LOS ANGELES — Emmy nominations arrived Wednesday, and with 2,428 performers vying for voters’ attention, the free-for-all to earn a place at the table sometimes gave off the same desperate vibes as that “Succession” finale board vote on the GoJo merger.
Was anyone promised a nomination when they were 7 years old at the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton, N.Y.? We can’t say for sure, but maybe a nominee will come clean before the awards are handed out on Sept. 18 — provided labor unrest doesn’t postpone or outright cancel the show.
Even with the usual deluge of submissions, the nominations managed to deliver a fair number of surprises, pleasant and otherwise. And there were omissions, which, for the sake of alliteration and search engine optimization, we’ll call “snubs,” though, again, with this kind of volume, it’s not like voters were actively shunning anyone. (Really, if anyone connected with this superlative season of “Succession” wasn’t nominated, we’d consider that not a snub but a complete farce.)
- Surprise: ‘Jury Duty’ (comedy series)
In a move that feels like a reality show prank, the courtroom mockumentary “Jury Duty” was nominated over favored shows such as “Poker Face” and “Shrinking.” For those who did not watch the Freevee series, it follows a fake trial where everyone in the courtroom is an actor except for one poor unsuspecting juror: Ronald Gladden, a solar contractor from San Diego. James Marsden appears as himself — an actor who happened to be summoned for the case — and scored an acting nomination in the process. Cringeworthy and uncomfortable, this dark horse of a nominee is now competing against powerhouse comedies like “Abbott Elementary,” “The Bear” and “Wednesday.” Now it’s up to the jury, er, voters, to see if this unexpected series wins its case on awards night.
Voters had room enough in their hearts for only one Bill Lawrence comedy, returning “Ted Lasso” to the fold but ignoring newcomer “Shrinking,” which, like “Ted Lasso,” earnestly examines its characters’ feelings and failings to a degree that can be entertaining — or exhausting. Perhaps voters were just conflicted about seeing Harrison Ford sing along with a Sugar Ray song and thought, “Let the man age gracefully.”
- Surprise: ‘Ted Lasso’ (comedy series)
It’s 2023. Lockdown is over, and so are the best days of “Ted Lasso.” The third and final season of this soccer comedy from Apple TV+ was hands down the show’s most uneven run to date. Why was the disappointing ending of a beloved series voted in, especially given how many strong contenders there are in the comedy category this year? It coasted in on fumes left over from 2020 and ‘21, when the gentle sports sitcom offered a COVID-ravaged nation warm vibes, freshly baked cookies and inspirational messages. But those days are gone, and so too is the charm of Lasso, played by Jason Sudeikis. “Abbott Elementary” delivers feel-good humor with sharper writing, and then there’s the brilliance of “Barry,” “The Bear” and “Poker Face.” No one wants to kick America’s favorite teddy bear, but it shouldn’t have been voted in.
- Snub: Helen Mirren, ‘1923’ (lead actress, drama)
Emmy voters have roundly ignored “Yellowstone” over the years, but you would have thought Mirren could manage to break through for her portrayal of the stalwart, shotgun-blasting Dutton family matriarch in the series prequel “1923.” Not that she’ll probably give it a thought. She is still Dame Helen Mirren and already owns four Emmys, an Oscar and a Tony. Plus, she has the power to shoo away a bear from her home by calling it “naughty.” The cub paid her heed, even if voters didn’t.
- Surprise: Juno Temple, ‘Ted Lasso’ (supporting actress, comedy)
Is it really a surprise that Temple, nominated for the first two seasons of “Ted Lasso,” earned another nod for the show’s final season? Kind of. The series’ writers inflicted all manner of hardships upon her character: Keeley was dumped by a man and a woman, lost her business (albeit for about a minute) and dealt with the fallout over the release of a sex tape — and each one of these subplots amounted to the least interesting (and convincing) storyline of its their respective episodes. It wasn’t Temple’s fault. She remained winning, even if it seemed like the show had nothing but bad ideas about what to do with her character.
