If The Emmys Cared (about originality)
If you’re like me, and you like cinema and television, you’re always torn around award season, between knowing that the awards mean nothing and the fact that you just can’t help but follow them and form opinions based on countless hours on the couch torturing your eyes with an unhealthy amount of screen time (which is the staple of our generation, really). The Emmys are just around the corner, and despite the fact that I don’t have a lot of “complaints” about nominations and/or wins in the recent past, I think it’s still important to scrutinize them on the basis of the “Golden Age of Television” viewpoint. Because it really is. Television has never been this good (and I obviously say this while understanding the deep bias towards American television shows, despite there being the illusion of an international sphere, based on the nature of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime).
You’ll probably find, and perhaps have already read, dozens of articles and YouTube videos making predictions and giving opinions on the Emmys. This is kind of like that, but I won’t analyze at all why I think a certain show is going to win, but I’ll look at each of the following categories based only on one criterion: originality. And then we’ll see which show “deserves” the award, even though I know that they probably won’t win.
Obviously I won’t mention all the categories; I haven’t watched THAT much TV. I’ll only talk about categories in which I am familiar enough with the nominees. So let’s go!
Outstanding Comedy Series
Who’s going to win?
Which show is the most original?
Well, let’s see. The nominees are: Atlanta, Blackish, Master of None, Modern Family, Silicon Valley, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Veep. Right off the bat, Modern Family and Veep are out. In their 8th and 6th season respectively, none of them has any meat left in what were once decent shows. If you let the title of the award reduce the choice to a simple matter of which show makes you laugh more, then I’ve lost you. But if you want to talk about originality? And I’m talking premise, script, casting, directing, editing, performances.
It’s Master of None, hands down. If you discount Horace and Pete and Louie, Master of None is the one show of this format in the last half decade that has even tried to push the envelope. And on top of that, Aziz Ansari delivers a second season that’s even better than the first? That’s no small feat considering the unique emotional space the show inhabits. The most outstanding achievement of the show, by far, is genuinely capturing a relatable state of being, which at times you can label happy or gleeful or lonely or sad (if you’d be willing to let a single label diminish it), and using cinematic language to envelop you in it. And if you don’t believe me, just play season 2 episode 6 “New York, I Love You” and tell me it didn’t get to you.
Outstanding Drama Series
Who’s going to win?
Honestly, it could be House of Cards or Westworld, or even Stranger Things, although I feel like the latter has fewer chances.
Who should win?
Cards on the table, I haven’t seen The Crown yet. But, with that in mind...Better Call Saul. I’m sorry, but there’s a reason Breaking Bad killed every year when it was on, and it wasn’t just Bryan Cranston’s stellar performance. Vince Gilligan knew what he was doing then, and he knows what he’s doing now.
Get any of the other nominated shows’ production teams to show a three minute scene of an old man tearing apart a car down to its bolts. Even if they had Jonathan Banks, there’s no way they could touch the mesmerizing effect of that Better Call Saul episode. The key is pacing. Better Call Saul may be the slowest show in history to have the viewer so engaged. It’s something completely original that Breaking Bad only briefly experimented with, and you witness it in all its glory in this season of Better Call Saul.
Outstanding Variety Talk Series
I just want Stephen Colbert to present an award to himself. Can we just have that?
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
You know Julia Louis-Dreyfus will get this as long as she appears on TV at least once a year. Even if it’s a cameo on a commercial.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Did you know Robin Wright has been nominated for every season of House of Cards and hasn’t won once? Yeah, really.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Who’s going to win?
Hopefully Jonathan Banks, but also probably David Harbour.
Who should win?
Not in the list of nominees for whatever fkn reason(!!!) but Mahershala Ali for Luke Cage's Cottonmouth.
Pick an episode he’s in. The first episode is a good one. He’s the ultimate other-side-of-the-coin TV villain (or antihero, depending on whom you ask). The reason why you may be wondering why I’m even mentioning this with such great performances already on the list, is because his was so subtle it was completely organic. You never see him act. I’d honestly be surprised if Mahershala Ali wasn’t a Harlem gangster with a passion for the music and arts that poured out of that place of suffering. His mannerism, his verbal ticks, his laugh, they’re all integrated fully into the character that you don’t even notice if you’re not looking. His was a completely new kind of villain.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Here, I’m going to go off menu again. Here’s why:
Vanessa Bayer? SNL hasn’t made an original episode since Eddie Murphy left in ‘84.
Anna Chlumsky? No, Veep. You’ve had too much already.
Leslie Jones & Kate McKinnon? Read two rows up.
Kathryn Hahn & Judith Light? Okay, Transparent is good, but Kathryn Hahn is playing the role she’s always played since The Holiday, and Light is too often in the periphery.
I think McKinnon will get it though. Don't know why.
Who should win?
Here’s the outsider that really surprised me, and not just because I had never heard of her: Alessandra Mastronardi. Leave it to Aziz Ansari to randomly take his protagonist to Italy at the end of the first season, follow him there, actually spend 4 months in Modena learning how to make pasta, cast Mastronardi and Riccardo Scamarcio (always been a fan by the way) for the second season, and come back with the first episode paying a heartwarming homage to the best Italian neorealist film (which goes to prove my choice for Outstanding Comedy). And I’m so glad he did, and could bring Alessandra Mastronardi’s talent on the show. Seriously, Mastronardi is really the reason why the praise for season 2 of Master of None is so abundant. She is the personification of the European vibe that carried this season, setting it apart from everything else on TV. The episodes she's in are a completely separate thing from the rest of the show. She dominates the screen without trying, and you literally never see a character like this in American TV.
Is that enough? I think that’s enough. Also give Millie Bobby Brown that award, she was great. I’m just grateful HBO scheduling means we are free from that abysmal A Song of Ice and Fire fan fiction this year.
Enjoy the night, people!
I'm always interested in your thoughts, so leave a comment below with predictions or your favorite shows and actors that you think should win.
BA English Literature, MSc Publishing. Passionate about contemporary literature, noir comics, beautifully shot films, and whiskies that are old enough to order their own whiskies. Can bore you to death with La La Land songs, Hollywood trivia, George Carlin references, and extensive knowledge on Leonard Cohen.