As a summer birthday baby, I’ve always felt spiritually connected to the Emmys — the forgotten birthday, if you will, of awards season. Sure, your friends tell you they’ll remember it when everyone is back at school, but you know the truth. In the same vein, everyone pretends that they’ll continue to respect the Emmys, but by the time the “golden girl” (the Academy Awards) rolls around the following spring, the Emmy Awards is expected to retreat back into obscurity.
The TV beat has made it our mission to prove that television’s biggest night not only matters, but might — just might — be a superior night to the Oscars. After all, despite the annual hype surrounding the event, the Oscars always prove to be a gargantuan disappointment in some way: “Green Book” was not nominated purely as a joke? Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper didn’t make love on stage?
On the other hand, with nominees including “POSE,” “Killing Eve” and “When They See Us,” the Emmys make the Oscars look like the slice of male-dominated Wonder Bread that it is. Nearly every category is a close race, predisposing the night to be one chock-full of must-see moments. So, for those of you born without a crippling addiction to television, we, the TV beat, are to give you a brief cheat sheet on who to root for. Hopefully, you will exit this piece with some conversation points that will make you sound like the most cultured person in the room wherever you happen to be post-Emmys on Monday morning.
— Ally Owens, TV Beat Editor
The Emmys are not nearly as diverse on the production side as my brag would substantiate … but for the sake of the argument, it’s still better than the Oscars.
Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
It physically pains me to have to make a choice in this category. Every actress nominated is a driving force of my favorite shows, proving time and time again that women are, in fact, funny, and actually are at the top of today’s comedy game. That being said, there is one woman on that list who inches above the rest, sitting atop the unreachable throne of Queen of Comedy that she’s been crafting for decades. I speak, of course, of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her performance in the seventh and final season of “Veep.” Dreyfus bids the infamous Selina Meyer farewell in a season of power-hungry mania that resolves with barely a glimpse of regret. If her delivery of fast quips and gut-punching insults won’t get the gold for her, the final prolonged stare she graces an empty Oval Office with sure will.
— Samantha Della Fera, Senior Arts Editor
The only justified way to award this category is in a six-way tie. Trying to choose “The Good Place” over “Schitt’s Creek”? “Barry” over “Russian Doll”? It’s a tedious task: Comedy is delivering today’s best television, scoffing as we duel over which show is best. The underdog winner here is Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s glorious “Fleabag,” a dark comedy with talk-to-the-camera direction that makes “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” look like high school video projects. As Waller-Bridge’s titular Fleabag grapples with trauma through sex and humor, she is introduced to a hot priest that everyone, including Fleabag herself, has no choice but to fall head over heels for in the most painful way. Once you witness the fourth wall break that will send a cold shock through your entire body, you too will know why this show should be walking home with the statue.
— Samantha Della Fera
Lead Actor in A Drama: Billy Porter, “POSE”
If Billy Porter is not awarded this title, you have my word that I will punch a hole through my Samsung television. Carnegie Mellon-educated and Broadway-trained, Porter’s resume already exce what is commonly expected of a “conventional” leading man in television. Jason Bateman, you’ll always have a place in my heart, but Billy simply is a stratosphere above what has been listed (in name only) as his competition. Even without context, Porter’s portrayal of Pray Tell on “POSE” could still beat out the most talented men in Hollywood. However, when you combine Porter’s raw performance ability with the important social work he is doing — representing the strength and kinship of queer-found families — you have to wonder, do I really need to call Saul?
— Ally Owens
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Bill Hader, “Barry”
While “Schitt’s Creek” patriarch Eugene Levy and Ted Danson’s demonic Michael on “The Good Place” are also worthy contenders for this prize, their brilliant performances seem almost one-note in comparison to Bill Hader’s as the titular hitman in “Barry.” Playing a character who is on a quest to put his dark past into the shadows in order to pursue a serendipitous acting career, Hader is even more impressive in the show’s second season, as he is forced to display a much wider range of emotions than the stoic, repressed and awkward version of the character seen in the first season. Second season Barry is given the ability to show development, and Hader juggles the inherent complexity in playing such a role with tremendous skill.
— Sayan Ghosh, New Media Beat Editor
Limited Series: “Chernobyl”
Possibly the most stacked category of the entire night, the “Limited Series” title will probably be bestowed upon one of the largest TV phenomena of recent memory. I mean, how many other television shows can transform a destroyed nuclear site into a destination for influencers? Moreover, HBO’s “Chernobyl” doesn’t just have popularity on its side, but also an impressively well-crafted world lain before audiences by the writers, as well as a stellar performance by Stellan Skarsgård. Nonetheless, I could also easily see “Fosse/Verdon,” a stylish Old Hollywood piece featuring two critical darlings, picking up the win. This prediction leaves behind perhaps the most deserving, Ava DuVernay’s harrowing Netflix series “When They See Us” in the dust.
— Sayan Ghosh
Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie: Joey King, “The Act”
To restate the sentiment everyone has probably expressed already, this category is … a close one. It’s kept me up at night. Amy Adams is overdue for at least three Academy Awards. Aunjanue Ellis is a vision in her role on “When They See Us,” and, if “Moonlight” was any indication, Black actors and actresses need more than just an award to cement the upward trajectory of their careers. However, despite my political and moral obligations, I am throwing my support behind the other limited series about Munchausen by-proxy Syndrome, “The Act.” Around this time last year, Joey King was a joke. She was the little kid from “Ramona and Beezus,” and more regretfully, Netflix’s “The Kissing Booth.”
When it was announced that she would be acting alongside Patricia Arquette in the complex role of Gypsy-Rose Blanchard, I thought the executives at Hulu were, to be frank, on something. I am not ashamed to admit when I am dead wrong, and in this case, I was absolutely incorrect to doubt the acting ability of King. It would be too simplistic to argue that King underwent a transformation to portray Gypsy Rose. A good makeup artist could have done that. King’s accomplishment in her turn as Blanchard should not go without note — every facet of the stunted, yet still painfully optimistic woman was depicted onscreen over the eight-episode run of “The Act.” My choice to support her is the only way I feel I can amend my foolish doubt of Joey King’s very real acting ability. Niecey Nash, can you ever forgive me?
— Ally Owens
Guest Actor in a Comedy Series: John Mulaney, “Saturday Night Live”
He’s tall, skinny, sounds like a 1920s radio announcer, and was bullied in school for being an Asian-American man. He’s John Mulaney. His second round of hosting “Saturday Night Live (SNL)” debuted on March 2nd, 2019, and was no less impressive than his last. He’s the epitome of new-age comedy, and never reaches for the low-hanging fruit that is race and gender-based jokes. Mulaney slid right in with sketches like “Cha Cha Slide,” “Toilet Death Ejector” and “Bodega Bathroom,” which was grimier, but not shittier than its soulful predecessor, “Diner Lobster.” They’re unique, but make perfect sense in a hilariously convoluted way. Give this lanky man an Emmy.
— Sophia Yoon, Daily Arts Writer
Variety Talk Show: “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah”
In a world where everyday feels like a long-running sitcom in its bad years, the last thing anyone ne is news delivered in a robotic news anchor voice. Trevor Noah has been doing God’s work ever since he’s taken over Jon Stewart’s position on “The Daily Show” in 2015, and since then, the world’s been a more facetious place. They tackle the biggest daily news every night, and try to add the most relevant facts to make the show as level headed as a Comedy Central show can be. Even though late night television sometimes attempts to tackle these issues, none can reach the simple yet amusing caliber that Trevor Noah does.
— Sophia Yoon