The writers have been striking since May, the actors could join them before the day is out, and the world beyond Hollywood is on fire as always, yet still we find time to fret about the Emmys. It’s stupid, but it’s human. We want the people who make the art we love (and also the people who make the rote reality TV we gratefully cram into our skulls to self-soothe as said world burns) to get the adulation they deserve, or at least a big gold trophy for their mantel.
So, now that the 2023 Emmy nominations have been announced, we’re here to complain about who isn’t in the running for a shiny new knickknack. Such lists could go on forever; there are, after all, way too many shows, and the TV Academy historically struggles to identify the best among them. But in my estimation, these are the exclusions that truly feel egregious.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (Netflix): Limited or Anthology Series, Lead Actress, Lead Actor
Emmy pundits weren’t bullish on Queen Charlotte, it’s true. But (for those of us who don’t follow the awards-industrial complex for a living, at least) that doesn’t make its omission any less baffling. Recall that Bridgerton, the Shondaland Regency romance from which this six-episode prequel was spun off, earned a slew of big nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series, for an uneven debut season that felt about four episodes too long. Charlotte, by contrast, was a personal project for Shonda Rhimes, and her voice is apparent in its canny balance of narrative speed, suds, and substance. The performances are excellent, too. Newcomers India Amarteifio and Corey Mylchreest both deserved consideration for their portrayals of the self-possessed young queen and her ridiculously powerful, mentally ill husband—two uniquely difficult roles.
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Reservation Dogs (FX): Comedy Series, all acting, writing, and directing categories
Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi’s groundbreaking dramedy about a group of Native American teens living on an Oklahoma reservation garnered exactly one Emmy nomination this year, for sound editing. How could the Academy possibly honor the show’s technical artistry without acknowledging—for the second year in a row—that it is also quite simply one of the most entertaining, inventive, and poignant TV series of the current decade, in any genre, with a cast of young Indigenous actors who could hold their own with any celebrity nominee? Is it really possible to compare any part of Reservation Dogs, from the performances to the writing to the direction, with the likes of Ted Lasso and Wednesday and Shrinking, and decide the former is inferior? Rez Dogs’ exclusion is straight-up malpractice, the kind of snub that (further) discredits the Emmys. On the plus side, Harjo & Co. never needed their co-sign anyway.
Poker Face (Peacock): Comedy Series
Natasha Lyonne and Rian Johnson’s irresistible homage to 1970s detective shows scooped up a handful of Emmy nominations, including a richly deserved Lead Actress nod for its singular star. But Poker Face was also supposed to be a shoo-in for the Comedy Series list. Instead, the slot went to Freevee breakout Jury Duty (a reality comedy whose inclusion suggests that Nathan Fielder’s weirdo masterpiece The Rehearsal should’ve also had a shot at this category, but I digress). I don’t begrudge the latter show, which is at least a fascinating experiment in format, its inclusion. I just wish Poker Face was there alongside it, perhaps in place of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which ran out of juice years ago, or Ted Lasso’s terrible final season.
Dead Ringers (Amazon): Limited or Anthology Series, Lead Actress
Even once you get past the inconceivable Queen Charlotte snub, the Limited or Anthology Series categories feel like complete nonsense. Dahmer–Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story? The Ryan Murphy murder-fest was popular, sure, but it was also pure schlock. Daisy Jones & the Six? A cringey rock mockumentary that made Behind the Music look subtle. Obi-Wan Kenobi? I mean, what? None of these shows deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with Alice Birch’s overhaul of David Cronenberg’s cult classic Dead Ringers. Easily the smartest horror series in years, it uses the stylishly gruesome tale of identical-twin gynecologists who might as well still share a womb to explore the politics of the female reproductive system at what is, after all, a pretty damn relevant moment. Rachel Weisz is somehow even more riveting in the dual lead roles than Jeremy Irons was in the original, which is saying a lot. And she’s a very famous actress! Which shouldn’t help but does. Was Kathryn Hahn capably playing the same harried, midlife-crisis role she always plays (in Tiny Beautiful Things) really the more compelling choice?
Barry (HBO): Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Sarah Goldberg was also supposed to be a lock for a nomination, for her final season playing the narcissistic but principled Sally Reed, an actor turned TV creator turned teacher who doesn’t realize her boyfriend is a hitman. She certainly earned that recognition, with a performance that took Sally from the roller-coaster of Hollywood to the real-life role of a lifetime, playing house with an escaped convict who had supposedly turned his life over to Jesus. For my money, no actual nominee in this category achieved what Goldberg did in Barry this season. And to see so many of her male co-stars nominated while she’s overlooked feels particularly depressing.
British imports on American TV
Derry Girls. Cunk on Earth. This Is Going to Hurt. Rain Dogs. Extraordinary. Happy Valley. These are just a few of the excellent, character-driven UK series that have appeared on American TV in the past year. The fact that they don’t arrive stateside with the same marketing budgets that are lavished upon their flashier, more expensive U.S. counterparts shouldn’t prevent them from getting shine in a competition that’s supposed to be about quality.
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