THB #170: The Big Emmy Wave, Pt 1 of 2
(Note: This got out of hand… it was 1 piece, but as the sun starts to set, I am now splitting it into 2 pieces over 2 days… June 2021 - November 2021 and then, December 2021 - May 2022. I hope it offers some perspective on an insane amount of quality television.)
We’re in the heat of it now. Eligibility for Emmys closed 2 weeks ago and voting starts next week.
I’ve seen a lot of charts… what can one say?
I decided to go after it in a different way today. This is a list of titles that I found something special (aka, worthy of serious Emmy consideration) over the last year.
That’s 90 series, limited series, and films (doc and narrative) in 52 weeks of TV. And that doesn’t even consider all the solid and solidly mediocre shows that we have all consumed in the same year.
To be honest, it also includes 8 series/limited series that I haven’t seen, but I know are well-loved by people I respect. And for me, at least another 300 hours spend on theatrical movies and some streaming films in the same period. (Normally about 300 movie titles a year… but not enough releases this last year.)
The Good Fight
I love Betty and find it surprisingly re-watchable. Sad to see it go.
Flack, Season 1, was a romp, not all that dissimilar to The Good Fight or Call My Agent. Season 2 was nowhere near as light-hearted. Anna Paquin and others are quite good. Not sure who connects to it now.
The Good Fight was wild this season and some might feel - I might feel - that the wackiness level going so high is a little desperate. On the other hand, the show could also take you to sugar highs that are rare indeed.
Loki was a surprisingly well done Marvel series.
Physical is a weird show. Everyone is profoundly flawed and the lead has you in her head throughout. Is there a hero? Is there really a villain? But somehow, it manages to be funny, engaging, sexy, complex, and enormously watchable.
No Sudden Move
The One and Only Dick Gregory
The White Lotus
I still don’t know how I feel about Schmigadoon. I love musical theater and the show rarely transported me the way theater does… it was like it was loving and mocking the form at the same time. But actually making a musical series is a major accomplishment.
I love Sky Rojo. It is absolutely insane. Strippers who have kinda been trafficked, but are now stuck with a club owner in an isolated area, decide to free themselves. It’s not as easy as you might think. And it gets hard in ways you could never imagine. Feminism and misogyny are both in play. One of the things that appeals to me is that it has absolutely no fear of going to the craziest places. The 2nd season, which is what qualifies for Emmy, isn’t really necessary. It really gets its most interesting ideas out in the first season. But money is money.
Ted Lasso is Ted Lasso. You could feel the restlessness of the writers this last season as they searched for more conflict. But they found it. Wrote it the way it was meant to be written. The cast knows its job to a t. Ya.
Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move is a movie for HBO Max and, simply… thanks.
The One and Only Dick Gregory is one of the best docs on a comedian I’ve ever seen. Gregory is a legend. And combined with the Cosby doc, you really couldn’t ask for a better perspective on the era and how black comics navigated than this. (Add on the Carlin doc now on HBO Max to fill things out.)
The White Lotus is one of the key television events of the year. But it was a limited series before Season 2 was greenlit and that was that. Epic. Masterful. Now.
Only Murders in the Building
Awkwafina is Nora from Queens
The Chair is the opposite of The White Lotus. It’s in the running as a series, but it appears there will no Season 2. Still, a literary, clever, intimate portrait of 2 people and those around them. Great British television made in America.
Only Murders in the Building is a delight. It’s like watching an old vaudeville act that just has it down and still surprises you repeatedly. Cast is great. Guest cast is great too. What’s not to like?
Awkwafina is Nora from Queens is one of my favorites. It’s a bit like Broad City, but then you add the family and it goes to its own place. It’s a stoner show, in many ways. But I think Lori Tan Chinn is the most deserving Supporting Actress nominee who is unlikely to get nominated. One of the great scene stealers ever.
Reservation Dogs is on of those shows that just grows in esteem with every episode. It’s not trying to beat you into submission… or insight. It just is what it is. And somethings you will never have seen. And others will feel remarkably familiar, even if the setting is not.
This is one of my favorite months of the year… 4 winners… great variety.
The Morning Show
I am not a fan of The Morning Show. For me, the more inclusive it tries to be, the less inclusive it is. But others love it. And it has its moments. Valeria Golina, Marcia Gay Harden, Holland Taylor… a terrific ensemble… but it’s a show about the villains and those who will be villains.
