A producer reveals his soft spot for FX's departing 'The Americans' and how "the Netflix factor" boosted 'Godless': "I love not having to get off my ass."
There’s a sentimental part of me that would like to see a show from a broadcast network win because it feels like that hasn’t happened since Nixon was in office [it actually last happened in 2006], but This Is Us was significantly better during its first season than its second. I can’t vote for Westworld — I don’t know what’s going on half the time. I respect The Crown, but not my cup of tea — sorry (laughs). I love [The] Handmaid’s Tale and Stranger Things — I can’t remember which I voted for last year, but both were better during their first season than their second. It’s hard not to vote for Game of Thrones — they reportedly spend $17 million an episode, so they might as well be competing for the best picture Oscar — but, at the end of the day, I’m a bit of a sentimentalist, so I’m voting for The Americans [which is nominated for its final season]. It was the best-written show on TV — [co-showrunners/writers Joe] Weisberg and [Joel] Fields are brilliant and were so prescient — and everything else about it was first-rate, too.
My Vote The Americans (FX)
I ruled out Black-ish and Curb [Your Enthusiasm] — their best days are behind them. Silicon Valley has also depreciated in quality since T.J. Miller left. [Unbreakable] Kimmy Schmidt is very hit or miss. I admire Atlanta, but I just don’t know if it’s a comedy; maybe it’s kind of an old-school idea, but to me a comedy should make you laugh. The same sort of goes for GLOW. For me, it came down to [The] Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Barry, and it was a very close call. Maisel is amazing — it’s consistently funny and smart, and Rachel Brosnahan lights up the screen in a way that few people ever have in my memory. I liked everything about it. If they’re smart, they’ll quit while they’re ahead after two or three seasons. I know it’s hard for networks to do that because a good show is a revenue driver, but sometimes it’s the right artistic decision to make. Remember [Netflix’s] Bloodline? The first season was one of the best things I’ve ever seen — and then the second season was a train wreck. Know what show could go on forever? Barry. I’ve never laughed as hard from week to week. Granted, it’s inside baseball — it’s a show making fun of show business — so a lot of the jokes may not play to an audience that doesn’t know Hollywood … but fuck ’em, I’m the one who’s being asked to vote! The whole concept makes me laugh — [Bill] Hader, the Russian mob and especially Henry Winkler’s character, who is fantastic. I want the show to win, but even more I want Henry to win — he’s an underrated comedy actor, one of the nicest people in Hollywood and has never won before. By the way, I know bingeing is wonderful, but I kind of like having to wait from week to week. I think some of these shows don’t do better at the Emmys because people never develop that sense of anticipation for them, which can feed your love of a show. If you knocked a show out in one night six months ago, you may not remember it as much as the show you couldn’t wait to see every Sunday night, which Barry was for me.
My Vote Barry (HBO)
Drunk History is a funny concept, but it isn’t a show in the same sense as the others. I like Amy Sedaris and Tracey Ullman more than I like their shows [At Home With Amy Sedaris and Tracey Ullman’s Show, respectively]. For me, it came down to Saturday Night Live; I Love You, America [with Sarah Silverman]; and Portlandia. SNL, for all the acclaim it got this year, relied too much on going after Trump; Trump himself is a caricature, and you can only caricaturize a caricature so much before it stops being funny. I also think they went too far with bringing in actors from outside the cast to play real people; they had a lot of success doing that with Alec Baldwin and Melissa McCarthy, and stunt casting like that gets a rise out of the in-studio audience because they get starstruck, but the truth is the show should use its own people more — Kate McKinnon playing Jeff Sessions is as hilarious as anything. I Love You, America isn’t really a sketch show, but I don’t know where else it belongs more, and she [Sarah Silverman] is so good — she always makes me laugh — that I was very tempted to vote for it. But I had to reward the show that knocked it out of the park with every episode, and that’s Portlandia. It has never won, it’s nominated for its last season, and I want to send it off with a win.
My Vote Portlandia (IFC)
James Corden [The Late Late Show With James Corden] is fun, but not up to the level of the others. I was happy to see Trevor Noah [The Daily Show With Trevor Noah] get in this year, because he really has found his voice. You can’t argue with what Samantha Bee [Full Frontal With Samantha Bee], the only female in the group, has accomplished. Jimmy Kimmel [Jimmy Kimmel Live!] has really matured. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver is what I voted for last year, and I still think it’s the best of the lot — but I did not vote for it this year. I voted for [The Late Show With Stephen] Colbert because he’s consistent, funny and incredibly smart — plus, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that it’s much harder to do that job every night than once a week. I also admired the way he handled the Les Moonves thing [when the CBS chief was accused of sexual harassment and Colbert addressed the situation on his show]. He got what Louis C.K. didn’t: You can’t ignore these things away, you’ve got to face them head-on.
My Vote The Late Show With Stephen Colbert (CBS)
First, let me say the Television Academy should be embarrassed for kicking the TV movie category off the main broadcast and onto one of the Creative Arts Awards nights — it’s inexcusable, particularly in a year in which we lost one of the best TV movie producers of all time, Craig Zadan [a posthumous nominee for the TV movie Flint]. HBO, Netflix and Lifetime should make a stink and get it back on the broadcast. But I digress. This wasn’t the greatest year for limited series. The Alienist was so slow, and I didn’t love Daniel Bruhl. [Genius] Picasso? Wasn’t a fan — kind of kitschy. I couldn’t get through Patrick Melrose — he [Benedict Cumberbatch] is super-talented, but that character became overwhelming. I was mixed about [The Assassination of Gianni] Versace — they really captured a sense of foreboding, and the supporting cast was brilliant, especially Judith Light, but the actors who played the main parts felt miscast to me. I voted for Godless, a really complex show, but so well-written, well-directed and well-acted, especially by Jeff Daniels. And yes, the Netflix factor is real — I didn’t go to the FYSee thing [Netflix’s campaign space], but I love not having to get off my ass and do anything but click a couple of buttons to watch a show.
My Vote Godless (Netflix)
I prefer to reward a fresh show, but all of these nominees have been around for a while, and I’ve at least sampled each. American Ninja Warrior, Project Runway and Top Chef aren’t all that special. The Amazing Race was the Julia Louis-Dreyfus of reality shows — it won every year — until The Voice started beating it [in four of the last five years], and I’ve had enough of both of them. Maybe I just like being subversive, but I would love for RuPaul [RuPaul’s Drag Race] to win because I would love to see RuPaul get to accept an award on the main telecast [as opposed to the Creative Arts ceremony]. That would be awesome. She is really funny, and she was the trailblazer. Everybody that is now able to do drag shows, or even for that matter to be transgender, walks in her footsteps — his footsteps. [Corrects himself to reflect that RuPaul is a drag queen, not transgender.] I can only imagine the pain that he’s been through in his life, so to have a moment like that would be special. Plus, the Emmys is a TV show, and it would be much more entertaining to hear from RuPaul than Mark Burnett [the producer of The Voice who worked with Donald Trump on The Apprentice].
My Vote RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1)
A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.