The Perfect Emmys Ballot: The TV Shows and Actors Who Should Be Nominated

At no other time is the blessing and the curse of there being so much good television out thereexcept for maybe when Im bleary-eyed watching hours of screeners for a deadlinethan when its time to whittle down the literally hundreds of deserving shows and actors to a measly six or seven nominated for TV awards.

And that is precisely why its so goddamn infuriating each year when freaking House of Cards, Homeland, and Modern Family show up all over the Emmys ballot instead of far more deserving (if, sure, less seen) shows and performers.

Voting for the 2017 Emmy nominations began this week, meaning that networks and studios are basically shooting cash out of air cannons all over Hollywood with their fancy and pricey For Your Consideration parties and ads. In a television landscape in which no one can seem to agree on the measure of a shows successRatings? Trending on Twitter? Good reviews?there is still a near-universal thirst for awards attention.

So, bracing for the annual Emmys injusticevoters love rubberstamping stale veterans and ignoring vibrant new bloodand operating with the nave optimism that voters might pay attention to what a little ole critic with a vitamin D deficiency because of how much TV he watches has to say, here is my helpful guide to voters on how to fill out their ballots.

Best Comedy Series




The Good Place




Just missing the cut: Transparent, One Day at a Time, Silicon Valley, Fleabag, Dear White People

Our two favorite broadcast shows from last yearblack-ish and Fresh Off the Boatare replaced by the two best broadcast sitcoms from this year: the surprisingly audacious The Good Place and Speechless, which balances razor-sharp writing with buttery heartwarming feelies better than any comedy since Modern Familys first season. The Girls final season was a triumph of voice and confidence, just as the debut season of Insecure was.

Atlanta mixed the vibrant specificity of place with a resounding socio-political commentary with unrivaled grace and humor, while Catastrophe and Veep are in a battle over sheer number of gut-busting, ribald jokes per minute.

Best Drama Series

The Americans

The Crown

The Good Fight

The Handmaids Tale

The Leftovers

Queen Sugar

This Is Us

Just missing the cut: Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, Scandal, Underground, Better Call Saul

Game of Thrones, which won Best Drama the last two years, isnt eligible this year, making this category more exciting than usual. The Americans, despite one of its more uneven seasons, is overdue. The eerily politically resonant The Handmaids Tale and the painfully, emotionally resonant The Leftovers are probably the most deservingand the most cinematically and creatively groundbreaking, to boot. The Crown, on the other hand, is quite simply TVs most epic and lavish production, but never sacrifices the intimacy of storytelling for its scope.

The Good Fight is one of TVs few scripted programs to write Trumps presidency into its narrative, and was richer and more provocative for it. This Is Us, while polarizing for sure, is popular, but popular because it does a very hard thingmake an aggressive and transparent play for emotionand does it astonishingly well. Meanwhile Ava DuVernays Queen Sugar was a visually sumptuous, grief-soaked portrait of a southern family told with the care and deliberateness TV creators rarely give themselves the permission to take.

Best Actress in a Comedy Series

Rachel Bloom Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Lena Dunham Girls

Minnie Driver Speechless

Sarah Jessica Parker Divorce

Kathryn Hahn l Love Dick

Issa Rae Insecure

Just missing the cut: Tracee Ellis Ross black-ish, Sharon Horgan Catastrophe, Kristen Bell The Good Place, Justina Machado One Day at a Time, Michaela Watkins Casual

This category is a maddening embarrassment of riches, capable of being filled at least three times over with deserving women. Bloom does everything TVs best comedy actors are doingbeing hilarious and giving greater insight to the human conditionbut does it while singing and dancing to songs that she just happened to write, too. Parker does something nearly as herculean: she takes all the narcissism that read as charming as Carrie Bradshaw and leans into its off-putting prickliness, creating a character on Divorce that, amazingly, stands up next to some of her best work on Sex and the City.

Hahn is a spellbinding tornado of causticness, selfishness, insecurity, sexuality, and womanhood on the explosive I Love Dick. Driver brings similar ferocity to the role of a mother lion protecting her young with little regard for propriety on Speechless. Dunhams nuanced acting work on Girls often goes unnoticed, but, especially in a devastating diner scene with Adam Driver, demanded attention in the series final season. And Rae is the very definition of a breakout star: charismatic, fearless, and singular in her creation.

Best Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson black-ish

Aziz Ansari Master of None

Rob Delaney Catastrophe

Donald Glover Atlanta

Bill Hader Documentary Now

Jeffrey Tambor Transparent

Just missing the cut: Thomas Middleditch Silicon Valley, Ted Danson The Good Place, Hank Azaria Brockmire, Chris Geere Youre the Worst, Neil Patrick Harris Lemony Snickets A Series of Unfortunate Events

Glover and Ansaris nominations, as much as they are for creating engaging, instantly likable protagonists, are also for crafting the unmistakable voices of the respective shows they created. Similarly, Delaney is a creator and writer of his show, offering one of the most brutal and brutally funny takes on the family man in a show that does the same for parenthood and marriage.

