The 2018 Trainie Awards

As always, as “the year” turns its face toward “the end of the year,” and as “the sporadic summer awards season” becomes “the awards season”, I turn my face to the fact that this site, which has something to say about just about as many awards shows as I can manage to come up with things about 1, is also the occasional granter of its own awards.

Of course, the Trainies aren’t the usual awards ceremony, they’re more of an opportunistic and variable sort of ceremony 2, and as such, they are presented to a variety of categories for a variety of achievements. This year, in keeping with the general trend, I will also do my very best to keep them brief.

Outstanding Achievement in Continuing to be the Worst Possible Fanbase

Star Wars sure oughta inspire better than it does, right? I mean, lots of good/neutral people like or don’t like Star Wars for lots of good/neutral reasons, certainly. I, myself, don’t like plenty of Star Wars. I, however, have never been so overtaken by rage that I had to help chase someone off the internet, as has happened with Kelly Marie Tran 3. It’s also never driven me to do anything as goofy as create, disseminate and sign a petition to remove The Last Jedi from canon, which would be ordinary internet windmill-tilting-at (see last year’s business with Rotten Tomatoes and the DC movies) if it weren’t for the fact that it generally seems to be the same people who are motivated to yell at Kelly Marie Tran (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, John Boyega) that aren’t merely happy knowing that they’ve made the people that they blame (wrongly) for their displeasure with a movie miserable and afraid, but that the rest of the movies in that series need to not even make mention of this thing. The presumption, of course, being that if the movies that come after are not the product of a complete disavowal, that the people doing the harassing/petition signing will just keep on doing it.

Of course, if Solo taught us anything, it’s that they also can probably be taken at their word just not to see anymore Star Wars movies, which, ultimately, is fine, and brings to mind the one thing that remains true of every single generation of Star Wars fan: what Star Wars fans really hate is Star Wars.

Outstanding Achievement in Convincing People to Poison Themselves

The great Tide Pods-ening of late 2017/early 2018 came and went, and since every day of the news cycle is 6,000 years long, it’s easy to forget that it was just a few months ago that it all happened.

But it did. A joke about how Tide Pods look like candy became a meme, the meme got out of control, and people started posting videos of themselves eating or allegedly eating soap for YouTube 4. This became a media circus – where it was reported that 11 out of every 10 teenagers was eating Tide Pods three meals a day – and then a series of jokes about the media circus. At the end of the day, YouTube banned eating Tide Pods on YouTube, the joke floated off into the ether, and that one dude in Florida (who made candy that looked like Tide Pods, in a nicely recursive step) and that one pizzeria in Greenpoint probably had to find new gimmicks for their menus.

At almost exactly the same time, in an interview with one of the founders of Juicero, the community of people who drink the soup of minerals, animal excreta, dirt and algae that presents itself as “raw” water saw some of the harsh light of day. This is, to just about anyone who thinks about it for more than a few seconds, a terrible fucking idea. Like, a truly terrible idea. Among the first things we did at every step of the way as humans achieving civilization was figure out how to treat water so that we could drink it, reliably, and not die.

The idea, though, is that water that is filtered is filtered of the things that give it life 5, and this is bad for all of us, plus they pump it full of fluoride 6 and it has drugs in it. Whereas highly-marked-up completely untreated water has all that, y’know, stuff in it. To keep you alive or whatever 7.

The entity receiving this award, though, is neither the group of people that ate (or didn’t eat but were reported to have eaten) the Tide Pods, nor is it the Silicon Valley tech bros that are right now incubating healthy populations of glorious and thriving dysentery in their gut. It’s the American food industry, which has simultaneously told two populations contradictory things all through the magic of nothing more than their own marketing. You see, the reason that Tide Pods look like candy is because the marketing-driven decision that caused their appearance comes from the exact same research that decided how candy should look – the same appealing, bright, friendly qualities are wanted for both potentially-dangerous household chemicals and potentially-dangerous sugar garbage treats.

Similarly, the food marketing angle that leads people to believe that “less treated” is “more natural” and that “more natural” is “more healthy” has given the tech bros the idea that this is a concept that should be taken all the way to its most extreme position, that even the water that we drink should be untouched.

Kids aren’t going to admit to being swayed by advertising, and tech-bros aren’t going to blame the marketers that provide so much of their own lifeblood, so basically you have the two populations that are most likely to believe the marketing wing of the food industry’s nonsense uncritically, and they’re killing them. This seems like bad business.

Outstanding Achievement in Being the First to Do Something That Will, Eventually, Work

Beating out Amazon Go 8 and Bodega 9 is Air France, and their utterly preposterous Airline for Millenials, which features VR entertainment, fancy dress and….something called a “rooftop bar.” When I think of reasons why this is absurd, I think of many things, but none of them so much as the idea of a “rooftop bar” on a fucking plane. I suppose if there’s a bunch of deaths on a plane because people were enjoying coldbrew or oat milk smoothies or kombucha or whatever on the top of it, I’ll be proven wrong, but otherwise: there’s no reason to call it that. It’s just a bar. Go heck yourselves.

Anyway, there are many businesses I approve of less than this one, but this is here because it’s about to start happening more, and, eventually, it will work. Someone will start a business in this fashion, it will hang on, and no one will pour any out for poor ol’ Air France, whose only real business sin was not waiting until millennials had the money to spend on weird novelty flights. It’s going to work because one of the things that does mark the set of people who are in their mid twenties to mid thirties 10 is a weirdly-consumptive level of brand engagement (c.f. Wendy’s Twitter, allegiances to social networking sites that seems extra-absurd) and an ability to believe that they’re (we’re, I guess) impossible to market to. A company is going to crack this code, and it’s going to be stupid. But it ain’t Air France, and it ain’t this.

Outstanding Achievement in a Field I Didn’t Know it Was Still Possible to Have an Outstanding Achievement In

My love of newspaper comics is not news around these parts (and my saying so goes back to almost the very beginning of this blog). I love ‘em. I love ‘em in 2018. So it warmed my heart when long-running gentle humor comic Nancy got, for the first time in its 80-odd years of existing, a female comics artist.

She goes by Olivia Jaimes, and she’s currently anonymous 11, she’s said to have already been a successful webcomicist, and her run on Nancy is funny. Like, genuinely funny for a newspaper comic strip. She’s got a good, updated, line on who the characters are and how they interact, and she’s willing to drag the strip back in the twenty-first century, while bringing back to the strip a sense of playfulness that it hasn’t had for years.

The comic’s creator, Ernie Bushmiller, was a genius. A genius of minimalism, a genius of form, a genius of the sort of playfulness that should, quite frankly, inhabit the comics page. It’s only ever been drawn by a handful of people, including Jerry Scott (the Zits guy) 12, before Guy Gilchrist drew it as the leaden thump that it’s been for the last couple of decades. James’s arrival manages to start the comic back into the air, and, of course, by changing something on the comics page, it has also caused no small amount of cranky yelling about how much better things were in the halcyon days of Guy Gilchrist 13

HONORABLE MENTION: Occasioned by this piece in The Outline, as well as public remarks by Nick Wiger and (as always, and he’s been on this beat forever), the Comics Curmudgeon, people really seemed to get into present-day dadaist masterpiece Heathcliff, which warms my heart to no end, but isn’t quite as cool as Olivia Jaimes.

Outstanding Achievement in Terrible Ideas That Are Still Developing

The Oscar for Popular Film is a colossally bad idea. That’s not new – the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences comes up with four bad ideas before breakfast – but the fact that everyone agreed that it was a colossally bad idea was a nice time for internet dwellers. The idea that shunting off an entire uh….OK, so it was clear that something was being shunted off 14, but it was never entirely clear what they were doing. Popular films win Best Picture all the time. Several years ago, they tried their cockamamie thing where they made the field of Best Picture nominees super-big, and that didn’t really work for them either. So this time they played their hand super-close to the vest, and didn’t even tell people what this category was for, other than, y’know, popular films.

Never mind that there still isn’t an academy award for casting, never mind that they could have very easily – and to much fanfare 15– brought back the “Unique and Artistic Picture” Category, thus inverting the equation. They never would, of course, because it would start to wear away at their “acceptable genres” idea – they didn’t do this in the wake of the boomlet of musicals in the early aughts, or the period-drama onslaught of the nineties, they did it during the superhero years, making it entirely clear which side of their bread is buttered.

