Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

What did the Emmy nominations get right this year?

Schitt’s Creek (Photo: PopTV); When They See Us (Photo: Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix); Game Of Thrones (Photo: Helen Sloane/HBO)

Our watch may have ended, but Game Of Thrones isn’t done dominating the TV discourse yet. On Tuesday, the HBO fantasy drama nabbed 32 Emmy nominations, including several nods in the acting categories, thereby setting a record for nominations for a single season.

It’s as strong a showing for a final season as we’ve ever seen, but hardly shocking—at least, not nearly as baffling as the omission of One Day At A Time in the comedy categories or, in happier news, the rightful inclusion of A.V. Club favorites Fleabag and Russian Doll. The 71st Emmy nominations were full of surprises, both pleasant and perplexing, but we also can’t help but think that any list that recognizes the brilliance of Phoebe-Waller Bridge, Ava DuVernay, and Natasha Lyonne is clearly on the right track.

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Here, The A.V. Club breaks down the Television Academy’s biggest snubs and flubs, as well as what the awards body got right with the 2019 batch of nominees.

Danette Chavez

I was pleasantly surprised at the end of the livestream, not to mention grateful that D’Arcy Carden and Ken Jeong were no longer obligated to do unfunny bits for the sake of building anticipation. The nominations in the lead acting and outstanding series categories were rife with personal favorites, including Bill Hader’s stellar performance in Barry, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s everything in Fleabag, and Jharrel Jerome’s awe-inducing turn in When They See Us. I squealed when I heard Billy Porter’s name in the outstanding lead actor in a drama category (for the wonderful Pose), and I started imagining the banter between Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh when they accept the outstanding lead actress in a drama award for Killing Eve (regardless of who wins, I feel fairly confident that they’ll both take to the stage).

It wasn’t until I saw the full list and the many, many mentions of Game Of Thrones—as well as the overwhelming whiteness in categories like lead actress in a comedy—that it felt like business as usual for the Television Academy. What was your gut reaction to the nominees, Gwen? Any names or titles that made you leap to your feet, Meryl Streep at an awards show-style?

Gwen Ihnat

I know what you mean about business is usual: Lots of times the announcement of the Emmy nominations has primarily been a smh affair. Once the potentially stodgy academy gets into a groove about nominating a certain show every year—like Frasier, Modern Family, and currently Ozark—historically it’s been extremely difficult to shake them out of it.

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So like you, I was delighted to see non-network outliers like Fleabag, Russian Doll, and especially Schitt’s Creek on the comedies list (What’s Moira Rose’s favorite season, after all? Awards!) I was gunning for Fosse/Verdon, a very well-made FX mini-series that I felt did not get a ton of attention, but apparently appears to be the kind of prestige project that Emmy voters appreciate.

But I still found a lot to be happy about. Six nominations for my beloved Queer Eye, some Christina Applegate appreciation for Dead To Me (although Linda Cardellini was robbed), Documentary Now! still up for variety series, and John Mulaney deservedly getting a shout-out for his stellar turn as SNL host. BoJack Horseman got its first nod for animated series, and I know it’s not exactly a prestige show, but I loved the inclusion of the always-fun Nailed It! for Competitive Reality Series. Am even happy about the love for Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, including her surprising nomination for Reality Show Host; as someone whose own home has been transformed by watching that show, I get it. Schitt’s Creek even got a well-deserved nomination for Moira’s fantastic costume design; were the voters all reading my diary or something?

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Honestly, I have very little to complain about. I wish nominations announcer D’Arcy Carden could have announced her own name for Best Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series, as her multiple Janets were mind-blowing on The Good Place this season. Much as I love Kondo, I was surprised not to see Salt Fat Acid Heat and host Samin Nosrat on those same nomination lists. But overall, my takeaway is: surprisingly pleased. What was yours?

DC: Game Of Thrones getting a writing nod for “The Iron Throne” has me thrown, but Russian Doll being recognized twice in the comedy writing category along with Pen15’s “Anna Ishii-Peters” and the first episode of Fleabag season two suggests the Television Academy can learn new tricks. Ditto BoJack’s first nomination. There’s a lot to be happy about, from Amy Adams joining the Outstanding Leading Actress In A Drama race (deservedly so) to seeing Hannah Gadsby: Nanette and Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé singled out for outstanding writing in a variety special.

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There are some noticeable slights—Suranne Jones is mesmerizing in Gentleman Jack, but the gorgeous (and queer!) period drama failed to make an impression. I also can’t believe Julia Roberts didn’t get a nod for outstanding lead actress in a limited series for Homecoming. I’m a bigger fan of Stephan James’ lead performance in that Sam Esmail series, but Roberts is great as a down-on-her-luck therapist, and I’m surprised that her star power wasn’t enough to earn her a nod here. MJ Rodriguez has been turning in an exceptionally moving performance as House Of Evangelista mother Blanca on Pose, yet she and her co-star, the luminous Indya Moore, were left out of the outstanding lead and supporting actress in a drama races. And the TV Academy’s rubber stamp for nominations ran out of ink when it came time to recognize Tracee Ellis Ross and Issa Rae’s work in Black-ish and Insecure, respectively.

But for me the most glaring omissions are Justina Machado and Pamela Adlon. As Penelope Alvarez on One Day At A Time, Machado has given a performance that’s warm, fierce, and layered, and proven that she can monologue with the best of them. ODAAT should have been nominated in the outstanding comedy category, as season three was its best and most empathetic yet, but how does anyone with good taste keep overlooking Machado’s multifaceted portrayal of a mother and veteran? And how does that same voting group miss out on the fact that Adlon has almost singlehandedly made Better Things one of the best things on TV? To see that show, which also recently aired its third season, shut out in the writing and directing categories is dismaying; but for Adlon to be left out of the lead actress in a comedy category despite having two consecutive nominations (for 2017 and 2018) is just baffling.

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Machado’s snub is felt more keenly in a year that saw a decline in nominations for people of color across the board. But hey, at least Special was rightly in the short form comedy race.

It didn’t take me long to find a silver lining, I know. Switching gears, though, which outcome are you most invested in? Are you just concerned with seeing Michelle Williams triumph over my fave Amy Adams, or will you only be satisfied when you see Phoebe Waller-Bridge accept multiple statuettes?

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GI: The only Emmy hill I am willing to die on is Michelle Willams in her decades-spanning Fosse/Verdon turn as Gwen Verdon for Best Actress In A Limited Series. Sorry, Amy Adams. Although I did appreciate Sharp Objects lovely gothic weirdness, Williams’ transformation into Verdon was nothing short of transcendent.

Game Of Thrones won Best Drama last year, so although the academy tends to be sentimental, I hope it won’t win again for what’s considered a lesser season just because it’s the final one. Same with Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Best Actress In A Comedy for Veep: The record’s been broken, let someone else take home a statue, preferably the long-overdue Catherine O’Hara.

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Similarly, with Mrs. Maisel sweeping so much last year; I’d love to see Fleabag do the same thing this year in the comedy categories; not only is it worthy, but I bet Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s acceptance speech(es) would be delightful. In fact, this Emmy list is so forward-facing, this should be a fun ceremony to check out this year, what with nominees like Billy Porter, Sophie Turner, and RuPaul adding a ton of glamour to the red carpet and possibly, the victory podium.

DC: I’m looking forward to a few upsets, even if it means JLD not getting an Emmy for being a better mad queen than Daenerys. But if Anthony “NoHo Hank” Carrigan doesn’t get the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy, we riot.

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