Before The Emmys, Our TV Critic Picks Which Shows Should Win. Here Are The Deggys
What to say about a TV awards show which snubbed the most popular drama on cable (Paramount Network's Yellowstone), the final season of the best drama on network TV (NBC's This Is Us) and the most promising emerging voice in late night television (Peacock's The Amber Ruffin Show) in its nominees for 2022?
Retake host John Horn asks: TV's Big Night Is Monday. What Are The Odds Of Avoiding Another #EmmysSoWhite?
I say: maybe the Emmy academy might need a little help picking out the best winners this time around.
Missteps like these are why I've created my own version of TV's greatest night: a selection of honors handed out by someone who actually had to watch most of the 559 original series which aired last year.
Move aside Emmys. It's time for The Deggys.
As the popularity of awards shows continues to falter, some might wonder if it's worth spending so much time and energy handicapping who wins what. But the Emmy awards has a long history of turning promising, underseen shows into hits — like All in the Family and Cheers — which could not be more important, given the deluge of programs flooding today's media market.
So here's one TV-watching professional's take on what SHOULD and what WILL win Emmy awards Monday night. It's my house and my rules, so anything goes — groupthink resisted and no slapping allowed (that's right: a certain Fresh Prince would have been shown the door if he dared attack anyone at The Deggys).
And, in a bonus for you readers, my list can also double as a handy guide to the best TV worth checking out, once the ceremony has ended.
Best Drama Series
Nominees: Better Call Saul (AMC); Euphoria (HBO); Ozark (Netflix); Severance (Apple TV+); Squid Game (Netflix); Stranger Things (Netflix); Succession (HBO); Yellowjackets (Showtime).
And the DEGGY goes to...Better Call Saul.
It is hard to believe that a show high-quality enough to get 46 nominations over six seasons has never won a single Emmy award. But that's the case for Saul, a Breaking Bad spinoff which powered to one of the best finales in TV history just last month. Producers of the show were crafty this year; they scheduled the first seven episodes of their final season within the Emmys' eligibility period earlier this year, then dropped the show's powerful last installments during final voting in August.
I think the appeal of Saul's achievements are more subtle – ping ponging between stories set mostly before and after the events of Breaking Bad, creating compelling new characters who stand as equals next to beloved figures from the Breaking Bad universe, and meticulously wrapping up the story of another character who seems like an antihero, but turns out to be a villain who is mostly fooling himself. So I don't have much hope that Saul will actually win anything, though racking up close to four dozen nominations without a win should get some kind of trophy beyond a DEGGY.
Okay, but who will ACTUALLY win? My gimmick for sussing out likely winners is to look at how many nominations the show has overall, which tells you how much the Emmy academy likes each particular show. Succession has the most nominations of any series at 25 — with a record 14 acting nominations — and the show's last season was a brilliant refinement of its acidly dry humor and telling corporate satire. So, as much as I'd love to see a quirky newcomer like Severance pull an upset, I think this category is Succession's to lose.
Best Comedy Series
Nominees: Abbott Elementary (ABC); Barry (HBO); Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO); Hacks (HBO Max); The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Prime Video); Only Murders in the Building (Hulu); Ted Lasso (Apple TV+); What We Do in the Shadows (FX).
And the DEGGY goes to...Abbott Elementary.
This show is everything I love to see in a vibrant new TV comedy: It's an incisive, mockumentary-style satire that leans into the sobering realities of modern teaching, yet somehow still manages to be sidesplittingly funny. And it's led by show creator Quinta Brunson, a hugely talented writer/executive producer/star riding the biggest hit of her career while looking like she's just getting started. Best of all, it's a creative hit on network television – which increasingly looks like it's given up on challenging the quality of streaming platforms – and it's one of the most ethnically diverse shows in contention, leading to about 15% of this year's non-white nominees in major performing categories.
Okay, but who will ACTUALLY win? Using my earlier calculus, it's the TV comedy with the most nominations, Ted Lasso, which snagged 20 nods this year. I disagree with critics who say the show had a sophomore slump last year; I think they deepened our understanding of Coach Lasso and why his breezy attitude hides a lot of pain, while allowing more supporting characters to step up.
