DARREN FRANICH: I’m an optimist, Kristen, so if it’s all right with you, I’ll begin our conversation with the nominations that made me incredibly happy. The Outstanding Comedy category represents the very best of television, with newcomers GLOW, Barry, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel alongside the astounding second season of Atlanta. The network sitcom black-ish sits happily next to streaming Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Curb Your Enthusiasm is the only boring legacy pick — The Good Place was robbed — but the absence of Modern Family for the first time since Modern Family was Modern Family feels like a big step toward the future.
I love the comedy-category love for first-timers (Insecure’s Issa Rae, GLOW‘s Betty Gilpin, Atlanta‘s Brian Tyree Henry, wow!) and Donald Glover so ruled this year’s noms that our editor, Patrick Gomez, has coined the word “Glovering” to describe total awards dominance.
Beyond the land of laughs, I’m very happy that Jesse Plemons (our Landry of yesteryear!) is continuing his rise to monument status with a nomination for his freaky performance in Black Mirror‘s “U.S.S. Callister.” (Though I’m sad the TV Academy couldn’t find room for the real hero of “Callister,” Cristin Milioti.) Also, Queer Eye and Blue Planet II were nominated in their respective “Unstructured Reality” and “Nonfiction” categories. All my favorite unscripted 2018 shows, getting Emmys love? Awesome!
So as you stare at the list of 4900 Emmy nominees, Kristen, what’s making you happy?
KRISTEN BALDWIN: Darren, what a lovely way to approach this discussion — thank you. It’s so easy to look at the noms and get all worked up about who or what is not there (and trust me, we’ll get to that), instead of focusing on all of the happy news.
Some of the nominations that prompted me to emit little whoops of joy included Sandra Oh for Killing Eve in the drama actress category, while the Limited Series categories were full of wonderful, well-deserved nominations: Darren “just give him the Emmy now” Criss, Judith Light, and Finn Wittrock for Assassination of Gianni Versace! Merritt Weaver and Michelle Dockery for Godless! Edie Falco (and, in my mind, Edie Falco’s wig) for her incredible turn as Leslie Abramson in the otherwise forgettable Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders.
In comedy, I was thrilled to see Pamela Adlon get another nomination for Better Things, a gem of a show that was regrettably overshadowed at the end of last season by the scandal surrounding (now former) exec producer Louis C.K. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was a welcome addition to this year’s Veep-less comedy category, as was HBO’s Barry. (That said, justice for NoHo Hank!)
The one thing that continues to puzzle me is how the Emmys can be so open about bringing in new blood (at the expense of long-standing nominees like Modern Family), and yet there are some names you’d have to pry out of their cold dead hands — I love William H. Macy, but another nomination for Shameless?
DARREN: It is said that a rising Darren lifts all Darrens, so huzzah for you, Mr. Criss!
But if we’re talking about the Limited Series categories, Kristen, then I have to enter my own personal Black Lodge. The wonderful and strange revival of Twin Peaks was left out of the Outstanding Limited Series category — a category which includes the blandly decadent The Alienist and your decidedly unbeloved Patrick Melrose. And the lack of a nomination for Kyle MacLachlan is the great Emmy 2018 wound I will not recover from. He didn’t just play one great character; he played FOUR (possibly five?) I know Twin Peaks wasn’t everyone’s cup of damn good coffee — but c’mon, The Alienist?
Peaks got a lot of love in technical categories, and Lynch was nominated for writing, directing, and sound design. I’ll be watching those races closely. But now that I’ve got my griping hat on, Kristen: The Outstanding Drama category bores me. I know we’re both big (albeit frustrated) fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, but I don’t think even die-hard viewers of Game of Thrones, Westworld, and Stranger Things considered these recent seasons up to par with previous heights. As an Americans semi-skeptic, I take only soft joy in that terminally pretty-good show’s final season nod — though, paradoxically, I am all-the-way pushing for Keri Russell to win the Lead Actress prize (Russell vs. Oh is my assassin-chic dream showdown!)
So I guess brilliant newer dramas like Killing Eve, Mindhunter, and The Good Fight will have to wait for this musty category to catch up with the times. Agh, my joy has faded to rage! What’s got you upset, Kristen?
KRISTEN: You know that final moment of Twin Peaks: The Return, when not-quite-Laura Palmer lets out that bloodcurdling scream? That was my reaction to the Twin Peaks and MacLachlan snub, so I feel your deep, dark, electric-brain-tree rage, Darren. It’s simply inexplicable — especially The Alienist of it all. Patrick Melrose was a shoo-in because it featured a movie star (check) playing a drug-addicted wastrel (check) dealing with a horrific childhood trauma (check check check), but honestly, a TNT period piece stealing a place from The Greatest Revival in the Short But Getting Longer By the Second History of Revivals™??? Outrageous.
