Monday, September 11, 2017

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Drama Series

Nominees are listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses. Beware of major spoilers for listed episodes.

Chicanery,” “Fall,” “Lantern,” “Mabel,” “Off Brand,” “Witness

This is the third nomination for a show that I thought might be cast off this year because it’s not new and hot, but, lo and behold, it’s back. There’s no way it will win simply because its buzz isn’t strong enough anymore. Even in the event of a vote-split, I can’t imagine it. The selections this year include the first two episodes, the last two, the one that features Chuck’s fall from grace and the one after it which shows Jimmy trying to jump-start his new career right away. This wasn’t the strongest season of the show, but the season premiere was solid, Gus Fring’s reintroduction in “Witness” (nominated for directing) was great, “Chicanery” (up for writing) was terrific, “Off Brand” was electric because of Jimmy’s spiraling, and the final two episodes, “Fall” and “Lantern,” ended on a bit of a whimper with Jimmy coming to a realization about himself. It’s strange that “Expenses,” Odenkirk’s submission, isn’t here, but this is a good list.

Wolferton Splash,” “Hyde Park Corner,” “Smoke and Mirrors,” “Gelignite,” “Assassins,” “Gloriana

As anyone who has regularly been reading this blog knows, I just watched this entire season over the course of the past month or two. I found the first episode, a submission here, to be very slow and not all that involving, while episode two, “Hyde Park Corner,” which is nominated for directing, to be a step, if a glacially-paced one, in the right direction. The fifth episode, “Smoke and Mirrors,” was also fine, but it wasn’t until the next episode “Gelignite,” the first to tackle Margaret’s impending marriage, that this show really picked up steam, culminating in the final two episodes of the season, which were much stronger. This show managed to topple “Game of Thrones” and three of its fellow nominees in this race at the Golden Globes, so it’s very possible that it could do it again. I don’t think the excitement factor is there, and while this may be a classically good show, it doesn’t feel all that innovative.

Offred,” “Birth Day,” “Late,” “Jezebels,” “The Bridge,” “Night

I want to start by saying that this show is excellent, and before I looked back at my reviews of all the nominated shows, I was behind this one as my choice to take home this award. It’s the only one of the new shows that didn’t compete at the Golden Globes since it aired in 2017, so it’s an unknown quantity in that sense. The episode I found to be strongest, “Faithful,” wasn’t selected, but the first three and last three episodes are all terrific. This show does a remarkable job of portraying a frightening world many believe to be not too far from where we stand now, and any of these six hours demonstrates that well. I think this show has a great shot at winning, and I’d be very happy if it did.

Chapter 53,” “Chapter 55,” “Chapter 56,” “Chapter 63,” “Chapter 64,” “Chapter 65

This is the fifth consecutive nomination for this show, which has taken home six awards in that time but still counts only Best Drama Guest Actor and Best Directing as its most notable trophies. I’m pretty mixed on this season, since I was so into its election-centric start, from which its first, third, and fourth installments are drawn, and not nearly as into when everything dramatically shifted and took some shocking if far from believable turns. This show is just one of two returning series in this category, and the fact that so much of what’s going on politically in this country now isn’t all that far off from what’s showcased here hurts rather than helps it. I don’t think there’s a single pundit over at Gold Derby who’s predicting this show to win this year, and, unless it was fully about the election, which would at least be better, I don’t see how these episodes make a strong enough case for it either.

The Vanishing of Will Byers,” “The Weirdo on Maple Street,” “Holly, Jolly,” “The Body,” “The Bathtub,” “The Upside Down

Like the other new Netflix show in this race, I just finished watching it after opting not to screen it back when it first premiered last summer. With only eight episodes to choose from, most of the season is encased here. I fully recognize that my opinion about this show isn’t all that valid since most loved it right out of the gate. It took me until episode four to really get into it, so the inclusion of the first three episodes doesn’t impress me all that much. Episode seven was awesome, while episode eight served its purpose well enough. This show is not like others currently on the air, which is the point, and it seems to have developed a true cult following that makes it primed well for a win. It scored the SAG Award for its ensemble, and it’s just a question of whether it can take down a true crowdpleaser with no supernatural content and a terrifying vision of what today could look like.

The Big Day,” “Jack Pearson’s Son,” “Memphis,” “Moonshadow,” “Pilgrim Rick,” “Pilot

This show is the only broadcast network representative on this list, and, aside from PBS (if you count that) the past five years, the first such series nominated since 2011. This huge crowdpleaser earned seven acting nominations, but no writing or directing bids, suggesting that it might not be as well-rounded or highly-regarded as the other four freshmen in this category. All six of its submitted episodes are strong examples of why people love this show so much, which mixes sweetness and sadness and always pulls at the heartstrings. The first episode takes place entirely in the past, looking at Jack and Rebecca while she’s about to give birth. The second centers on tradition and family values. The third is the most memorable hour, which finds Randall and William taking a fateful road trip. The fourth is the season finale, which flashes way back to Jack and Rebecca first meeting. The fifth is the Thanksgiving episode that shows the family bonding when things go wrong, and the sixth is the first hour that got it all started. The only episode that I really liked out of this bunch was the pilot, and while some viewers would celebrate if it won, I’d be pretty surprised and disappointed since it just isn’t on the same level as the others.

The Bicameral Mind,” “Chestnut,” “The Original,” “Trace Decay,” “Trompe L’Oeil,” “The Well-Tempered Clavier

This freshman HBO series managed a staggering 22 nominations, including one in all four major acting categories. Its episode submissions including the first two hours and the last four. The first two are deep on the disturbing nature of this manufactured world and the mystery of what’s really going on, where the last four episodes bring it all together. I wrote about “Trompe L’Oeil,” the seventh episode, that it contained a twist that I found fully terrific and didn’t see coming, but which more importantly revealed that the writing here and the whole universe that has been created is so much deeper and more complex than I realized. This show could very easily win, especially if you consider its nominations haul, but dense HBO shows often take a few years to really catch on with voters while something flashier and more fast-paced takes the trophy.

What should win (based on entire season): “The Handmaid’s Tale” or “Westworld”
What should win (based on individual episodes): “The Handmaid’s Tale” or “Westworld”
What will win: While the sheer number of nominations might indicate “Westworld,” I think its chances are minimal, though certainly much stronger than returning nominees “Better Call Saul” and “House of Cards.” The four other hot new shows are sure to go head-to-head, and I’d put “The Crown” in fourth place and “This Is Us” in third. After its strong Creative Arts showing last night, I think that Stranger Things will eclipse “The Handmaid's Tale,” much as I'd prefer to predict the latter.

Next up: Best Comedy Series

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