Last year, on this very website, I wrote with unflinching, completely unearned confidence about the fates of two Emmy stalwarts coming to their series conclusions: Game of Thrones and Veep. They were going to sweep, I said. There is basically no competition, I moaned. When will we be surprised by the Emmys, I wondered? And, in the spirit of positivity, I was half-right, as Game of Thrones steam-rolled to a final Best Drama series win despite a, umm, mixed final season. But Veep was crushed like the Red Viper’s skull, losing Best Comedy Series, Best Writing and, most shockingly of all, Best Actress to the immovable Mountain (to complete my metaphor, I suppose) that was Fleabag. Fleabag! One of the single greatest pieces of art since the turn of the century wasn’t even included in my round-up of shows coming to an end in the 2018-2019 season! It was mortifying, and I have still not completely recovered. But I’m nothing if not resilient (JK, I’m a known quitter!), so here I am again diving deep on how a few of this year’s bowing shows may fair at the 2019-2020 Emmys. Pray for me.
Emmy nominations for shows in their final season fall into four distinct categories: Show that Finally Gets Its Due (Friday Night Lights, The Americans), Old Stalwarts One Last Gasp (Frasier, Everyone Loves Raymond), Underappreciated, Still Not Appreciated (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, every other show on the CW/UPN/WB) and LOL Never Gonna Happen (honestly, most shows). These are the technical, official categories from the Television Academy and cannot be changed!
(Please note that I have not included Big Little Lies and Ray Donovan because WTF is even going on with those shows?)
Show That Finally Gets Its Due
Schitt’s Creek (Season 6, PopTV)
The internet’s favorite Canadian import (sorry Justins, Trudeau and Bieber), is cresting at the exact right moment for Emmy domination in 2020. The series and Catherine O’Hara, both nominated last year, are likely this year’s frontrunners in their races, especially without the big comedy initials, JLD and PWB to contend with (although ASP is still around – should Dan Levy start using his middle name?). Eugene Levy, also a nominee last year, is poised to repeat his nomination. The groundswell of affection for the show should also reap rewards in nominations for writing, directing and dear sweet God in heaven more acting nominations. Dan Levy? An icon for the ages. Anne Murphy? Every single thing she says and does as Alexis is sublime. Emily Hampshire? Stevie Budd is actually my favorite arc on the entire show. Truly, rewarding this wonderfully sweet, unrelentingly funny show at this exact moment in the world would be an absolute gift.
The Good Place (Season 4, NBC)
The Good Place hasn’t really taken off with the Emmys in the way that it should have, similar to Michael Schur’s other always a bridesmaid show, Parks & Recreation (We need you now more than ever, Leslie Knope!). In 2017, despite a universally adored first season, which included a season finale twist for the ages, the show came up with a huge goose egg with Emmy nominations. In the following two years it would start building some steam. In 2018, Emmy stalwarts Maya Rudolph and Ted Danson landed well-deserved nominations. Last year, the show about celestial beings and the value of a soul but also molotov cocktails and wind-chime penises, broke into the Best Comedy and Writing races. However, it was clear the show didn’t have enough juice. Despite nominating Josh Siegel and Dylan Morgan for writing the Janet(s) episode, D’Arcy Carden was snubbed for Best Supporting Actress – Comedy, though she flawlessly played the titular 5 (!!!!) Janet(s). On its side, is that The Good Place really stuck the landing with a flawless series finale, hopefully enough to pull in another Best Comedy Series and writing nomination. It would be foolish to count out Ted Danson or Maya Rudolph when it comes to Emmys, but I really hope the momentum of the final season short-lists Kristen Bell (never nominated! A crime that only Veronica Mars could solve), Manny Jacinto (another internet boyfriend) and, the truly incomparable, D’Arcy Carden.
Old Stalwarts, One Last Gasp
Empire (Season 6, FOX)
Never forget that upon Empire’s premiere and for its entire first two seasons there was no bigger show on television than Empire. An argument could be made, that with the exception of This Is Us, this was the last time the world congregated around a broadcast television show. Most of the Emmy heat came around Taraji P. Henson’s electrifying performance as Lyon lioness (sorry!), Cookie. It’s an all-timer, nominated twice by the Academy. While the last few years have been overshadowed by the Jussie Smollett controversy and a decline in quality and ratings. That said: count Cookie Lyon out at your own peril.
How to Get Away with Murder (Season 6, ABC)
In 2015, the person Taraji lost the Emmy to was Viola Davis. As Annalise Keating the world’s unluckiest lawyer/worst college professor, Davis became the first black woman to ever win Best Actress in a Drama Series (that feeling you’re having? Shock and dismay at the realization that Kerry Washington never won an Emmy for Scandal). The show is camp at best, fluff at worse – “Why is your penis on a dead girl’s phone?” is a sentence that one of the world’s greatest living actors has actually said – but Davis, has been nominated in this category all but one year of the show’s run.
Homeland (Season 8, Showtime)
Out of the gate, Homeland was a juggernaut. It swept the 2012 Emmys, starting a Claire Danes renaissance and introducing a new generation to Inigo Montoya himself, Mandy Patinkin. Danes won Best Actress – Drama series back-to-back in the show’s first two seasons, on her way to four total nominations for her portrayal of Carrie Mathison, a CIA officer who DOESN’T PLAY BY THE RULES! Patinkin, has shockingly never won for playing Carrie’s mentor Saul, but despite four nods. The show, also a four-time nominee, is unlikely to make it back into the big dance, although it’s final season is a strong finish for one of the definitive post-9/11 TV shows.
