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Don’t Count Out These Emmy Contenders (Column)

Every year, the Emmy nominations that inevitably earn the most interest are the leading actor and actress categories and the top prizes of comedy and drama series. Every year, it’s a shame that so much attention is paid to so few people overall, given that there are dozens of categories honoring so many different kinds of expertise. From writing to directing, costuming to casting, editing to title design, the Emmys honor an incredible breadth of creative work in the entertainment industry that deserves more recognition than even their nominations tend to get.

Take the writing categories: Though the Emmys often gets stuck in a pattern of nominating the same shows year in and year out (see: “Game of Thrones,” “Silicon Valley,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), there are usually at least a few new and deserving writers that find a way in. This year, the drama writing category is almost identical to 2017’s with the exception of Phoebe Waller-Bridge landing her first nomination for the “Killing Eve” pilot. That also makes her the only woman to be nominated in this category.

Comedy, meanwhile, got a bit more of a shakeup than usual. HBO’s “Barry” earned two noms (split among Alex Berg, Bill Hader and Liz Sarnoff), as did FX’s “Atlanta” (split between Donald Glover and Stefani Robinson, the show’s youngest and only female writer). Also notable? “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino getting her first writing nomination, after decades in the industry.

Maybe the most intriguing writing nomination is in the limited series category, which is usually packed with scripts favoring grand drama. But this year, Matthew and Kevin McManus’ script for “American Vandal,” Netflix’s sharp true crime parody, squeezed itself into contention, where it will compete alongside shows with heavyweight scribes, such as “American Crime Story,” “Twin Peaks” and “Patrick Melrose.” By design, it’s not often that comedy and drama compete against each other, but the season finale of “American Vandal” juggled several tricky tasks without sacrificing the show’s wry tone, and absolutely deserves its nomination.

In fact, “American Vandal” deserved more than the single nom it got, but it’s far from alone in that aspect. Plenty of other shows that should rightfully be represented in multiple categories garnered single noms in categories that don’t typically get as much attention, but let’s change that now. For instance, there’s “One Day at a Time,” which landed exactly one nomination in multi-cam comedy editing for Pat Barnett. And while “Alias Grace” was overall robbed in the limited series category (justice for Sarah Gadon!), composers Mychael and Jeff Danna earned a nomination for the crucial work their score did to set the show’s eerie tone. Then there’s the bonkers DIY parody show “At Home With Amy Sedaris,” which should by all rights be represented in production design and costumes, but nonetheless landed Sedaris her first nomination ever in the relatively new variety sketch category.

In fact, there are a whole slew of well-deserving first-time nominees to celebrate this year, particularly in the acting categories. “Insecure” creator Issa Rae earned an overdue first nom in the particularly competitive lead comedy actress category. Even more overdue is the nom for Kenan Thompson, “Saturday Night Live’s” longest-running cast member, 15 years into his tenure. “Atlanta” co-stars Brian Tyree Henry and Zazie Beetz were recognized for their nuanced supporting performances, both of which ground an often surreal show. “The Crown’s” Vanessa Kirby and Matt Smith — both crucial to the show’s success, both shut out in their first year — were nominated in their final eligible year. And while many were predicting that “GLOW’s” Alison Brie might get a leading nom, the disappointment over her absence was alleviated somewhat by the surprise of Betty Gilpin getting recognized for her deft supporting work instead. Though no one was particularly shocked by “The Handmaid’s Tale” dominating the drama actress categories, it was still a relief to see Yvonne Strahovski among the usual suspects for tackling the especially tricky role of Serena Joy in far more depth.

Overall, there’s plenty more to celebrate than mourn among this year’s nominees. It just might take digging a little bit deeper past those nominations making the most headlines in order to understand why.

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