When one is immersed in television production, there is often little time to check out what stories other series are telling. But with no shortage of prestigious programming across broadcast, cable and streaming today, those who make television are carving out more time to watch for themselves. Rather than view these shows as competition, they want to celebrate the diverse content offerings.
To that end, Variety asked a number of series creators and showrunners what series (other than their own, of course) that they would award with an Emmy this year. With the landscape vast and diverse, so too were the range of answers, encompassing everything from dark cat-and-mouse dramas (“Killing Eve”) to slightly surreal limited series (“The Terror”) to auteur comedies (“Atlanta”) and the end of a spy drama (“The Americans”).
“Vida,” “Vida,” “Vida.” Never has a show been more aptly named. This intimate-but-also-expansive comedy-but-also-drama is about life itself. In all its messy, funny, humane and sexy glory. Everyone in the cast is a star. The writing is witty and profound, with words and expressions you’re not going to hear anywhere else. And no subtitles, thank God.
Mara Brock Akil
“Atlanta” — I like the way it expands the human condition, explores personal and societal injustices, while still being true to great character and layered storytelling. And it’s so funny!
“Atlanta” continues to illuminate with an artistic subtlety and cultural precision. The barber episode is hilarious and [the] Teddy Perkins episode is beautifully haunting. That’s a hard thing to accomplish in one season.
“Trial & Error”
The reason that I love “The Americans” is because it does not spoon-feed the audience at all. In addition to the unbelievable characters and the fact that they can make Keri Russell look amazing in a wig, the fact is that you feel like you’re just spying in on their lives. No pun intended. It doesn’t talk down to the audience. They never explain what’s going on, and I just love it, and they make you think.
What has stuck with me the most out of the very small amount of television I’ve had time to watch is “The End of the F***ing World” on Netflix. It was so fresh and so different, and I’ve never been on a journey with characters like that before.
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
“Atlanta” is brilliant. I’d love for “Speechless” to get the credit it deserves. “Big Mouth” is flat-out the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time. I’m calling it; we’re in another Golden Age of Television. That’s three in a row!
Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg
“Crashing” is so raw, funny, emotionally honest — there’s nothing quite like it on TV. Every episode makes you cringe in a slightly different way.
“This Is Us”
I loved “Mindhunter” this season. It started slow for me — not in a bad way, just that it’s one of those show you have to “stick” with for a second. The two lead performances are fantastic, and the guy who plays [Edmund] Kemper the serial killer is insanely good. It’s one of those shows that doesn’t “tell you” what it’s about. It simply tells a story and let’s you interpret it. I admired it.
I would give an Emmy to anything and everything that aired on NBC — not just because saying so was a condition of the network picking up “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” I was also a huge fan of “Wild Wild Country,” which had some of the richest, most interesting characters on television. I was also really impressed by the storytelling — great pacing, amazing twists and turns, totally captivating.
I love “The Americans” — I love the attention to detail, I think the acting is amazing, I think the pace is amazing. When I first heard the premise I thought, “Oh what a brilliant satire,” and then I learned it wasn’t a satire and started watching and I was like, “It’s a miracle they pulled this off.” It’s grounded and it really is an underrated show.
“Splitting Up Together”
[I’m] very invested in the supporting actor in a comedy race: Both Henry Winkler in “Barry” and Walton Goggins in “Vice Principals” made me cackle. [For] drama, all the awards to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which is a feast for the eye, shot and told so beautifully. …“American Vandal” please, for limited series! Not just because my husband is the showrunner but also because, dicks aside, it was compelling.
Gloria Calderon Kellett
“One Day at a Time”
This year I have been such a fan of heart storytelling. And I just love what “This Is Us” is doing in terms of humanizing LGBTQIA+ issues, issues of race, anxiety, the foster system and grief. It’s such a human show and in these divided times it’s also a show about love. About how love can get you through. How love can heal. And I hope they get some Emmy love for that.
Michelle King and Robert King
“The Good Fight”
Some of our favorite shows this year were probably in the limited series category: “Twin Peaks,” what an amazing and dream-like series. There were parts of it you had to see three or four times to understand why they crept into your unconscious; “The Terror,” a spectacular production with a Beckett-like set up [of] two clipper ships frozen in the ice. It raised the bar on TV spectacle.
“The Terror” feels like a show made just for me. It’s a survival story. It’s a monster movie. It’s set in a corner of the world that I’ve always wanted to go to, but would never actually go in real life. Watching that show is like jumping in to a — very cold — warm bath.
Aline Brosh McKenna
I loved season four of “Broad City.” It struck the perfect tone in blending the comedy with the character stuff. And I loved “Ozark” and “The Americans,” both great thrillers that are also shockingly well-observed depictions of marriage and family.
“The Handmaid’s Tale”
I’m a big fan of “The Americans,” and it’s ending, and so I hope they get lots and lots of recognition. They’ve been putting out such a consistently excellent show, and the cast is great, and everything from the art direction and the wardrobe and everything is so beautiful. … I also like “The Crown” a lot. It’s deliciously made and beautiful to watch.
There’s so many amazing shows out it’s hard to honestly narrow it down. Married with three kids, I have no time for “fake news,” so watching John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” catches me up, enrages and makes me laugh all at once. I also love “Ozark” right now — it’s so damn dark.
Christopher C. Rogers
“Halt and Catch Fire”
I really like the show “High Maintenance” on HBO. I think the way they use a roving camera and slice of life, one-off stories is unlike anything else on TV. A lot may be trying to imitate but no one’s making it feel as real as they are, and it doesn’t get the credit it deserves — especially Ben Sinclair, who is giving a very understated performance.
I’m obsessed with “Killing Eve” right now — just these strong, flawed women. It’s a coloring that I haven’t seen and it’s so good. … And of course “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but that is a spiritual and civic experience that we’re all having in a different way. I feel like I’m consuming it as a necessary antidote, sort of, but also it just reaffirms we are in darkness. So those two shows — and obviously they’re both very female-centric.
“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Black-ish,” “The Americans,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” [and] “Atlanta.” [For the latter] Donald Glover, Hiro Murai and [director of photography] Christian Sprenger are truly changing the game of storytelling. And “End of the F***ing World” — Charlie Covell is a freaking poet with the voiceover and imagery. Made me wish my husband was more of a sociopath.
“The Good Doctor”
I was a physics major for one day. That is literally true. Finally, a show for me: “Rick and Morty” is smart, clever, and amazingly for an animated show about inter-dimensional adventures, it has a heart. If anybody from the show reads this, please know that I have 24 hours of knowledge to contribute.
“Flint Town,” the Netflix doc series, is my pick — a raw, unflinching look at race, poverty, policing and politics, shot in such a striking and unique way. Real small town America, which is far more diverse and complicated than the idiot in the White House makes small towns out to be.
Jennie Snyder Urman
“Jane the Virgin”
“Killing Eve.” That image of Jodie Comer sitting on the couch in the pink dress will stay with me — and delight me — for a long time. Plus, Phoebe Waller-Bridge wrote this and “Fleabag?” Wow. I bow down to her genius.
“Killing Eve” is so good it makes me ache. The tone is utterly unique and difficult to navigate and they do it brilliantly. “The Crown” is mesmerizing in its perfection. The thing both shows have in common is that they inspire sympathy and empathy for characters with whom I would not think I could resonate. I think that’s incredibly important right now on the planet.