning, as always. The Television Academy going so laughably overboard on the handful of shows it seemed to really love meant a bunch of egregious misses. (Julia Roberts, for one, must not be happy.) And what does The Good Fight need to do to get on the Emmys radar?
So as we continue to digest the year’s nominees—see the full list here—here’s what we’re most pleasantly surprised and bitterly annoyed about. (Though, it’s nice, for once, for it to lean more towards the former!)
SURPRISE: The ‘When They See Us' Domination
The limited series categories were stacked this year with high-profile entries with casts teeming with extremely famous people, making many pundits nervous that Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us and its more under-the-radar acting contenders would be ignored, even as Netflix touted the show’s impressive streaming numbers in vague terms after its release.
Well, the power of a Netflix platform truly revealed itself here with not only Jharrel Jerome getting the Best Actor nod so many hoped for him, but no less than seven cast members joining him: Aunjanue Ellis and Niecey Nash (Best Actress); Michael K. Williams, John Leguizamo, and Asante Blackk (Best Supporting Actor); and Marsha Stephanie Blake and Vera Farmiga (Best Supporting Actress). The windfall didn’t include Felicity Huffman, perhaps for obvious reasons, but it’s an astonishing turnout for the series.
SURPRISE: The Major ‘Schitt’s Creek' Showing, Finally
It took until the Pop TV series’ fifth series, but Schitt’s Creek scored its first Emmy nominations this morning. They’re big ones, too: Best Comedy, Best Actor for Eugene Levy, and, finally, Best Actress for Catherine O’Hara.
SURPRISE: The Perfect Comedy Series Category
There are shows that I personally love and might have subbed in, but as far as the viable Emmy possibilities go, it doesn’t get more perfect than this Best Comedy Series category: Barry, Fleabag, The Good Place, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Russian Doll, Schitt’s Creek, Veep.
MEH: The ‘Game of Thrones' Sweep
No matter how fans felt about the final season of Game of Thrones, it was always going to have a run of this year’s drama categories. The sheer extent of it, though, is hilariously extreme.
In addition to its Best Drama nod, a ridiculous 10 actors from this season were nominated: Emilia Clarke (Best Actress); Kit Harington (Best Actor); Gwendoline Christie, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, and Maisie Williams (Best Supporting Actress); Alfie Allen, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Peter Dinklage (Best Supporting Actor); and Carice van Houten (Best Guest Actress). Yet nothing for King Bran.
SNUB: ‘The Good Fight' Misses Out. Again.
The last two years running, The Good Fight was the best drama series on TV. (That first year was pretty damn close, too.) Yet the series once again whiffed at the Emmys, missing out on major nods in Best Drama and, perhaps more upsettingly, Best Actress, where there are seven nominees and at least two I would have instantly moved to make room for the inimitable Christine Baranski. The Good Wife, from which the CBS All Access series was spun off, was a huge Emmys favorite, making The Good Fight’s shutout all the more confusing.
SNUB: Sorry, Julia Roberts, Guess They Really Didn’t Like ‘Homecoming'
Amazon’s Homecoming was expected to be a major player in the drama races, yet even with Best Drama and Best Actress expanding its number of nominees, the series and its A-list star, Julia Roberts, failed to make the cut. Roberts’ omission may rank as the year’s biggest snub, though I’d say Emmy darling Bobby Cannavale not making it into Best Supporting Actor is a bit of a shock, too. (Best Actor hopeful Stephan James was sadly always a long shot.)
SURPRISE: The Amount of Love for ‘Fleabag' and ‘Barry'
Fingers were crossed for strong showings from two critical favorites. But critics are used to being burned by the Emmys so it’s wild to see just how much love the voting body gave to Fleabag and Barry. (Dare I say maybe even too much love?)
Both made it into the blessedly wonderful Best Comedy category, with Fleabag scoring five acting nods—Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Best Actress), Olivia Colman and Sian Clifford (Best Supporting Actress), and Fiona Shaw and Kristin Scott Thomas (Best Guest Actress)—as well as directing and writing nods. Barry scored two directing and a writing nod, plus five acting nods as well: Bill Hader (Best Actor); Anthony Carrigan, Stephen Root, and Henry Winkler (Best Supporting Actor); and Sarah Goldberg (Best Supporting Actress).
SNUB: The Star-Studded ‘Maniac' Didn’t Register
Despite a previous Emmy winner in co-creator Cary Fukunaga and a star-studded cast including Emma Stone, Jonah Hill, Sally Field, and Justin Theroux, Netflix’s Maniac came up empty-handed in all of the major categories.
UGH: ‘House of Cards' is still standing
Whatever sorrows arise from Maniac’s poor turnout, Netflix should at least be happy that one of the biggest entertainment scandals of the decade wasn’t enough to torpedo the final season of House of Cards at the Emmys. Despite respectively crowded fields, both Robin Wright and Michael Kelly repeated nods they had previously earned in Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor. Now we never have to hear about the Kevin Spacey drama again.
