Emmys: THR TV Critics Make Their Picks for 9 Major Categories

6:15 AM 6/20/2016

by Tim Goodman and Daniel Fienberg

Tim Goodman and Daniel J. Fienberg deliver their (albeit biased) opinions on where the nominations should net out, and who should get snubbed, before the big July 14 announcements.

Game Of Thrones Veep Split H 2016
Courtesy of HBO

  • Drama Series

    DANIEL J. FIENBERG When we left things with the TV Academy, HBO had just finished winning nearly everything, including drama series, comedy series, miniseries, movie for television, which is funny given how much handwringing we've all done this year about the damning situation at HBO. Let's start with the big one. Game of Thrones won drama series last year for a season most thought was subpar. It has been better this year, and Mad Men is gone. Is this the year, as you've advocated before, that the TV Academy finally notices The Americans? Are there any dark horses that intrigue you?

    TIM GOODMAN I wouldn’t be surprised, given its strong season, if Thrones takes it again. And yes, I believe this finally and rightfully will be the year The Americans gets nominated. That's justice, but of course as soon as voters do that I would say that The Americans deserves to win, which it does, but I'm greedy. There are plenty of good new series that could squeeze in, but the only one likely to do so is Mr. Robot. I would be absolutely fine with that. Now, Dan, the bigger issue that we might as well address beyond The Americans is that this is a very stale crop. Nostalgia aside, do you think three perennials — Downton Abbey, Homeland and House of Cards — could be left out? That’s a lot of holes. While you and I would have no problem filling the blanks, Emmy voters might.

    FIENBERG Because I love it less than you and our critical brethren, I always forget about Mr. Robot, but that’s probably a lock, isn’t it? If I were picking underwatched sleepers, I'd prefer the excellent second season of The Leftovers and the utterly format-shattering Horace and Pete, but I suspect those have uphill climbs. With Homeland and House of Cards coasting on a perception they were "better" this season, I think they’re probably safe, and Downton Abbey has that "last season" glow. After a great second season, I'd hope Better Call Saul only adds nominations and doesn't subtract, so Orange Is the New Black is vulnerable, especially with its comedy/drama ambiguity. The wild card I’d guess has a better shot than The Americans is The Good Wife, which didn’t exactly stick the finale, but may still push its way in. Would you dismiss those chances?

    GOODMAN I wouldn't dismiss them, but I would be annoyed by them. I don’t think The Good Wife has any business here, but if the TV Academy keeps rubber-stamping past nominees coming off weak seasons, what’s the difference? I'll just add that I really want the TV Academy to up its game; refreshing this category would be the best start.

  • Comedy Series

    GOODMAN Now, as far as best comedies — that might be the most loaded and competitive category we'll see. I'll go back to my plea for the TV Academy to expand all categories to 10 nominees. Comedy might be the most loaded and competitive category. With Louie and Parks and Recreation out and a possibility Modern Family doesn’t even get nominated, there’s room for fresh talent. I would love to see Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish, Brooklyn Nine-Nine or The Goldbergs from the network side and Catastrophe, Master of None and Casual from the streaming side be nominated. Veep is the frontrunner, Silicon Valley and Transparent will return, but I’m not sure Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt will slide in. Your thoughts on this super competitive category?

    FIENBERG We really are in this fantastic moment of TV comedy and that's if you just concentrate on "funny" comedies and leave out the things like Shameless, Transparent and Orange Is the New Black, which cause certain people's heads to explode, but I still view as comedies. Even if I ignore those shows you mentioned that should break in — A Black-ish nom is mandatory as far as I’m concerned, and with two seasons to showcase, the raw craziness of Catastrophe should be a sure thing but probably won’t be. That would leave me to make the case for the innovative nihilism of Last Man on Earth, the side-splitting misery of Review, the format-smashing of Lady Dynamite, the telenovela hijinks of Jane the Virgin or even something like the multi-cam redemption of Mom or The Carmichael Show. It’s baffling to even discuss the possibility that Modern Family or The Big Bang Theory might get grandfathered in. But I agree that Veep is a favorite to repeat with its impressive showrunner transition.

  • Limited Series

    FIENBERG As great as the comedy category will be, I think limited series is going to be the most exciting on Emmy night. Who you got?

    GOODMAN It’s definitely the category that will generate the most bickering. Since Fargo ended up as No.?1 (again) on my year-end best-of list, that’s my pick. But, wow, the competition is tough. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story will get in and could arguably triumph. HBO's fine but less glittering offering of Show Me A Hero will get in but I would be stunned (and, shocker, irritated) if the awful second season of True Detective reared its woeful head. Roots is likely to get in, wouldn’t you say? And the glitter of The Night Manager also can’t be ignored (though I like The Last Panthers better, which means nothing). My dislike of American Horror Story means I’m up for pretty much anything. It could shape up to be a strange night for FX.

    FIENBERG The True Detective thing is funny since HBO was gung-ho about it being a drama its first season, and the network wanted the prestige of the big nominations, but now it’s a limited series when nobody cares. And the American Horror Story thing is funny, because FX carved out the space for "anthology" shows in the category and AHS feasted on weaker fields to get piles of nominations each season and now it's just going to get crushed by Fargo and O.J., from FX. You didn’t mention American Crime, which feels like it should be a big player, or The Girlfriend Experience, which might not be able to crack the field despite trendy auteurism and sexiness. There have been years when perfectly decent things like War & Peace could get nominations here, and the TV movie field will be starved for even "perfectly decent," as it fills up on well-performed mediocrities like All the Way and Confirmation.

