Thursday, September 21, 2017

Delayed Reaction: Cameraperson

The Pitch: A documentary cinematographer cuts together a movie out of extra-footage from other projects of hers over the years.


2016 had a lot of good documentaries. It was lousy with them and I've probably saw more documentaries from that year already than I have for any other year. Some were fantastic (OJ: Made in America, Tower). Many were passionate (13th, Audrie & Daisy, The Witness). In  some cases, the story was so compelling that it didn't matter how well made the documentary was (Author: The JT Leroy Story, Holy Hell, The Lovers & The Despot). And there's still a lot that I'm looking forward to seeing (Wiener, I Am Not Your Negro, Kate Plays Christine). If OJ: Made in America and 13th were the most highly praised docs of the year, Cameraperson wasn't far behind. More than the other two, Cameraperson struck me as the kind of documentary that would be more appealing to critics than general audiences. There's no narrative structure to it. No narration. It takes a while to get used to the rhythm of the film. Overall, I liked it. It's simple, effective, well-edited, and a little ballsy. Figuring out the thematic significance requires a sort of "choose-your-own-adventure" approach.  By the end, it all feels right. It can be rough to push through the first 30 minutes or so, because it really does feel like a bunch of random footage put together. Around that point, it all starts to make sense in an ineffable way. Even if that didn't happen and it was just a bunch of random clips, that would've been fine by me. As long as the footage is interesting, I don't need to feel like it's going anywhere. I'm not as enamored by this film as some, but I still liked it.

Verdict (?): Weakly Recommend

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Movie Reaction: mother!

Formula: Rosemary's Baby + Pacific Heights


Darren Aronofsky is great at making audiences uncomfortable. Requiem for a Dream is a nightmare for all the characters in it. Black Swan has a heroine who is driven to madness by her desire for perfection. Noah is about a man who is pretty sure he's the one person who isn't crazy, at least about the flood. None of his films are crowd-pleasers. It should be no surprise to say that mother!, his latest film, isn't either. It also has his fingerprints all over it.

mother! is the horrifying story of a woman who just wants to keep her house clean but outsiders keep wrecking it. That's both an oversimplification of it and a direct metaphor. More specifically, it follows Jennifer Lawrence. She's married to Javier Bardem and they live in an idyllic and secluded farmhouse. Their blissful peace is ruined when two strangers played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer show up at their door. Well, I should say that Lawrence's peace is ruined. Bardem seems oddly fine with it. Increasingly bizarre things start happening around the house after that, and that's about all I can say.

It's going to be tricky to talk about this film, because the ad campaign has been so much about the mystery. The film isn't all that twisty. I'm pretty sure it's advertised as a mystery because it's hard to get across what the film really is in a TV spot or trailer. "It's a mystery" is much simpler to advertise. My biggest issue with the film is that I liked it less the more I realized where the story was going. It begins as a curiosity. Something is clearly wrong and Lawrence is oddly OK with letting it all play out. The more things escalate, the more biblical and personal (for Aronofsky) it all gets. By the end, the messaging of the movie gets too scattered for me. Aronofsky is making points about motherhood, marriage, female subjugation, and the curse of the tortured artist and none of the points hit me very hard.

The not so secret comparison that's being made with this movie is Rosemary's Baby. The two films are more similar in tone than plot. Lawrence is the lead but she isn't driving the movie. It's a very reactive performance and it's frustratingly passive. Lawrence is both very good in the role and wasted in it. Her character, only known in the film as Mother, doesn't say much. A lot has to be conveyed through looks and reactions and Lawrence is great at communicating that. I don't know that I've ever seen her be this passive though and it's uncomfortable. Her best characters take charge of a situation, partly because that's what she is best at as a performer, and that isn't what Mother is about. She's completely helpless. This is intentional and tied to the core of the film. As I said though, I didn't care for that core and what it's trying to say. The film is so heavily tied to Lawrence's perspective that it's hard to read the rest of the performances. I like that Javier Bardem would've been the lead of the film if it was told in a more straightforward manner. As is, he's a very opaque character. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer give good performances, although they are walking plot devices. 

