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Some Quick Thoughts on the 2018 Emmys

Covering the Emmys is a strange task because, no matter how dedicated a TV viewer you might be, there is a decent shot that you’ve missed at least one of the shows nominated. There is just too much damn TV to watch, and this isn’t like the Oscars, where you can quickly catch-up in a weekend. Some of these shows have been on for years, and others run for 22 weeks a year – there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to watch every show on TV.

This is a long-winded way of saying that this article will not be a comprehensive recap of the 2018 Emmys. I’ll be chatting with editor-in-chief Bill Bodkin and writer Laura Dengrove, the winner of the Pop Break’s “office” Emmy pool, on The Break Cast this week, where we’ll be diving deeper into this year’s winners. But, in the meantime, here are one man’s thoughts on what are (allegedly) the best shows on TV.

The Limited Series Winners:

We all have reasons for missing TV shows – my go-to excuse this year is that it’s just too taxing to watch depressing series when the real world is already so scary. As such, I skipped American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Good or bad, Ryan Murphy makes interesting TV, and The People vs. OJ remains an absolute triumph in terms of modern storytelling, across any medium. I’m intrigued enough to eventually dive into this series, but it’s hard to binge a series about systemic homophobia in America when the news is already depressing enough. Eventually

The category’s other big winne, Godless, also avoided my radar – but for very different reasons. The show looked interesting, and I liked much of the cast, but it was released in the heart of Oscar season, and I just didn’t have the time to devote to a miniseries as I tried to catch all the big awards contenders in theaters. But, I’m definitely more interested in giving it a try now.

Some other stray thoughts on this section: the praise heaped upon Black Mirror remains a mystery to me, but I’m happy to see great actors like Jesse Plemmons and Letitia Wright earning nominations. It was also great to see Laura Dern honored with a nomination for her astonishing work in The Tale – personally, I think TV movies should be considered for Oscars, not Emmys, but since the Academy doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me on that, it’s nice that she’s being recognized somewhere. Finally, it was nice to see the main trio from Jesus Christ Superstar Live score nominations – live musicals are all quite cheesy to me, but I listened to “Heaven On Their Minds” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” more than I care to admit. And, the ’90s kid in me will stan hard for Rent Live next year.

The Variety/Reality Winners:

As The Pop Break’s resident Drag Race superfan, I’m thrilled to see RuPaul finally take home the Outstanding Reality Competition Emmy. True, Season 11 was a bit of a mixed bag, but watching Ru walk on stage to accept the Emmy was a surprisingly powerful moment for me. Here is a show that is both proudly and unapologetically queer, taking home a major award at one of the most prestigious ceremonies in the entertainment industry. It’s a landmark win, and yet another example of how Ru has turned a niche series into a cultural phenomenon.

Outside of that: I’m more of a Samantha Bee fan myself, but it’s hard to begrudge Last Week Tonight taking home the Outstanding Variety Talk Series award. While Oliver’s sense of humor is a bit too formulaic, the show’s investigative journalism is consistently awe-inspiring. Meanwhile, Saturday Night Live‘s win for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series is far from surprising, but it (more or less) feels deserved. This season relied on Baldwin’s infamous Trump imitation far too much, but it produced some of the year’s most memorable pop culture moments, from Stormy Daniels’ appearance to John Mulaney’s brilliant lobster sketch.

The Drama Winners:

Truth be told, the only nominated series that I watched regularly were Ozark (which is brilliant), Westworld (which is fun), and Stranger Things (which is, obviously, immensely charming). I’ve been meaning to watch The Crown and Killing Eve, both of which sound very much like my kind of series but, as I’ve said before, there is just so much to watch.

That being said: I do think it’s sort of ridiculous that Game of Thrones can still take home so many big awards, including the night’s biggest: Outstanding Drama Series, as well as Outstanding Supporting Actor (for Peter Dinklage). As technically proficient as the show is (I get it, dragons are pretty), this show’s reliance on shock value and faux-Shakesperean plot devices are just so tiresome and repetitive. It’s a show that constantly relies on sexual violence against women to motivate men (a trope that Westworld turns on its head). It’s cast is overwhelmingly white, and its treatment of LGBTQ+ characters is pitiful. My prediction: in five years, when Game of Thrones is finally over, we’ll look back on it the same way we do 24: an important chapter in pop culture history that will be very hard to separate from its problematic content.

But enough negativity: I was genuinely thrilled to see Thandie Newton take home the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress. Her performance is absolutely out of this world, and as much as I enjoyed Ann Dowd’s work on The Handmaid’s Tale last year, Newton’s snub stung. And, while I don’t watch the series, Matthew Rhys speech was so genuine and heartfelt that I couldn’t help but be happy for him.

The Comedy Series:

What a wonderful night to be Mrs. Maisel. Amazon’s comedy series was absolutely the talk of the evening, winning all but two of the televised comedy awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a very solid show, with a first season that absolutely breezes by. It could definitely use some improvement in preparation for Season 2 (which should be airing this fall), but it’s hard to not enjoy the hell out of it as you watch. A star is born in Rachel Brosnahan, who absolutely deserved her Emmy (since Rachel Bloom wasn’t nominated), and if Betty Gilpin had to lose to someone in Supporting Actress, at least Alex Borstein turned in a very strong performance.

The night’s other big winner in this genre was Barry, which left me absolutely thrilled. Barry is one of the year’s best series – it’s a dark, violent mash-up between Breaking Bad and 30 Rock that should not work as well as it does. But Bill Hader and Henry Winkler absolutely kill it in the first season (pun partially intended), and both actors stood out as the best in their categories. Hopefully next season, the Emmys will remember to nominate the series’ female lead, Sarah Goldberg.

Some other stray thoughts…

  • I’ve never liked Michael Che and Colin Jost, and their performances tonight left me feeling quite validated. This was an incredibly awkward ceremony, filled with cringey banter and jokes that did not land. Both hosts seemed wholly uninterested in the whole affair. The one bit that worked was Che’s “Reparation Emmys,” which had some laughs and felt like a genuinely moving tribute to actors previously snubbed. But, in general, both hosts fell flat.
  • Congratulations to Glen Weiss who, after winning the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special, proposed to his girlfriend (she said yes!). Public proposals give me intense anxiety and I would dump my partner on the spot if they ever pulled that shit, but I’m happy it worked for him!
  • In this Golden Age of TV, it’s natural that the Emmys would snub a few shows but, this year, it felt like quite a few wonderful series were given the cold shoulder. So, let’s end this recap on a high note, with some of the great shows that went without a nomination: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin, One Day at a Time, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Big Mouth, Dear White People, Room 104, American Vandal (one nomination is not enough for the best show on television!).
Matt Taylor
Matt Taylor
Matt Taylor is the TV editor at The Pop Break, along with being one of the site's awards show experts. When he's not at the nearest movie theater, he can be found bingeing the latest Netflix series, listening to synth pop, or updating his Oscar predictions. A Rutgers grad, he also works in academic publishing. Follow him on Twitter @MattNotMatthew1.

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