Emmy voting may have closed earlier this week, but that didn’t stop the Tracking Board staff from assembling a list of hopeful contenders before the Television Academy unveils the actual nominations for the 69th Annual Emmy Awards on July 13.
With HBO’s Game of Thrones and Netflix’s GLOW out of the running, we’ve been discussing the possible nominees and waiting with bated breath for the big announcement. With the Sept. 17 ceremony fast approaching, here are our picks for which TV shows and actors are most deserving of a nod, regardless of whether or not they actually manage the feat.
See our Emmy favorites below, and if you’re not watching one of these shows, you’re lucky you have all summer to catch up!
Outstanding Comedy Series
Last year, Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang won the Emmy for Best Writing on MASTER OF NONE and their second season debuted to critical acclaim by upping the ante and tackling timely issues in today’s divisive social climate. The show took risks with its unique storytelling — risks that paid off very well — all while retaining the comedic spirit and identity it established during its first season. While HBO’s Veep offers stiff competition with its hilarious, frighteningly accurate parallels to the current administration, even its most ardent fans have to admit that this season hasn’t been its strongest, which opens the door for Master of None to win the Emmy in a surprise albeit deserving upset.
Of course, we wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if an unexpected dark horse comes in and steals the Emmy, given how unpredictable voters are. HBO’s Insecure has definitely been making waves, while The Last Man on Earth has shown some great promise. Meanwhile, FX’s Atlanta won the Golden Globe earlier this year, so that’ll surely be at or near the top of the list. But if we’re discussing truly deserving contenders, The Carmichael Show should be a nominee. The multi-camera comedy cleverly and hilariously tackles topical issues with Norman Lear flair, it just doesn’t the same following as its peers. That’s why, when all is said and done, Master of None will emerge victorious from the Emmy fray. – Dino-Ray Ramos
Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series
Donald Glover won Best Actor at the Golden Globes earlier this year for ATLANTA and he’s the top pick to repeat that feat at the Emmys. The first season wrapped at the end of last year and it has still left an impression with its nuanced storytelling, clever comedy and eccentric yet relatable characters — and Glover is the one calling the shots. He not only created the show, but he also plays the lead, and I think that one-two combo makes him the favorite to win. If I had to choose a close second, it would be Will Forte for The Last Man on Earth. The show isn’t as buzzy as Atlanta, but if we are talking about no-frills comedic performances, Forte has been overlooked since the first season. There competition would be Aziz Ansari for Master of None and last year’s winner, Transparent star Jeffrey Tambor, but I’d wager that Glover is most likely to walk away with that Emmy. – DRR
Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series
Kaitlin Olson has been making me laugh for more than a decade as Sweet Dee on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but it wasn’t until she went out on her own with a solo show on Fox that I realized just how talented she is. Olson has a gift for physical comedy and the three kids on THE MICK certainly put her through the paces, though I love how she gives it right back to them. The Mick was one of the best new comedies of the last year along with HBO’s Insecure, so this was a tough call. Yet as wonderful as I think Issa Rae is on that show, she’ll have plenty of time to win awards. Olson has been paying her dues on TV for years, and I hope it finally pays off with some Emmy recognition for her outrageous turn on The Mick. – Jeff Sneider
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
As you saw above, MASTER OF NONE is our choice for the year’s Best Comedy Series, and the show just wouldn’t be as good without its gentle giant Eric Wareheim, who plays Dev’s best friend Arthur. Supportive and encouraging, Arnold is always willing to lend an ear — something that Dev put to good use this year as he struggled to escape The Friend Zone with Francesca. As impressed as I was with Scott MacArthur’s turn as Jimmy on The Mick, Arthur is practically the big beating heart at the center of Master of None, and I can’t imagine anyone else playing the lovable lug. – JS
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Outstanding Drama Series
Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
The Emmy race for Best Dramatic Actor is never short on contenders, given how the category always wields a lot of star power. There’s little doubt that Kevin Spacey will receive a fifth nomination for House of Cards, and joining him in the veteran’s section will likely be Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan), Kyle Chandler (Bloodlines) and last year’s first-time nominee Matthew Rhys (The Americans). Let’s not forget that reigning champ Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) is also expected to garner a repeat nomination.