Anyway, there may be some more about this in February, when the whole thing will have shaken out, but the upshot is: they did a dumb, unpopular thing, then, after everyone got mad at them, said “well we definitely weren’t actually going to do that anyway,” which means that AMPAS is officially a recalcitrant eight year old. Way to go, guys.

Unless, of course, they totally do it anyway, or continue to make gestures at it, in which case this will in all likelihood be around next year to be the first repeat Trainies winner.

Outstanding Achievement in Public Speaking

We always like to go out here on a high note, so allow me to present to you, Ursula T. Vernon’s speech at last year’s Hugos 16, where she won for her incredible story “The Tomato Thief” 17. The Hugos had a rough few years, and have largely settled into being more fun than they were before the puppies arrived, at least for me 18, and Ursula Vernon (who has won Hugos before) decided that this time, she was going to do the thing that everyone wishes they could do: she was going to talk to a huge crowd of people about something cool: whalefall. It’s all in the link above, and it involves zombie worms, and, frankly, it’s more memorable and meaningful than a list of “thank you”s would have been, or a brief speech about where a story came from (although I understand the utility of the thank yous, and begrudge no one his or her need to thank people). But it’s nice, isn’t it? Whalefall.

HONORABLE MENTION: Patton Oswalt, who in this Vulture interview walked back what is easily the worst of his earlier jokes, and generally proves himself to be a pretty stand-up guy. That’s a funny joke that I gave you all for free because I love you. Also if Patton Oswalt turns out to have done sex crimes or whatever I’m burning this country to the ground. So.

  1.  and have time to genuinely consider. 
  2.  specifically, they are meant to “honor” things that I tried to write about in this space, but either didn’t have the time, couldn’t find the angle, or didn’t have enough to say about them to involve making an entire separate post about them. 
  3.  That’s Comedy Bang! Bang!’s own Kelly Marie Tran! 
  4.  this, coupled with the last few weeks’ reportage of the frequent mental terrorism undergone by YouTube creators, means that the Tide Pod thing was only the first time YouTube’s algorithim encouraged creators to literally attempt to kill themselves. 
  5.  the idea that if something is a healthful environment for one thing, it is necessarily healthful for all things has given us pseudoscientific dumbshit ideas from Avicenna all the way through to Jordan “We Are All Made of Lobsters” Peterson. 
  6.  this is already the longest award granted, and I’m trying to keep this brief, but if anyone reading this hasn’t ever encountered the fluoride conspiracy theorists, gird your loins and jump onto Google because it’s terrific material. 
  7.  interestingly (?), one of the things that the raw water folks are insistent upon is the preponderance of healthy probiotics in their water, and the touters of probiotics have also themselves come under some scrutiny for not being the panacea that they were sold as being. PS: there is no such thing as a panacea. There are no one-stop solutions. 
  8.  which wasn’t specifically targeted at “millenials”, and also which I’m embarrassed by how much it appeals to me. 
  9.  which held onto this spot for much longer than it would have in other years for also being one of the first things shouted down as cultural appropriation became something people were more vocal about not liking in 2018. 
  10.  NB I am at the early end of “millennial,” having been born in 1983.  
  11.  although she’s going to make a public appearance at CSC, a comics convention, so she probably won’t remain so for much longer. 
  12.  and, famously, not including Ivan Brunetti, who was justifiably not hired – his Nancy was, even by his own admission, not the best use of his talents, which are otherwise entirely worth seeking out. 
  13. GoComics is weird to navigate, but here you can see some of Gilchrist’s…uh….work, and here you can see not only Jaimes’s, but also the comments, where you can see some real yelling-at-clouds shit, even as late as July (where that second Jaimes link is from) 
  14.  that “something” was almost certainly set to include Black Panther 
  15.  because it would have been elevating something that was less-visible, and also because it would have been celebrating the kind of brainy smart people film that folks like the receive credit for liking. 
  16.  I’m fudging the dates on its inclusion, because the speech itself didn’t become public until November, which was within the eligibility period. 
  17.  as was declared rightfully so. 
  18.  I have never been anything but open and honest about the fact that I thought the pre-Puppies Hugos were dumb, the Puppies themselves were dumb, and that the post-Puppies Hugos are a step in the right direction, and that having that editorial position is way better for me as a reader. 

Who the Fuck Listens to This: Third Eye Blind

Pity the once-popular band that is still alive and shambling around 1. Years and years past the time when they were selling records and were a going concern, now stuck in a position of wanting to continue to do the thing that impelled them to start a band in the first place – i.e. write and perform songs for an audience – and stuck in a place where they have to figure out how to do that while also pleasing the people that want to hear them play, say, “Jumper”. This is the situation that the current incarnation of Third Eye Blind find themselves in, and it 2 is what leads them to record a covers EP, Thanks for Everything, which is what we find ourselves confronted with today.

Muddling that position is the fact that Third Eye Blind, the band itself, is currently a band containing one original member – singer and notorious blowhard Stephen Jenkins 3, while a version of the band, XEB, containing multiple original members 4, is out there playing the hits that people would be compelled to want to hear. I suppose there’s some calculus in the minds of the Third Eye Blind fan (?) to decide whether to go hear the songs they’re going to enjoy, or to watch some hired guns play new songs by the guy that wrote roughly 50% of the old songs.

The new material, then, appears to also be something of a mess. Like a lot of bands that depend on the record-selling industry’s support (such as it is), Third Eye Blind decided to go the “frequent shorter release” route in 2012. They released an EP, then announced a second one, Summer Gods, which sort of came out – they released an EP called Summer Gods that was not an album of new material, but instead of live versions of songs, most of which were hits from the before times, when Third Eye Blind had hits. One can assume, given this ambivalent-seeming interview in which Jenkins says his plan is to eventually release a full-length album comprised of songs from the EPs, that this was not the actual plan – unless he planned to release an album of half original songs and half live versions of songs everybody already knew 5. It would appear, to the casual observer, that the band is spinning its wheels. Jenkins even basically admitted as much, stating that “[t]he idea with this EP was to amplify some of that music and art, and in doing so, catch inspiration for our next album”. Sounds like a plan.

In the band’s defense, recording an album full of covers is a classic wheels-spinning move. The Rolling Stones were just praised to the rafters for doing it. Metallica did it and it revealed that they needed to fire their bass player 6. Rage Against the Machine did it to delay breaking up. But hey, it kind of worked for Slayer 7 and the aforefootnoted Tori Amos 8

It has, at least, drummed up more press for the band than anything else they’ve done in awhile – I was previously unaware of the whole “recording only EPs thing,” or anything about their continued existence. I suppose I was dimly aware that they were still out there, but I hadn’t considered them. Jenkins has filled the press with quotes about how much he likes this version of the band, and how intergenerational the audiences at Third Eye Blind shows are 9. Nevertheless, the whole project has a sort of “trying to get out of this box” quality that makes it seem more put-on than it maybe is.

The assemblage of songs – seven in all – is a white elephant sale of cover versions. Power-pop journeymen Happy Diving and sort-of-big indie band Chastity Belt make a little bit of sense, I suppose. Covering Babyshambles (the least-good of Pete Doherty’s bands) is always a publicity move, since there isn’t, y’know, anything going on in any of their songs 10. Tim Buckley and Bon Iver are the “respectability” bids, and Santigold and Queens of the Stone Age the “cool” bids 11. It’s hard to tell who is being communicated to, and what the communication is, other than “we are a band that likes popular songs and can learn to play them.”

The surprising end result of listening to them steamroll their way through the songs I was familiar with 12 was a sort of fugue state, where I thought about what “songcraft” is and what it means to be a rock band. That probably seemed loftier than it was, but I actually thought that a professional, relatively well-played cover band is not a terrible thing to be, and wouldn’t be a terrible thing for Third Eye Blind to be. It might even be easier than whatever it is they’re trying to revive here – it seems like it’s easier to learn a bunch of cover songs and use them to fill the set in between, y’know, “Jumper” and “Never Let You Go” or whatever. Obviously I have no business or artistic concern with Third Eye Blind, and am more than happy to let every band do what it is that they do, without it having anything to do with me. Preferable, really: it’s the only way to be surprised or have any kind of genuine moment of communication. Nevertheless, I think there is nothing dishonorable about deciding to perform other peoples’ songs, and that they would be well served by considering it more often 13.

