The Emmys are a weird exception to this rule since while they’re an annual award, they’re honouring ongoing endeavours. If a successful show has a multi-season run, then Emmy voters have multiple chances to eventually “make-good” on a deserving actor or show. While the best-case scenario is to reward that actor or show during their most deserving season, you’ll inevitably get some cases when the voters give someone a trophy too soon or too late.
I couldn’t help but think of this year’s Emmys as an instance where the voters had to make-good on so many past snubs that some snubbees were overlooked yet again, and some other deserving would-be winners had their inevitable triumphs postponed. I don’t think this was Veep’s best season (while it was still pretty great), I don’t think it was Jon Hamm’s best season as Don Draper (while he was still pretty great) and it certainly wasn’t Game Of Thrones’ best season (it was, in fact, its worst season, with a few great episodes mixed in with some true stinkers and some questionable-to-tasteless creative decisions). That said, all were deserving of Emmys in the long-term picture. The Emmys are elevated by having these clearly great names on their list of past winners. As a big GoT fan, I’m happy pretending that the show is being retroactively awarded for its previous awesome four seasons rather than the one sketchy one. I’m just sad that when the award was announced, the entire cast and crew didn’t come up on stage, leading to 15,000 people and a few frost giants crowding onto a single stage.
Onto the Alterna-Emmys!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY
Winner: Allison Janney/Mom
Nominees: Mayim Bialik/Big Bang Theory, Julie Bowen/Modern Family, Anna Chlumsky/Veep, Gaby Hoffmann/Transparent, Jane Krakowski/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Niecy Nash/Getting On
My ballot: Paget Brewster/Community, Chlumsky, Melissa Fumero/Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Krakowski, McKinnon, Kaitlin Olson/It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
My winner: McKinnon
Multi-time winner Allison Janney was just about the laziest possible choice by the Academy (Julie Bowen would’ve been tied) in what was a pretty interesting category. Krakowski is now 0-for-6 in her Emmy career, though it would’ve been felt weird had she finally won for playing a poor man’s Jenna Maroney instead of actually winning for playing Jenna Maroney. My vote would’ve again gone to McKinnon, who is killing it on SNL year after year. I suspect she’ll eventually win either next year (once she blows up huge with Ghostbusters) or the year after, when she gets more exposure playing Hillary Clinton through election season. Let’s also take a moment to acknowledge how close Paget Brewster came to winning the Alterna-Emmy for awesomely fitting into the Community cast like a glove. This scene was one of the funniest things ever.
BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY
Winner: Julia Louis-Dreyfus/Veep
Nominees: Edie Falco/Nurse Jackie, Lisa Kudrow/The Comeback, Amy Poehler/Parks & Recreation, Amy Schumer/Inside Amy Schumer, Lily Tomlin/Grace And Frankie
My ballot: Carrie Brownstein/Portlandia, Ellie Kemper/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Louis-Dreyfus, Poehler, Tracee Ellis Ross/Black-ish, Schumer
My winner: Poehler
In a vacuum, Kemper wins the Alterna-Emmy since Poehler already has multiple Alterna-Emmys on her shelf. In a fictional world where the Alterna-Emmys are only starting now, I’m voting Poehler hands-down since it’s flat-out ridiculous that she never won an actual Emmy for playing Leslie Knope. You could argue it’s just bad timing that Poehler was up against the unstoppable JLD juggernaut — but Veep has only been on the air for four seasons to Parks & Rec’s seven. What about the previous years when Poehler was losing to freakin’ Edie Falco for her not-a-comedy or Melissa McCarthy for her weekly 21-minute fat joke, or when she was NOT EVEN NOMINATED and Toni Collette somehow won for a show that I literally don’t even remember existing.
Just an odd category overall. It can’t be stated enough that on pure merit, JLD actually does deserve to win this every time since Selina Meyer is such a brilliant creation. It’s just that I feel voters are being lazy with this category since they know JLD will win every year and they just toss in random names. You have Lily Tomlin being nominated for a really lame show, one so bad that it even puts me off having the always awesome Lily Tomlin get a moment in the sun. Then you have the weird snubs — the Academy clearly knows that Kimmy Schmidt and Black-ish exist since they gave them several other high-profile nominations. How, then, can the two driving forces within both shows not get nominated? Kemper and Ross deserve the honour of….uh, well, losing to Louis-Dreyfus more than anyone.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY
Winner: Tony Hale/Veep
Nominees: Andre Braugher/Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Tituss Burgess/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Ty Burrell/Modern Family, Adam Driver/Girls, Keegan-Michael Key/Key & Peele
My ballot: Burgess, Kevin Dunn/Veep, T.J. Miller/Silicon Valley, Lamorne Morris/New Girl, Kumail Nanjiani/Silicon Valley, Sam Richardson/Veep
My winner: Burgess
Just a monster category where legitimately great performances (Braugher, Burrell, Hale) have to be left out. You can arguably fill this category with Veep guys alone, and it feels weird having just Richardson and not Timothy Simons to fill out the epic Richard/Jonah duo that was so incredible in S4. (Similarly, having Nanjiani and not Martin Starr feels wrong when they both play off each other so well, or just Morris and not Max Greenfield or Jake Johnson.) But even in a field this deep, I feel like Burgess is the clear choice for just chucking a comic grenade onto Netflix in the form of Titus Andromedon.
