Emmy snubs and surprises

Melissa McCarthy as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (left) and Alec Baldwin as President Trump during “Spicer Returns” on “Saturday Night Live” in May.
Will Heath/NBC via AP
Melissa McCarthy as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (left) and Alec Baldwin as President Trump during “Spicer Returns” on “Saturday Night Live” in May.

The Emmy Award nominations look a little different this year, thanks to the ineligibility of a little series called “Game of Thrones” and the absence of “Downton Abbey.” Here are some thoughts about the list, including, of course, a number of snubs. The Emmy telecast is on Sept. 17 with host Stephen Colbert, whose “The Late Show” has gotten its first best variety talk series nomination.


1. No “The Americans” in the best drama category? Consider me outraged. I know, I know, the season of the FX drama was slow. But still, it was powerful, and so much better than “Stranger Things.” At least the two leads, Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, got acknowledgement.

2. Issa Rae and her wonderful HBO comedy “Insecure” were shut out. And that’s a shame; the series is one of the best new comedies, and it showcases not only Rae but Yvonne Orji, a marvelous supporting actress who deserves a slot more than Vanessa Bayer and Leslie Jones, much as I enjoy both of them.


3. Amazon’s “Transparent” got a bunch of acting nods, some of them justified (Jeffrey Tambor, Judith Light), one of them wasted (Kathryn Hahn). But no nomination for best comedy? Weird. Likewise, HBO’s “Girls” was also ignored in this category, despite the quality of its extraordinary final season. One of these comedies deserved that “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” slot.

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4. I’m sad about Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why.” Perhaps voters were afraid to honor a show that depicts teen suicide; nominations might have stirred up the old controversy about it. Maybe they felt Netflix was already getting too many nominations. Whatever the reason, they ignored it. But it featured a number of strong performances, not least of all by Kate Walsh as the grieving mother, and it deserved some love.

5. One of the year’s best dark comedies, Amazon’s “Fleabag,” and its fascinating lead and creator, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, were ignored.

6. Maybe it was the Hair Episode, when Jimmy Fallon mussed Donald Trump’s head growth and enraged anti-Trump viewers. His NBC “Tonight Show” was not nominated.

7. Last year, TNT’s “Mr. Robot” was the flashy newcomer, and its star, Rami Malek, won the best actor Emmy. This year, after a much less engaging season, the show and Malek are nowhere to be found. The affair is over.


8. Still no Timothy Simons as best supporting actor for HBO’s “Veep.” There’s something very wrong with that, since he’s the funniest thing on the show right now. It’s time for voters to look beyond Matt Walsh and Tony Hale, enjoyable as they are.

9. HBO’s “The Leftovers” missed out on its final opportunity to get significant nominations (it’s only nod went to Ann Dowd for guest actress in a drama series). The critics have been screaming about this one, but still nothing.

10. A lot of the actors in HBO’s “The Night Of” were nominated, but not Jeannie Berlin, whose performance as the weary DA was unforgettable.

11. Sorry “Gilmore Girls” fans. The revival series on Netflix was ignored; some things never change.

12. “Atlanta” earned a few nominations, which is a good thing. But there was nothing for Brian Tyree Henry, whose turn as Paper Boi is funny and fantastic.



HBO is still on top this year with 110 nominations, but streaming service Netflix is closing in on the cable king with 91 nominations. Netflix has three of the best drama nominees (“House of Cards,” “The Crown,” “Stranger Things”) while HBO has only one: “Westworld.”


This was a fine year for “Saturday Night Live,” fueled by politics, and the voters took special note of that, giving the NBC series a whopping 22 nominations – with Alec Baldwin, Leslie Jones, Vanessa Bayer, and Kate McKinnon all getting supporting acting nods. “Westworld” tied “SNL” as the most nominated show, with 22 drama nods.


With no “Game of Thrones” to crowd the drama categories, and a high quality year in TV, new shows got lots of nominations.

As expected, “This Is Us” is the new “Good Wife,” by which I mean that the syrupy NBC breakout series is now the token network drama. It got a number of important nods, including best drama, two for best actor, and two for supporting (including Ron Cephas Jones, who stole the season). No action for Mandy Moore, though; the best dramatic actress category is crowded with quality.

Netflix’s “The Crown” is the year’s prestige period drama, with much deserved acting nominations for Claire Foy and John Lithgow. And HBO’s “Westworld” is the year’s cultier drama, with acting nominations for Evan Rachel Wood, Anthony Hopkins, and Thandie Newton.

I was meh about “Stranger Things,” but voters weren’t. The Netflix series was named in the best drama category, and so were supporting actors David Harbour and Millie Bobby Brown. At least they didn’t auto-nominate Winona Ryder; she delivered the year’s most overwrought performance.

Despite my fears we’d be facing another “The Wire” situation, where great shows get mysteriously and embarrassingly overlooked by the Emmys, the voters went for Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” in a big way. Elisabeth Moss delivers the best performance of her already fine career, Ann Dowd is chilling as brutal Aunt Lydia, and Samira Wiley is heartwarming; all three were nominated.


It was a strong year in the limited series world, with HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” FX’s “Feud,” HBO’s “The Night Of,” and FX’s “Fargo.” Each of them was extraordinary. The most competitive category has to be for best actress in a limited series, with Nicole Kidman, Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, and Reese Witherspoon facing off against one another. Fortunately, the voters also paid attention to Riz Ahmed, John Turturro, Bill Camp, and Michael K. Williams in “The Night Of” as well as the remarkable David Thewlis in “Fargo” and Alexander Skarsgard in “Big Little Lies.”


1. Pamela Adlon! Her nomination as best actress in a comedy is great news. She is a force of nature on the show.

2. I am delighted to see that Rupert Friend did not get nominated for “Homeland.” Look, I think he has been great on the show in the past, but this last season, as his character suffered from serious physical and mental issues, he was just awful. It was an Emmy bait performance, and I’m pleased the voters didn’t bite.

3. Samantha Bee! Her TBS series “Full Frontal” has been nominated for variety talk series.

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