The other snub registering very high on my injustice meter is the lack of love for Christine “national treasure” Baranski in The Good Fight. Peak TV is a gift in so many ways, but one of its more insidious curses is the fact that it forces networks to find new revenue streams — by, say, launching a subscription-only streaming network that charges a monthly fee. As much as people loved The Good Wife, they got that show for free, so it was a huge leap on CBS’s part to assume that people would shell out cash for its spin-off, even though that spin-off is intensely enjoyable.
Finally, I’m very sad that Jodie Comer, the wildly fantastic villain in Killing Eve, did not get a nod alongside her excellent costar Sandra Oh. Unfortunately, both Comer and Oh submitted in the lead actress category; had Comer gone supporting I think she might have pulled out a nomination.
Before I fall further into this hate hole, though, let’s talk about some of the more unexpected, deeper-dive nominees that intrigued us. For one thing, I always love to look at the hairstyling nominees — and I must say GLOW‘s nod in that category was well-deserved. But where was the recognition for Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders? Those wigs were next-level.
DARREN: GLOW also received a nomination in a category I’m obsessed with: Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series. GLOW‘s Jesse Peretz is nominated alongside Atlanta‘s Glover and Hiro Murai, Barry‘s Bill Hader, Mrs. Maisel‘s Amy Sherman-Palladino, and Silicon Valley‘s Mike Judge. If the meteor hits Earth, put those people on the space ark!
And here’s one gift of Peak TV, Kristen: There is a lot to be happy about as you dive deep into other Emmy categories. I’m stoked that Cameron Britton got a Guest Actor in a Drama Series nom for his magnetic turn as Ed Kemper on Mindhunter. I’m also fascinated that Viola Davis earned a Guest Actress prize for playing her How to Get Away with Murder character on the Shondaland Scandal crossover. Will crossovers become a new kind of Emmy bait? Can we start dreaming of other shows Annalise Keating can drop into for awards season?
I’m positively tickled that The Good Fight got its only nomination for that delightful Schoolhouse Rock parody tune, “High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The Emmys somehow gave five nominations to “Beyond the Wall,” the beyond-lame Game of Thrones episode that introduced the (sigh) ice dragon. But they also found room in their hearts for Adventure Time in “Short Form Animated Program,” nominating “Ring of Fire,” an episode where we learn all about the many marriages of a yellow pygmy elephant.
Are there less-heralded nominees that you’re excited for, Kristen? And can you offer us some of your excellent TV-critical insight into [deep breath] What These Nominations Mean?
KRISTEN: I think you’re absolutely right about the Guest Actor/Actress category — TV stars are (often) big TV fans, too, so they’re more than happy to squeeze a one-off guest-star gig into their shooting schedule.
Case in point: Mr. Sterling K Brown, who is nominated for his day job, This is Us, as well as for his delightful guest spot as a murderous dentist on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. (I love saying Brooklyn Nine-Nine and “nominated” in the same sentence!) One of the many reasons to watch Mrs. Maisel was Jane Lynch’s brilliant bait-and-switch character Sophie Lennon, so it’s gratifying to see her name on the guest actress list this year. And in the “you can do anything you set your mind to” department, comedian Megan Amram earned an Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama nod for her singular online series, An Emmy For Megan.
What do these nominations mean, Darren? In the grand scheme of things, nothing, obviously. But for the people who make and love television, overall I think it’s good news: Any day that puts smaller, intensely-loved shows like GLOW, Killing Eve, Mrs. Maisel, Atlanta, and so many more in the national spotlight is a good day. Any day that Hollywood celebrates weirdness — even the gentle, sweet weirdness of Barry — is a good day. And any day that the TV industry puts the word “Outstanding” next to the words “RuPaul Charles” (for the third time, no less) is a very good day.
My final plea to anyone reading this: Next time you’re searching for something to watch, scan the nomination list, pick out something new, and give it a try.
DARREN: I credit our hardworking awards-season statgeeks with coughing up the most interesting macro-observation: This is the year that Netflix earned more nominations than ANY venue, from HBO to NBC to whatever domain is hosting that awesome-sounding Megan series I just heard about for the first time. This makes me wonder if we’ve left Peak TV, driven 430 miles into the desert, and entered a pocket universe called Peak Netflix, where the streaming service is starting to snub itself. (Much-loved One Day at a Time earned one nomination; the magnificent Dear White People earned zero.) The upstart has become the empire, and I suspect we’ll be talking about this nomination list a lot as the TV industry continues evolving over the next few years.
For now, I echo your plea, Kristen. And kids: Since you’re already borrowing your parents’ Netflix password and HBO Go login, ask them to sign up for CBS All-Access, too!
For complete coverage of all things Emmys, head to ew.com/emmys.