Emmy voters, I’m here to help

Sterling K. Brown in “This Is Us.”
Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Sterling K. Brown in “This Is Us.”

Dear Emmy Voters,

OK, OK, already, I’ll help you. The yearlong eligibility period for this year’s Emmy awards ended on May 31, and now you all have the power — to serve viewers by nominating the worthy, or to serve habit and caprice by nominating the same old things for no particular reason.

So here are a few ideas I have, to remind you of some of the less obvious choices in play this year. The nomination period ends on June 25 (the nominations will be announced on July 12), so pay close attention.


“VEEP” ISN’T IN THE RUNNING: For the first time in four years, HBO’s great political satire — a comedy perfectly of this moment — will not be eligible; filming for the season was postponed because of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s cancer treatment. That’s an opportunity for you to take others into serious consideration, and I’m not talking “Silicon Valley” or “Modern Family,” both of which have been waning. A few second seasons were extraordinary: “Insecure” beautifully shared its three central characters’ emotional, racial, and sexual lives; “The Good Place” turned ethics into comic gold; and the unique “Atlanta” was more agile than ever. Two new shows also deserve attention: “GLOW” turned the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling into ensemble empowerment. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is a fetching newcomer, too. And ignore “Better Things” at your own peril; it was one of the year’s best shows.

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I KNOW WE ALL LOVE “STRANGER THINGS” BUT: With all the remarkable dramas out there, a sea of excellence including “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Crown,” and “Westworld,” I think it’s time to let Netflix’s Spielbergian series fall out of the best drama category. Sure, Millie Bobby Brown will get her nod, and she has earned it, but just because the show is popular doesn’t mean it’s outstanding. I’d rather see “The Americans” get a nod — alongside “Game of Thrones” and “This Is Us” — for its smart, satisfying final season. I’d even love to see it win — that would help negate years of Emmy ignorance regarding the drama. And don’t forget about “Killing Eve,” BBC America’s new epic and humorous game of cat and mouse.

SOME OF THE BEST TV IS LIMITED: I mean limited series, a category filled with some of the year’s best goodies. Do not, I repeat, do not ignore “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” one of the year’s most riveting TV stories, and take special notice of its performances. And do not, I repeat, do not go gaga for “Twin Peaks,” which — and I know this is controversial — was significant simply for being so stubbornly self-referential and inscrutable. Be sure to check out the other Margaret Atwood adaptation, “Alias Grace,” which took on memory, storytelling, and the history of sexism. And don’t forget about “Howards End.” Yeah, yeah, I know those British costume dramas seem like they’re a dime a dozen, but the good ones, like “Howards End,” definitely are not.

THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT CONTROVERSY: You’re on your own when it comes to the likes of “Roseanne” and “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.” The star of the former tweeted a racist comment, the latter used a very bad word. Should those offenses come into play when voting? Personally, I have no room for racism when it comes to a comic or her show. I don’t want to support her venture. And anyway I wouldn’t have seen Roseanne Barr’s performance or the show itself as nomination-worthy. But I do have room for crassness when it comes to a comic or her show, and I wouldn’t let Bee’s excess turn me off. But we all have our own lines that we are or aren’t willing to cross. What about Jason Bateman and David Cross, both of whom defended their “Arrested Development” costar Jeffrey Tambor, who had verbally abused Jessica Walter on the set? What about James Franco, who stands accused of sexually inappropriate behavior? Are you going to stop supporting them because of those issues? Think each case through, parse its ethics carefully — they’re all different.

NO AUTOPILOT PLEASE: All of the acting categories are crowded with admirable contenders. So it’s time to stop throwing nominations at actors and actresses without thinking. I’m talking about Claire Danes, Lily Tomlin, Liev Schreiber, Mandy Patinkin, Uzo Aduba, Matt LeBlanc, Mandy Moore — all excellent at one time, perhaps, but at this point a bit stale. Make room beside Elisabeth Moss in “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Keri Russell of “The Americans” in the drama actress category for the two stars of “Killing Eve,” Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh. Make room beside Sterling K. Brown of “This Is Us” and Matthew Rhys of “The Americans” in the drama actor category for J.K. Simmons, who takes “Counterpart” to a higher level as two very different characters. Make room beside Pamela Adlon of “Better Things” and Tracee Ellis Ross of “black-ish” in the comedy actress category for Issa Rae of “Insecure,” Rachel Brosnahan of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and Tiffany Haddish of “The Last O.G.” And make room beside Donald Glover of “Atlanta” and William H. Macy of “Shameless” in the comedy actor category for Bill Hader of “Barry” and Ted Danson of “The Good Place.”


SUPPORT THESE PERFORMANCES: I know you really, really want to fill the supporting categories with actors from “Game of Thrones,” “Will & Grace,” “Modern Family,” and “Stranger Things.” It’s how you roll. But I do hope you will take particular note of a few indelible supporting performances, many of them essential to the success of their respective shows. Yvonne Strahovski’s turn as Serena Joy in “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a master class in ambiguity and stifled rage. Noah Emmerich was quietly moving and layered as FBI agent Stan Beeman in “The Americans.” Henry Winkler is a revelation in “Barry,” as a cynical acting coach. And Yvonne Orji is a comic delight, and a dramatic strength, in “Insecure.”

OK, voters — now go do everything I said.

You’re welcome. Matthew

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.