So, in its way, it’s probably the Third Eye Blind that I found most interesting, and most genuine: even if they’re just trying to give the people what they want, they’re doing so by interpreting other people’s’ songs, and somehow managing to make them all sound their own thing 14even if that “thing” is utterly free of nuance or anything that would mark it as distinct – it’s like someone turned seven really interesting dishes into seven soups – it’s not that there’s anything wrong with soup, as such, it’s that soup is hard to make distinctive under most conditions, and none of these things were actually soup to begin with.

And so we come back to the question: who the fuck listens to this? Leaving aside the obvious evergreen answers (Stans, trufans, whatever you want to call them)? It raises its own kind of curiosity, so maybe that would be enough to answer the question. But as with a bunch of these things, the question then is: who the fuck listens to this twice? I can’t imagine that question has an answer.

  1.  in some form, see below. 
  2.  in addition to some other factors, see below again. 
  3.  to his (or the band’s) credit, he is also the only distinctive element of the band, as, as far as I can tell, no instrumentalist has ever played even a single distinctive note, but Jenkins’s voice is at least somewhat-memorable. Or recognizable, at least. 
  4.  formed, dizzyingly, as a result of Kevin Cadogan, the band’s original guitar player and the leader of XEB, having been ousted from Third Eye Blind, Inc. because of a record deal that left Stephen Jenkins with sole control of the band.  
  5.  a thing that almost kind of worked when Tori Amos did it on To Venus and Back 
  6.  The efficacy of this move is, of course, a matter of some argument 
  7.  I mean, Diabolus in Musica is the one right after Undisputed Aggression, but the album after that is God Hates Us All, and that’s a pretty effective comeback right there. 
  8.  which actually tells me that Slayer might be the magic ingredient, as Strange Little Girls contains a cover of “Raining Blood”. 
  9.  Although in the AZ Central link, above, he also states that their audience includes “a whole generation of millennials and even Gen Zs”, which is….not that large a range. 
  10.  Jenkins explained it to Consequence of Sound by saying  “There’s a raised fist in this song and that’s what we need right now.” Which, I mean, I guess so? But not really. It’s not as much of a “raised fist” as it is a “Can of lighter fluid doused all over oneself, and a struck match.” 
  11. twenty years ago, one of these would have been replaced by an “ironic” song, and it came as a small relief to me that none of these really qualified. At least the world has moved forward in this one small way. 
  12.  Tim Buckley’s “Song of the Siren,” Queens of the Stone Age’s “In the Fade,” and Santigold’s “Not Our Parade” are songs that I knew outright. Babyshambles’ “Fuck Forever” and Bon Iver’s “Blood Bank” are songs I recognized from hearing them incidentally. I did not really know Chastity Belt’s “Joke” or Happy Diving’s “10” well, although I listened to them again to compare them for this, because I do research, people.  
  13. it brings to mind Beach Slang, who are known for playing an almost-absurd number of cover songs in their live sets, which are great. 
  14. including the extraordinarily ill-advised decision to perform “In the Fade” as a weird pop-funk reggae-lite bit of business that suits neither the band nor the song.  

The 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

Emmy time is here again! The joys of the big-time network-television awards show are to be rained down upon us! It’s time to gather around our televisions and listen to the people that make television tell us about the joys of television, as well as who made the best television!

They are, of course, wrong 1, because any decision made by committee about artistic endeavors is liable to be wrong at least twice as often as it is right, but that is, of course, a discussion for another time 2. For now I will take their consensus decisions and apply my own obviously-infallible judgment to them, to help you all understand what is Right, even if it is not necessarily what is correct.

Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story was very well-received by the Emmy folks, which surprised me, and I’m even more surprised that it’s here in this category, given that the writing is absolutely not what impelled the show. Black Mirror: USS Callister and American Vandal are both reliant on a kind of twist, which is fine from a viewing perspective, but also which demeans the writing somewhat from an awards perspective 3Patrick Melrose is, mechanically speaking, a real interesting exercise, as it is the product of a novelist 4 adapting the work of another novelist 5. Too bad the show is terrible. Godless is probably well-written, but it is also a Western, which means most of the things it trucks in are things I have no use for, and little response to, so it’s not the winner here. That leaves us with Twin Peaks, and I must say, it’s probably much more difficult to write something that is non-linear and doesn’t seem to make much sense.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mark Frost and David Lynch, Twin Peaks

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special

The only one of these that isn’t a stand-up special is Samantha Bee’s Puerto Rico special, which is wonderful, but it was written by a room full of people to be taped in advance, and has a bunch of advantages in the “writing” sense over the ones that one person (or, in one case, two people) wrote alone to be performed all at once. Steve Martin & Martin Short made a fine special – they have both been among the funniest people on the planet at one time or another 6, but it’s not that good. John Mulaney and Michelle Wolf both made specials that were as good as you could want them to be – they’re very good comics, and their specials reflect that. There’s not much else to say about that. Patton Oswalt’s Annihilation deals with tragedies personal and global, and does so on the way to being one of his funniest hours yet 7, and one of the funniest anythings of the entire year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Patton Oswalt, Annihilation

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

A television show’s first season is hard to do well. You have to establish your show and let people know what they’re in for, start a bunch of balls rolling and manage to do so in a way that also clues people in to who the characters are and where they’re going to be doing their interacting. That makes Killing Eve’s writing a real achievement. It’s also hard to keep the ball rolling on a series, and The Handmaid’s Tale managed it, more-or-less. The Crown has shown itself to be pretty reliable as well, and while I suppose it’s possible to win an Emmy for stolidity of craft, I don’t think this is the ideal position. Stranger Things wobbled pretty hard without the novelty of their presentation 8. Game of Thrones’ nomination for writing after their weakest, most-ridiculous season yet seems a bit like a joke. One of the things that’s harder to do well than a premiere is a series finale – you have to put a button on a story people have spent literally years following, and have grown attached to the characters in varying ways, and The Americans managed to pull that off, so I think the award probably goes there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, The Americans (“START”)

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

I should probably be careful not to come out too hard sounding like a broken record already. So I will acknowledge that Amy Sherman-Palladino has made a very good set of decisions in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and the writing is lovely. Silicon Valley continues to be a very funny show, and tightening up the ensemble 9 has clearly done it some good, although that doesn’t have much to do with the writing itself. Barry is a very good show that has the unfortunate coincidence of coexisting at the same time as Atlanta. Atlanta Atlanta Atlanta Atlanta Atlanta 10.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Donald Glover, Atlanta (“Alligator Man”)

Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

See what I mean about The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, though? It’s like it’s cracked some sort of code for being nominated for everything despite not being better than any of the other stuff particularly. I mean, it was good and I liked it, but I don’t think it was “a nomination in every category” good. Anyway, I’m still in the same boat w/r/t Godless as I was in the writing category, and you can throw biopics right in the same boat, so Paterno is right out. Patrick Melrose is still dumb and bad. The Looming Tower is definitely weirdly-timed, and is probably fine, but also is trying so very hard to say more than it does 11, or at least it seems that way. Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert was the filmed adaptation of a stage musical. That leaves us, once again, with Twin Peaks, which was, in point of fact, directed by an actual literal genius.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: David Lynch, Twin Peaks

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special

The difficulty of directing stand-up specials is in the capturing of a live event in such a way that it makes the audience member – who is viewing an immersive experience at remove of both time and space – seem like they are watching the thing happen in front of them. The point of The Oscars and the Super Bowl halftime show are not exactly the same thing – the idea behind those is merely to get them on the screen. There’s no real way to transfer the experience of being at The Oscars, and there isn’t the time or space involved in the Super Bowl halftime show to do much more than get it up there. Of the three standup specials here, they’re all pretty staid as all that goes, but the Steve Martin and Martin Short special is necessarily more movement-oriented, and so seems like it a better job was done with the directing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marcus Raboy, Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Never Forget for the Rest of Your Life

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series

So all of the shows here are pretty bad, but they’re all well-directed. I don’t have the particular inclination to go back through and see how many times that’s happened 12. Ozark is beautiful and boring, and most of its good qualities are actually down to the cinematography 13, and neither episode here distinguishes itself for its directing. Game of Thrones abandoned all pretense of being anything other than a show of giant spectacle and soap-opera melodrama, and I think that that probably means the directing was not quite as good as it could have been. Also, it is awful. That said, even in a case like The Handmaid’s Tale, where most of the show is an interactional, people-oriented drama, they still end up nominating the giant setpiece episode, so I guess “huge spectacle” is what we’re doing here. That seems to set it up for Stranger Things, which at least had the most effective spectacle 14, but I’m feeling ornery today, and I think it should be The Crown. So there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stephen Daldry, The Crown (“Paterfamilias”)

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series

Barry is very good. GLOW is very good. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is fine. The Big Bang Theory is a war crime, but I get it. Atlanta’s “FUBU” episode is wonderful. Only one of these things is “Teddy Perkins.”

