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Best Drama Series
I don’t get why The Boys is nominated, except that it arrived at a time when everything was Marvel and DC, our senses were overwhelmed by superheroes, and anybody who came along and had an expensive show that was “the anti-superhero show” was going to get a lot of buzz. I could only do about a half-hour of Bridgerton, which is just not my thing, but I will say that Shonda Rhimes is the only one of the people who signed a big deal with Netflix who has actually delivered — Kenya Barris is already gone and Ryan Murphy’s stuff has been godawful — so kudos to her. I never watched this season of Pose because Ryan’s shows are so incredibly self-indulgent. Lovecraft Country would never have been nominated if it didn’t have J.J. Abrams’ name on it. The Handmaid’s Tale is great, but its best days are behind it. This Is Us continues to be really well done, and I think it’s terrific that one of the broadcast networks got a nomination, but it’s sort of a one-joke show. The Crown is not really my kind of show, but Olivia Colman and Gillian Anderson’s performances are so extraordinary that I almost voted for it. However, The Mandalorian is in a class by itself. That’s an example of money well spent and really good storytelling. This season was better than the first. The end of the second season is a genuine “wow” moment.
My Vote The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Best Comedy Series
Emily in Paris I never even saw — couldn’t tell you what it is or who’s in it, and don’t care. How does Cobra Kai get in here? Come on. If it wasn’t on Netflix, no way; it’s like Tiger King — everybody was talking about it, but it wasn’t actually good. The Kominsky Method really pissed me off this season — the show was 100 percent about [Michael] Douglas and [Alan] Arkin doing their version of The In-Laws, which was Arkin and [Peter] Falk, but without Arkin this show is a giant waste of time. This wasn’t a particularly good season of Black-ish. I don’t really get why The Flight Attendant got nominated — [Kaley Cuoco] is cute in it, but it’s lightweight. PEN15 I love — it’s so well done — and I’m glad it got nominated, but it isn’t consistently funny enough to win. It was really tough to choose between Hacks and Ted Lasso. Hacks is just phenomenal. The writing is terrific, and if [Jean Smart] doesn’t win it will be one of the great travesties of the Western world. Her character is like Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers — you know they’re despicable, but you just love them. But the first season of Ted Lasso was just perfect. It was the right show at the right time — the quintessential, perfect show to watch during the pandemic — and such a surprising delight. As the campaign says, “Kindness makes a comeback.”
My Vote Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Best Limited or Anthology Series
There’s not a bad nominee in the bunch. Two are as good as anything on television, and it’s tragic that one of them isn’t going to win. I watched some of I May Destroy You, which I thought was excellent, but oppressive. Barry Jenkins is a massive talent, but I felt that The Underground Railroad was a little self-indulgent and really slow. WandaVision is great, but not the best of the Marvel shows; Loki is better. Which leaves us with Mare of Easttown and The Queen’s Gambit. In the first episode of Mare of Easttown, it took so long to get to her that I almost gave up on it — it was just the slowest burn, and nothing happens in that episode — but then the onion starts to peel in the second episode, and oh my God. Kate Winslet should be in the conversation for greatest living actress — she let her body go, let her hair go, clearly was not wearing makeup, did the accent, and just couldn’t have been better. That’s some brave shit! There is not a bad piece of casting in that show. I mean, when her partner [Evan Peters] got killed, I literally fell out of my chair — like, “They can’t kill him!” And I was convinced that Guy Pearce was going to be the killer, because why else would he do this show? I only found out later that the person who was supposed to play that role got COVID and because Guy and Kate are friends, he agreed to step in as a favor. And then Jean Smart and Julianne Nicholson are so great. The casting, writing, directing — all amazing. In any other year, this would have been not only what I voted for, but the best thing on television. But The Queen’s Gambit is the best thing I’ve seen on television, other than Chernobyl, in the last 10 years. It’s flawless. The VFX really served the story. And [Anya Taylor-Joy] was riveting — she doesn’t look like any other actress and she’s obviously so smart. Scott Frank did such an extraordinary job with Godless and now this. He’s the real deal.
