Buzzsaw | Matthew Gilbert

These performances didn’t get a lot of hype, but they are worthy of Emmy attention

Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson in “Sex Education.”
Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson in “Sex Education.”Sam Taylor/Netflix/Netflix

The eligibility period to qualify for this year’s Emmy Awards ended on May 31, and the nominations will be chosen between June 10-24. So now is the time for opinionated sods like me to make a case for the shows and performers we’ve loved.

The drama categories are going to look quite different this year. With “The Americans” over and “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Stranger Things,” and “Westworld” not in the running because they ran outside the eligibility period, there will be tons of room for new nominees. Of course “Game of Thrones” is eligible, and voters may favor it with many supporting nods since it was the farewell season — or they may dis it, since the farewell season was disappointing. Either way, prepare for a new crew of hopefuls in the mix.


My suggestions below are not meant to represent all of the shows and performers who should be nominated. Before the awards air on Sept. 22, I will certainly get to that. My goal here is only to highlight those potential nominees that aren’t obvious choices, which explains why I haven’t focused in on the likes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep,” “Sharp Objects,” and “Better Things.” These are my pet pitches.


If the Emmy Awards don’t go big with the FX drama “Pose” from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals, I’ll . . . I’ll . . . OK, I’m powerless. But it won’t be a good look if voters aren’t all over this remarkable piece of work, whose ambitious first season was set in New York’s late-1980s ballroom culture. Billy Porter is flashy fun as the shady, witty ball emcee, and his dramatic moments, as the series deals with the AIDS crisis, are also memorable. Mj Rodriguez as the mother of the House of Evangelista and Dominique Jackson as the mother of the House of Abundance also deserve to be honored by the voters in the House of Accolades.



The voters ignored D’Arcy Carden’s scene-stealing supporting work as Janet on “The Good Place” during its first two seasons. I’m hoping they’ll get with it this time around, especially now that she has shown her many faces in the stellar episode called “Janet(s),” in which she played four human characters and various combinations thereof. The writers of this clever series are always playful, and Carden is always game.


I think I understand why HBO’s “High Maintenance,” with its short story approach, might not be a natural in the acting categories. It is primarily filled with guest actors, and Ben Sinclair — who plays the benevolent pot dealer who connects all the stories — is intensely understated. But it is one of my favorite TV series and it absolutely deserves a nod for best comedy, although it’s laden with pathos. It’s one of TV’s biggest-hearted shows, as it digs into the lives of a broad array of people you’re unlikely to find on any other shows.


I have confidence that the voters will recognize Netflix’s “Russian Doll” and its dynamic star Natasha Lyonne. They are two of the best things about this year so far. But here’s hoping they’ll also have the sense to nominate Charlie Barnett, who plays Lyonne’s partner in time looping (their elevator encounter is one of the best meet-cutes ever). He’s perfect in the role, a guy being shaken out of his passivity by the same existential earthquakes as Lyonne’s Nadia. Barnett’s work on “Chicago Fire” didn’t reveal a fraction of his gift. He’s also good in Netflix’s new “Tales of the City,” as Mouse’s boyfriend.



AMC’s endearing “Lodge 49” is not awards bait. It’s super quirky and low-key, with Wyatt Russell as a surfer dude in SoCal named Dud who’s looking for enlightenment at a lodge that believes in alchemy. But there are two rich performances deserving of note in this sunny tale, and by note I mean nominations. As Dud’s cynical sister, who bears the brunt of her family’s woes, Sonya Cassidy is extraordinary. And so is Brent Jennings as Dud’s financially and romantically desperate friend. While Russell is sweetly recessive, they stir everything up.


Sex is a critical element in Netflix’s “Sex Education,” and that may get in the way of its Emmy promise. (I’m convinced that the open sexuality on “Shameless” is what has prevented the show from getting its Emmy due.) But after the middling first episode, “Sex Education” expands into a “Freaks and Geeks”-like exploration of innocence and experience in high school, hitting both comic and dramatic notes perfectly. As the sympathetic teen boy who’s sexuality is complicated by the fact that his mother is a sex therapist, Asa Butterfield is all aces. As his mother, Gillian Anderson offers wonderful comic relief. Like the show itself, they deserve nods in the drama categories.



“Gentleman Jack,” HBO’s scripted period drama from Sally Wainwright based on the diaries of lesbian trailblazer Anne Lister, is very good. And its success is largely based on the leading performance by Suranne Jones, who makes Anne into a cyclone of activity and intelligence. Jones is a force of nature in the role, as Anne insists on living as openly as she can as a lesbian whose gender identity doesn’t match the social norms of the 1830s. She absolutely must be nominated or nothing will matter ever again.


Anthony Carrigan is twisted fun as NoHo Hank, the Chechen mafia dude, on HBO’s “Barry.”

Timothy Simons has been ignored for his brilliant turn as Jonah on HBO’s “Veep,” and this is the voters’ last chance.

Showtime’s “Billions” has benefited from the appealing turn by Nina Arianda as an independent woman who’s perfect for Axe.

Aidy Bryant may well get a nod for her touching turn in “Shrill,” but Lolly Adefope as her best friend ought to get some love, too.

Let’s hope that Eric Lange (as Lyle Mitchell, Tilly’s husband) from Showtime’s “Escape at Dannemora” doesn’t get lost in the shadow of the miniseries’ brilliant big three — Patricia Arquette, Paul Dano, and Benicio Del Toro.

I’m expecting nods for HBO’s “Succession” and star Brian Cox, but I got endless enjoyment from Matthew MacFadyen as Shiv’s slippery fiance and need to see him recognized.


It’s too much to hope that FX’s vampire comedy “What We Do in the Shadows” and stars Matt Berry, Kayvan Novak, and Natasia Demetriou get some notice, isn’t it?

Reminder note: Voters, don’t forget about HBO’s rich adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s “My Brilliant Friend, particularly in the best drama category.

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