SURPRISE: ‘Nailed It!' Over The Masked Singer
The baking beacon of joy that is Nailed It! on Netflix 100 percent deserves all the awards attention in the world. But it was such a dark horse contender in a reality TV competition series field of long-running juggernauts that we squealed with glee when it was announced as a surprise nominee. More shocking, though, is that it took the place of Fox’s The Masked Singer, the rare broadcast hit to captivate the zeitgeist with live broadcasts. Is the show patently ridiculous? Yes, but when has that ever mattered before?
SURPRISE: ‘Pose,' ‘Bodyguard,' and ‘Succession' Get Their Freshman Year Nods
It’s always tough for a freshman series to break through into the drama series races (Killing Eve didn’t even get in until this year for its much less celebrated second season, and this is the first year Ozark appeared), but with The Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld, Stranger Things, The Americans, and The Crown all ineligible, the category was fair game for new blood. Pose, Bodyguard, and Succession are all great picks to fill some of those slots.
More exciting is the fact that the phenomenal Billy Porter got in for his work on Pose, even if that means that Bodyguard’s Richard Madden missed out. The lack of acting nominations entirely for Bodyguard and Succession can’t have felt good for those respective shows, but directing and writing nods for Succession and one writing nod for Bodyguard will have to make up for it.
HMM… The Truly Wild Beyoncé Category
The Variety Special categories tend to be a mixed bag catch-all for, well, a variety of genres. Still, looking at the list for Best Variety Special (Pre-Recorded) is a head-scratcher, albeit a head-scratcher of some of the year’s most exceptional pieces of entertainment that are about as apples and oranges as it gets.
Joining Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé, is Hannah Gadsby: Nanette, Springsteen on Broadway, Wanda Sykes: Not Normal, and James Corden’s Paul McCartney-led Carpool Karaoke special. How do you vote in that? (You vote for Beyoncé, but you get my point…)
YAY!: ‘PEN15 Gets a Well-Earned Best Writing Nomination
Of all the small shows I was hoping would show up somewhere, anywhere on this morning’s list of nominations (The Other Two, Shrill, Ramy among them), I’m most pleased that PEN15 found its way in. The truly excellent Hulu series earned a Best Writing nod for its co-creators and stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, alongside a murderer’s row of splashier contenders from Russian Doll, Fleabag, Barry, The Good Place, and Veep.
SURPRISE: ‘Bojack Horseman' Finally Nominated
Would you believe that the best animated series of the last decade has never been nominated for Best Animated Series? That changed today when the Emmys finally gave Bojack Horseman the big nod it deserved!
NO SURPRISE: This Year’s Leading Contenders
To the surprise of no one, Game of Thrones led this year’s nominees with 32 total nods. Behind that was The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with 20, Chernobyl with 19, and Saturday Night Live with 18, to all of which I say: Duh.
SURPRISE: Marie Kondo Over the Queer Eyes. Also, Guy Fieri?!
The Queer Eye boys were considered a shoo-in for Best Reality TV hosts but were nudged out by Netflix’s other rising star, Marie Kondo. Don’t worry, both made it into Best Structured Series alongside...wait for it...Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. (This is my favorite Emmy nomination possibly ever.)
SURPRISES: There Were a Lot of Them!
Christina Applegate getting into Best Actress in a Comedy for Dead to Me is a major, welcome surprise. Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder) and Mandy Moore (This Is Us) getting into Best Actress in a Drama is as big of a surprise, though some might debate how welcome. (I say, sure!) Jodie Comer finally earning recognition alongside Sandra Oh in the category is lovely, too.
Marin Hinkle deservedly joining her Mrs. Maisel cast at the awards table is a nice surprise. Kumail Nanjiani scoring a guest actor nod for The Twilight Zone is certainly interesting. Jessica Lange scoring a guest actress mentioning for essentially walking through the set of American Horror Story: Apocalypse is perhaps even more so. And Margaret Qualley getting in for Fosse/Verdon? Sure, why not.
And while we may not be accustomed to perusing the Short Form categories, multiple nominations for Netflix’s Special, the hilarious An Emmy For Megan, and the swan song to Hack Into Broad City, including acting noms for Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, are all wonderful.
SNUBS: There Were a Lot of Those, Too!
The oversaturation of some shows meant isolated contenders from others couldn’t make it in. Jim Carrey missing out for Kidding is certainly a shock. Rita Moreno not getting in for One Day at a Time is truly aggravating. Susan Kelechi Watson not getting recognized for series-best work on This Is Us is disappointing, too.
It’s also a bummer not to see The Other Two represented, particularly Molly Shannon. I wish there was room for Titus Burgess’s final season on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Fleabag’s Andrew Scott, or anybody from Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson both should have been recognized for Sex Education. That Orange Is the New Black’s Danielle Brooks still doesn’t have an Emmy nomination is obscene.
And in two respective Best Actress races that are impossible to narrow down, it’s a bummer that there wasn’t room for Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Deuce), Niecey Nash (Claws), and Elisabeth Olsen (Sorry For Your Loss) on the drama side, and Pamela Adlon (Better Things), Aidy Bryant (Shrill), or the Grace and Frankie girls in comedy.