We hear a lot about how tough the landscape is for the broadcast networks, and there’s a lot of truth to that. Streaming networks are siphoning viewers, cable shows often have the most buzz, and drawing even a few million viewers into the kind of familiar, big-tent shows that the broadcast networks are required to make can be a difficult proposition.
And yet, looking at the list of Emmy nominations, it’s hard not to conclude that actors from shows on ABC and NBC should bring home two of the statues at the September ceremony.
It’s wonderfully heartening that the acting categories for actresses have become much more competitive in recent years, but that doesn’t mean that the men on the Emmy nomination rosters are facing a cakewalk. Every core category is packed with powerful work from very talented men.
In the comedy arena, my respect for the work of Jeffrey Tambor in “Transparent” remains high, but as a two-time winner, it’s harder to root for him to take home another award. It’s pleasing that a weird and acerbic show like “Baskets” garnered an Emmy nomination for Zach Galifianakis, but I don’t see voters gravitating toward that offbeat program, nor does William H. Macy’s “Shameless” work seem likely to galvanize voters this late in the show’s run.
“Atlanta” and “Master of None” are among the hottest shows around, for good reason, and of course, few would grouse if either Donald Glover or Aziz Ansari — creator and co-creator of those shows, respectively — picked up a statue. That said, either program is a definite contender for best comedy, and either one would deserve it.
But Anthony Anderson is my choice to win as lead comedy actor. As Dre Johnson, he has to be vulnerable, worried for his kids, irritated at work, angry now and then, plus loving and exasperated with his wife and his parents. Anderson grounds all of those emotions in stories that delve into thorny current events and complex controversies. It’s a lot to manage, and it’s even harder when you ponder the fact that he’s doing all those things within the confines of a broadly accessible, mainstream family sitcom.
|“Sterling K. Brown’s both meticulous and moving performance on the soap is a very difficult mixture to pull off.”|
Similarly, “This Is Us” deserves at least one win, and Sterling K. Brown’s performance on the family soap has been both meticulous and moving, which is a very difficult mixture to pull off. Brown has a gift for making you care deeply about his characters and their emotional lives, even when he’s not saying a word.
In the limited series category, there are a lot of very good performances in mostly pretty good programs, but Riz Ahmed and John Turturro did truly exceptional work in “The Night Of.” Through very different characters, the actors took on some of the archetypes of prestige drama and turned them on their heads, which was often refreshing.
We’re used to seeing white men in these kinds of dramas take center stage in ways that play up their power and charisma, even as they transgress and use other people in selfish ways, but in “The Night Of,” we saw John Turturro’s feet — a lot. John Stone’s skin problems weren’t a pretty sight, but the actor slowly but surely imbued the man with a kind of quiet nobility. Stone was presented early on as a tired and easily ignored nobody, but Turturro gave him the kind of confidence and drive that gave a magnetic quality to his quiet eccentricity.
Ahmed’s character Nasir underwent an ever greater and more heartbreaking transformation — from the scared, obedient child of hard-working immigrants to a hardened, cynical man deeply damaged by his stint in prison. Naz walked differently and even spoke differently at the end of “The Night Of,” and that offered this versatile actor a chance to show off his impressive range and capacity for emotional nuance.
Ahmed had a big year — he also did fine work in “Girls” and “Rogue One” — but that spellbinding transformation in “The Night Of” is the reason he should take home an Emmy in September.