Sun. Sep 27th, 2020

Hey, Emmys: Don’t Sleep on Aidy Bryant (or Shrill)!

Aidy Bryant is a gift to us all. An effervescent, hilarious, incisively funny angel walking on this very Earth. If I were to water my hyperbole down, I’d say that, between SNL and the second season of Shrill, she’s having a banner year. But toning down hyperbole, is not who I am, so I’ll simply say this: If Aidy Bryant doesn’t get a minimum of three Emmy nominations in 2020 I will rip out all my hair and go on a year-long hunger strike. 

To say that Aidy’s presence on Saturday Night Live is a highlight, would diminish her value these last eight years. Does anyone on the show have as reassuring a presence as Aidy Bryant? Seeing her, you know you’ll smile, but you’re prepared to laugh. No one – with the exception of maybe Cecily Strong – wrings as much humor out of playing the straight-woman in a sketch.

But let’s not forget, that Lil’ Baby Aidy is a game-changer. You’ll always remember where you were when the phrase “And now, it’s a whole thing with Jean” changed the culture. Left off the ballot last year, after a nomination in 2018, there is lots to reward her eighth season: from “Little Miss Teacher’s Friend” at the start of the season to the incredibly welcome return of Carrie Crum on Weekend Update this January to her “I watch your vlog all the time on the toilet” moment in SNL at Home episode just last week, Aidy is still an SNL force the Emmys need to reckon with. Kate McKinnon, talented as she is, should not be the only current cast member to have an Emmy.

But SNL is just the appetizer, the amuse bouche if you will, of Aidy’s Emmy’s trajectory this year. Earlier this year, back when the world was only figuratively headed towards an apocalyptic meltdown, I was devastated, defeated and deflated (the 3 D’s!) by the J. Lo Snub Heard Round the World (lamenting this has become my entire personality at this point). I don’t know if I have it in me to see Aidy Bryant, and the sublime second season of Shrill suffer the same fate, come Emmy nominations. I’m just – – I’m just not strong enough. 

Famously, Shrill’s first season resonated with me in profound ways. I say “famously” because I wouldn’t shut up about it, nor would I stop saying pretentious things like “it’s a show about how much space we are allowed to take up in the world!” But you know what? IT IS A SHOW ABOUT HOW MUCH SPACE WE CAN TAKE UP IN THE WORLD!!!!

As a person who has struggled with his weight his entire life (and, incidentally, a writer wanting to be given a shot dammit!), Aidy Bryan’s Annie wasn’t just a character to me. It was a representation of someone who I’ve never seen on screen before.  A character who struggles with her weight is well-trodden territory, nice-to-see at best, a trope at worst. But tht’s not who Annie was. We never see Annie diet. Annie is figuring out how she feels about her body, and how much she values herself based on how other people see her body.  It’s much more nuanced than anything I’ve ever seen depicted on TV, in terms of weight issues (certainly more satisfyingly relatable than the more overt issues faced by say, Kate on This Is Us). It was a gorgeous, fully-realized and beautiful first season, peaking in the much-heralded “Pool” episode, which should’ve garnered everyone involved (particularly episode writer Samantha Irby) awards attention. 

It was all anchored in Aidy Bryant’s performance as Annie. Funny, insecure, sexy, smart Annie, just trying to figure out how much space it was OK for her to take up in the world (Spoiler: It’s as much as she damn well pleases!). Letting Annie be a complicated, at times difficult person, with lots going on internally and externally shouldn’t be, but feels, revolutionary. My favorite thing about the character, and what Aidy plays so well: Annie’s kind of a dick sometimes. Selfish, at times reckless, occasionally a bad friend. You know, a person. And yet, even when she’s chasing down internet trolls or allowing herself to be treated like crap by her shitty boyfriend or letting down her friends, Aidy makes Annie someone you’d want to hang out, want to work with, want to date, want to shake until she realized she was being a mild asshole, someone you’d just want to know. 

If season one had its missteps, it was in the people around Annie. Her best friend, Fran, was good for a barb and some tough love, but not much more developed than that. Her work life seemed fun (John Cameron Mitchell as her poser boss, Patti Harrison as her acerbic work frenemy, Ian Owens as her put-upon work husband), but her love life was a disaster in ways that were infuriating. Shrill’s first season was cut short due to Aidy’s SNL commitments, and you can feel that in the arc of her relationship with Ryan, one of the most detestable characters in recent on-screen boyfriend history (not Luka Jones’s fault, but Ryan is the absolute worst). The way he treats her is unforgivable on several occasions, which don’t always track with the progress Annie is making. It feels like, if the season had gone as originally planned, Ryan would be out of Annie’s life more quickly, which is ultimately what we want for her. 

Season two remedies most of that (while somewhat sidelining the plotline with her overbearing but sweet mother and recovering from cancer father, Julia Sweeney and Daniel Stern, both fantastic). Fran gets her own episode, taking place at a cousin’s wedding, which is powerful, beautiful and fully illuminating. The season starts with Aidy on the outs at work, but thankfully, as this is one of the stronger parts of the show, she ends up back there, making amends with her coworkers and building her reputation as one of the magazine’s leading, most prominent voices. Seeing her stuck in the middle of John Cameron Mitchell’s editor-in-chief and Illeanna Douglas (ILLEANNA DOUGLAS PEOPLE) magazine owner is a highlight. 

And the Ryan of it all has the satisfying conclusion (I hope it’s the conclusion) it, we and, most importantly, Annie, deserves. The closing scene of the season, where Annie has finally had enough of Ryan will, if there’s any justice in this world  (which I know there isn’t but Dear God I need something to believe in), go down as an all-timer: Annie’s defiant look, marching into her future without Ryan, bravely putting herself out there, is truly a capital-m, Moment. 

From a logistics standpoint, a Best Actress – Comedy Series nod is totally gettable. Last year’s winner, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is out of the mix for Fleabag, as is nominee Natasha Lyonne as Russian Doll, won’t be back until 2021. And not even Julia Louis-Dreyfus could get an Emmy nomination for a show that’s been off the air for over a year (OK, maybe she could). Last year, there were six nominees, including the three mentioned above, previous winner Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Christina Applegate (Dead To Me) and this year’s front-runner, Catherine O’Hara (Schitt’s Creek). Let’s assume that the trio of ladies eligible from last year are all returning to this year’s ballot. That leaves 2 -3 slots open. While the competition is stiff (Pamela Adlon, Issa Rae, the Grace and Frankie ladies, Kristen Bell, Linda Cardellini, Awkwafina, Zoe Kravitz), Shrill, along with Ramy and High Fidelity are Hulu’s only chances in the comedy categories. The Television Academy has already shown some affection for Aidy’s work (as evidenced by her somewhat surprising, much-deserved SNL nomination a couple of years ago), so all it would take is a little push from the Hulu marketing muscle to make sure voters watch their screeners.

 And to be honest, what else do they have to do right now? The world’s on fire! Watch Shrill! Don’t sleep on Aidy!

%d bloggers like this: