6:45am PT by Tim Goodman, Daniel Fienberg
Emmys: THR TV Critics on Who Should — and Shouldn't — Be Nominated
Daniel Fienberg: At last year's Emmys, we had repeat winners in the comedy and drama series categories with Veep and Game of Thrones ruling. Again.
If nothing else, this year we're going to have a new drama series winner with Game of Thrones ineligible. All winter long, The Crown, Westworld and Stranger Things were big players with guilds and whatnot. Since Downton Abbey is also gone, how much new blood would you expect or hope to see in the drama field? Or are you only worried about this being The Americans' year?
Tim Goodman: Well, The Americans better be in the mix. That's a no-brainer. I always hope for the best in voters picking the absolute top-quality series but, yeah, one or two tend to sneak in that shouldn't. I do hope Better Call Saul makes it. The Leftovers should but won't, and that's a shame. I think the two slam dunks are The Handmaid's Tale and The Crown. I wouldn't mind seeing Westworld in there because I think it was more creatively ambitious and pulled it off better than most. But I'm worried that Stranger Things, a series I quite enjoyed but doesn't merit a best drama nom, will get in, taking a valuable spot. That said, I think I'd be more annoyed if House of Cards or This Is Us got in. If I had a dark horse, it would be The Leftovers, and a darker horse would be Legion. What about you?
DF: I think Better Call Saul, richer and darker and sadder than ever this season, is safe. My anger when it comes to the possibility of a House of Cards nomination is pretty deeply ingrained, as is my resignation that despite one of the best closing seasons in TV history, The Leftovers will probably be overlooked, though I'm saving my real irritation there for a Carrie Coon snub (more on that surely later). The Handmaid's Tale would be a lock except that Hulu is unproven in Emmy races, and I'd expect This Is Us to get in by virtue of having saved broadcast TV, except that Empire saved broadcast TV two years ago and didn't get a series nom. I'd love to get Homeland out of that field, and it's a little hilarious that last year's big dark horse, Mr. Robot, isn't even part of the conversation. Legion is probably just too weird for the Academy — as, in a different way, is the wonderful Rectify, while This Is Us and Stranger Things are comfort food. Wanna cut to the Coon chase and talk about drama actress, which may be the toughest Emmy category there is?
TG: Right you are. Coon should have been nominated previously, so my outrage is tempered a bit by the fact that it's already overdue but yeah, season three of The Leftovers is a truly tough one to overlook (on all counts) and I'll just stew in my resentment when she's snubbed. I guess we're assuming that Keri Russell, still amazing in The Americans, and newbies Evan Rachel Wood from Westworld, Elisabeth Moss from The Handmaid's Tale and Claire Foy from The Crown are as close to locks as we have? You tend to watch (get stuck with) more network fare, so you'll be better at guessing who gets in from there. I'm assuming that if there's not a House of Cards revolt, Robin Wright returns as well. This one's tough.
DF: There's a world in which Russell, Coon, Foy and Moss are going head-to-head in this category and it's practically a revolution of strong, complicated female characters; in that competition, I'd be rooting for Moss, so overdue for Emmy recognition and breathtaking in The Handmaid's Tale, but it would be almost crushing to have to have a preference. Even without Coon that's a great group, and that's before you add always-worthy sure-thing Viola Davis and Robin Wright, whom I never blame for how bad House of Cards often is. To me, Wood and Thandie Newton are in the wrong categories for Westworld, and it hurts Wood that her part is truly supporting. I'd watch out for Christine Baranski, admirably stepping up as lead on The Good Fight; sentimental choice Mandy Moore, who would be in over her head in this category; and Claire Danes, who gets in by default. I'd love voters to remember this is their last chance to honor Eva Green for her mind-boggling committed work in Penny Dreadful. This field is both stronger at the top and deeper than the drama lead actor group, which is a nice evolution.
TG: Green is all in all the time. We're just going to have to keep that one for ourselves (and those who watched). Last year's winner, Tatiana Maslany, isn't eligible because Orphan Black premiered too late, but even still, what an insane field. As for the actors in drama, it would be nice to overhaul this. From last year, I think we should definitely get Matthew Rhys, Bob Odenkirk and winner Rami Malek back, even though his show Mr. Robot lacked buzz this year (or the previous level of buzz). I would love for Justin Theroux to get in here. They asked him to do a lot and he delivered for three seasons. Anthony Hopkins is likely to get a nom and Sterling K. Brown for sure (I think we can both agree on that). My wish list definitely includes Dan Stevens from Legion. But if anyone is going to get ousted from this category, I think it's the Billions boys, yes?
DF: As good as Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis are, the Billions actor I want to see make the cut is Asia Kate Dillon, a gender non-binary performer in a gender non-binary role looking for acceptance from the frustratingly binary Academy. Of all the noms This Is Us may get, Brown (and Ron Cephas Jones) would be the most deserving, and I expect he makes the cut with Rhys, Odenkirk and Malek. No complaints there. I'd ditch Kevin Spacey for his House of Cards hamminess and Hopkins is unquestionably giving a supporting performance in Westworld. Leave those guys out and salute Theroux, if only for holding his own opposite Coon. Find some love for the great Freddie Highmore from Bates Motel or the always heartbreaking Aden Young of Rectify or Matt Smith, so willing to make a very powerful man look unappealing in The Crown. I wouldn't mind seeing a nom for Billy Bob Thornton, without whom Goliath would be unimaginably generic. Lots of new faces, though. And you could practically fill the comedy series category with new shows, too.
