A few days ago, the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony aired on TV and the winners were announced. The TV Academy had voted and the best and brightest in American television were giving big, shiny awards to take home in celebration of their work. As there always is, there was a mix of winners who truly deserved the awards that they were given and people who were snubbed in favor of people from overrated shows who had more hype surrounding them. So, here are 5 Emmy winners who deserved their awards and 5 who didn’t (and the ones who should’ve won in their place).
10. Thandie Newton deserved Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Westworld
She’s won a BAFTA Award, a Critics’ Choice Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award, so it’s about time that Thandie Newton added an Emmy Award to her awards cabinet. In the HBO science fiction western drama Westworld, adapted from Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name, she plays one of the most important roles in the whole cast. As the prostitute madam Maeve Millay, a host, she gets memories of a past role that she once played before she took on the role of the madam of Sweetwater and becomes aware of her own artificial intelligence. She’s the first host to realize that she is a host – it’s an incredibly important role in the series. The first season, subtitled “The Maze,” told the story of how Maeve came to realize that she was a robot. Newton was nominated for an Emmy for her performance in that season, but did not win. This latest season, which was dubbed “The Door,” told the story of what she did after she became self aware. It was worlds more interesting and offered a bunch more opportunities for Newton really dig her teeth into the character and explore what’s going on with her. It was a terrific achievement and she was duly rewarded for it.
9. Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg DIDN’T deserve Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for The Americans
Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for writing “START,” the series finale of the thrilling Cold War drama series. That was, of course, a fantastic episode and a stunning way to end the series. But the writing has never been the show’s strong suit. It has always rested on the chemistry of its two leads, one of whom deservingly did win an Emmy for his turn in the same episode.
WHO SHOULD’VE WON: Phoebe Waller Bridge should’ve won for writing Killing Eve. The show, a darkly comic thriller series adapted from the novels of Luke Jennings, is one of the most gripping and powerful and intense dramas in recent memory and it has captivating viewers across the world. Its two leads are two devilishly well matched women – they’re polar opposites in terms of their personalities and their lifestyles, but they are equally strong female characters. The characters are all spectacularly drawn and the story is told in an intriguing and well crafted way. Waller Bridge is one of the sharpest writers working today, as shown by her one woman play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the hilarious, yet existential and thoughtful BBC Three sitcom that was adapted from it, and Killing Eve might be her finest work yet.
8. John Mulaney deserved Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special for Kid Gorgeous at Radio City
With his clean cut look and his witty and observational humor, John Mulaney is the closest thing that the current generation of comics has given us to the next Jerry Seinfeld. While Mulaney’s attempts at a self titled and semi autobiographical multi camera sitcom were not as successful as Seinfeld’s, his standup comedy is always just as sharp and just as hilarious as that of the comedy legend. Mulaney’s new Netflix special, recorded live at Radio City Music Hall, might be the guy’s funniest hour of material yet. His jokes about the college experience and how they’re never done asking you for money are so hysterically funny and relatable. It’s a great special with great jokes, because you know where all of his targets are coming from. When he talks about the guy who came into his school when he was a kid and told the students how to defend themselves against sexual predators, we remember those kinds of people who came in to give assemblies when we were kids. Mulaney had stiff competition in the Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special category from the likes of Patton Oswalt and Michelle Wolf, but at the end of the day, he’s the one who deserved the award for a fantastic special.
7. Rachel Brosnahan DIDN’T deserve Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, their period comedy drama series about a ‘50s New York housewife who goes into the world of standup comedy when her husband leaves her, took home a boatload of Emmys at this year’s ceremony and it has been acclaimed by critics. To be fair, Rachel Brosnahan is terrific in the lead role, but the problem is that the world of Midge Maisel is a fantasy. It doesn’t reflect any kind of painful reality – it’s just a fantasy about what oppressed 1950s women might have said and done if they had been allowed the freedom for it.
WHO SHOULD’VE WON: Tracee Ellis Ross should have won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. There should be no debate about it. While Rachel Brosnahan’s turn as Midge Maisel doesn’t reflect any tragic reality that is faced by women, Tracee Ellis Ross’ performance as Bow Johnson in Black-ish did this year as the show dealt with postpartum depression. We’ve all seen the pregnancy narrative play out in sitcoms before: the family has a new baby and it’s adorable and everything’s perfect. But that is the truth of so few real life pregnancies. This show’s powerful portrayal of postpartum depression was important for giving women a realistic voice in the media, and yet the Academy didn’t reward that.
6. Charlie Brooker and William Bridges deserved Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special for Black Mirror’s “USS Callister”
Black Mirror did not have a huge audience for its first couple of seasons when it was only aired on Channel 4 in Britain, and they were even considering cancellation. But as it has been picked up for additional seasons by Netflix, Charlie Brooker’s masterful science fiction anthology series about the dangers of technology and social media and where society is going has become one of the most popular TV shows on the air. The latest season contained what is possibly the greatest episode of the series. It’s certainly the most epic and might just be the darkest: “USS Callister.” It’s about a video game developer who uses his co-workers’ DNA to replicate their consciousness in his own personal virtual reality. If he’s attracted to a female co-worker, then he will use these clones to act out his sexual fantasies. If a male co-worker has annoyed him, then he’ll use their clones for sadistic torture rather than confronting them in real life. The episode was praised for not only being a spot on parody of Star Trek, but also reflecting the climate of the #MeToo movement with predators like Harvey Weinstein abusing their power over women. It’s no wonder that the Academy recognized Charlie Brooker and William Bridges’ achievements with this script and gave them the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special. There are very few scripts that have been able to capture the zeitgeist and satirize Star Trek at the same time.
