The 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards could go one of two ways: as a predictable farewell to old favorites, or as a changing of the TV guard. On one side, you have Veep and Game of Thrones — which have dominated the comedy and drama categories of late (save for last year, when Veep was on extended hiatus so star Julia Louis-Dreyfus could be treated for cancer) — and that have benefited from modified voting rules that give more power to HBO’s huge voting bloc. On the other, you have a wave of acclaimed younger shows like Fleabag, Russian Doll, and Succession, among many others, who, if the voters don’t just go chalk, could really shake things up during the televised ceremony on September 22nd on Fox.
Here are my picks for who should win the major categories, my shaky predictions for who will, and reminders of people and shows that got unfairly forgotten at the nominations stage.
Outstanding Comedy Series
Fleabag (Prime Video)
The Good Place (NBC)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Prime Video)
Russian Doll (Netflix)
Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV)
SHOULD WIN: Fleabag returned with a season for the ages, simultaneously hilarious and sexy and sad in its depiction of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s title character falling in love with a hot priest.
WILL WIN: Veep has that final season halo, that huge HBO voting bloc, and its place in the unofficial sitcom Hall of Fame going for it. Fleabag is the show you most often heard TV people (most of them with little time to actually watch television) raving about over the past year, but Maisel (which won last year in Veep‘s absence) seemed to get the bulk of Amazon’s Emmy marketing efforts. So bet on Selina and friends, one last time.
ROBBED: The third season of FX’s Better Things is, like Russian Doll, hovering juuuuust below Fleabag among this year’s best comedies (and maybe shows, period), yet it was entirely ignored. Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend didn’t get the farewell season love that Veep and others did, while Hulu’s wonderful Ramy failed to catch on with voters the way some other new streaming series did.
Outstanding Drama Series
Better Call Saul (AMC)
Game of Thrones (HBO)
Killing Eve (BBC America)
This Is Us (NBC)
SHOULD WIN: To me, this comes down to Better Call Saul Season Four vs Pose Season One. Both shows had sections of their seasons that didn’t entirely work (the Mike/Gus corner of Saul felt a bit perfunctory this year, while Pose hedged its bets at first with a group of well-to-do white characters played by Evan Peters, Kate Mara, and James VanDerBeek), but were extraordinary at their best. It’s a coin flip, and my sentimental attachment to the Heisenberg-verse tips the coin over in favor of Better Call Saul.
WILL WIN: The TV drama field ran away from the final Thrones season, assuming no one would have a chance against it. Then that final season largely laid an egg, which could have given something like The Handmaid’s Tale a shot had its latest season debuted inside the eligibility window. Succession might have a chance at the upset — helped by the huge buzz for the second season (not the eligible one) being released as voting was in the final stages — but if you assume HBO people are told to vote in unison, then Thrones has to be the priority on its way out the door. Can Saul (excellent spinoff of Emmy-approved Hall of Fame drama) or Pose (timely, great show whose even better second season was also airing during voting window) slip in? It’s nice to think about, but Game of Thrones feels inevitable.
ROBBED: Amazon’s impressive half-hour drama Homecoming didn’t make an Emmy dent (getting only a cinematography nomination), despite Julia Roberts in the lead role and Mr. Robot‘s Sam Esmail as creator/director. CBS All Access’ The Good Fight hasn’t had nearly the awards success that its parent series, The Good Fight, had while airing on good old-fashioned CBS. And though it didn’t really belong in this category, Netflix’s Sex Education is eligible here and was better than several of the nominees.
Outstanding Limited Series
Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)
Sharp Objects (HBO)
When They See Us (Netflix)
SHOULD WIN: With the very large caveat that I’ve only seen 20 minutes of When They See Us so far, Chernobyl feels like the clear choice here. The miniseries about the infamous nuclear meltdown is often grim (melting faces, euthanized dogs), but also inspiring in its depiction of the many Soviet citizens who took years off their lives in making sure that this local calamity didn’t escalate into a global one.
WILL WIN: If Chernobyl is HBO’s favorite son (as opposed to the nearly as excellent Sharp Objects), it could be the favorite. But the subject matter, the acclaim, and the fact that it’s Netflix’s only show here gives me a suspicion that When They See Us will be the streaming giants’ first win in a series category.
ROBBED: Most of the shows that didn’t make the cut had notable flaws (though so did Dannemora), but it’s not hard to picture a world where any of True Detective, The Little Drummer Girl, The Haunting of Hill House, or Maniac made their way into a less crowded field.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Anthony Anderson, black-ish
Don Cheadle, Black Monday
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
Bill Hader, Barry
Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek
SHOULD WIN: Ted Danson deserves this for so many reasons: as avatar for all his wonderful Good Place co-stars who can’t get arrested by the Academy, as a living legend who keeps doing adventurous work into his 70s, and, especially, as someone who keeps making hilarious, unexpected, poignant choices in a cosmic role that should be impossible for anyone to play and make as human as Danson does every week.
WILL WIN: Bill Hader has all of these things going for him: 1)He’s great; 2)He’s already won, when the easiest way to win an Emmy is to already have one; 3)He’s playing an actor (who also sometimes kills people), and showbiz folks love little more than watching stories set in their own industry; and 4)HBO. Frankly, I’m mad at myself for not picking him here a year ago (when I mistakenly assumed Donald Glover and Atlanta were going to have a big night).