Anderson is the narrator and beating heart of a broadcast sitcom that takes equal pleasure in its high-octane energyled by Andersons performanceand its ability to say something meaningful. Tambor takes the idea of saying something meaningful and spins it on its head, offering up the idea that these protagonists who are changing the world can still be fallible, even terrible, people. And Hader on Documentary Now? Its quite simply batshit what he does, almost defying description other than to say: Hilarious.

Best Actress in a Drama Series

Christine Baranski The Good Fight

Carrie Coon The Leftovers

Claire Foy The Crown

Elisabeth Moss The Handmaids Tale

Keri Russell The Americans

Evan Rachel Wood Westworld

Just missing the cut: Viola Davis How to Get Away With Murder, Jurnee Smollett-Bell Underground, Robin Wright House of Cards, Katherine Langford 13 Reasons Why, Shiri Appleby UnREAL

To have to choose between Carrie Coon and Elisabeth Moss in this category is simply cruel. (Though wed venture that Coon will miss out on a nomination for the underappreciated Leftovers.) Not only do they give the best performances in this category, but of the entire year in any division. Close behind them, though, is Claire Foy, who rises regally to the formidable task of playing Queen Elizabeth with fitting dignity and tantalizing humanity.

Baranski is playing the same role she did on The Good Wife, but with the added depth the promotion of lead to its spinoff affords her. Russell is typically thrilling in another season of The Americans, while Wood, in a role that is veritably supporting in the frustrating Westworld narrative, makes such an impression that HBO has submitted her complex worka robot flittering through different levels of consciousnesshere in lead.

Best Actor in a Drama Series

Sterling K. Brown This Is Us

Ian McShane American Gods

Dylan Minnette 13 Reasons Why

Justin Theroux The Leftovers

Matthew Rhys The Americans

Dan Stevens – Legion

Just missing the cut: Bob Odenkirk Better Call Saul, Anthony Hopkins Westworld, Aldis Hodge Underground, Kevin Spacey House of Cards, Freddie Highmore Bates Motel

Youth is often a liability at the Emmys, which is why, despite its massive popularity, the intense and emotionally vigorous work Minnette did in (the admittedly problematic) 13 Reasons Why will be ignored. But for sheer emotional athleticism, Brown stands a great shot at landing This Is Uss biggest acting nomination. And if endurance is taken into account, Theroux should take every award for the ringeremotional, physical, and often nakedThe Leftovers put him through over three seasons.

McShane in lead is a bit of category fraud, though theres no denying his godly commanding of the screen in American Gods. And it takes a special talent to ground and center a series as mind-bending and challenging as Legion the way that Stevens did. And while, like his co-star Russell, Rhyss phenomenal work on The Americans is hardly anything new, its still a crime that its yet to be rewarded here.

Best Limited Series

American Crime

Big Little Lies


Feud: Bette and Joan

The Night Of

Just missing the cut: Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Genius, The Young Pope, Shots Fired, When We Rise

The zeitgeist-seizing Big Little Lies should make the biggest splash here, though last summers The Night Of rivals it in terms of popularityand the former stuck its landing with far more satisfaction than the latter. Fargo and American Crime delivering outstanding new season is expected at this point, which is a testament to their reliable level of quality. Feud, meanwhile, should be catnip for industry voters salivating over the campiness and dishiness of this showbiz story.

Best TV Movie

Black Mirror: San Junipero

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Killing Reagan

Looking: The Movie

The Wizard of Lies

Just missing the cut: Sherlock: The Lying Detective, Custody, Churchills Secret, Agatha Christies The Witness for the Prosecution, The Most Hated Woman in America

Its shrewd of Black Mirror to enter a single episode into the much less competitive TV movie category rather than limited series, even if wed have chosen Nose Dive over San Junipero. In a weak category, the middling HBO biopics Henrietta Lacks and Wizard of Lies surely get in, while the well-actedif by-the-numbersKilling Reagan is on the fence. Not standing a chance of actual nomination, but more engaging, meaningful, and spirited than the rest of the contenders, is the farewell Looking movie.

Best Actress in a Limited Series/TV Movie

Lauren Graham Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Bryce Dallas Howard Black Mirror: Nose Dive

Nicole Kidman Big Little Lies

Jessica Lange Feud: Bette and Joan

Reese Witherspoon Big Little Lies

Oprah Winfrey The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Just missing the cut: Felicity Huffman American Crime, Carrie Coon Fargo, Sanaa Lathan Shots Fired, Mary Louise-Parker When We Rise, Viola Davis Custody

Seriously, screw this category. Screw this category and its insane competitiveness. This was my biggest Sophies Choice category. The Big Little Lies women are unquestionable inclusions. Winfrey is towering in her movie. Graham delivers the monologue of the year in Gilmore Girls, and is owed Emmys attention still for years of being snubbed as Lorelai. Howard is a mesmerizing mess in the harrowing Nose Dive episode of Black Mirror, and Lange is a forceand much more forceful than co-star Susan Sarandonin Feud. Its insane. Any other year, the also-rans in this category could win.