Modern Family (Season 11, ABC)
One of the most decorated TV series of all-time, winning four consecutive Best Comedy Series trophies, bested only by Frasier’s five-in-a-row record. Yet, Modern Family hasn’t won a competitive Emmy since 2014, and has certainly waned from the zeitgeist in recent years. It’s best bet? A return to the Best Supporting Actor race for Ty Burrell, two-time winner and eight-time nominee. It’d be great to see certified TV legend Ed O’Neill enter the race for the first-time since. Al Bundy has never won an Emmy!
Mr. Robot (Season 4, USA)
In a way, we have Mr. Robot to blame for Rami Malek and Bohemian Rhapsody. There is no empirical evidence of this, but you also can’t prove it to be untrue. Mr. Robot has really fallen off of both voters’ radars and out of the public consciousness, but you can’t every fully count out a former winner especially one with an Oscar at home.
Silicon Valley (Season 6, HBO)
Silicon Valley has been nominated for 36 Emmys but has never won a major trophy (it’s only two wins are for Art Direction and Editing). However, with some wiggle room Best Comedy Series, it could end up with a nomination for its final year, and possibly one for its most recent breakout star – and sudden hottie with a body – Kumail Nanjiani.
Will & Grace (Season 11, NBC)
The original run of Will & Grace received 80 Emmy nominations, winning 16 awards, including one for each of the four principal cast members (two for Megan Mullally, natch). The revival, although an initial ratings success, had a more muted response (Save for Megan Mullally, natch x 2). The return of America’s Original Gay-Straight alliance came out of the gate strong, but got old fast. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Mullally return to the race, if only as an act of solidarity in our cultural exhaustion of Debra Messing, activist.
Underappreciated, Still Not Appreciated
Bojack Horseman (Season 6, Netflix)
Here’s the thing about Bojack Horseman: It’s the best TV show, maybe, ever? I am not bullish about it becoming the third animated series ever nominated for Best Comedy Series (after The Flintstones in 1961 and – double-checks notes, curls in fetal position, raises fists to the heavens – Family Guy in 2009), I would love to see it sneak in a writing nomination for Raphael Bob-Waksberg. Granted, nothing in this final season reached the format-defying, all-time brilliant heights of Season 3’s “Fish Out of Water” or Season 5’s episode-long monologue “Free Churro”, But it’s worst episode is better than anything on say, The Kominksy Method.
The Affair (Season 5, Showtime)
Despite being having all the trappings of an Emmy favorite (Golden Globes, premium cable home, beautiful, immovably sad characters), The Affair never caught on with the Academy. In fact, it’s only nomination was for Maura Tierney, and who is going to ever argue with anything good happening to Maura Tierney?
Fresh Off the Boat (Season 6, ABC)
The best possible thing that could happen at this year’s Emmys would be Constance Wu finally being nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy for a show she hates being on.
Sorry for Your Loss (Season 2, Facebook Watch)
The best show on your aunt’s favorite place to share COVID-19 conspiracy theories and prayer chains. Elizabeth Olsen started to gain a little traction for her gorgeous, heartbreaking performance last year, but I just don’t think we’re ready to give a Zuckerberg show an Emmy.
Power (Season 6, Starz)
More like Power outage, am I right? The 50 Cent-produced long-running show comes to an end without ever receiving an Emmy nomination, despite being one of the most popular shows on television.
LOL Never Gonna Happen
Arrow (Season 8, The CW)
This has long been the crowning jewel of the DC television universe, anchored by a true leading man performance by Stephen Amell, his abs and his salmon ladder. These kinds of shows are never recognized for anything above-the-line, but a comic book nerd can dream.
Supernatural (Season 15, The CW)
The longest running in CW history, comes to a close as the Winchester brothers take a final ride to hell in their Chevy Impala. Or maybe it’s to heaven? I’m not sure anymore, this show’s been on for so long! Much like Arrow this show never received any real Emmy love, but wouldn’t it be great if The CW’s first-ever acting nomination was for Jensen Ackles?
Future Man (Season 3, Hulu)
Am convinced that my friend Kerry and I are the only two people in the world who watch this show, but Eliza Coupe and cast breakout Derek Wilson are doing God’s work. And Josh Hutcherson? A short king!
Anne with an E (Season 3, Netflix)
Wholesome Canadian shows deserve better from the Emmys.
AJ & the Queen (Season 1, Netflix)
Mama Ru’s best shot at an Emmy is still Drag Race. This was not it, honey!
Ballers (Season 5, Showtime)
All I want is a win for Elizabeth Warren, but this doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. Sorry, Liz!
Insatiable (Season 2, Netflix)
The most hated show to ever get a season 2? I don’t know! Maybe!
Madam Secretary (Season 6, CBS)
Elizabeth McCord was supposed to be Alicia Florick, but she did not have the range – and if you don’t understand that sentence, how did you get this far?
Criminal Minds (Season 15, CBS)
Another long-running CBS procedural coming to an end this year. While I want Paget Brewster to win an Emmy, I’d much rather her win it for, you guessed it, Bojack Horseman.
Hawaii Five-O (Season 10, CBS)
This show has been on for ten years, but I bet you can’t prove it!
The Ranch (Season 4, Netflix)
Every time I remember that Debra Winger – DEBRA. WINGER. – my insides ferment a little bit.