Note to all the sketch comedians who are “being humble” by listing themselves as supporting actors since they’re “part of an ensemble.” Stop. Just stop it. You’re not fooling anyone. The name of the damn show is Key & Peele. Neither of you guys are supporting anything. Same goes for Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein on Portlandia. When you play virtually every character, you are NOT A SUPPORTING ACTOR. It’s not an ensemble when it’s the cast is only two people. If Amy Schumer had listed herself as a supporting actress, I would’ve just thrown my hands up.
BEST ACTOR, COMEDY
Winner: Jeffrey Tambor/Transparent
Nominees: Anthony Anderson/Black-ish, Don Cheadle/House Of Lies, Louis CK/Louie, Will Forte/The Last Man On Earth, Matt LeBlanc/Episodes, William H. Macy/Shameless
My ballot: Anderson, Fred Armisen/Portlandia, Louis CK, Keegan-Michael Key/Key & Peele, Jordan Peele/Key & Peele, Andy Samberg/Brooklyn Nine-Nine
My winner: Tambor
Screw you, sketch comedy guys! You’re all going on my ballot as leads despite listing yourselves as supporting! By the way, you’re all awesome at your jobs! This is also the category where I marvel at the fact that Episodes and House Of Lies have both somehow run for four seasons, and Shameless for five. I literally never hear anything about these shows except at the Emmys when their leads get nominated pretty much every year and then lose. Do you know how blah a show co-starring Kristen Bell has to be for it to fly under my radar?
I’m admittedly cheating in picking Tambor since I haven’t actually seen his show yet. Still, I was rooting hard for him to win the Emmy since a) I have no trouble believing he’s deserving and b) he was long overdue. Tambor for 0-for-6 playing Hank Kingsley and George/Oscar Bluth, so if he doesn’t deserve an Emmy, who does. I certainly hope someone got a backstage picture of Tambor and Hale showing off their Emmys and possibly doing a tandem chicken dance.
Nominees: Louie, Modern Family, Parks & Recreation, Silicon Valley, Transparent, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
My ballot: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Garfunkel & Oates, Nathan For You, New Girl, Silicon Valley, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Veep
My winner: Veep
Despite saying earlier that this probably wasn’t Veep’s best season….holy crap was it ever still a great season. “Data” and “Testimony” might’ve been the two single funniest episodes of any show all year, and there are just too many spectacular individual scenes to mention (Amy’s meltdown, Gary telling Selina off, Dan being terrible at his new job, anything Jonah & Richard did, the gang’s hilariously cruel reactions to Jonah’s abuse, etc.) at once. With Armando Iannucci leaving, it’s perhaps best that Veep finally got its Emmy now, since how could the show possibly go anywhere but downhill from here?
Silicon Valley, G&O, New Girl and UKS all had great cases to win as well, and Kimmy Schmidt likely would’ve had it without the needlessly-padded final three episodes of the trial. Let’s also pour one out for Garfunkel & Oates, a great show that was canceled way too soon. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has already seemingly settled into a bit of a comfortable pattern where it’s always good but perhaps not great. I’m not even sure if “Nathan For You” qualifies for this award but holy lord is it ever funny.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA
Winner: Uzo Aduba/Orange Is The New Black
Nominees: Christine Baranski/The Good Wife, Emilia Clarke/Game Of Thrones, Joanne Froggatt/Downton Abbey, Lena Headey/Game Of Thrones, Christina Hendricks/Mad Men
My ballot: Carrie Coon/The Leftovers, Ann Dowd/The Leftovers, Kate Mulgrew/Orange Is The New Black, Barbara Rosenblat/Orange Is The New Black, Lorraine Toussaint/Orange Is The New Black, Samira Wiley/Orange Is The New Black
My winner: Coon
OITNB is a very difficult show for Emmy category purposes. S2 was definitely more dramatic, whereas S3 was definitely more overtly comic, yet the show mixes both elements so well that slotting them into strict boxes seems problematic (which is kind of ironic for a prison show). To that end, Aduba probably didn’t deserve her win since Crazy Eyes didn’t have much to do in S2 besides be Vee’s muscle, whereas I would happily vote her for a Supporting Actress Comedy role next year for her hilarious work in S3. I don’t know if OITNB will switch categories every year or if that’s even allowed under Emmy rules, but it might be worth a shot to better fit the tones of the show. Mulgrew and Wiley probably the most to do in S2 and they did it well, Toussaint was kind of a one-note character but she played that one note extremely well and I wish I could vote for the dual combo of both Rosenblat and Stephanie Andujar, who played the younger Rosa in her flashback episode. Rosenblat/Andujar as a combo would’ve won.