Squid Game was fun!!!! I love Battle Royale and this is a variation on that theme. Minimalist. Not super challenging intellectually. But good television. Really good.
Couples Therapy is quite a thing. Following the ups and downs over a number of months creates a lot of intimacy. Compelling.
Young Sheldon (didn’t/don’t watch it)
Dopesick (didn’t watch it)
Introducing, Selma Blair
The Next Thing You Eat
I prefer the U.K. version, but Ghosts is a very clever, very old-fashioned premise that still works like a charm. Wide range of characters, so everyone can identify with someone and no one really loses, so a joy.
Succession is the smartest version of Bonanza ever made. One of the genius choices of the series has been that the amount of profligate spending is clear, but it’s rarely gaudy and when it is, even the uber-rich see it too. Every character is fully motivated and true to their limitations and strengths. I was really ready for Kendall to be dead on the raft. But I’m sure the next season will break free of the “Kendall tries to kill dad… Kendall is too big a fuck-up to kill dad” cycle. One thing about killing dad. Logan is a beautifully nuanced lunatic, dead smart, and as tough as he can be, he makes us feel as safe as he makes his kids insane. An all-time series.
I have never watched more than 15 minutes of Young Sheldon. I don’t think I ever watch more than a couple episodes of Old Sheldon. Just not my groove, though I love Chuck Lorre. But I know people love it, so it’s here.
I embarrassed, more than any other show, to no have watched Dopesick. I have seen a lot on the story… too much when the show came out. Fits all my likes… just never cracked the schedule. I will try to fix this shortly.
Introducing, Selma Blair is one of my beloveds for this year. There is a weird sense of intimacy, though I have only met Ms. Blair a few times. She is an every day hero. She chooses life over limitations. Her love for her son is a superpower. My heart is beating faster and my tear ducts welling up just thinking about piece. Just so human.
Maid is one of those shows, for me, with big, interesting moments. How can your heart not break. But I just couldn’t get past Margaret Qualley… just didn’t get there with her.
The Next Thing You Eat is a reality show about food. It didn’t remind me of Bourdain. Different vibe, though he would have made a wonderful guest. David Chang is just one of those guys who can do it and can talk about it and is always excited to learn more about it. Like hanging out with him on his adventures. 100%.
The Shrink Next Door
Attica (does it qualify?)
The Beatles: Get Back
How To with John Wilson
Procession (does it qualify?)
Dickinson is so clever. Not meant for me. Meant for young women, mostly. But it is very well done and deserves consideration.
The Great is one of my favorites of the year. It ain’t history… but it is. Circumstances force ambiguity from characters who do not want to be ambiguous in any way. They know their roles. But they aren’t allowed to just be what they expect, high or low. Great performances. Great dialogue. Smart twists. Profane, but not grotesque.
The Shrink Next Door didn’t really get much love when it launched. But Rudd is solid, Farrell reaches to a new level, and Kathryn Hahn kills it, as always. It’s a weird show. It’s based on a real story, but clearly takes wild swings away from the facts. But the fundamental themes of loyalty and betrayal makes it a fascinating watch.
Yellowjackets still confuses me a bit. I am not a fan of relentless time jumping. But what an amazing cast and what performances they give. It’s a show that isn’t really what it seems to be about.
Yellowstone is fantastic version of The Big Valley. Costner holds it together by letting everyone else shine and only occasionally stealing the spotlight. Kelly Reilly is the key to it all, slinging sex and genius together in a way rarely seen since Barbara Stanwyck. If she doesn’t end up with a couple Emmys before it is all done, ATAS will have made itself look dumb. And what a sensational group in support, whether actors or singers or real cowboys… Taylor Sheridan orchestrates the mayhem with a deft touch.
Attica & Procession are two great docs you can see online that I think are DQed from Emmy because they went for Oscar. The Emmys may have 160 categories, but at least they have the strength of will to distinguish Oscar from Emmy, unlike Oscar.
The Beatles: Get Back is actually an instant classic. There may be no better film ever made on process. And most of us already have an intimacy with the music so that we can read in subtext from the very first showing. No better show this year.
How To with John Wilson is a thing I love, the way I love that weird knick-knack from the truck stand when I was 7 years old. Can’t explain it. Don’t want to. But when I watch it, it makes me happier. Instantly. Super smart and super stupid, it is what I think being high of pot must be like for guys like Seth Rogen. One of those shows I’ll run into next year or in 5 years and not remember the details, but will watch front to end because it’s like your most comfortable t-shirt.