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hiro Murai, Atlanta (“Teddy Perkins”)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

As previously mentioned in the Creative Arts Emmys, I thought Jesus Christ Superstar was ok, but not particularly great. I think that Sara Bareilles’s performance is sort of indicative of most of what it presented: she did an adequate job with some very familiar material that transformed nothing, but was distinguished by being On Television. Merritt Weaver and Letitia Wright are, as far as I can tell, great in everything, but I’m still not the guy who’s super-into Godless or Black Mirror. Adina Porter did a fine job (as she always does) in American Horror Story: Cult. I think that there are still too many nominations generally for The Assassination of Gianni Versace, and I definitely don’t think that Penelope Cruz’s impression of her friend Donatella is any particular kind of award-worthy, but I do think that some of the acting was quite nice, and Judith Light really did a fantastic job with her part 15.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Judith Light, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

So here’s some more Jesus Christ Superstar, although I will say I liked Brandon Victor Dixon a lot more than I liked Sara Bareilles, I still don’t think it was doing anything particularly award-worthy with the character or the performance 16. Jeff Daniels is occasionally-great, but Godless is still not the best showcase for any given actor’s talents. John Leguizamo did a great job playing against type in Waco. Ricky Martin, Edgar Ramirez and Michael Stuhlbarg all did admirable “real people” impressions, but since that was the bulk of the nominations, then it probably should go to the best one of them, and that was Finn Wittrock, who was so good at it that I didn’t get annoyed by his acting or the fact that he was playing a real person. Well, I didn’t get more than a little annoyed by the acting part.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Finn Wittrock, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Surveying the drama series each time they come around makes me feel like the crankiest old person in the world. Game of Thrones has been chugging along for years now, and as much as Lena Headey is good in the role, and as much as she might be the person who is the most fun to watch in the role, it’s still the same damn role every year. Westworld is fine, and presents its acting challenges and whatever else to the people that act in it, but Thandie Newton isn’t giving us anything I think should be singled out, as such. I don’t have much to say about Millie Bobby Brown 17 on Stranger Things or Vanessa Kirby on The Crown, other than that I’m more-or-less glad they’re both there. Yvonne Strahovski is fine on The Handmaid’s Tale, but not as good as Ann Dowd, who was in turn not as good as Alexis Bledel.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

If it seemed like I was upset about the same people getting nominated for the same performances every year in the lady category, you can only imagine what I’m feeling about this one. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has been baseline-acceptable the whole time, but what’s especially galling is that Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister has been Destiny-level phoned in, and getting worse, for the last couple of seasons now. So it’s probably not the time to give him an award. I’m OK skipping Mandy Patinkin and citing the “enough with the same people all the time” rule 18, and while David Harbour isn’t quite there (it’s only Stranger Things’ second season, after all), it still isn’t the kind of thing that rises out of the pack. Matt Smith did a fine job as real-live person Prince Phillip on The Crown. Good for him. Joseph Fiennes did a better job as the made-up-fictional person Fred Waterford on The Handmaid’s Tale.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Joseph Fiennes, The Handmaid’s Tale

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

This was a particularly weak year for Saturday Night Live, and none of the women here were necessarily to blame for that, but none of them were particularly consistent enough to make their Emmy-receiving seem logical 19, so that’s Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones all out. Megan Mullally and Laurie Metcalf both create an interesting sort of loophole thingy in my aforestated frustration with people getting nominated for awards, as they are both revisiting characters that they played for many years prior. I think it’s fine that they are nominated 20, but I also don’t think they’re the best here, even though each is the best part of their respective shows, in a comedic performance sense. Alex Borstein is great in everything 21, and maybe in a less-competitive year she’d be up there. Betty Gilpin is also fantastic, and really does deserve praise for GLOW. Her only real fault is that she’s not on Atlanta. I mean, you all saw where this was going, right? There’s no D’Arcy Carden or Jameela Jamil here (The Good Place is shamefully left out of several categories), and they was the only real competition for Zazie Beetz in the first place.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Zazie Beetz, Atlanta 

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

This is a much better field 22, especially once you discard Kenan Thompson, who, again, is fine 23, but also not doing much that he hasn’t already done and also doing that not very much on a subpar season of Saturday Night Live, and especially especially once you set Alec Baldwin’s weak-ass Donald Trump impression on fire and push it out to sea 24. Henry Winkler is as good as he always is on Barry, but he’s also just kind of doing what he’s done ever since Arrested Development, even if he is super-funny at doing that particular thing. Louie Anderson is terrific on Baskets, but he’s not quite in the same class as our last two. Bryan Tyree Henry is going to be the only person in the primary cast of Atlanta to not be the rightful winner of an Emmy because, although he is a better actor than Tituss Burgess (probably), he isn’t as funny, and this is the comedy Emmy, so it goes to what I think must be – second-for-second in terms of screen time – the funniest character on television.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Titiuss Burgess, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Bully for this dumbshit Law & Order spinoff for actually including the phrase “true crime” in its title. Truly Dick Wolf is a genius. Anyway, nobody on that stunt-cast ratings-bait 25 show gets an award, no matter if one of them is Edie Falco. I probably don’t have any more stuff to say about Godless, even if I do generally like Michelle Dockery. Sarah Paulson is definitely one of the reasons to keep watching American Horror Story every year, but I don’t think what she’s doing qualifies as “good acting.” The Tale is certain affecting, and it’s very hard to criticize, but it’s also sort of critic-proof: are you going to be the one to tell this documentarian that her real-life story about her real-life sexual abuse is not as good as, say, Seven Seconds 26, but here I am, the person saying it. Between being pretty good in The Sinner and absolutely brilliant as a guest star on Bojack Horseman, Jessica Biel is really turning me around on Jessica Biel, but even she just isn’t in the same league as Regina King, who I’m pretty sure has been the rightful winner of more of these than anyone else in the time I’ve been constructing these writeups.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Regina King, Seven Seconds 

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

So Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t the reason why Patrick Melrose is dumb and I hate it, but he’s a part of it, and he’s not making it any better. Jeff Daniels did an ok job playing a real person in The Looming Tower, Darren Criss did a slightly more-good job playing a real person in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, and Antonio Banderas did a better job playing an even more daunting real person in Genius: Picasso, but again, I’m still not into giving awards for that kind of thing. John Legend was pretty good as Jesus, but, again, not that good. That leaves us with Jesse Plemons by default, which is ok, but not where I wanted us to be at this point.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesse Plemons, Black Mirror: USS Callister

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Elisabeth Moss is probably going to be a contender in this category until The Handmaid’s Tale goes off the air 27, and rightfully so, but this year I don’t think he did the best job. Claire Foy is being nominated for Emmys for The Crown that she should have been nominated for for Wolf Hall, and I’m not into apology awards. Sandra Oh did a very good job (doesn’t she always?) with Killing Eve, and Evan Rachel Wood was perfectly fine in Westworld. But Orphan Black and The Americans both ended satisfyingly, and each of them required a number of unique acting challenges to be met by their actors 28. I’m going to go with Keri Russell here, but if Tatiana Maslany wins that’ll be fine.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Keri Russell, The Americans