But those hopefuls have plenty of other heavy hitters to contend with, including several Golden Globe and Oscar nominees. This year boasts extraordinary performances from the likes of Anthony Hopkins (Westworld), Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), Terrence Howard (Empire), Billy Bob Thornton (Goliath), Paul Giamatti (Billions), Tom Hardy (Taboo), and Ian McShane (American Gods).
Admittedly, some of these suggestions are on the cusp and middling ratings or dark horse candidates could overshadow the strength of their performances. But it’s the dark horse candidates that interest me, and one specifically comes to mind — Dan Stevens in LEGION.
To be honest, I didn’t expect much from this series when I first tuned in, as superhero fatigue is a very real condition that’s taken hold of the collective unconscious. That said, even before Legion sucked me into its super-powered psychedelic trip, Stevens’ performance as David Haller took me captive.
I didn’t even recognize him, and to me, that’s a tribute to his performance, which deserves awards consideration. As intricate and exciting as Legion is, it’s Stevens that holds the series together. David Haller is a complex character. He may or may not be mentally ill, a tricky subject that Stevens handles with the utmost sensitivity, and he may or may not be a hero. Either way, he’s the very definition of an unreliable narrator. And yet, Stevens balances these conflicting character traits with ease, making David both sinister and guileless — someone the audience can root for while still feeling apprehensive about.
Genre television is notoriously snubbed when awards start getting passed out, but in a world where Tatiana Maslany can win Best Actress for Orphan Black, I have to believe that Stevens has a chance. – Molly Gobeski
Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
While I’ll never stop campaigning for Keri Russell to (finally!) win an Emmy for her riveting performance on The Americans, this year gave her serious competition in the form of Elisabeth Moss. Taking on the role of Offred in Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s seminal work THE HANDMAID’S TALE was always going to be a challenge, to say the very least, yet Moss has delivered a performance that is nothing less than astonishing. Even more than the Big Moments of the series that find her explicitly pushing back against the totalitarian theocracy that has created the society of Gilead, it’s what Moss does in the quieter moments — conveying a multitude of emotions with fluttering eyelids, stilted breathing and silent tears — that makes this her category to lose this year, to say nothing of getting nominated. There’s a slew of solid actresses who have turned in striking depictions of their characters, including Claire Foy on The Crown and Viola Davis on How to Get Away with Murder, and both of them will likely be nominated, but, well, Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. – Anya Crittenton
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
While I’m reasonably certain that John Lithgow is going to win this year’s Emmy for his performance as an aging, disgruntled Winston Churchill on Netflix’s new series THE CROWN, it’s hard to say he’s running unchallenged. I can think of four shows that might easily contribute two or more contenders to the race — The Crown included — but this truly is Lithgow’s finest hour. Not only does he hold his own in the Battle of the Accents as the only American in an entirely British cast, but his physical transformation is astonishing. Yes, makeup and costuming can work miracles, but episode nine proves that there’s more to it than just a wig and a fat suit.
