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    Critic’s Notebook: Emmy Nominations, the Breakthroughs and Snubs

    There’s just enough new blood in this year’s Emmy categories to make many of the contests interesting. But when the nominations were read Tuesday morning, it was clear one thing hadn’t changed: the near-invisibility of broadcast network TV in the comedy and drama fields. (They’re hardly even trying in the limited series/movie arena, so that’s more understandable.) Thankfully, ABC’s Abbott Elementary came along to show it can be done.

    Here are some early thoughts (and knee-jerk predictions, subject to change) in the major categories:

    Comedy

    To no one’s surprise, last year’s big winner, Apple’s Ted Lasso, dominates with 20 nominations, including 10 in acting alone. But the big news in the comedy arena is the triumphant arrival of ABC’s hilarious Abbott Elementary, which beat the odds against the Emmys’ aversion to network TV with seven nods, including for creator/star Quinta Brunson and co-stars Janelle James, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Tyler James Williams. (CBS’s new hit Ghosts wasn’t so lucky, and got completely shut out.)

    Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building made an even bigger splash in its first season with 17 nominations, including for legends Steve Martin and Martin Short and guest actors Nathan Lane and Jane Lynch—but curiously, not for co-star Selena Gomez.

    Other strong contenders: the second season of HBO Max’s Hacks scored big with 17 nominations, and so did the long-awaited return of HBO’s Barry (14), even though it almost feels more like a drama than a comedy anymore. Back in the race for top honors: HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, Prime Video’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and FX’s supernatural treat What We Do in the Shadows.

    Hacks Season 2 Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder

    Hacks (HBO Max)

    Among the more surprising snubs: FX’s Atlanta earned only three nominations, including one for creator Donald Glover’s minimal performance as lead actor but overlooking Brian Tyree Henry’s strong work as the now-famous rapper. Acclaimed series including FX/Hulu’s Reservation Dogs, HBO Max’s delightful Julia, Apple’s tuneful Schimagadoon! and the final seasons of ABC’s black-ish and FX’s Better Things came up mostly empty. On a more personal note, I remain miffed that Alan Tudyk’s inspired performance as the alien in human disguise in Syfy’s Resident Alien remains unappreciated.

    Predictions: Ted Lasso will likely rule again in comedy. Jason Sudeikis remains the front-runner for actor, but Only Murders‘ Steve Martin and Martin Short (if they don’t cancel each other out) could provide an upset, and Bill Hader’s intensity as Barry has already won him two acting Emmys. Hacks‘ Jean Smart is destined to repeat her win. In supporting categories, I’d love to see Abbott‘s wacky principal, Janelle James, take the prize (but I’d happily settle for Sheryl Lee Ralph), and it’s a tossup between the Ted Lasso guys (Brett Goldstein, Toheeb Jimoh, and Nick Mohammed) and the Barry scene-stealers (Henry Winkler and Anthony Carrigan). My gut is going with Winkler again, but it’s a tough call.

    Drama

    NBC’s emotional final season of This Is Us made no impact on Emmy voters, who ignored Mandy Moore’s exemplary performance as the dying matriarch. (The show’s only nomination was for music and lyrics.) This rare gem, rising above the sameness of most formula network drama, failed to get traction in a year of dynamic upstarts.

    This Is Us Season 6 Sterling K. Brown and Mandy Moore

    This Is Us (Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

    As expected, HBO’s previous winner Succession leads all shows with 25 nominations (14 for acting), and its youth drama Euphoria made a strong showing with 16, but they face fierce competition from buzzy newcomers including the South Korean phenomenon Squid Game and Apple’s riveting workplace nightmare Severance (14 nominations each) and Showtime’s kinky Yellowjackets (with seven). Joining Squid Game from Netflix: Ozark’s final season and the return of Stranger Things, each with 13 nominations. The still-in-progress final run of AMC’s Better Call Saul is also in the running—which prompts a much-deserved shout-out to Saul’s brilliant Rhea Seehorn, finally getting a supporting nomination as Kim Wexler. (What we didn’t see coming: Reese Witherspoon of Apple’s The Morning Show getting nominated instead of Jennifer Aniston.)

    Besides This Is Us, the most notable drama snub may be the Academy’s cold shoulder to Paramount Network’s Yellowstone, which despite its hit status and becoming a cottage industry with multiple spinoffs might as well not exist. Costume drama didn’t fare all that well, either, with Netflix’s Bridgerton getting little attention and HBO’s deluxe The Gilded Age (from the creator of Downton Abbey) coming away mostly empty-handed, despite the pedigree of its all-star cast.

    Predictions: Succession will once again rule, but if there’s an upset, it will likely come from Squid Game or Severance. Squid‘s SAG Award winner Lee Jung-jae may upstage Succession leads Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong for lead actor, as well as leading men Bob Odenkirk (Saul), Jason Bateman (Ozark), and Adam Scott (a possible spoiler from Severance). Ozark‘s chilling Laura Linney seems poised to win for lead actress, unless Euphoria‘s Zendaya repeats. And don’t count out Yellowjackets‘ subtly disturbing Melanie Lynskey. In supporting categories, take your pick from the Succession cast (I’m leaning toward Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook), though Julia Garner’s swan song as Ozark‘s Ruth Langmore could easily earn her a third trophy. John Turturro was also moving as Severance‘s conflicted company man.

    Limited Series/Movies

    Just about everyone who checked into HBO’s The White Lotus got some Emmy love, with 20 nominations including eight for acting. And yet Hulu made the most noise in the jam-packed limited-series category with its powerful docudramas: Dopesick (with 14 nominations including star Michael Keaton), Pam & Tommy (with a surprising 10, including leads Lily James and Sebastian Stan), and The Dropout (six, including the impressive Amanda Seyfried). Netflix’s Inventing Anna, starring twice-nominated Julia Garner, rounds out the field.

    Surprising snubs include Julia Roberts for Gaslit, Jessica Chastain for Scenes from a Marriage, and the three actresses in Showtime’s The First Lady (Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Gillian Anderson). Ben Foster’s powerful work as The Survivor in HBO’s Holocaust drama was also overlooked, and I was hoping for Samuel L. Jackson (Apple’s The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey) to get noticed for his bravura performance as a man emerging from dementia for too short a time. HBO Max’s Station Eleven also deserved better.

    Dopesick (Gene Page/Hulu)

    Predictions: Dopesick will win for limited series, The Survivor for movie. Michael Keaton will continue his sweep as Dopesick‘s addicted doctor, and Maid‘s Margaret Qualley will likely triumph over an impressive field. All of the White Lotus contenders are in the supporting categories, with Jennifer Coolidge and Murray Bartlett the presumed front-runners. But what a year for Sydney Sweeney, nominated for Lotus and Euphoria in supporting roles.

    The 74th Emmy Awards, Monday, Sept. 12, 8/7c, 5/PT, NBC

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