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

I would genuinely be pretty happy to never have to think about This is Us again. Honestly, it would make me happy. Sorry, Milo Ventimiglia and Sterling K. Brown. At least one of you is liable to go on to better things. It’s true that Westworld isn’t old enough for me to cast it into the cornfield for its acting performances being the same, but it is also true that this is a pretty Ed-Harris-by-numbers acting performance, so what would the award be for? Jason Bateman is clearly reaching for something with Ozark, and I hope he doesn’t hurt himself doing so. Jeffrey Wright is the person I have the least to say about, except that he isn’t Matthew Rhys, and therefore he isn’t the rightful winner.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Matthew Rhys, The Americans

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

This is a pretty strong field, but more than that, it’s quite possibly the tallest field of actresses in awards history. Except for the two people who are quite short. All or nothing, really. Am I stalling? I’m stalling a bit. These are all pretty good performances. Allison Janney is turning in the same job she always does on Mom, which is sort of the pinnacle of “adequate network sitcom.” Lily Tomlin is similarly hitting her own bar on Grace and Frankie, but nothing that stands out from normal. Issa Rae is playing a fictionalized version of herself, and her acting is good, but it’s also the least-noteworthy of her credits on Insecure. Tracee Ellis Ross actually dodges the “everything the same all the time” angle of being nominated for a character she’s played for years as the events of last season’s Black-ish really made a change to the way the character is played. Good job, Ms. Ross. Rachel Brosnahan is delightful, and may come into a better performance as her show goes on. Pamela Adlon certainly did, elevating Better Things to something really special.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Pamela Adlon, Better Things

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

I like Curb Your Enthusiasm. I like it a lot, in fact. But, of course, as I am dead-set against granting an Emmy for your foreverth year of playing him, I am doubly dead-set against it when that character is, y’know, a very very thinly-veiled version of yourself. Anthony Anderson gets the same pass as Tracee Ellis Ross (see above), and did a nice job. William H. Macy receives no such pass. Bill Hader is great, but he’s also overpowered. Ted Danson is the only person in the absolutely-flawless cast of The Good Place to be nominated for an Emmy, and that is a crime. Maybe next year it might even belong to him. But this is the year that “Teddy Perkins” happened, and that makes this an open-and-shut case.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Donald Glover, Atlanta

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program

Every year there is very little permutation in this category. Every year I give it to Top Chef, because even though it’s not as good as it used to be 29. This year it gets some competition for the surprisingly-effective American Ninja Warrior, but honestly, it’s still just Top Chef, guys.


Outstanding Limited Series

By the time we get to the series categories I generally have less to say about them. That means these things get really asymmetrical. But I don’t like Patrick Melrose, I don’t think Genius: Picasso did very much in terms of the genre, other than be tasteful 30. So it comes down to a western, a fictionalized true crime story, and a biopic. This is why I hate making these decisions. Well, Godless didn’t even have the decency to be any fun, and while I admire that The Alienist took plenty of liberties with its story and admitted it right up front, I don’t admire much else about it 31. So that leaves the bonkers, weirdly-paced, unfocused, but occasionally brilliant The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story as the winner.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

Portlandia finally ended 32, so it’s here, but it probably oughtn’t be. Saturday Night Live will almost certainly never end, but it shouldn’t be here either. I Love You, America never really seemed to get off the ground in a way that would explain its nomination here. Tracey Ullman’s Show, Drunk History and At Home With Amy Sedaris are all very entertaining shows, and I’d be happy to see any of them go home with it, although I think it’s kind of a weak category overall.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Drunk History, I guess?

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

This is a much stronger category, especially when you throw out The Late Late Show with James Corden. Actually, since Jimmy Kimmel also isn’t the rightful winner, it’s fair to say that this comes down entirely to The Daily Show and shows run by former Daily Show correspondents. What a thing The Daily Show was, y’know? That’s a long shadow. As much as as I like John Oliver, I think Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee made better shows, and honestly, I really think Samantha Bee did better, even if her show is much smaller.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Outstanding Comedy Series

You know, if The Good Place were nominated here where it belongs, this might be a contest. Black-Ish is good for a network sitcom. Silicon Valley is reliable if no-longer spectacular. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has a lot of promise. Curb Your Enthusiasm is wildly uneven, but worthwhile. GLOW is fantastic, but doesn’t have the same impact as our front-runners. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a tough one to turn down – it really is an all-time great show, and has a super-high batting average in terms of “things about that work.” It’s also purely a comedy, which seats it well in this category. But Atlanta is…well, it’s Atlanta. And it’s nearly untouchable.


  1.  although they didn’t do as badly with the Creative Arts Emmys 
  2.  a discussion I really should table for a future piece where I write about why awards shows are both a useful barometer of who is trying to sell me what, and why they are basically never right about anything, a thing I have talked about previously w/r/t The Oscars and The Grammys. Weirdly, the Emmys have largely avoided the kind of large-scale controversy of the other two. 
  3. it’s unavoidable, and I’m not always super-public about this opinion, but it means that you’re throwing away any chance that people would enjoy it again for the chance at getting people to react to it in the first place. While this is less of an issue for television than it is for other media, it’s still annoying. Note that later on I will praise The Good Place (and decry its relative lack of nominations), and it does twists all the time. So I’m not saying it can’t be done well or that it precludes good writing, just that it tends to lessen the writing somewhat. Also The Good Place isn’t built around its twists, it just contains them. 
  4.  David Nicholls, who wrote Starter for Ten and One Day, among others. 
  5.  Edward St. Aubyn, who wrote, well, the Patrick Melrose novels, which are, editorially, about how rich it is to be rich etc. and are awful, and who was, in all likelihood, a formative influence on David Nicholls from back there in FN4. 
  6.  although it’s true that they, respectively, got bored of comedy for several years and wandered off to write novels and play the banjo (Martin), and lost the plot of their own skillset and career for a while and are just now righting the ship (Short). 
  7.  It might actually be his funniest hour yet, but I’d have to spend some more time with it to give it the mental space over something like Werewolves and Lollipops, which I’ve spent years and years with. 
  8.  by which I mean when you get past “it’s kids! In the eighties!” it has a little bit more of a hard time generating momentum under its own power. 
  9.  by allowing TJ Miller to drift off into drug-fuelled insanity elsewhere 
  10.  although it was probably going to be Atlanta the whole time, I will say that it is a shame that the writing for The Good Place was not nominated, because it is also an incredibly well-written show, and it’s better than, well, everything in this category that isn’t Atlanta. 
  11.  it’s not really appropriate to anthropomorphize entire tv networks, but it also seems nakedly ambitious in a way that it doesn’t really live up to (NB: I normally think ambition is an unreservedly good thing, it’s the flavor of this ambition that I’m not super into) – it’s a Lawrence Wright adaptation, which worked out for HBO a few years back, it’s a Big Serious Topical Issue, which they kind of backed into with The Handmaid’s Tale, and it’s got a bunch of Big Serious Actors in it. 
  12.  I suspect, given that I don’t much care for television drama and it’s where a lot of the serious direction is done, that it happens quite often, to be honest. 
  13.  well, most of its good qualities are actually down to the naturally-occurring qualities of the setting, but it’s put on television by the cinematography. 
  14.  especially considering that these episodes of Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale are both trafficking in grief pornography and the shock of seeing a bunch of people dead. 
  15.  especially since I assumed, in admittedly bad faith, that it would just be some more Ryan Murphy stunt-casting. 
  16.  NB that I think this is more-or-less intentional: I don’t think anyone is meant to be broadening horizons or pursuing the audience to their furthest corners in these televised musical jobbers.   
  17.  well, I will say this: I think her performance in Stranger Things was probably the best part of the second season, so good on her for that I suppose. 
  18.  a quick reminder for anyone who might not remember – or hasn’t read long enough to know – why I feel this way, which is worth laying out here because it’s going to figure into the further proceedings: the performance is created initially, and if nothing materially or procedurally changes for the performance (as in the actor is, on paper, giving the same performance year in and year out), then I see no reason to keep nominating, given that it takes less work to maintain a performance than it does to just create one. This is a sort of “static point” argument, with the “floating point” argument being that the environment around the performance – the other shows in competition, and the actors on those shows and their performances, change every year, so maybe it’s re-nominated in light of the difference in those performances. I don’t think that washes, because acting is still acting, and it’s still about the job the person did under the circumstances, and managing to maintain the same job while the field moves on around you is still not the sort of things I feel awards for “outstanding”ness ought to be given out for. 
  19.  that said, their head writers – Colin Jost and Michael Che, recently confirmed to continue to be the head writers – are the hosts of the show, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see one of them receive it. 
  20.  meaning that the intervening years have created enough of a material change in the condition for the actress/character that it’s not the same thing as when they were both nominated all the time the first time around, which would have made me hop up and down like an upset person had I been writing in this space at that time. 
  21.  except Family Guy, but that’s ok, because no one is great in Family Guy because it’s a flaming garbage pile. She did, however, just win this year’s Creative Arts Emmy for her vocal performance in Family Guy, so good for her. 
  22.  this is not usually the case in the supporting actor/actress categories, actually. Usually it’s the supporting actresses who put up the better category. 
  23.  where would this writeup be without the word “fine,” I ask you? It would definitely be full of the world “acceptable” or something, that’s where. 
  24.  you’d think if SNL was going to reverse stream to get the PR benefit of going after the dude they fellated into hosting the show in the run-up to his eventual presidential election that they’d try a little hard to right the ship of that decision, but no, we’re just stuck with Alec Baldwin’s stupid mugging every week. I’d say it should’ve been Darrell Hammond, but I’m on the record as thinking that the problem with this last season of SNL lies squarely with the writers, so I don’t think a change of performer would have helped that much. I mean, Darrell Hammond would have been better than Alec Baldwin, just still not good, y’know what I mean? 
  25.  “But,” I hear you asking, “in what sense is television not awards-bait all the time?” Well, in the sense that some of it doesn’t feel like it was smooshed together algorithmically to take robotic advantage of a bunch of floating search terms. 
  26.  this, in a nutshell, is my problem with the fictionalization of real events, especially in this kind of autobiographical context: I get the need to tell your story, I really do, but I think that it’s manipulative to do so in this way, and it puts people that don’t like it in the position of saying “I don’t like you”. I’m not saying it should never happen, and I’m pretty sure I’m out here dying alone on this hill, but I still think they should be considered separately in stuff like this, because otherwise it’s tremendously difficult to evaluate. 
  27.  so expect some cranky yelling in this space about WHY IS SHE STILL BLAH BLAH BLAH that will last until, oh, 2024 or so. 
  28.  to wit: The Americans required a twisty-matryoshka set of personalities/acting performances form Keri Russell, and Orphan Black required Tatiana Maslany to play a bunch of clones. 
  29.  actually last season was awfully damn good, even with the weird John Besh thing that they kept having to cut around. 
  30.  I’ll concede that it did have its moments. 
  31.  it’s definitely not as good as the Psychic TV album of the same name, I’ll tell you that much for free. 
  32.  in true Fred Armisen fashion, it did so years after it should have. 