Best Actor in a Limited Series/TV Movie

Riz Ahmed The Night Of

Robert De Niro Wizard of Lies

Harvey Fierstein Hairspray Live!

Jonathan Groff Looking: The Movie

Ewan McGregor Fargo

Guy Pearce When We Rise

Just missing the cut: John Turturro The Night Of, Jude Law The Young Pope, Geoffrey Rush Genius, Timothy Hutton American Crime, Ricky Gervais David Brent: Life on the Road

This category, however: meh. Ahmed is far and away the standout for his quiet, powerful work in The Night Of. Co-star John Turturro will likely get Emmys love, but wed rather his spot go to someone like Groff, who created one of the most refreshing gay male characters weve seen yet on television, or Pearce, who, for all of When We Rises afterschool special issues, was profoundly moving in the series. Hopefully voters will appreciate what a gift it was to see national treasure Fierstein recreate his iconic Hairspray performance for TV, while De Niro doing Madoff is exactly as good, if as boring, as youd imagine. And McGregor playing twins on Fargo? Sure. Well include him, too.

(Because our fingers are about to fall off, well present the rest of our picks without commentary.)

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Donna Lynne Champlin Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

June Diane Raphael Grace and Frankie

Amy Landecker Transparent

Judith Light Transparent

Kate McKinnon Saturday Night Live

Rita Moreno One Day at a Time

Just missing the cut: DArcy Carden The Good Place, Yvonne Orji Insecure, Molly Shannon Divorce, Jenifer Lewis black-ish, Allison Williams Girls

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Louie Anderson Baskets

Tituss Burgess Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Bryan Tyree Henry Atlanta

Andrew Rannells – Girls

Patrick Warburton Lemony Snicketts Series of Unfortunate Events

Timothy Simons – Veep

Just missing the cut: Tony Hale Veep, K. Todd Freeman Lemony Snickets A Series of Unfortunate Events, Jamie Camil Jane the Virgin, Zach Woods Silicon Valley, Andre Braugher Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Aisha Hinds Underground

Chrissy Metz This Is Us

Thandie Newton Westworld

Yvonne Strahovski The Handmaids Tale

Kate Walsh 13 Reasons Why

Samira Wiley Orange Is the New Black

Just missing the cut: Ann Dowd The Handmaids Tale, Winona Ryder Stranger Things, Aubrey Plaza Legion, Amy Brenneman The Leftovers, Bellamy Young Scandal

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Jonathan Banks Better Call Saul

Christopher Eccleston The Leftovers

Ron Cephas Jones This Is Us

John Lithgow The Crown

Jeff Perry Scandal

Jeffrey Wright Westworld

Just missing the cut: Christian Slater Mr. Robot, Michael McKean Better Call Saul, David Harbour Stranger Things, Jonathan Tucker Kingdom, Delroy Lindo The Good Fight

Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series/TV Movie

Kelly Bishop Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Kristin Chenoweth Hairspray Live!

Judy Davis Feud: Bette and Joan

Laura Dern Big Little Lies

Helen Hunt Shots Fired

Liza Weil Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Just missing the cut: Regina King American Crime, Shailene Woodley Big Little Lies, Alison Wright Feud: Bette and Joan, Kathy Bates American Horror Story: Roanoke, Lili Taylor American Crime

Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series/TV Movie

Bill Camp The Night Of

Benito Martinez American Crime

Alfred Molina Feud: Bette and Joan

Alexander Skarsgard Big Little Lies

Stanley Tucci Feud: Bette and Joan

Michael Kenneth Williams The Night Of

Just missing the cut: Johnny Flynn Genius, Michael K. Williams When We Rise, Adam Scott Big Little Lies, Connor Jessup American Crime, Michael Stuhlbarg Fargo

Best Reality-Competition Program


Match Game

RuPauls Drag Race


Top Chef

The Voice

Just missing the cut: The Amazing Race, Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, MasterChef Junior, Americas Got Talent

Best Reality Host

Ted Allen Chopped

Alec Baldwin Match Game

RuPaul Charles RuPauls Drag Race

Cat Deeley So You Think You Can Dance

Steve Harvey Little Big Shots

Jeff Probst Survivor

Just missing the cut: Anthony Anderson To Tell the Truth, Ellen Page and Ian Daniel Gaycation, Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg Martha and Snoops Potluck Dinner Party, Tom Bergeron Dancing with the Stars, W. Kamau Bell United Shades of America

Best Variety Talk Series

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee

Jimmy Kimmel Live

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Late Late Show with James Corden

Late Night with Seth Meyers

Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen

Just missing the cut: Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Chelsea, The Daily Show, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Best Variety Sketch Series

Billy on the Street

Documentary Now

Drunk History

The President Show

Tracey Ullmans Show

Saturday Night Live

Just missing the cut: Portlandia, Maya and Marty, Comedy Bang Bang, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Kevin Hart Presents: Hart of the City

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