As sure as I am of Lithgow’s eventual win, I’d be remiss not to mention a few other contenders. There are four shows that could offer several notable contributors to the category. Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, and James Marsden are all worthy for their work on HBO’s Westworld. AMC’s Better Call Saul has Jonathan Banks, Giancarlo Esposito, and Michael McKean. The Crown boasts Jared Harris’s portrayal of George the VI in addition to Lithgow’s Churchill, and both Pablo Schreiber and Crispin Glover are generating buzz for their roles in American Gods. And don’t forget Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us), Joseph Fiennes (The Handmaid’s Tale), David Harbour (Stranger Things) and Mandy Patinkin (Homeland). Any of these men would be well deserving of an Emmy nomination, yet despite all the promise and talent on display this year, my money’s still on Lithgow. – MG
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
It might be a stretch for Emily Browning to win in this category, but at the very least she deserves the recognition of a nomination in honor of her revelatory performance as Laura Moon on Bryan Fuller’s Starz series AMERICAN GODS, which is based on the novel by Neil Gaiman. The character of Laura, who is revealed to have died in the very first episode, is a daunting one to take on, though Browning manages to make her likable and magnetic. The actress takes the complexities of Laura — her moral ambiguity and emotional unavailability — and uses them to give a fresh, nuanced take on an endlessly watchable and interesting female character. While there are several other commendable actresses who could also find themselves in this category, including mainstays Uzo Aduba and Maura Tierney, as well as newcomers Chrissy Metz and Millie Bobby Brown, it would be a shame for the Television Academy to overlook one of the most astonishing and surprising performances of the season. – AC
Outstanding Limited Series or TV Movie
With TV’s recent affection for anthologies, the competition for this year’s contenders for Limited Series is quite steep. With shows like Black Mirror, Fargo, The Young Pope, Genius and American Crime, it seems that anyone could take home this trophy. The Emmys usually gravitate toward Ryan Murphy projects (he won last year for (The People v. O.J.), so Feud: Bette and Joan will definitely get a nomination but its HBO’s THE NIGHT OF that will step out from the shadows and steal it. Based on the British TV series Criminal Justice, Steven Zaillian and Richard Price’s miniseries finally gave Riz Ahmed a time to shine alongside John Turturro in a story about a man who is taken into custody after he is accused of murdering a woman after a night of partying. Woven with political and cultural, The Night Of immediately became the topic of water cooler conversation and garnered critical acclaim, making it a force to be reckoned with. If anything, its HBO peer Big Little Lies could sneak in there and win, but The Night Of was dramatic television at its best. – DRR
Outstanding Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Outstanding Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie
The upcoming award season, if all goes well, should be a great season for Nicole Kidman. Not only does she has roles in upcoming movies that could garner her attention at the Golden Globes and Oscars, such as The Beguiled and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, her heartbreaking and resilient performance in HBO’s adaptation of BIG LITTLE LIES earlier this year must earn her an Emmy nomination come September. Kidman has the most tangible meaty role in the miniseries, especially next to her co-star Reese Witherspoon who could easily earn a nod as well, but that doesn’t make her any less deserving of a nomination. In Big Little Lies, Kidman reminded us all of why she’s won numerous awards, including an Oscar, a BAFTA, and three Golden Globes, among other statues. In the role, she is quiet and powerful, tragic and heroic, and astounding to watch, putting her at the top of the list of actresses who should find themselves in this category. – AC
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Look at this guy! Just look at him! He’s terrifying, and his gnarly teeth aren’t even showing. As the mysterious V.M. Varga, David Thewlis didn’t need a gun or big muscles to be intimidating because he’s a phenomenal actor who turned Varga’s devious mind into a dangerous weapon. Thewlis was magnetic to watch in the part. I literally couldn’t take my eyes off him onscreen. He just looks so oily and slimy. He was also completely unlike Billy Bob Thornton or Bokeem Woodbine, carving out his own identity within the esteemed FARGO universe. – JS
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Oh, how I loved Jeannie Berlin as the DA in HBO’s The Night Of. She felt like a classic New Yorker, and cast a spell on my over the course of that eight-episode series. But there’s no denying the incredible work that Mary Elizabeth Winstead did on FARGO, playing Nikki Swango, the Lady Macbeth to Ewan McGregor’s Ray Stussy. Winstead was amazing and her bravura turn elevated the season to the same high level as the past two seasons. Only a handful of actresses could’ve pulled off the scene in the hotel lobby in Episode 9. From Smashed to 10 Cloverfield Lane, Winstead has always impressed me, but she took it to the next level here. An exceptional talent who deserves recognition in a crowded field. – JS