The 70th Annual Primetime Creative Arts Emmys

It’s the two-week Emmy period, everybody! Last year I started covering the Creative Arts Emmys, both out of a sense of completeness and because it is a chance to think about the way things are honored, and selected to be honored, which is a thing that I genuinely enjoy, no matter what it sounds like below, and is a big part of why I write about so many awards here in this space.

Of course, this is also giving myself a hill to climb, because there are a whole bunch of these, so I’ll try to keep everything brief and moving, much like the ceremony itself, which is shunted off to a whole other weekend and honored somewhat-cursorily.

I’m sure it’s still cool to win one, though.

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series

This could go happily to Full Frontal or Last Week Tonight, as long as it doesn’t go to Saturday Night Live, which genuinely had a terribly-written season, and the inclusion of which is utterly baffling. I think Samantha Bee made better points in general, even if John Oliver was better-researched. I suppose this makes me part of the problem.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Outstanding Writing for a Non-Fiction Program

It’s easy enough to go for the Mr. Rogers documentary here, and also I like Ken Burns as much as anybody, but I do think Parts Unknown was always great, and Anthony Bourdain’s death makes this a fitting occasion.


THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain, “Southern Italy”


Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special

Outstanding….video control? Ok. All of these were too long, and three of them were actively boring, if technically-demanding, so I guess it’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, which was also too long, but wasn’t boring the whole time. Only part of the time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert

Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Series

I am genuinely curious what it is about the finales of Dancing With the Stars or The Voice, or even that one episode of The Big Bang Theory, which use a more-or-less constant video-setup 1 that make them the thing being awarded here. I assume that they want to honor the show, and they just chose a big episode, but it still seems like there ought to be separate awards for things like live competition reality shows and three-camera sitcoms where they’re honored for the setup, and not any kind of arbitrary individual effort. I mean, it’s not any of those anyway, but I think they’re hurt by being included with things that actually have to change their thing from time to time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Saturday Night Live, “Host: Donald Glover”

Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series, or Movie

Aw, hell, I don’t like Game of Thrones, but it does seem like figuring out how to get all of those people dying on screen on there without hurting anybody and without rendering the action incoherent 2 is a pretty huge hurdle. So good job, stunt coordinators.


Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or Variety Program

It has got to be hard to convince the world that Annie Edison is a wrestler.


Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role

I have literally no idea what “in a supporting role” means in this category. Like…visual effects that aren’t the stars of the show? That seems weird, is all I’m saying here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Alienist, “The Boy on the Bridge”

Outstanding Special Visual Effects

While it’s true that every single one of these shows I either found disappointing or outright stupid, I can’t deny that there’s a tight race in terms of visual effects. Since it’s the only part of Altered Carbon that I liked, I guess it’s them.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Altered Carbon, “Out of the Past”

Outstanding Sound Mixing for Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera)

Once again, I’m kind of reduced to giving this out to the job that seems the most difficult, which I think is the most impressive. There may be some subtleties that I’m missing by doing so, but I think it’s got to go to the war miniseries. Because wars are rather loud, and academics and/or talking-head veterans are rather quiet.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Vietnam War, “Episode 6: Things Fall Apart (January 1968-July 1968)”

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety Series or Special

The Grammys were terrible, but they did manage to sound ok despite including a bunch of different performances in a bunch of different manners, a bunch of talking, and an audience that (presumably) was louder than it would have been at, say, The Oscars. I am not an expert at what goes into television sound, guys.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: 60th Annual Grammy Awards

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) and Animation

I do find it funny that the Emmys people would have us believe that you use different skills to mix a half-hour show than you do a full hour. Maybe it’s like that thing Fezzik said about fighting more than one person.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mozart in the Jungle, “Domo Arigato”

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or Movie

Shout out to Twin Peaks for managing to make the sound as weird and interesting as everything else. It’s really head and shoulders above everything else here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Twin Peaks, “Part 8”

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour)

Totally different from the job of mixing for a half hour. Totally.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stranger Things, “The Mind Flayer”

Outstanding Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera)

Like all forms of editing, sound editing is the kind of thing I only notice when it’s gone wrong, and all of this seems fine to me. So probably the war thing again.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Vietnam War, “Episode 6: Things Fall Apart (January 1968-July 1968)”

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special

You guys, I completely forgot about Waco. Like, completely. It had Tim Riggins in it! And it was on the Paramount network, which is a thing that exists! Probably it was not super-easy to forget Emmy nominees in non-peak-tv years!


Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) and Animation

Man, they simply are not going to have made enough awards to honor “Teddy Perkins” in the manner that it deserves to be honored. What an incredible episode of television. The sound was certainly as impressive as the rest of it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Atlanta, “Teddy Perkins”

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One-Hour)

Eh, what the hell, Star Trek always has cool sound. Some of that is probably down to the editing, right?  I’m just happy to be out of the sound categories.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Star Trek: Discovery, “What’s Past is Prologue”

Outstanding Production Design for a Variety, Nonfiction, Event, or Award Special

Thankfully, there’s a live musical in here, otherwise I’d have to consider the production design of awards shows, and that would probably drive me insane.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert

Outstanding Production Design for a Variety, Nonfiction, Reality, or Reality-Competition Series

I mean, I would be even more thankful if I didn’t have to consider the production design of reality shows, but hey, I suppose I can’t expect to get that lucky twice.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bill Nye Saves the World, “Why All Our Friends are Dying”

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More)

I was going to complain that there wasn’t a category for half hour period or fantasy program, but then I remembered that there aren’t any. Ah, well.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Alienist, “The Boy on the Bridge”

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary Program (One Hour or More)

It is odd to me that three of these are single episodes and the other two are entire series. I mean, I don’t know how you’d separate individual episodes of Twin Peaks out, production-design-wise, but they do it for everything else no matter what, it’s weird that it falls down here.


Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program

I think this really should be a primary award. Unstructured reality programs 3 are made almost entirely by their editors, so this is a much bigger job than the other kind of thing, where the expectations on the video editors are much more straightforward. Ah, well.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: United Shades of America, “Sikhs in America”

Outstanding Picture Editing for a Structured or Competition Reality Program

Although it must also be said that the editors are also the stars of competition programs, where people’s personalities and storylines emerge and become apparent. It’s thankless work, I tell you. Thankless.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Queer Eye, “Series Body of Work”

Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming

This is a real grab-bag of highly-regarded nonfiction programming, let me tell you. When people want to know what the state of nonfiction programming in 2018 was, we can just point them right to this category, yes sir.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, Hunter Gross (“Lagos”)

Outstanding Picture Editing for Variety Programming

The specifics of my biography mean that I am the prime audience for a fake movie trailer about the life of Warren G. Harding, so this one was a pretty easy decision.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Last Week Tonight, Anthony Miale (“Wax President Harding”)

Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series

Of all the distinctions in all of the technical categories here, I think the difference between picture editing for multi-camera vs. single-camera shows is the easiest to grab. I have very little else to say about it, but it’s nice to know exactly where I stand here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: One Day at a Time, Pat Barnett (“Not Yet”)

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Limited Series or Movie

You know, for whatever value The Assassination of Gianni Versace may have actually had 4, that “Manhunt” episode was tense and well-plotted, and told a bunch of different parts of the story at once. Good job, editors.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Chi-Yoon Chung (“Manhunt”)

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series

No, but seriously I cannot think of a single aspect of “Teddy Perkins” that I wish was any different than it was.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Atlanta, “Teddy Perkins”

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series

Some of the time I’m able to figure out what’s being evaluated in the technical categories by the things that are nominated. In this case, clearly huge action setpieces are tough to edit, so let’s just go with the hugest action setpiece and move along.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Game of Thrones, Tim Porter (“Beyond the Wall”)

Outstanding Music Supervision

“Alligator Man” isn’t quite the triumph of television that “Teddy Perkins” is, but it’s got some awfully great music in it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Atlanta, Jen Malone and Fam Udeorji (“Alligator Man”)

Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music

This is maybe the easiest category to gather information about and judge that I’ve ever encountered. What a great idea. Anyway, The Tick has always had a great theme song, and it continues to have a great theme song in this incarnation.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Bacon, The Tick

Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics

I find it hard to muster up any sort of feelings about any of this.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Big Mouth, “Am I Gay?” (“Totally Gay”)

Outstanding Music Direction

In this case, the fact that the Super Bowl halftime show sucked doesn’t matter, and I can just be impressed that they put together a stage, held a show on it, then tore it down all in the span of the show. I mean, they do that every year, but it’s still impressive.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Super Bowl Halftime Show LII Starring Justin Timberlake

Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special (Original Dramatic Score)

Black Mirror does have good music, whatever else may be going on with it, and however uneven it may be.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Black Mirror, Daniel Pemberton (“USS Callister”)

Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score)

I like Ramin Djawadi just fine, enough to understand why he’s here twice, and while I have basically no use for Westworld, the music is pretty cool.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ramin Djawadi, Westworld (“Akane No Mai”)

Outstanding Motion Design (Juried)

This is a new award, and it’s for graphic design onscreen. It’s distinct from Title Design (see below), so I’m not entirely sure what they’re going for. It also only has two nominees and is decided by jury. It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I’m going to go with Broad City (“Mushrooms”) on general principle.

Outstanding Prosthetic Make-up for a Series, Limited Series, Movie, or Special

The other thing The Assassination of Gianni Versace had going for it was that they definitely made the people on the show look like the people involved in the crime, etc. Good job, make-up folks.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Outstanding Makeup for a Limited Series or Movie (Non-Prosthetic)

I’m making them share the decision because 1) I don’t want to make it twice and 2) figuring out what counts as a prosthetic and what doesn’t using the resources available to me just gave me a headache.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Outstanding Makeup for a Multi-Camera Series or Special (Non-Prosthetic)

So only the Limited Series, Movie, or Special category has a prosthetic makeup award. I’m sure there are perfectly good historical reasons for this, but again I find myself boggling to consider what they might be. Anyway, it may be a shadow of what it once was, but pretty much any makeup award has to go to RuPaul’s Drag Race.


Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)

I think Game of Thrones takes some big makeup swings that it doesn’t often connect with. I think GLOW takes some reasonably-sized swings that work every single time.


Outstanding Main Title Design

Eh, I’ll just say on the train for GLOW while I’m already here. It’s got great main titles.


Outstanding Lighting Design / Lighting Direction for a Variety Special

You know, I don’t know that I would have thought of it directly, but as I consider it, I really did like the lighting for Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert

Outstanding Lighting Design / Lighting Direction for a Variety Series

There are no other lighting categories. I think that is weird. Like, super-weird.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Saturday Night Live, “Kevin Hart”, but this is probably the most arbitrary this decision has ever been.

Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media Within An Unscripted Program

So this generally refers to the “second-screen” bit of a show, except where it’s Watch What Happens Live, which is, y’know, Andy Cohen on a couch with only the very realest of housewives.


Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media Within A Scripted Program

I think, categorically, that all of this is stupid, but I’m here to say that the Silicon Valley thing is the least stupid one here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Silicon Valley – Interactive World: Not Hotdog, VR & Twitter-Powered Pizza Drones

Outstanding Interactive Program

I suppose, given these selections, that it may be possible that I do not, in fact, know what “interactive” means.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Full Frontal With Samantha Bee Online (?!)

Outstanding Original Interactive Program

At least all of these things are actually interactive. That’s nice.


Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program

I like being forced to consider whether RuPaul does a better job with Drag Race than W. Kamau Bell does with United Shades of America. It keeps me on my toes.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: W. Kamau Bell, United Shades of America

Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or Movie

I’m just going to say the thing here that I said about the makeup for The Assassination of Gianni Versace and leave it at that, since in this case I find the same thing to be impressive.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Outstanding Hairstyling for a Multi-Camera Series or Special

I mean, I know that hairstyling and make-up are two different things, but I also have to say that I’m recycling my earlier comments about RuPaul’s Drag Race here also.


Outstanding Directing for a Reality Program

What the actual hell is Shark Tank doing in here? Every single one of their episodes looks exactly alike. This is stupid.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: American Ninja Warrior, Patrick McManus (“Daytona Beach Qualifiers”)

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series

Well, Portlandia isn’t a static-set show and it was directed well by a non-professional, so what the hell. Those sound like good enough reasons to me.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Portlandia, Carrie Brownstein (“Riot Spray”)

Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming

Ah, it’s probably Ken Burns, isn’t it?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ken Burns, The Vietnam War (“Episode 8: The History Of The World (April 1969-May 1970)”)

Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Programming

It’s not that I don’t have a lot of opinions about RuPaul’s Drag Race, it’s that for our purposes here I only need one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: RuPaul’s Drag Race (“10s Across the Board”)

Outstanding Contemporary Costumes

The delineations in these categories 5 require a definition of “contemporary” that goes back forty years, and a definition of “period” (see below) that starts at, like, sixty years. The events of the past of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel were lived through by the parents in This is Us. This annoys me and I don’t know why.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Empire. It doesn’t have much else going for it anymore, but the costumes are great.

Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes

Hey wait, this makes me realize that A Series of Unfortunate Events should have also been in the makeup and production design categories. THIS IS A TRAVESTY. I AM OUTRAGED.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Outstanding Period Costumes

It’s The Crown, the show on this list whose costumes are both “outstanding” and “period”


Outstanding Commercial

I loathe that this category exists.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: “In Real Life”, I guess

Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming

Blue Planet II is basically “Outstanding Cinematography: The Series”, and the ocean episodes seem especially technically demanding, so that’s the clear standout here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Blue Planet II, Gavin Thurston (“The Deep”)

Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program

I think I’ll go with Deadliest Catch. That’s some more ocean stuff.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Deadliest Catch (“Battle Lines”)

Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (One Hour)

Cinematography is one of the more difficult ones for me. I know exactly enough to feel like I know something about it, but not enough to feel like an actual expert. I know precisely the wrong amount about cinematography, is what I’m saying here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: M. David Mullen, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (“Pilot”)

Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie

My assumption is that, given what Twin Peaks: the Return accomplished, that it represents basically everything going as well as it could, so I think it’s the winner here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Twin Peaks: The Return (“Part 8”)

Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour)

I probably don’t have to keep going on about “Teddy Perkins,” you know?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Atlanta, Christian Sprenger (“Teddy Perkins”)

Outstanding Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series

I do have to wonder why there are only three nominees in this category.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Superior Donuts, Paty Lee (“Grades of Wrath”)

Outstanding Choreography

I have a pretty terrible memory for specific routines, even when I’ve watched the dance show episode in question, but I know that I always like Mandy Moore’s.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mandy Moore, So You Think You Can Dance (“Brand New”/”To Make You Feel My Love”)

Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program

The Queer Eye casting department had a harder time, I would think, as they had less to go on – the other shows have a measure of talent and general televisual charisma, and the Queer Eye folks didn’t have talent as a measure, they just had to hope that the audition/video talent that they saw was enough to make for a good episode. That seems much harder.


Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special

I suppose I’m supposed to be impressed that they successfully cast actors to play real people in a numerical majority of them, but I’m not particularly. Most of these are triumphs in stunt-casting, and since Godless isn’t really, it’s the best job done here.


Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series

Finding kids is harder than finding adults, even for a second season. So there.


Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series

Atlanta has an approach and style that’s different than any other show on television, and still manages to populate its episodes with people that are able to work within it. That’s good casting.


Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation (Juried)

This one is also juried, which is also weird. I don’t know how they decide that the experts are necessary to come up with the winner in these categories. Anyway, next year this will be Adventure Time’s to win for their finale 6, this year it goes to the holocaust one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm, Jeff Sher

Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series

What about….multiple Emmys for Megan?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Megan Amram, An Emmy for Megan

Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series

Uh….huh. Well. This one’s a stumper.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Melvin Jackson Jr., This Eddie Murphy Role is Mine, Not Yours

Outstanding Narrator

Whatever there is to say for Morgan Freeman, he’s no David Attenborough.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sir David Attenborough, Blue Planet II

Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance

This category is infuriating. We live in a time with more good animation than any other time in human history, and a wide variety of voice actors, and this category is all people who, even when they were good, are nominated for things that do not deserve awards even a little bit. I refuse to choose.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: None of these people.

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Boy, Samira Wiley is just delightful in everything she’s in, isn’t she?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Because my first exposure to Matthew Goode was his weird, wooden Ozymandias in Watchmen, I’m always especially jazzed when he’s in something in which he can actually act. It’s nice.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Matthew Goode, The Crown

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Maya Rudolph is reliably incredible, but even her presence wasn’t enough to prepare me for how great Judge Gen was on The Good Place. What a thing that was.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Maya Rudolph, The Good Place

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Katt Williams’s appearance on Atlanta very quickly elevated him to the level of “comedian I don’t ordinarily have any particular feelings about who managed to do some amazing work in a guest role on an FX tv show” 7, so that’s some good work there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Katt Williams, Atlanta

Outstanding Short Form Variety Series

I can’t say I much like any of these, but Honest Trailers is at least trying. Kind of.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Honest Trailers. Kind of.

Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series

No, seriously, An Emmy for Megan is great, and fulfills all of the minimum requirements to win an Emmy. It should win an Emmy.


Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking

Your boy over here is a big Jane Goodall head. Big time.


Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series

Love of Anthony Bourdain aside, the companion series Explore Parts Unknown was a nifty little sub-documentary that was always pretty interesting.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anthony Bourdain: Explore Parts Unknown

Outstanding Variety Special (Live)

If it seems like I loved Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, please be assured that I did not, it’s just the best thing going in each of these categories.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert

Outstanding Children’s Program

Man, I love A Series of Unfortunate Events.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Outstanding Short-Format Animation

Each of these is a fine candidate (except for We Bare Bears), but I think Steven Universe edges it out, if only because I’m prepared to gush crazily over Adventure Time next year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Steven Universe (“Jungle Moon”)

Outstanding Animated Program

You know, Rick & Morty has a really irritating fanbase. This is exacerbated by that fact that the show is also incredible, so I’m happy to use this opportunity to praise “Pickle Rick”.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rick & Morty (“Pickle Rick”)

Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special

While it’s hard for the contrarian in me to not praise the chutzpah of making a documentary about self-important weirdo Jim Carrey’s absurd “relationship” with the role of Andy Kaufman, it also isn’t a documentary I can say with a straight face is any good. So that leaves us with Mr. Rogers.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like

Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series

There’s plenty of good stuff here, but only one of these was a bona-fide sensation, so it’s probably got to be that one.


Outstanding Informational Series or Special

I’m going with Anthony Bourdain here, but I can’t in good conscience do so without mentioning that I thought Scientology and the Aftermath was a lowbrow, witless good time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

I know it seems downright silly to pass up a chance to fellate one of these once-great comedians, but I’m going to have to throw this one to the actually still-great Samantha Bee. Especially since it has a footnote right there in the title 8.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee Presents The Great American* Puerto Rico (*It’s complicated.)

Outstanding Television Movie

While I like Michael Shannon a lot, and love Michael B. Jordan without bounds, and love Fahrenheit 451 even more than I love Michael B. Jordan, I have a hard time calling Fahrenheit 451 “outstanding.” It’s still the best thing here, though.


Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program

Who – I ask again, who – is watching Naked and Afraid and saying “yes I do believe this, in 2018, the time of peak tv, is among the best we have to offer”. If it is you, feel free to drop a line and tell me why. I mean really. I get liking it. But this is an award. It says “outstanding” right there in the name of the thing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: United Shades of America

Outstanding Structured Reality Program

Everything I said before about Naked and Afraid you can repeat down here for Lip Sync Battle except for the bit where I said “I get liking it.” I do not get liking Lip Sync Battle. Not one little bit.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Antiques Roadshow. Suck it.

  1.  by which I mean the sets and cameras are as placed as they’re going to be, and it’s the same week-in and week-out 
  2.  see Netflix’s The Punisher for an example of this not working but getting nominated anyway. 
  3.  a term that I also have serious misgivings about: they are, in fact, structured by the time they’re programs, they just take place over an unstructured event or set of events. 
  4.  it lacked the pathos of The People vs. OJ Simpson, and ACS never goes full-out Murphy-bonkers, so it’s already at something of a loss there. 
  5. you know, one of these days I’m going to follow through on my threat to really get in there and figure out what, exactly, defines each category in these awards shows. It’s both the thing I find myself yelling about the most, and the thing that I find the most fascinating. 
  6.  or, rather, it’ll be probably an individual animator’s thing to win, because that’s what this category is for. 
  7.  a club he is in with Doug Stanhope 
  8.  I love footnotes! 

The Best Records of August 2018

Blood Orange – Negro Swan (It might be the best Blood Orange album yet. It’s definitely the best album of any type to have Puff Daddy on it in at least two decades. At least.)

Nothing – Dance on the Blacktop (Shoegaze bands aren’t usually as dead-on consistent as Nothing has proven to be, which is a nice surprise)

Amanda Shires – To the Sunset (It’s not that I didn’t expect to like any given Amanda Shires record – I almost always do – it’s just that roughening up the sound and turning the dial a bit toward “rock” made for a much better Amanda Shires album than I would have thought)

Steve Hauschildt – Dissolvi (Steve Hauschildt continues to take his time, and that continues to work out for all of us. Also, Dissolvi beats out Roy Montgomery’s Suffuse for “Best experimental record with Julianna Barwick on it this month”)

Milo & Elucid – Nostrum Grocers (each of these men has made a perfectly fine record this year, but the team up is pretty welcome)