5. Stephen Daldry DIDN’T deserve Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for The Crown
The Crown is not necessarily a well directed show. It’s just a show that has a lot of money spent on it. Frankly, the whole royal drama is a little overrated. It doesn’t have the depth of character or plot that some of the other drama series on the air have – it just has lavish sets and fancy costumes and expensive cameras, courtesy of it having the biggest TV budget of all time.
WHO SHOULD’VE WON: Although he is mainly an actor, Jason Bateman should have been awarded the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for directing the season 1 finale of Ozark, because he made some smart creative choices with it. The sudden whip pans of the camera made the shocking twists all the more shocking, because it was like the camera was surprised, too. And actors make great directors, because they understand actors and understand how to properly direct them. Bateman is no different – he respects the craft. He has spoken about the conscious decision he made to give it a definitive ending rather than a cliffhanger. He didn’t want to do what most TV producers do and end season 1 with an ambiguous ending in order to pressure the network to renew it for season 2. It was spectacular directing.
4. Matthew Rhys deserved Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for The Americans
The greatness of FX’s Cold War drama series The Americans has always been its lead pair of actors. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are both individually riveting and engaging in their performances and they also share a fantastic chemistry as two Soviet agents who are pretending to be a married couple who may or may not have genuine feelings for one another. While Russell didn’t win an Emmy this year, Rhys did and he definitely deserved. He was always the more nuanced and subtle of the two in his performance as Philip Jennings and the TV Academy voters made the right decision with the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series award. He faced some stiff competition from This Is Us actors Milo Ventimiglia and series standout Sterling K. Brown and Westworld actors Ed Harris and Jeffrey Wright, but he certainly bested them without much of a doubt. Rhys’ strongest competition perhaps came from Jason Bateman, whose turn as Marty Byrde in Netflix’s crime drama series Ozark gives Bryan Cranston and Walter White a run for their money and shakes off any presumptions that Bateman is a comedic actor who is incapable of dramatic acting in a serious capacity. But still, Rhys is the actor who deserved this one.
3. Claire Foy DIDN’T deserve Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for The Crown
Claire Foy is a terrific actress and her recent turn as Neil Armstrong’s first wife in Damien Chazelle’s biopic of the first man who walked on the Moon was stellar and might even win her an Oscar early next year, but her performance in the role of Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s period drama The Crown is simply not as compelling as some of the other female lead performances in TV drama this year. It might be because the Queen in all her ivory privilege is much more difficult to relate to and identify with than Offred or Eve Polastri or Elizabeth Jennings.
WHO SHOULD’VE WON: Elisabeth Moss should’ve won for capturing the sociopolitical zeitgeist in her role in The Handmaid’s Tale. It was series creator Bruce Miller who brought Margaret Atwood’s dystopian literary masterpiece to life with his Hulu adaptation of it, but it was Moss’ lead performance as Offred that carried it and brought us into its world. The tragedy of the fictional future (well, in the show, it’s presented as a fictional future, but actually, Atwood didn’t put anything in the book that hadn’t happened in real life) in which the show is set is made to feel more real and shocking by the dedicated performances from the cast. Moss leads that cast ably and should be rewarded for it.
2. Bill Hader deserved Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Barry
Bill Hader’s new HBO dark comedy series in which he plays a hitman who joins an improv comedy troupe could so easily have become gimmicky and silly. But when the show came out, it very quickly became clear that the premise came from an inkling in Hader’s mind where he drew genuine parallels between the world of contract killing and the world of improv comedy. Who knew that post traumatic stress disorder and laughs would go hand in hand quite so neatly? The series itself, as a half hour comedy with a twisted sense of humor and as a brilliantly crafted narrative, is near perfection. And it’s Hader’s lead performance anchoring the whole thing that adds the poignancy to elevate it from what could be a schlocky sketch that got dragged out for ten half hour episodes into being one of the finest new creations on the box this past year. Hader is one of the funniest guys working in Hollywood, though, so even if it wasn’t such a fantastic show, his hilarious performing would still be worthy of recognition. He’s like Will Ferrell – no matter what he’s in, you know that his performance is going to be brilliant. Having the show also be brilliant is a lovely bonus.
1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel DIDN’T deserve Outstanding Comedy Series
Amazon Prime’s period dramedy about a ‘50s housewife who becomes a standup comic took home a lot of Emmys at this year’s ceremony, and while it is an important story about a time when women were even more oppressed in which one steps out to boldly express herself, it’s just not as good as a lot of the other shows on the air right now.
WHAT SHOULD’VE WON: Donald Glover’s fantastically crafted comedy series Atlanta should’ve won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, since it’s far more inventive and thought provoking than The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Who knew that a guy who had already conquered the worlds of acting and standup comedy and rapping (under the stage name Childish Gambino, which he got – funnily enough – from a Wu Tang Clan name generator on the internet) would also be a brilliant writer, director, and TV showrunner. He has proven himself to be all of those things over the course of his show about a struggling rapper who works as his marginally more famous cousin’s manager and the show was even more creative and provocative in its second season that it was in its first. It fills the void left on FX by Louis C.K.’s show. It has a loose structure that doesn’t always confine itself to being funny – just look at the twisted and unnerving and wackadoo episode “Teddy Perkins.” It is by far the greatest comedy series on television right now and should be rewarded for it.