- Snub: ‘A Small Light’ (limited/anthology series)
I realize that we can’t get enough limited series about serial killers, psychos and women who chop up their neighbors with an ax, but you’d think that, amid all the tawdry madness, voters might have found a spot for “A Small Light,” a moving portrait of resistance and heroism. Seeing the story of Anne Frank and her family through the lens of those who helped them — particularly Miep Gies and her husband, Jan — provided a new perspective on familiar history, as well as an inspiring lesson on how ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
- Surprise: ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ (limited/anthology series)
When it came to the “Star Wars” universe and this year’s Emmys, all the talk centered around “Andor,” Tony Gilroy’s slow-burn espionage thriller. (It did indeed earn a drama series nomination.) But this morning at the cantina (and Disney+), they’re raising a glass to the surprising recognition of “Obi-Wan Kenobi” for limited series — surprising because the competition was fierce (it beat out a number of high-profile HBO shows) and because “Obi-Wan” wasn’t exactly embraced by critics and fans when it arrived more than a year ago. I guess Ewan McGregor’s charisma (and British accent) goes a long way with voters.
- Snub: ‘Bad Sisters’ (drama series)
“Bad Sisters” is more of a dark comedy than a drama, but that’s hardly a reason to overlook Sharon Horgan’s wickedly funny revenge thriller: This series about the Garvey sisters and their colorful quest to protect one of the clan from an abusive husband should have been a no-brainer. Horgan, Eve Hewson, Sarah Greene and Claes Bang are among the talents who make this series soar. (And at least Horgan scored a lead actress nod.) The show brilliantly explores concepts of loyalty among family and the collective repercussions of trauma in a fast-paced narrative with twisting subplots. And while this tale of abuse and murder should be super-heavy given the subject matter, it’s biting and hilarious thanks to sharp writing, impassioned performances and colorful storytelling. There’s nothing bad about “Bad Sisters,” so explain yourself, TV Academy.
- Surprise: Kathryn Hahn, ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ (lead actress, limited series/TV movie)
Let’s just apologize now for underestimating Hahn, an excellent actor, well-liked and capable of elevating even a so-so series like “Tiny Beautiful Things” into required viewing. Hahn leapt over an Oscar winner (Rachel Weisz, star of “Dead Ringers”) and her “WandaVision” co-star Elizabeth Olsen (“Love & Death”) to secure a nomination for her winning performance as a woman who becomes an advice columnist when her life falls apart. Voters apparently appreciated the show’s sentimentality. I mean, you’d have to be a monster not to have cried at least once. Now time to email Dear Sugar to ask how Hahn can actually win the trophy.
- Snub: ‘Poker Face’ (comedy series)
Really? Really?! How on God’s green Earth did you miss this one, TV Academy? This case-of-the-week murder-mystery series starring Natasha Lyonne was a breath of fresh air when it arrived on Peacock in January, despite the plumes of smoke emanating from the cigarette of its central character, Charlie Cale. Created by Rian Johnson (“Knives Out,” “Glass Onion”), the series takes its cues from “Columbo” and features new guest stars with each episode. Lyonne plays the hard-nosed sleuth Cale, who has an innate talent for sniffing out lies. The academy’s egregious oversight may not be dishonest, exactly, but we call BS.
- Surprise: Kumail Nanjiani, ‘Welcome to Chippendales’ (lead actor, limited series/TV movie)
Nanjiani wasn’t favored for a nomination for his role in Hulu’s true-crime series, but he certainly deserves the honor for his portrayal of Steve Banerjee, the Indian immigrant who created the first male striptease venue, Chippendales. Though largely renowned for his comedy roles in shows like “Silicon Valley” and films such as “The Big Sick,” Nanjiani stretched his talents for this period drama, which follows Banerjee’s rise from a broke gas station attendant to an egomaniacal entertainment mogul to a convicted murderer. In the Pakistani American actor’s hands, the oddball character elicits as much sympathy as he does scorn. And never once did he have to gyrate in a g-string for this nomination. That was up to the supporting cast.