Nominations for the 69th annual Emmy Awards will be revealed tomorrow morning. As ever, we can only hope the 21,000-plus voting members can find interesting ways to acknowledge the year in television, rather than leaning on old standbys out of habit or, worse, ignorance to what’s fresh. You certainly can’t blame campaigns for doing everything they can to break through the glut.
While ballots were turned in two weeks ago and nothing I can do or say will influence the vote at this point, there are nevertheless a few deserving contenders worth championing that are at best on the bubble for a nomination, at worst completely buried by other choices. Fingers crossed we hear these names called tomorrow.
Might as well start with the longest of shots. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s six-episode series was one of the best things I saw on the small screen this year. It’s a creative burst with a distinctive voice and it announced the arrival of a formidable talent (soon to be seen in Lucasfilm’s Han Solo movie). She perhaps has a better shot in the acting and writing races, but a series nomination would be the bee’s knees.
Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Billy Bob Thornton (“Goliath”)
While Billy Bob Thornton may have won the drama prize at the Golden Globes, he’s still no shoo-in. Amazon’s “Goliath” was very familiar as part of David E. Kelley’s legal universe, but Thornton gave it a nice jolt as an ornery court veteran who finds his conscience along the way.
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Michael McKean (“Better Call Saul”)
Jonathan Banks has been the obvious go-to for AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” but season three of the show finally gave Michael McKean an opportunity to do so much more. Chuck McGill is one of the most interesting, complex characters on the screen, and given where the final moments of the season leave him, we’d better chalk McKean up for a nomination before it’s too late.
Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Kathryn Hahn (“I Love Dick”)
Jill Soloway’s new Amazon series was … something else. But more than anything it was a wonderful showcase for Kathryn Hahn, who finds herself staring down a highly competitive comedy lead actress category. She may be on the outside looking in but she would make for a refreshing choice amid the usual.
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Andrew Rannells (“Girls”)
Lena Dunham’s HBO series went out on a high note in its final season, deserving of mentions in a number of areas (Dunham for lead actress in a comedy, Matthew Rhys for a memorable guest appearance, the show itself in the comedy series category). But Andrew Rannells was the MVP, bringing his character to new heights after showing so much promise in the penultimate season.
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Ann Dowd (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Be honest: When Ann Dowd was on screen in Hulu’s dreary, sort-of-terrifying “Handmaid’s Tale” this year, your skin crawled. The character actress made you believe the horrors of Margaret Atwood’s vision, both physical and psychological. That ought to count for a lot.
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Alessandra Mastronardi (“Master of None”)
Few seem to be talking about Alessandra Mastronardi’s incredibly complex work in Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None” this season, and that’s a shame. Perhaps she’s overshadowed in the field by true comedy performances, but she gave incredible dimension to the show’s second season, particularly in the latter episodes.
Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Bryce Dallas Howard (“Black Mirror: Nosedive”)
This category feels somewhat spoken for at the moment, but Bryce Dallas Howard’s Screen Actors Guild nomination for perhaps her career-best work in “Black Mirror” leaves a shimmer of hope. And who knows? With series like “Big Little Lies” and “Feud: Bette and Joan” roping in multiple contenders, vote splitting could squeeze someone out.
Cinematography, Costumes, Production Design, Special Visual Effects
Shows like “Boardwalk Empire,” “Downton Abbey” and “Game of Thrones” have dominated the crafts categories over the years, but FX’s “Legion” really brought a spark to TV this season. Bizarrely, the TV Academy splits production design into contemporary/fantasy and period, and then costumes into period/fantasy and contemporary. So the show will straddle a few lines, but particularly in the realm of production design, it was a visual feast.
“The Young Pope”
I don’t know how the TV Academy votes on this INCREDIBLY COOL CATEGORY THAT THE FILM ACADEMY SHOULD ADOPT, so maybe “The Young Pope” is obvious. But whether you liked Paolo Sorrentino’s HBO limited series or not (I’m somewhere in the middle), that tracking shot of Jude Law to a clipped “All Along the Watchtower” riff was a schnazzy way to start each episode.