My Vote The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
Best Variety Talk Series
I watch all of these shows. I love Conan [O’Brien], his farewell was nice, and I look forward to whatever he’s doing next, but I can’t vote for him [Conan]. I am a huge Daily Show fan, but I felt that [Trevor Noah] had the hardest time adapting to doing his show from his living room; he’s a stand-up and needs the energy of the audience to feed off of — you can see him do it so well on YouTube where they post his interactions with the audience during commercial breaks — plus he sort of let himself go, with his beard and his sweatshirt. I don’t know, it struck me as a little too casual. John Oliver is great, and I’ve voted for Last Week Tonight before, but the truth is you can’t compare what he does really well once a week to what Kimmel and Colbert do really well every night. I loved that they brought in their wives and kids; it was really engaging and made it more relatable. Colbert is the better interviewer of the two, so I went with him.
My Vote The Late Show With Stephen Colbert (CBS)
Best Variety Sketch Series
What the fuck? How is it fair that there are only two nominees? Having been nominated multiple times myself, I can tell you that I would have loved to be in a category with only one other nominee! Here, you’ve got a sort of obscure show against the most iconic sketch show in the history of television. Not exactly a fair fight. SNL did a very nice job with the shows from home.
My Vote Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Best Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)
I did not see Bo Burnham [Inside], although I’m a fan, or David Byrne’s show [American Utopia]. They did a lovely job with Hamilton, but I’m not voting for the Tonys, and I don’t know how to separate the stage show from the TV show. It feels like they’re asking for more awards for the same thing. I hated the Friends reunion [Friends: The Reunion] — it felt so unctuous and fake and staged, and I hated every second of it. The West Wing one [A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote] was done in a much cleverer way, but I really felt John Spencer’s absence. I absolutely loved Dave Chappelle [8:46] — he’s so incredibly funny and, again, the right show for the right time.
My Vote 8:46 — Dave Chappelle (Netflix)
*Best Television Movie
Thankfully, this year there aren’t five feature films that fell out of feature film distribution and ended up on TV. Uncle Frank and Sylvie’s Love, which were good, not great, started at a film festival [Sundance], which is a strike against them for me. Andrew Scott is my favorite person on television right now, and he was good in Oslo, but it wasn’t as compelling as I wanted it to be. I never liked Hallmark Hall of Fame Presents being in front of a show’s title because I felt it gave a movie an unfair advantage, and the same is true for putting Dolly Parton or Robin Roberts’ name ahead of a title [Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square and Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, respectively]. There’s no other explanation for the Dolly Parton one getting nominated — and it’s not the first time this has happened. They should give her the Nobel Prize for the vaccine, but not the Emmy for this piece of junk. But the Robin Roberts one is actually a terrific movie. And, in this category, I root for basic cable over streamers and pay cable because they set out to make a movie for television with a limited budget, and in this case, they did a beautiful job. Danielle Brooks’ performance is astonishing.
My Vote Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia (Lifetime)
Best Competition Program
I skipped this season of The Amazing Race. Nailed It is incredibly cute, but it’s not really a competition show; it’s like a phenomenal UCB show. I don’t know how Top Chef got in here except to fill some cooking show quota. The Voice was really hurt by not having a live audience; the virtual audience was just not the same. RuPaul [RuPaul’s Drag Race] was great, as always.
My Vote RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1)
*Best Documentary or Nonfiction Series
I didn’t see City So Real or Secrets of the Whales. Allen v. Farrow I assiduously avoided because it was going to make me feel icky. I don’t know which episodes were part of which season of American Masters. I loved every second of Pretend It’s a City — it was heaven! [Fran Lebowitz] is hilarious — she is the quintessential New Yorker and should have been the mayor of New York. And [Martin Scorsese] is such a good audience for her — what a goofball!
My Vote Pretend It’s a City (Netflix)
*Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special
I wasn’t into Framing Britney Spears — I don’t know why anyone cares. I only got through half of The Social Dilemma because, as a parent, it was really upsetting. Tina was kind of ordinary — I didn’t learn anything new about her. So, for me, it came down to Boys State and The Bee Gees [How Can You Mend a Broken Heart]. I really liked The Bee Gees — I thought it was a phenomenal documentary, very sad at times, and Frank [Marshall] did an unbelievable job. But Boys State, although it was really upsetting, stayed with me longer.
My Vote Boys State (Apple TV+)
*The winners in the TV movie and nonfiction/documentary special and series categories were presented during the Creative Arts ceremonies over Sept. 11-12. Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square won for outstanding television movie; Secrets of the Whales won for documentary or nonfiction series; Boys State for documentary or nonfiction special.
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