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2018 Emmy Nominations Offer a Strange Mix of Nominees

I accepted many years ago that I would never fully understand how or why certain television shows get Emmy nominations. But, unlike the Golden Globes (where money talks when it comes to recognition in the television fields), the Emmy Awards hold themselves up as the gold standard of recognizing the best and the brightest in the world of television. Which means that, in theory, the awards would nominate the best shows, performances, and writing that happened in the past year on TV. While the Emmy Awards have gotten noticeably better in the past few years at recognizing new and innovative shows and performances (hell, they finally gave Best Drama to a streaming show last year), the nominations for 2018 are still a mixed bag of exciting new and returning names, the old guard, and a few what they hell were they thinking?!? options. While the Emmy Awards aren't airing until September 17, 2018, let's take a look at the nominees in the major categories and see who has a chance, who shouldn't have gotten nominated, and who should have been on the list.

OUTSTANDING DRAMA (2017 winner: The Handmaid’s Tale) The Americans The Crown Game of Thrones The Handmaid’s Tale Stranger Things This Is Us Westworld

I don't understand the Emmys' fascination with Stranger Things, a perfectly fine but unremarkable scifi drama. And, speaking of unremarkable scifi dramas, here's Westworld, taking up a space that should have gone to the completely superior in every single way Killing Eve (which did get a little love, but not nearly enough for what I suspect will top my list of Best Shows of 2018). While This Is Us is a messy show that is far more concerned with emotionally manipulating its audience than it is with delivering good content, broadcast television needed something to make the list, so I don't have too much of an issue with its inclusion. While The Handmaid's Tale just ended a stumbling and confused sophomore effort, it's the reigning champion, so it would be unthinkable for the voters to leave it off the list. That being said, there's no way in hell it should win. As for the rest, I'm happy with The Americans returning after last year's (warranted) snub. And Game of Thrones was fine in its penultimate outing (which, yes, aired during the 2018 Emmy eligibility period, despite feeling like it was years ago). As for The Crown, I really liked its most recent season, so I'm glad it got a lot of nominations this time around. LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA (2017 winner: Sterling K. Brown) Jason Bateman, Ozark Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us Ed Harris, Westworld Matthew Rhys, The Americans Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us Jeffrey Wright, Westworld Sigh. The only nominees that are justified here are Sterling K. Brown (who does all of the heavy lifting on This Is Us and makes it seem effortless) and Matthew Rhys. The rest, well, I suppose it's rather telling that I can't think of many other people I would fit in here. Perhaps Jonathan Groff or Holt McCallany from Mindhunter? Definitely Scoot McNairy from Halt and Catch Fire. All told, there weren't many exceptional leading actor performances in dramas this past year (there were, however, some excellent comedic ones). Which leads us to the absolutely stacked next category. LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA (2017 winner: Elisabeth Moss) Claire Foy, The Crown Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale Sandra Oh, Killing Eve Keri Russell, The Americans Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld I may have had issues with the second season of The Handmaid's Tale, but I didn't have any issues with the spectacular acting work that occurred, so I'm thrilled with Elisabeth Moss's nomination. In fact, I'm on board with all of these nominations. Sure, I would prefer to see Killing Eve's Jody Comer in there instead of Evan Rachel Wood, but at least we got a Sandra Oh nomination! And Oh becomes the first Asian actress to receive a Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy nomination, so that's something. Quite frankly, considering Handmaid's fall from grace of late, this should be the most competitive category of the whole ceremony. Even I don't know who I want to win. SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA (2017 winner: Ann Dowd) Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale Lena Heady, Game of Thrones Vanessa Kirby, The Crown Thandie Newton, Westworld Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale I don't think Dowd will repeat this time around; she didn't have nearly enough to do this season. So this race boils down to Bledel vs. Strahovski, with a slight edge to Strahovski (everything Serena Joy was given to do this season on The Handmaid's Tale was tailor made to get Strahovski this nomination- and she absolutely made the most of it). There is a dark horse in the form of Vanessa Kirby, considering the Emmy's penchant for loving Brits and Princess Margaret going through an awful lot in season two of The Crown (Strahovski is an Australian playing an American, which takes away her