ROBBED: The belated (and deserved) Emmy love for Levy and Schitt’s Creek probably iced Jim Carrey out of a nomination for his riveting (albeit mostly dramatic) work in Showtime’s Kidding.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Christina Applegate, Dead to Me
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll
Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag
SHOULD WIN: I am an awards socialist in almost every circumstance except one like we face here. Ordinarily, I would love to see Lyonne’s volcanic Russian Doll work, or Waller-Bridge’s heartbreaking Fleabag turn, get an award. But Julia Louis-Dreyfus has a chance to go a perfect seven-for-seven in playing Selina Meyer, an accomplishment unlikely to ever be equalled, and a fitting achievement for someone who belongs on the sitcom Mt. Rushmore.
WILL WIN: I suspect Emmy voters will think exactly like I do, and that nobody but Julia Louis-Dreyfus should spend much time polishing their acceptance speeches.
ROBBED: Again, Better Things is amazing, and its creator and star Pamela Adlon was nominated here for the show’s first two seasons. GLOW star Alison Brie got ignored again for the show’s terrific second season. Farewells didn’t mean nominations for everyone, as Catastrophe‘s Sharon Horgan, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s Rachel Bloom, You’re the Worst‘s Aya Cash, Speechless‘ Minnie Driver, and Jane the Virgin‘s Gina Rodriguez, among others, all failed to get recognized on their way out the door. And good as Applegate was in the uneven Dead to Me, her co-star Linda Cardellini was better.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Jason Bateman, Ozark
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Kit Harington, Game of Thrones
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Billy Porter, Pose
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us
SHOULD WIN: The category is… Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series! Should it go to Pose‘s dynamic and vulnerable Porter, or Odenkirk for being better than ever at walking along the knife edge between nice guy Jimmy McGill and unapologetic con man Saul Goodman? Much as I want to give Odenkirk the trophy for all the years he’s played this role so well, Billy Porter was just so magical that I give him 10s across the board.
WILL WIN: If Harington somehow wins for looking confused and miserable throughout the Thrones finale, then we should never bet against an HBO show again. But with last year’s winner Matthew Rhys out of the category, let’s go with the closest thing to incumbency and guess that 2017 champ Sterling K. Brown returns to the stage.
ROBBED: Neither playing two roles nor being a recent Oscar winner was enough to put Counterpart‘s J.K. Simmons on the Academy’s radar. Homecoming‘s Stephan James, Sex Education‘s Asa Butterfield, The Deuce‘s James Franco, Billions‘ Paul Giamatti, and The Good Doctor’s Freddie Highmore would all be better nominees than Harington and a few of the others who made the final cut. And while I’m deeply agnostic about Succession, I can recognize the fine, un-nominated work of Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
Jodie Comer, Killing Eve
Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Laura Linney, Ozark
Mandy Moore, This Is Us
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Robin Wright, House of Cards
SHOULD WIN: Killing Eve Season Two was mostly a mess, but Jodie Comer continued to work miracles in making Villanelle feel both larger-than-life and just real enough to belong in the same show as Oh’s Eve Polastri.
WILL WIN: Davis is the only former winner for her current role in the category, from back in 2015, but How to Get Away with Murder feels like it’s largely fallen off the map. I could see Wright winning to commend her for continuing Cards without the disgraced Kevin Spacey, but the show as a whole might be too toxic. Without Elisabeth Moss or someone from The Crown eligible, I’m guessing blind here that Sandra Oh might have enough industry goodwill from over the years, on top of her being really good herself on Killing Eve.
ROBBED: None of the women of Pose got nominated, despite how great Mj Rodriguez is (not to mention the various supporting actresses). Only about 20 people watch AMC’s Lodge 49, and probably few of those are Emmy voters, but man is Sonya Cassidy wonderful on that show. And while it’s par for the course for a David Simon show to be ignored by the Emmys, it’ll still be ridiculous when The Deuce ends without so much as a nomination for Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Mahershala Ali, True Detective
Benicio del Toro, Escape at Dannemora
Hugh Grant, A Very English Scandal
Jared Harris, Chernobyl
Jharrel Jerome, When They See Us
Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon
SHOULD WIN: Things were much more exciting in limited series than traditional dramas this year, and it’s reflected in how brutal this category and the next one are to choose between. As a whole, True Detective‘s third installment was one of the weaker series among these six, but Mahershala Ali was so compelling (and did more with weaker material) that I give him the slightest of edges over the other five.
WILL WIN: A tough one. Rockwell gets the showbiz bump, as many voters have worked with directors like Bob Fosse (and a few older ones may have worked with Fosse himself). Harris and Jerome starred in two shows that everyone was talking about in the spring. Grant and del Toro are Grant and del Toro (and were both great). But it feels like we are still living in Mahershala Ali‘s moment, and he’ll get the Emmy that Matthew McConaughey couldn’t for TD‘s first season.
ROBBED: It’s hard to quibble with any of the names above, but goodness would it have been nice for Ian McShane and/or Timothy Olyphant to get nominated for Deadwood: The Movie.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Amy Adams, Sharp Objects
Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora
Aunjanue Ellis, When They See Us
Joey King, The Act
Niecy Nash, When They See Us
Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon
SHOULD WIN: Throw a dart at a board with these six names, and you likely won’t go wrong no matter where it lands. For most of the year, I was Team Adams for her searing work in Sharp Objects. Then I saw the Fosse/Verdon episode about the making of Chicago, and the razzle dazzle of Michelle Williams moved her to the top of my list.
WILL WIN: Arquette beat Adams at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards in the winter and seemed the clear Emmy favorite. Then Fosse/Verdon debuted, and I think the sheer excellence of what Michelle Williams does, coupled with the showbiz themes, will get her the win.
ROBBED: A stacked category left no room at the inn for Maniac‘s Emma Stone, The Little Drummer Girl‘s Florence Pugh, Deadwood: The Movie‘s Paula Malcomson, and The Haunting of Hill House‘s Carla Gugino.