Instead, I’ll go with Carrie Coon, who burst onto the scene (well, after years of great roles on stage) in 2014 with both a big part in Gone Girl and then providing the heart and soul of Leftovers. It’s a show that could’ve easily gotten very silly very quickly, and it kinda sorta did anyway, yet Coon absolutely grounds it with an incredible portrayal of loss. She’s the one in the cast, after all, who was most heavily affected by the “Sudden Departure” and her performance turns it from a vaguely goofy metaphor into a very real trauma. Ann Dowd was also great for her creepy role, and I’m still kicking myself for not going as a Guilty Remnant member for Halloween last year. That was probably my one chance!
BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA
Winner: Viola Davis/How To Get Away With Murder
Nominees: Claire Danes/Homeland, Taraji P. Henson/Empire, Tatiana Maslany/Orphan Black, Elisabeth Moss/Mad Men, Robin Wright/House Of Cards
My ballot: Hayley Atwell/Agent Carter, Davis, Olivia Colman/Broadchurch, Maslany, Moss, Keri Russell/The Americans
My winner: Moss
Cut-and-paste my Amy Poehler argument for Moss, who’s a multi-time Alterna-Emmy winner but was never able to break through to win an actual Emmy. For playing Peggy Olson, one of the great TV characters of all time, Moss went a big 0-for-7 at the Emmys. I have to ask, for a show that won four Best Drama awards, did Emmy voters really warm all that much to Mad Men? It sounds silly, but for a show with so many great performances, the fact that Moss, Hendricks and John Slattery never won seems nutty. Not to mention Hamm’s losing streak until this year, January Jones’ few losses and the fact that Vincent Kartheiser was somehow never so much as nominated for playing Pete Campbell.
I’m cheating again by putting Davis on my ballot since I’ve never seen the show, yet she’s one of the best actresses in the world, so I have no issue with her victory. In a perfect world, I could’ve enjoyed it whole-heartedly had Moss picked up an Emmy in a previous year but c’est la vie. Speaking of the overlooked, it continues to blow my mind that Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys don’t have multiple Emmys on their shelves for ‘The Americans.’ For all the hype that Maslany deservedly gets for playing multiple different parts, couldn’t the same be said of Russell and Rhys, since they’re not only playing “characters” but larger over-arching singular roles?
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Winner: Peter Dinklage/Game Of Thrones
Nominees: Jonathan Banks/Better Call Saul, Jim Carter/Downton Abbey, Alan Cumming/The Good Wife, Michael Kelly/House Of Cards, Ben Mendelsohn/Bloodline
My ballot: Banks, Vincent D’Onofrio/Daredevil, Kit Harington/Game Of Thrones, Kyle MacLachlan/Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Michael McKean/Better Call Saul, Nick Sandow/Orange Is The New Black
My winner: Banks
I’m fine with the Dinklage win to a point. Dinklage as a two-time winner doesn’t look out of place at all since he’s so great at Tyrion Lannister, and even separated from his wonderful fellow Lannister scene partners, he still had a lot of good work this season — sparring with Varys again, his (admittedly one-sided) dialogues with Ser Jorah and the long-awaited meeting with Daenerys that could’ve been a 10 if Emilia Clarke was a better actress but was still a solid 8.5. If someone had to beat Jonathan Banks, better it be Dinklage than any of the other rather lacking nominees, though I hear Mendelsohn was amazing on Bloodline. That said, nobody deserved to beat Jonathan Banks. The Emmy procedure of each actor submitting a single episode is kind of garbage since it hurts actors who are consistently great, yet in this case, Banks’ single episode (Five-O) was so hands-down the best that his win should’ve been a no-brainer. Forget this being a make-good win for Banks never winning for Breaking Bad, this would’ve been the most deserving win even if Better Call Saul had been a completely original show.
