The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards

It is a fact that remains true that sometimes, some awards shows are easier to write about than others. The Emmys are one of the ones that are always somewhere int he middle. They’re the first serious-Acting awards show that I do in the string of serious-Acting awards shows, which is kind of a bummer, and they honor television, which is basically my least-favorite entertainment medium. 

On top of all that, peak tv has sort of curdled (or congealed, or whatever food-related c-word it’s done) into a sort of scrum of extremely-predictable prestige dramas starring movie stars. The comedy categories remain pretty good, but they’re only about half the things on offer, and the miniseries categories are all “ripped from the headlines” news-adaptation business, albeit often older news. So if this one seems a little cursory, and a little joyless, it’s because I had to be breif to maintain my interest, and also nearly none of this brings me any joy. 

Next year, Game of Thrones will be off the board and Fosse/Verdon won’t have aired, and that will open up some serious real estate in about many of the categories, so it’ll be a lot easier. I hope. 

Until then, please enjoy some very considered and totally-final opinions on which of these winners is rightful, and debate among yourselves whether it does, in fact, matter that the Emmys are flying without a host again this year (they’ve done it several other times, and you don’t remember those times because nothing ever comes of it).

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series

While it’s true that I don’t always treat the writing categories like technical categories, they certainly 1 have their technical aspects. So while Seth Myers and Stephen Colbert’s writers have the job of being funny a lot more often than other people (which seems hard), they do sort of have the benefit of a definite format – the show has the same basic structure every night, even though the material is demanding. Samantha Bee and John Oliver’s shows are weekly, and don’t run for as many weeks as the other late-night shows, for all that, and so have the major advantage, while also having more expectation. Saturday Night Live has to make a non-comedy celebrity funny most weeks, but is also disqualified at present by the fact that it’s coming out of a particular low point. Anyway, what I’m saying is that Documentary Now is written in a whole bunch of ways, and manages to be funny in all of those ways, and is therefore the winner here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Documentary Now!

Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

Someday, I will get to the bottom of why I think writing a television adaptation of real events is somehow not as hard or worthwhile as any other sort of writing. I suppose, at first gues,s it’s because you already have the story beats plotted out and, if it’s anything that’s happened in the last several decades, some portion of it robably already happened on tv to some extent. I’m not sure how much I want to defend that stance, because it might not be accurate, but I will say that every single one of these things is an adaptation of real life events, and that seems weird to me.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ava DuVernay and Michael Starrbury, When They See Us, episode: “Episode 4”

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

As much as I thought the technical award nominations for GoT were ridiculous, I’d have loved to watch the people doing the nominating try to keep a straight face while they pretended to actually believe that any portion of this season deserves an award for writing. The merest idea is as insane as Emilia Clarke playing in the NBA, and I’m sure it was entertaining to hear people try to reason out. It is not the rightful winner, obviously 2, but it’s the funniest nomination. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesse Armstrong, Succession episode: “Nobody is Ever Missing”

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

Since this is one of those categories where a longtime reader will be able to spot the foregone conclusion here, despite some stiff competition 3, I will just point out that while “Janet(s)” is a fantastic episode with a crazy-ass decision, it also should have yielded an acting nom for D’arcy Carden I’M JUST SAYING.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, The Good Place episode: “Janet(s)”

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series

One of the other things that makes Documentary Now! Impressive is that, in addition to the aforementioned commitment to doing a bunch of different things stylistically, they do it with a short schedule and no money, which means that the directors really have to know their stuff ot be able to get it quickly and efficiently. I guess. Also: I only like two of the shows in this category and that’s the only one I can imagine getting a directing award.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Alex Buono and Rhys Thomas, Documentary Now! Episode: “Waiting for the Artist”

Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

While it’s true that I don’t always know what to associate with the director of any given television enterprise, and what to associate with the writer 4, I’m also going to take the position that neither does the nominating body for the Emmys, and they work in the biz, because this category and the writing category are basically the same. Anyway, I believe that wards are like manure. They’re no good in one place, ya gotta spread ‘em around.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Johan Renck, Chernobyl

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series

No seriously, there are three episodes of Game of Thrones here. Did they watch the thing, or did they just leave three slots in the schedule because it’s the last season and then pretend like these three episodes are somehow worthy? Because no they are not. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Adam McKay, Succession, episode: “Celebration”

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series

I get that The Big Bang Theory ended and that means it gets a bunch of courtesy nominations, but given that the directing did not change even one time in eleven years, I’m pretty comfortable saying it does not deserve this. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel episodes here are fine, as is the Fleabag episode, although there’s not much directorially interesting going on there. Of the two episodes of Barry, the more impressive is “ronny/lilly”, so that’s the last one standing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bill Hader, Barry, episode: “ronnie/lily”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

So Sharp Objects starts to be nominated in the acting categories, which makes sense: it’s almost entirely an actor’s show. There’s plenty of stuff in the writing and stuff, certainly, but it’s really the acting that makes it something people want to notice. It’s relatively rare for that to happen, even in the limited series/movie categories, so it’s worth noting. Also, I don’t have much to say about most of these nominees, not even the one that won.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Emily Watson, Chernobyl, episode: “Open Wide O Earth”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

I will say this, regardless of the fact that I’m not Mr. Acting Fan, I have loved three of the nominees in this category a great deal. I think that Paul Dano is the winner, but I don’t want it to reflect anything about my general opinion of Michael K. Williams or Stellan Skarsgaard. Just in this one case, Paul Dano was better. That’s all.I mean, I also love Paul Dano. I don’t want to overcorrect the other way here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Paul Dano, Escape at Dannemora, episode: “Part 7”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

