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Emmy voters, do not overlook these shows and stars

Ali Wong and Steven Yeun in Netflix's "Beef," which is vying for an Emmy nomination in the limited/anthology series category.Andrew Cooper/Netflix

Every year after the eligibility period for the Emmys ends, I like to chime in with some recommendations to voters. Now is the time when voters begin to mobilize, scoping out which shows and actors are going to be recognized during the nominations voting period June 15-26. Do they care what I think? No. Am I going to keep pitching for my underdogs and favorites nonetheless? Absolutely. Will they hand out some of the nominations (announced on July 12) automatically, to over-the-hill series such as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “The Handmaid’s Tale”? Yes. Sigh.



Most of the many people who watched the final season of HBO’s “Succession” are well aware of the unusually good acting all over the show and specifically from those playing the various Roys. The scripts required the actors to shift direction a hundred times per episode, sometimes per scene, always feverishly jockeying to be The One. Kieran Culkin, Jeremy Strong, and, oddly, Brian Cox (who died in the third episode) are all submitting for the best actor in a drama category, and I’ll support Culkin, who played Roman. His funeral scene alone put him at the top for me, and his smug firings after his father’s death were effectively pathetic. He embodied the wordy, comic-tragic tone of the series, and I’m rooting for him. I’m rooting for Sarah Snook, too, who’s also submitting in the lead actress category this year; her Shiv was slippery, and yet, at moments, oddly sympathetic.


There are a few actors whose nominations are absolute musts, including Paul Walter Hauser for supporting actor in a limited series as the serial killer on “Black Bird,” Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult for best actors in a comedy as Catherine and Peter on “The Great,” and, as I mentioned above, the cast of “Succession.” Harrison Ford is definitely among that must group, for his dryly comic supporting performance on Apple TV+’s “Shrinking.” A number of actors in the show’s ensemble are extraordinary, not least of all Jessica Williams and Christa Miller, whose comic timing is amusingly precise; but Ford is essential to the show’s success. One of the highest-grossing actors of all time, he finally took an unheroic role that lets him relax and have fun. His sly, stoic therapist suffers no fools, but there’s a heart stored away somewhere inside his emotional suit of armor.


Paul Reiser and Rachel Bloom in Hulu's "Reboot," which was canceled after one season.Michael Desmond/HULU


There are famous examples of the Emmys giving nominations and statues to shows that were canceled before their time — “Lovecraft Country,” for example, or “The Ben Stiller Show.” I mention this because I’m disappointed that Hulu canceled the promising, witty comedy “Reboot” after only one season. About the conflicts among the staff and cast of a revival of a 2000s sitcom, it was warm, amusingly meta, and timely. Paul Reiser and Rachel Bloom were perfect as the father-and-daughter showrunners, embodying the differences between old-school and contemporary comedy styles. I’d find it satisfying to see the show get a nod — Reiser, perhaps, for supporting actor in a comedy — as a figurative jab for a bad and short-sighted decision. Also file under vindication: I still resent voters for long ignoring the younger cast members from “Shameless,” so the fact that Jeremy Allen White is a favorite for best actor in a comedy for “The Bear” makes me extra-specially happy.



Netflix’s “Beef” surprised me. The premise was appealing, especially since I frequent Boston traffic circles: A minor road rage incident turns into a tit-for-tat revenge battle that lasts for months. But the show itself unfolds into something much deeper and more meaningful, as it brings two alienated, depressed people into each other’s orbit as they try to find peace. Road rage is usually about something else, isn’t it? The show deserves a nomination (the show’s reps have chosen the limited/anthology series category), as do its stars, Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, each of whom brings unexpected humanity to their respective revenger. Voter, I know you’ll automatically give love to another Netflix limited series, Ryan Murphy’s popular “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” but, please, not at the expense of this twisted beauty.


I’m a fan of Freeform’s “Single Drunk Female,” despite the awful and wrong-headed title. The show is really about being sober, and a young woman named Sam who is learning to experience life and love without getting numbed out. It’s not nearly a masterpiece, but it’s warm and sensitively done, and it features a peppery performance by Ally Sheedy as Sam’s mother, Carol. Turns out Carol has some work to do, and everything is not her daughter’s fault. In the second season, Sheedy brings a great comic weariness and denial to her more expanded story line. Freeform isn’t usually in the Emmy mix, but c’mon, give her a supporting-actress-comedy nod!


Sharon Horgan and Claes Bang in "Bad Sisters."APPLE TV+


Or, more accurately, great. It’s looking like the best-drama category is probably going to include three HBO shows, “Succession,” “The Last of Us,” and “The White Lotus” (no longer a limited series), along with AMC’s “Better Call Saul” and Netflix’s “The Crown,” all of which are worthy. But please don’t overlook Apple TV+’s “Bad Sisters,” a charming murder mystery about five sisters in Ireland who all have good reasons to have offed a toxic guy played perfectly insidiously by Claes Bang. Each of the five lead actresses is excellent, including show creator Sharon Horgan, and the story line — which also involves a pair of half-brother insurance investigators — is wry, clever, piquant, thought-provoking, and moving. Ignore this gem, voters, and lose just a little more legitimacy.


Are you going to continue to snub Gary Oldman in Apple TV+’s “Slow Horses”? He belongs in the best actor in a drama category, right there beside Culkin, Strong, Cox, and Pedro Pascal from “The Last of Us.” As Jackson Lamb, the hard-drinking, sour-tempered, slovenly, and brilliant leader of a group of demoted MI5 agents, he is really a kick. There are scenes in the second season that had me laughing out loud simply for watching him slurp a bowl of soup. Likewise, are you going to continue to snub Bridget Everett, who is delightful as the lead on the HBO comedy “Somebody Somewhere”? She beautifully manages the position of being extroverted and lonely at the same time, blunt and yet unwilling to face her own truths.


Dascha Polanco (left) and Natasha Lyonne in Peacock's "Poker Face." Phillip Caruso/Peacock via AP


These days, as shows become less formulaic, it’s harder than ever to know which categories they belong in. I was glad to learn that Peacock’s “Poker Face” is entering the race in the comedy categories. It doesn’t belong beside the likes of “The Crown”; it’s always goofing on its own crime-solving tropes, lead Natasha Lyonne talks like a vaudeville comic, and at its core it’s more of a laugh-sparker than Emmy-favorite comedy “Barry.” I know you will focus more on “Abbott Elementary,” “Ted Lasso,” and “The Bear,” each of which deserves kudos, but don’t forget about Lyonne’s old-school sleuth.


As in “The Other Two,” the unapologetic Max series about fame — both not having enough fame and having too much of it. The comedy, whose third season is on now, is a sharp send-up not only of the entertainment industry but of human nature and our curious drives, and it features a cast that manages the scripts’ many absurdities and the rampant satire winningly — leads Helene Yorke and Drew Tarver and supporting actress Molly Shannon among them. I know you love your “Maisel,” but this one deserves that slot.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him @MatthewGilbert.