McKean’s character was a new creation to the Breaking Bad-verse and yet another good performance from one of the more underrated actors of the last 35 years. Never thought I’d nominate Harington with a straight face but he and the writers really stepped up as Jon Snow became the major force of GoT. I want to make special note of MacLachlan for being so good that he actually made me realize that the rest of the AoS cast is pretty average. They’re a solid bunch, don’t get me wrong, but having MacLachlan in there on a near-weekly basis really exposed a lot of actors. Can we retroactively cast MacLachlan as Phil Coulson in the Marvel movies so we could’ve gotten him headlining this show instead?
Winner: Jon Hamm/Mad Men
Nominees: Kyle Chandler/Bloodline, Jeff Daniels/The Newsroom, Bob Odenkirk/Better Call Saul, Live Schreiber/Ray Donovan, Kevin Spacey/House Of Cards
My ballot: Charlie Cox/Daredevil, Hamm, Mads Mikkelsen/Hannibal, Odenkirk, Matthew Rhys/The Americans, Justin Theroux/The Leftovers, Aden Young/Rectify
My winner: Hamm
Holy crap, we have a match! At long last, Jon Hamm walked away with an Emmy. Over Hamm’s previous nominations, I can only point to 2012-13 (the infamous Jeff Daniels win) at a case where Hamm was truly robbed. His other losses were to Bryan Cranston’s epic turn as Walter White, Kyle Chandler’s oft-overlooked role as Coach Taylor and Damian Lewis’ fantastic S1 role as Nick Brody back before Homeland went off the rails. Chandler, Lewis and Cranston (even four times!) were all worthy winners; it was mostly just a bad of bad timing for the Hammster but he finally got one in under the wire. Now in 30 years’ time, some blogger won’t have to include Don Draper on his list of great TV characters that never got their actors an Emmy. This blogger may be me, stay tuned.
Since this was Mad Men’s last year, Hamm was the only completely acceptable choice. As great as it would’ve been to see Bob Odenkirk, of all people, win a Best Actor In A Drama Emmy, he’ll still have more chances in the future since Better Call Saul will be around for a while. Again, Rhys absolutely should’ve been a nominee three times over by now, and why not toss a couple of curveballs in there like Daredevil, Hannibal Lecter and a self-destructive cop with a lot of tattoos and possible mental illness?
Winner: Game Of Thrones
Nominees: Better Call Saul, Downton Abbey, Homeland, House Of Cards, Mad Men, Orange Is The New Black
My ballot: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Americans, Better Call Saul, Daredevil, Game Of Thrones, The Leftovers, Mad Men, Orange Is The New Black
My winner: Orange Is The New Black
It’s quite possible S2 will be OITNB’s peak, when the show had something interesting to do for almost all its characters and it really did perfectly broach that line between comedy and drama. S1 didn’t quite have the kinks worked out and it was too Piper-centric, and S3 maybe got a bit too broad plot-wise and the cast too unwieldy to make the best use of so many terrific actors.
I give it the nod over several excellent but slightly flawed shows. As mentioned, this was GoT’s worst season, as the show’s scope finally seemed to overwhelm the writers; too many of the great characters were set up in interesting situations that ultimately didn’t pan out. The Americans ran into a similar problem by juggling a few too many balls at once, yet the show was saved by two series-altering bombshells (no spoilers here!) that finally went off after being set up from day one. Mad Men’s final (half?) season was a nice wrap-up but definitely a coda rather than an entity unto itself. AoS and Daredevil were both very good adventure shows, with AoS in particular being a show that covered rather an astonishing amount of ground from its first episode to its last. Leftovers was a well-made oddity of a program and I’m genuinely curious to see what the hell their next season will be like now that they’re no longer adhering to the original novel.
And finally, we have Better Call Saul, the show that hopefully still be the new standard-bearer of quality in this category for years to come. It’s maybe not probable that BCS can eclipse Breaking Bad (how could it?) yet the fact that it’s even on the table is an achievement unto itself. Breaking Bad had to follow Walter White’s narrative arc, whereas BCS’ own arc of gradually having Jimmy become Saul is flexible enough to account for all sorts of interesting diversions. Nobody does ‘interesting diversion’ quite like Vince Gilligan. This is the same show that can go from legal hijinks and capers in one episode to a searing personal backstory (such as ‘Five-O’) in the next. The first season was really built around just three actors, to boot — Odenkirk, Banks, McKean — so we’ve just scratched the surface on what the rest of the cast can do. Just remember how rich Breaking Bad got once it moved past the Walt-and-Jesse Show and other characters were further fleshed out or (including Mike and Saul themselves) introduced. It really felt like Better Call Saul’s first season was just setting the table, which is why I went with OITNB for my award, yet next season, I fully expect to dig into some tasty Cinnabon goodness.