  • Variety Sketch Series

    FIENBERG Do you have a pony in the variety sketch side of the series category, where I'm really hoping Key & Peele gets a winning send-off and Documentary Now! gets a deserved nomination? 

    GOODMAN Key & Peele must happen. That is all I will consider. 

  • Variety Talk Series

    FIENBERG Transitioning over to the variety talk field, with Jon Stewart, fictional Stephen Colbert and David Letterman gone, who do you have as favorites? And does Trevor Noah get a nomination, or does The Daily Show vanish abruptly?

    GOODMAN I’m sure we’ll disagree on whether Trevor Noah and The Daily Show deserve a nom, but can we maybe agree that Samantha Bee deserves one? If the award goes to something super topical, I like John Oliver, but if not, I think it’s really time for Jimmy Kimmel to get his due.

    FIENBERG I continue to think Trevor Noah has, by virtue of failing in the impossible task of equaling Jon Stewart, become the most underrated man in late night. I hope The Daily Show gets a nomination. But I’m with you on Samantha Bee and John Oliver, and I suspect they’re going to be the heirs to this category’s throne. I also think Emmy voters are looking for as many ways as possible to honor James Corden’s viral genius.

  • Lead Actress in a Drama

    GOODMAN I think lead drama actress is a total mess, but the TV Academy probably won’t listen to my ideas, which start with Keri Russell (The Americans) and Eva Green (Penny Dreadful), veer toward Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones) or Michelle Monaghan (The Path) and end with me saying Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley) would make a fine winner. In the end, this category will disappoint me, I know that much.

    FIENBERG I imagine you looking at the nominations, chin quivering and tears about to fall, looking like Claire Danes, who you know is bound to get yet another nomination for Homeland. If we’re pie-in-the-skying this category, I’d point to Shiri Appleby from UnREAL, Carrie Coon for The Leftovers, and I’m always right there with you on Green, whose consistent intensity demands recognition. But I suspect we’re looking at the same nominees as last year, with Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) or a Downton actress returning for a sendoff.

  • Lead Actor in a Drama

    FIENBERG Who do you see succeeding Jon Hamm for drama actor?

    GOODMAN I was blinded by rage and a desire to fill up the slots with my favorites! And yes on Coon, but she probably won't get the nod. For drama actors, I think a shake-up is necessary (but keep Bob Odenkirk from Better Call Saul). Logical picks would be Matthew Rhys (The Americans) and Rami Malek (Mr. Robot), Aaron Paul (The Path) plus Bobby Cannavale (Vinyl) despite the show falling apart around him. I love Aden Young (Rectify) but think Emmy voters don’t watch the show. My gut says they’ll go for Damian Lewis (Billions).

    FIENBERG Yeah, there’s a fair amount of, "Seriously, you cannot nominate Kevin Spacey again," outrage that will fall on deaf ears. And you don’t want to be the one to tell Liev Schreiber he isn’t nominated. I think the reality of Vinyl could get in the way of Cannavale’s nomination, which I’d have thought inevitable six months ago. I’d love to see something outside the box like Steve Buscemi (Horace and Pete) Aldis Hodge (Underground) or Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel), but your guesses are probably on the mark.

  • Lead Actress in a Comedy

    FIENBERG With Amy Poehler, Edie Falco and Lisa Kudrow gone, what new faces will get to lose to Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) for lead comedy actress?

    GOODMAN That’s both funny and true. I desperately want Michaela Watkins (Casual), Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe), Kaitlin Olson (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia), Aya Cash (You’re the Worst), Constance Wu (Fresh Off the Boat) and Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) to get in. And yes, I’m aware that I keep stealing people you would probably pick.

    FIENBERG Louis-Dreyfus deserves to win. But it’s still the deepest this category has ever been. You did steal my picks and still didn’t mention Maria Bamford (Lady Dynamite), Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), the Broad City women [Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson], Gillian Jacobs (Love), Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) — whose snub was a real mystery last year — or Tracee Ellis Ross, who could benefit from a deserved Black-ish bump. And one of us has to mention Emmy Rossum (Shameless). 

  • Lead Actor in a Comedy

    FIENBERG And that brings us finally to actor in a comedy, where the Muppets puppeteers are all submitted. So this race is over, right?

    GOODMAN So mean, Dan. I've always had trouble historically with this category. But perhaps that expansion to 10 (come on TV Academy, it's the right thing to do) will allow some fresh blood. I think Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent) wins again. They won't nominate anyone, again, from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. And I sense you'll have more nominees than I do, but I really want to see Aziz Ansari (Master of None), Denis Leary (Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll), Rob Delaney (Catastrophe), Tommy Dewey (Casual), Chris Geere (You're the Worst) and anyone from Silicon Valley (though I suspect it should be T.J. Miller). That would make me happy. And of course that's the goal, Emmy voters.

    FIENBERG Well, you know Jeffrey Tambor will be nominated, your "comedy" concerns not withstanding. And let's make sure Anthony Anderson (Black-ish) gets in there, along with Will Forte (Last Man on Earth) for going around with half-a-beard for a month. And maybe Zach Galifiankis, even if Louie Anderson is the Baskets star most in need of a nomination.