TG: Oh, hell, I've fallen prey to forgetting Aden Young, whom I adore. Damn it! I need him in there. The world needs him in there. Man, now I'm going to start Rectify again because of my sins. OK, let's see, comedy — well, that's a perfect transition from talking about Rectify. I'm of the belief that there are a lot of great comedy series that can and should populate this category. I'd start with holdovers Veep and Silicon Valley, add Atlanta, You're the Worst, Fleabag, Master of None, Catastrophe, Insecure, Black-ish and I'm assuming a send-off for Girls. I also loved a lot of outliers that won't get in, including Casual and People of Earth.
DF: Yeah, you could fill the category with newcomers, but unlike the drama series field, you could also just fill it with the seven nominees from last year — but that would mean yet another nomination for Modern Family, which has basically become the TV equivalent of Willie Mays on the New York Mets. My hunch would be that Modern Family is out and Donald Glover's often visionary Atlanta makes the cut, along with a bunch of shows from last year's field, which wouldn't be a bad grouping at all. Based only on my own preferences, I'd somewhat regretfully knock Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Silicon Valley out in favor of the triumphant final season of Girls and another knife-twistingly funny season of Catastrophe, but excluding the eccentric pleasures of Baskets would make me sad. And it's only snobbery that keeps us from recognizing network gems like Speechless and The Good Place and or a savvy multicam like One Day at a Time. I'd also find some solace if Fleabag mastermind Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Better Things mastermind Pamela Adlon could get comedy actress mentions, even if we all just assume Julia Louis-Dreyfus wins everything always, right?
TG: Yes, plenty of excellent comedies from broadcast, and triple yes-es for Louis-Dreyfus (legend and slam-dunk nominee), Waller-Bridge and Adlon. This category could definitely use some fresh blood with Sharon Horgan and Michaela Watkins tossed into to it and, as a returnee, Tracee Ellis Ross. Minnie Driver and Kristen Bell work for me here as well.
DF: It's not that Louis-Dreyfus should go full Candice Bergen and recuse herself from the category, but with Adlon, Horgan and Waller-Bridge, plus folks like Kathryn Hahn in I Love Dick, Aya Cash in You're The Worst and Lena Dunham for the final Girls season, this is the first time in a while that I've felt like it was just somebody else's turn. You know who I want to see get nominated? Justina Machado for One Day at a Time, a totally revelatory performance from a veteran who was never given this opportunity to topline a show previously. And Amanda Peet for Brockmire, a great performance that holds its own with some of the best work of Hank Azaria's career, also Emmy-worthy. That feels like a smooth transition, right?
TG: Well, yes, and also it restocks the house. So that's good. Do you really think Azaria gets a nom? Not sure his show has picked up enough buzz, but that would be great. Also not sure there's much shake-up coming, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Shameless' William H. Macy out. And I'd like to see Atlanta's Donald Glover get in, which is pretty much assured. I'd also love to see Catastrophe's Rob Delaney and You're the Worst's Chris Geere nominated, though that's unlikely. Is this a category that's open to big shifts? Glover has to get in. Beyond that, who knows?
DF: Azaria definitely isn't likely, but IFC has gotten some nominations before and Azaria is an Emmy favorite, both for his live-action acting and his Simpsons voice work, so I wouldn't rule it out. With all of last year's nominees still in the hunt, only Glover is a sure-thing addition, and he may get a Louis C.K.-esque level of across-the-board nominations. I could drop Macy and Thomas Middleditch if it would free space, but even then you've only got room for an Azaria or Delaney or a longshot like Bill Hader, so versatile on Documentary Now, or Zach Galifianakis (Baskets) or Ted Danson (The Good Place), whose chances would be better in the supporting category. There are a lot of interesting sleepers here, which just means that Jim Parsons will burst back in for The Big Bang Theory. Only a few more categories to go! I assume you're rooting for Big Little Lies in the limited category?
TG: Oh, you evil, evil bastard! Look, I feel sorrier for The Night Of because it will suffer from the bloated star-filled nonsense of HBO's other entry, which I will not speak of now that you have. That said, maybe that opens up a better chance for victory for, in my opinion, far and away the clear winner: Fargo. I will accept nothing else. I really liked The Night Of but felt it could have used maybe another episode or two. Most other offerings likely to get in here, forget it. So much great stuff was foreign. No, this category begins and ends with Fargo.
DF: Personally, I'll be rooting for many of the Big Little Lies actresses and for Adam Scott as well, but it's a lock to be nominated, as is Feud: Bette and Joan and The Night Of. Fargo is still the frontrunner and my personal preference, but you should never sell short a category featuring The Young Pope. Plus, you've got a pair of authentic John Ridley shows in American Crime and Guerrilla, plus ersatz John Ridley in Shots Fired. I could also see some down-ballot interest in When We Rise. I think it's a competitive category, especially in the lead actress acting race where you could have Reese Witherspoon against Nicole Kidman against Jessica Lange against Susan Sarandon against Coon. That's crazy, and it's not like the lead actor field will be weak with Oscar winners like Robert De Niro and Geoffrey Rush likely to be pitted against multiple Ewan McGregors and multiple The Night Of men.
As we conclude, give me one long shot nomination, any category, that you're rooting particularly hard for and one likely nomination, any category, that you're already dreading. Since we've celebrated Coon enough, I'm going with Aisha Hinds from Underground as my unlikely wish nomination and Spacey as the nom I wish we could avoid. How about you?
TG: Well, I really love Guerrilla and that could always qualify as my long shot. In all honesty, there's probably no other series besides existential, angst-filled The Leftovers that I would be praying for (word choice on purpose there) to beat the longest of odds. But instead, I'll atone for forgetting about Rectify earlier in our conversation and make the following wish: that Rectify get nominated for best series. It's kind of why we do what we do — to rally people to brilliant artistic work that would otherwise go unseen. To have that rewarded would be, well, one hell of a miracle. It could take the place of nominations for either Homeland or House of Cards. The Emmys could use some refreshing and some historical course-correcting, so I will dream about that.