Honorable Mention: Worth noting here that Barry actually took a lot more creative chances in its third season, producing some landmark episodes and camera shots (I'm in LOVE with the chase scene where Barry Berkman is pursued by a murderous gang on motocross dirtbikes across Los Angeles that star Bill Hader directed in episode six. If you haven't seen it, stop now, and go check it out). Frankly, thanks to moments like that one, Barry deserves the win a little more than Lasso.
Best Limited or Anthology Series
Nominees: Dopesick (Hulu); The Dropout (Hulu); Inventing Anna (Netflix); The White Lotus (HBO); Pam & Tommy (Hulu).
And the DEGGY goes to...Dopesick.
Among all the nominees here, Hulu's limited series is truly About Something. It lays out how America's opioid crisis sprung from the greed and ambition of a powerful family fed by unscrupulous salespeople, unwitting doctors, unsuspecting patients and overmatched prosecutors. The performances here are razor sharp, especially Michael Keaton as a sweetly dedicated doctor whose rural practice is upended by the crisis and Michael Stuhlbarg as the ruthless pharmaceutical executive whose sales practices fed it all. And the story remains compelling despite jumping back and forth in time and across multiple characters' histories.
Okay, but who will ACTUALLY win? Unfortunately, The White Lotus seems to have the most love in Hollywood, with its 20 total nominations and loads of industry support for performers like Murray Bartlett and Jennifer Coolidge. I hate the show's ultimate message — which seems to be that rich people will usually be terrible, especially to people who aren't rich, and never pay much of a price for it. And given that Coolidge is returning for the show's second season playing the same character, I'm not even sure why it qualifies as an anthology series, anyway.
Best Actor in a Comedy
Nominees: Donald Glover, Atlanta; Bill Hader, Barry; Nicholas Hoult, The Great; Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso; Steve Martin, Only Murders in the Building; Martin Short, Only Murders in the Building.
And the DEGGY goes to...Steven Martin AND Martin Short!
Hey, it's my awards show, with my rules — and I love naming two winners in one category when they deserve it. The truth is, it's tough to separate what each of these two comedy masters contributes in creating Only Murders' uniquely entertaining vibe. The show is nominated for its first season, where Short's failing director Oliver Putnam got more backstory and better one-liners. But Martin's aging actor Charles-Haden Savage provides much of the engine of the series' mystery, including an unwitting relationship with the killer. Since I couldn't decide which performance I liked more, I decided NOT to decide.
Okay, but who will ACTUALLY win? Jason Sudeikis remains a favorite in this category, because Ted Lasso is so beloved. But I'm going to buck the system and say that Bill Hader is a likely winner here, simply because he took the most chances in building Barry's last season around the unmasking of his hitman-turned-actor as a psychopath who is increasingly dangerous, even to those he loves most.
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominees: Patricia Arquette, Severance; Julia Garner, Ozark; Jung Ho-yeon, Squid Game; Christina Ricci, Yellowjackets; Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul; J. Smith-Cameron, Succession; Sarah Snook, Succession; Sydney Sweeney, Euphoria.
And the DEGGY goes to...Rhea Seehorn. As Best ACTRESS in a drama series.
In the same way Better Call Saul went five seasons without Emmy wins, Seehorn has inexplicably avoided nomination for her work playing one of the most complicated and self-possessed women on TV until now. So it makes sense that the show would submit her this year as a supporting actress – likely considered a less competitive category – despite her status as the most prominent female character on the show. I'm correcting that issue with her DEGGY; Seehorn's work playing the woman who walks away from her life as an attorney and as Saul Goodman's life to end their toxic partnership, is the best performance of an actor OR actress in a drama this year, so she's getting her flowers from me in the correct category.
The 74th Emmy awards airs at 8 p.m. Monday night on NBC and streams on Peacock, and is hosted by Kenan Thompson.
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