I have basically never had a tonne of good things to say about Game of Thrones. I have even less to say about the stupid, rushed, force-finished, lazy ending of Game of Thrones. I will say that, even among circumstances that were terrible, the fact that Gwendoline Christie not only turned in a terrific performance, but also had to submit herself for consideration because the production wouldn’t do it, is amazing, and it means she should win.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Gwendoline Christie, Game of Thrones episode: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

This category can just go straight to hell. We’ve got a bunch of Game of Thrones phoner-inners, a guy reprising a character he came up with a performance for over a decade ago, and the indescribable horror of This is Us. None of this is ok, but I guess Gus Fring is the closest to an ok thing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul, episode: “Piñata”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

I was going to single Alex Borstein out like I did Gwendolyn Christie back up there in drama, for being the best part of a show I don’t care about. She still is! But Betty Gilpin is actually the best part of a show I do care about, and should be given many awards.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Betty Gilpin, Glow, episode: “Mother of All Matches”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Earlier in this writeup I decried that D’Arcy Carden was not nominated for an acting award for the episode of The Good Place that was nominated for its writing. So here I will further state that William Jackson Harper gave a better performance on The Good Place, even just from a regular old acting standpoint, than several of these people. I don’t begrduge Stephen Root his eventual win, and am happy to go along to get along, but I feel it’s worth mentioning that it probably should be William Jackson Harper.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stephen Root, Barry, episode: “berkman>block”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

As badly as I want to think that Niecy Nash is the best actor in this category (and she almost is), she, unfortunately, misses it only by the margin of not being the best actor on the show she’s on, and this one goes to Aunjanue Ellis.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Aunjanue Ellis, When They See Us

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

While I think that Hugh Grant’s ability to find roles that allow him to expound upon his own Hugh Grant-ness is pretty impressive, and while I’m happy to see Sam Rockwell return to something high-profile and worth his time (even though I didn’t like it), they aren’t the winners. Benicio Del Toro and Jared Harris, similarly, are delightful whenever they pop up. But Mahershala Ali basically carried an entire tv show on his own back, despite some screwy writing, and it should be rewarded.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mahershala Ali, True Detective

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

LOL Emilia Clarke LOL.

LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sandra Oh, Killing Eve, episode: “You’re Mine”

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

LOL Kit Harington LOL

LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL.

(this time with a much smaller “lol” for Milo Ventimiglia. lol.)

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Billy Porter, Pose, episode “Love is the Message”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

This is a tight category with lots of strong contenders, but I’m pretty here for Julia Louis-Dreyfuss getting handed one more, just because I like a winning streak 5.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Veep, episode: “Veep”

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

After all that, it wouldn’t be very consistent or rigorous of me to not give it to the one person from The Good Place that is nominated, would it? I mean, he has like fifty other Emmys, but I suppose he does also deserve this one. What a great show.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ted Danson, The Good Place, episode: “The Worst Possible Use of Free Will”

Outstanding Competition Program

Generally speaking, I am way more interested in watching people succeed than watching people fail. It is surprising, then – or at least seems surprising at first blush – that I’m so firmly in the camp of Nailed It!, until one considers that you’re not really watching people fail, but instead watching people for whom none of the usual advantages or even skill set applies, and they’re doing it anyway. Here’s to another fantastic and wonderful television show about things being rigged against you, and you going out there and doing it anyway, perhaps one of the more important messages television has to send under the current circumstances. Hurray for Nailed It!! 6

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Nailed It!

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

It is the case that there are now forty-odd years worth of people who can mark the moment they became old by the point at which they started to hate Saturday Night Live. Ordinarily I’m not susceptible to this sort of thing, and so am sort of left to wonder if this is something that has finally come and sunk its claws into me, or if Saturday Night Live really has just had an awful couple of seasons. Fortunately for our purposes here, it doesn’t really matter which is the case, because it wouldn’t win even if I had liked it (I guess), because Amy Sedaris’s show is as weird and delightful as every other thing Amy Sedaris has ever done, and it wins.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: At Home With Amy Sedaris

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

While I’m sad that this is the only carryover category for a possible “Carpool Karaoke” joke and I don’t have on in the chamber, I’m glad that I don’t have to sully the category that I’m pretty much always going to give to Samantha Bee with such nonsense.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Full Frontal With Samantha Bee

Outstanding Television Movie

Call it the television climate of 2019 or whatever, but I think I’m probably more attuned than usual to the end of a beloved grim-n-gritty HBO series that actually tied things up and made for a satisfying ending to a series, and so I think Deadwood probably gets this one this year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Deadwood: The Movie

Outstanding Limited Series

So far the hardest matchup in the whole dang awards program has been that of Chernobyl vs. When They See us, and I really don’t know where I come down on. I think probably When They See Us, but man, it could go either way on any given day. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: When They See Us (today)

Outstanding Drama Series

LOL Game of Thrones LOL

LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Pose, I guess. Or maybe Killing Eve. I didn’t think beyond laughing at the Game of Thrones thing. Let’s go with Pose, final answer.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Ooh! It’s The Good Place! And it better get some Game of Thrones style courtesy noms next year for its final season or I’m LEADING A MUTINY.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Good Place


  1. like all parts of television production 
  2. it’s not even a rightful nominee 
  3. I love Veep, and was very impressed with Pen15, aand sang the praises for Russian Doll all over the Creative Arts writeup. 
  4. I mean, I know sometimes, but there are decisions that could go either way, and I’m always a little curious about those. 
  5. NB this completely contradicts everything I usually say about people continuing to win for the same performance, to which I say: shut up. 
  6. please note that one of these exclamation points is the one in the official title of Nailed It! and the other is the exclamation point that ends the sentence. 

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