The era of “peak TV” is in the rearview mirror and we are now in the time of “buffet TV.” There is still good stuff — some of it is even great — but there is also a lot of it. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see your favorite show on this year’s list of Emmy nominees. Emmy voters are only human, too, and nobody can try every single item at the buffet, no matter how good it all looks. (Also, if you don’t see your favorite series, maybe check its release schedule. The Emmy’s wonky rules mean a lot of favorites like The Bear won’t be eligible until next year).
This year, Netflix is banking on Squid Game while HBO’s hopes lie on Succession. Apple is bringing Ted Lasso while NBC is ready for battle with Abbott Elementary and Starz is making a rare show of force with its surprise hit Yellowjackets. Who will win and who should win are very different questions with often different answers, but we’ll do our best to predict the results.
Nominees: Better Call Saul (AMC), Euphoria (HBO), Ozark (Netflix), Severance (Apple TV+), Squid Game (Netflix), Stranger Things (Netflix), Succession (HBO), Yellowjackets (Showtime)
Should Win: Better Call Saul
Will Win: Succession
Should Have Been Nominated: Yellowstone
Succession is a show that looks and feels designed to be awarded and did so handily last year. HBO’s show about the squabbling, backbiting wealthy makes for delicious drama on the strength of its excellent cast, but this year’s real standout was Better Call Saul. Vince Gilligan’s spinoff achieved the seemingly impossible feat of not only meeting the enormous expectations set by its predecessor, but arguably exceeding them.
Nominees: Abbott Elementary (ABC), Barry (HBO), Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO), Hacks (HBO Max), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon), Only Murders in the Building (Hulu), Ted Lasso (Apple TV+), What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
Should Win: Abbott Elementary
Will Win: Abbott Elementary
Should Have Been Nominated: Our Flag Means Death
A very strong crop of contenders this year, but Quinta Brunson’s public school comedy feels like a show that is here to stay in that instantly classic sitcom tradition. One episode of the show and you’ve immediately got your bearings, with an instantly recognizable setting, easily lovable characters and an endless variety of fun character combinations. Other shows were funnier (WWDITS) or more technically ambitious (Barry), but there’s a reason Abbott Elementary was the one everyone’s been talking about.
Nominees: Dopesick (Hulu), The Dropout (Hulu), Inventing Anna (Netflix), Pam & Tommy (Hulu), The White Lotus (HBO)
Should Win: The White Lotus
Will Win: The White Lotus
Should Have Been Nominated: Station Eleven
It was a good year for limited series, but White Lotus‘ flashy production values and competitive cast of a-listers ensured that it would be the one everyone is watching, and watch we did. The show is already sort of breaking the “limited series” rules, since it’s coming back for a second season and promises to kick off an anthology, but when have Emmy voters ever cared about strict categories?
Lead Actress, Drama
Nominees: Jodie Comer, Killing Eve (BBC America); Laura Linney, Ozark (Netflix); Melanie Lynskey, Yellowjackets (Showtime); Sandra Oh, Killing Eve (BBC America); Reese Witherspoon, The Morning Show (Apple TV+); Zendaya, Euphoria (HBO)
Should Win: Melanie Lynskey, Yellowjackets
Will Win: Zendaya, Euphoria
Should Have Been Nominated: Selena Gomez (Only Murders in the Building)
Lynskey made the most of that rarest of Hollywood opportunities: a chance for a longtime b-lister to show what she’s got. After spending most of her busy career as the “best friend” or the “big sister” or “that lady,” Lynskey made a meal out of her time on Yellowjackets. That said, Euphoria demanded more from its cast than this show ever has and Zendaya rose to the challenge as a young woman in the throes of addiction. A deservedly famous scene in which Zendaya’s Rue discovers her mother has thrown out her stash clinched the Emmy the moment it aired.
Lead Actor, Drama
Nominees: Jason Bateman, Ozark (Netflix); Brian Cox, Succession (HBO); Lee Jung-jae, Squid Game (Netflix); Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul (AMC); Adam Scott, Severance (Apple TV+); Jeremy Strong, Succession (HBO)
Should Win: Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul)
Will Win: Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game)
Should Have Been Nominated: Kevin Costner (Yellowstone)
In a year with a lot of viral popularity, Squid Game was the biggest hit because it struck the most exposed nerve. At a time when most people are starting to sense that there is something wrong at a deep, bone level of society, Squid Game had the foresight to not only identify that problem, but skewer it from a creative angle. And it wouldn’t have worked without Jung-jae’s performance anchoring it all.
Lead Actress, Comedy
Nominees: Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon); Quinta Brunson, Abbott Elementary (ABC); Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant (HBO Max); Elle Fanning, The Great (Hulu); Issa Rae, Insecure (HBO); Jean Smart, Hacks (HBO Max)
Should Win: Jean Smart (Hacks)
Will Win: Jean Smart (Hacks)
Should Have Been Nominated: Zazie Beetz (Atlanta)
Smart is perfectly cast as a standup comedian who the industry sees as over the hill but who may actually just be getting started. Women over 40 don’t generally get a lot to do in Hollywood, so it was notable that Hacks was both greenlit and found a wide audience thanks in no small part to Smarts’ delicious performance.
Lead Actor, Comedy
Nominees: Donald Glover, Atlanta (FX); Bill Hader, Barry (HBO); Nicholas Hoult, The Great (Hulu); Steve Martin, Only Murders in the Building (Hulu); Martin Short, Only Murders in the Building (Hulu); Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Should Win: Bill Hader (Barry)
Will Win: Bill Hader (Barry)
Should Have Been Nominated: Matt Berry (What We Do in the Shadows)
If all Bill Hader was ever known for his years as SNL‘s secret weapon, it would already be a comedy career for the ages. But with Barry, Hader has proved himself to be a very sharp actor (not to mention writer and director) who might just have a longer and more interesting career ahead of him than anyone expected.