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Alan Sepinwall Picks Who Should Be Nominated for 2019 Emmy Awards

Rolling Stone’s chief TV critic selects the shows and actors he would honor this year

'Game of Thrones,' 'Russian Doll,' 'Better Call Saul': Alan Sepinwall weighs in who he wants to get nominated and win Emmy Awards.

HBO, Netflix, Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

What a categorically odd Emmy year this is. Because the world assumed Game of Thrones would handily sweep the big drama categories for its final season, many top contenders (including Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies) delayed their second seasons until summer, pushing them into the next Emmy window. And in part because the world assumed the same of Veep on the comedy side, most of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ best competitors are on half-hour dramas that qualify here under the new Emmy rules. And the limited series field, seemingly dead a year or two ago, has some major star wattage, between presumed favorite Patricia Arquette, Amy Adams and Michelle Williams.

These aren’t our predictions of what will be nominated and win, but what should.

Outstanding Drama Series

Better Call Saul, AMC
Game of Thrones, HBO
Homecoming, Amazon
My Brilliant Friend, HBO
Pose, FX
Sex Education, Netflix
The Deuce, HBO

Game of Thrones’ farewell had epic spectacle but too often failed its characters. Tempting as it is to look to the groundbreaking debut of Pose and the all-around excellence of most of the other nominees, it’s past time that the understated, underrated and wildly entertaining Breaking Bad prequel, Better Call Saul, joins its parent show in the winners’ circle.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Better Things, FX
Brockmire, IFC
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, NBC
Fleabag, Amazon
Russian Doll, Netflix
Veep, HBO
You’re the Worst, FXX

From strong goodbyes (Veep, You’re the Worst) to ever-funnier veterans (Brockmire, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), it’s been a hell of a year for comedy. But the show of 2019 so far is Russian Doll: It’s Groundhog Day meets Edge of Tomorrow meets the irresistible force of nature that is Natasha Lyonne.

Outstanding Limited Series

Escape at Dannemora, Showtime
Fosse/Verdon, FX
Maniac, Netflix
Sharp Objects, HBO
Chernobyl, HBO

The other nominees boasted superb performances and/or flashy visual styles but made some sketchy storytelling choices. None were as excellent from top-to-bottom as the disaster epic Chernobyl, a tough to watch but intensely rewarding accounting of the Soviet Union’s nuclear reactor meltdown in the mid-Eighties.

Ralph Ineson, Mark Bagnall, Stellan Skarsgård, Jared Harris.photo: Liam Daniel/HBO

Ralph Ineson, Mark Bagnall, Stellan Skarsgård and Jared Harris in HBO’s ‘Chernobyl.’ Photo credit: Liam Daniel/HBO

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Asa Butterfield, Sex Education
Paul Giamatti, Billions
Stephan James, Homecoming
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Billy Porter, Pose
J.K. Simmons, Counterpart

The category is . . . oh, who cares what the category is? While it’s tempting to honor Odenkirk for his transformation into Saul Goodman, or James for being the vulnerable foundation of Homecoming, give all the Emmys to Billy Porter for his charismatic, heartbreaking work as drag-ball MC Pray Tell on Pose.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Jodie Comer, Killing Eve
Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Deuce
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Elizabeth Olsen, Sorry for Your Loss
Julia Roberts, Homecoming
MJ Rodriguez, Pose

All due respect to the terrific work of Gyllenhaal, Roberts, Olsen and Rodriguez, but this feels like a Killing Eve coin flip. Oh is spectacularly human as spy Eve Polastri, but the series needs viewers to become obsessed with serial killer Villanelle. Jodie Comer’s muscular work guarantees that they do.

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Hank Azaria, Brockmire
Jim Carrey, Kidding
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Bill Hader, Barry
Rob McElhenney, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Ramy Youssef, Ramy

Carrey made a wonderful tragicomic return to TV, and Hader toggles expertly between Barry’s light and dark halves. But honey-voiced, hard-drinking, sexually adventurous, alternately insufferable and delightful baseball announcer Jim Brockmire is the part Hank Azaria was born to play, baby.

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Pamela Adlon, Better Things
Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Aya Cash, You’re the Worst
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag

In a stacked category, Waller-Bridge, Lyonne, Adlon, Bloom and the others are all deserving. Still, who are we to deny historically great work from a TV-inner-circle Hall of Famer? Give JLD the Veep sweep. Another winner can wait till next year.

Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Mahershala Ali, True Detective
Benicio del Toro, Escape at Dannemora
Ian McShane, Deadwood: The Movie
Timothy Olyphant, Deadwood: The Movie
Chris Pine, I Am the Night
Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon

Movie stars like Ali, Del Toro, Pine and Rockwell made the most of their visits to the small screen. But it comes down to the two Deadwood stars. Both were fantastic in their reprisals, but Ian McShane gets a slight edge due to the historical embarrassment of his failure to win during the show’s original run.

Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Amy Adams, Sharp Objects
Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora
Joey King,The Act
Florence Pugh, The Little Drummer Girl
Emma Stone, Maniac
Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon

Though Arquette was great in Escape at Dannemora (and in her supporting role opposite King in The Act) and Pugh, Stone and Williams elevated occasionally so-so material, Amy Adams went to some impressively deep, dark places as Sharp Objects’ flawed heroine.

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