foreigner street cred here). But, like Lead Actress, this category is solid and I have very few complaints. SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA (2017 winner: John Lithgow) Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones Joseph Fiennes, The Handmaid’s Tale Mandy Patinkin, Homeland David Harbour, Stranger Things Matt Smith, The Crown Lithgow isn't eligible this time around (although he was eligible for Guest Actor, which he didn't receive a nomination for), so this one is wide open. And, frankly, there isn't much here to be excited about. I would have loved to see a nomination for David Haig or Kim Bodnia of Killing Eve here. I suppose Dinklage will win once again, although Coster-Waldau had the more complex and dramatic arc last season (and, really, has been one of the show's best assets from season one, so I'd love to see him get some recognition). Again, the Emmy's love of Stranger Things boggles my mind, as David Harbour wasn't even the best supporting actor this past season (that would be Noah Schnapp), so I'm not sure what to make of that nomination. All-in-all, a rather dull category. OUTSTANDING COMEDY (2017 winner: Veep) Atlanta Barry black-ish Curb Your Enthusiasm GLOW The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Silicon Valley Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt With Veep not eligible this year (after winning the last two years), my money is on Atlanta getting a much deserved statue. But, as with Lead Actress in a Drama, this category is pretty much perfect. I didn't love this season of Silicon Valley, and would have loved to see the far superior The Good Place get a nomination. And the nomination for GLOW? Love it. LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY (2017 winner: Julia Louis-Dreyfus) Pamela Adlon, Better Things Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Allison Janney, Mom Issa Rae, Insecure Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish Lily Tomlin, Grace & Frankie Again, no Veep means the juggernaut run of Julia Louis-Dreyfus comes to an end (don't worry though, she'll win next year for the final season of Veep) and someone new will win. Honestly, I have no idea who that will be. Will the Emmys go with the other juggernaut Allison Janney (who has seven statues over her career), or will they let someone new get a chance? I'd love to see a Rachel Brosnahan or Issa Rae win, but I'll be happy with anyone not named Janney or Tomlin taking this one. LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY (2017 winner: Donald Glover) Anthony Anderson, black-ish Ted Danson, The Good Place Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm Donald Glover, Atlanta Bill Hader, Barry William H. Macy, Shameless Donald Glover is going to win, and Donald Glover should win. I love Ted Danson and I love The Good Place. I also loved Bill Hader's work on Barry. But Glover is operating on an entirely different level at the moment, so let's keep rewarding him. SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY (2017 winner: Kate McKinnon) Zazie Beetz, Atlanta Aidy Bryant, Saturday Night Live Alex Borestein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Betty Gilpin, GLOW Leslie Jones, Saturday Night Live Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne Megan Mullally, Will & Grace There are eight (8!) nominees in this category. Eight. That is insane. And this category is the best example of how the Emmys tend to work. You have the new names: Zazie Beetz, Alex Borestein, and Betty Gilpin - all of whom are immensely deserving of the nominations. You have the usual suspects: The ladies from SNL (although Aidy Bryant killed it this past year and was the show's MVP). And you have the old guard: Laurie Metcalf and Megan Mullally, who likely only got nominated on name recognition rather than for their work (although both are talented actresses). Looking at this list, I have no idea who will win. I suspect it will come down to which show is having a strong showing. Beetz or Borenstein would be early favorites to me, but if voters want to go with what they know, look for McKinnon to win once again. SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY (2017 winner: Alec Baldwin) Louie Anderson, Baskets Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live Henry Winkler, Barry Should Alec Baldwin have another nomination for playing Trump on SNL? Probably not. But the rest of the list is pretty great. Again, it's a nice mix of the old and new, and I would love to see any of these gentlemen, other than Baldwin, win. I suspect Louie Anderson (a past winner, although he's really a co-lead on Baskets these days) and Tony Shaloub (another past winner who is beloved by Emmy voters) have the inside edge on familiarity, but some new blood in the winner's circle wouldn't go amiss.


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TV critic based in Chicago. When not watching and writing about awesome television shows, I can be found lamenting over the latest disappointing performance by any of the various Chicago sports teams or my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Follow me @JeanHenegan on Twitter.

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