On a technical level, the film is well made. It takes place entirely in the farm house but it never felt confined in it. The dedication of the camera on Lawrence is impressive. Often it's like the camera is chasing her so that it can find her for a close up, like she's looking away and it keeps finding her. Aronofsky manages chaos as well as anyone and foregrounds a lot of key items and locations effectively. While I mention the obvious Rosemary's Baby comparison that keeps getting made, I actually kept coming back to A Ghost Story, which I thought was a much better film and had a lot in common with this. mother! fits neatly into Darren Aronofsky's filmography but isn't essential to it. It might be his most personal film, which has to count for something. I simply didn't connect with anything it had to say.

Verdict (?): Weakly Don't Recommend

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2018 Emmy Predictions

It's time for one my first and favorite traditions on this blog. I'm going to make my Emmy predictions for a year from now. This is my annual attempt to read the tea leaves and see where TV is going to be in a year. I did horribly with my 2017 predictions. Hopefully it goes a lot better for 2018. I feel like I made some easy predictions, but I thought that last year too. Things change quickly, and a lot of the Emmy contenders won't be showing up until April. That's a lot of time.

Past editions:
2017 Predictions | Results
2016 Predictions | Results
2015 Predictions | Results
2014 Predictions | Results
2013 Predictions | Results
2012 Predictions | Results

HBO wins the big four series awards
This isn't a big swing. Game of Thrones will be back. There's no obvious threat to dethrone Veep. HBO is always a player in the Limited Series category. Last Week Tonight could very well be on a Daily Show-esque reign of dominance. While each individual prediction is likely, it's hard to pull off all four.

Julia Louis Dreyfus goes for seven and history.
She is currently tied with Cloris Leachman for most Emmy wins for a performer, and unlike Leachman, hasn't won any as a guest performer. Nothing about JLD's current streak is typical. It's hard enough to be nominated every season of a series. Winning for the entire run is unheard of. The stars are aligned though. Her competition level looks weaker than it did  when she won her first few Emmys for Veep and next year will be for Veep's final season.

Netflix gains. Hulu falls. Amazon disappears.
It's hard to imagine Netflix gaining even more Emmy love than it already has, but the way they saturate the market with programming, it's become inevitable. Hulu hasn't had luck with anything other than The Handmaid's Tale, which will lose some real estate with Game of Thrones back in the mix. I'm not aware of anything in development for them that looks like an Emmy player either. Amazon has had a lot of failures lately and are publicly moving in a different direction. Transparent might get a lead actor nomination still, but that's about it.

Stranger Things falls hard.
I was very wrong about how sustainable Stranger Things' popularity was for season 1, so I'm probably underestimating it now too. This series looks like the definitive one hit wonder with Emmy voters. I'm sure it will still be popular, but without the surprise factor, I don't see how it keeps all those writing, directing, and acting nominations. A drama series nomination might still be in play, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Twin Peaks gets no more than 1 nomination for the main ceremony
By the time the next Emmys come around, Twin Peaks will have been over for a year. It had a niche audience, even by Emmy standards. While it won back in the day, I don't see this gets more than a token nomination for one of the actors or whatever episode David Lynch submits for directing.

HBO fails to win for TV Movie again
HBO has always dominated this category. In recent years it's shown more weakness, partially thanks to weaker offerings on their part. I'm not sure where the winner will come from, but the loophole that Sherlock and Black Mirror have used is getting more popular every year.

Tatiana Maslany doesn't get nominated again.
I'm not rooting for this at all. It just seems likely. It took a lot of campaigning to get her nominated in the first place. The momentum from her surprise win last year could be lost thanks to Orphan Black taking a year off from the Emmys because it premiered too late. I'm not convinced voters will remember her when she''s back on the ballot. Hopefully I'm wrong.

Elisabeth Moss wins two Emmys
The Handmaid's Tale is a safe bet. Top of the Lake will be back for Limited Series. She was nominated for that once. I don't think a win is out of the question. This, of course, is all invalidated if the continuing storyline of Top of the Lake gets it moved from Limited Series to Drama Series (a la Downtown Abbey) where Moss would be competing against herself.

Someone new from Veep is nominated
It's crazy that it hasn't happened yet. As much as I love Tony Hale and Matt Walsh, I would've expected them to rotate out with Timothy Simons, Reid Scott, Gary Cole, Kevin Dunn, or Sam Richardson at some point. The same goes Sarah Sutherland sneaking into the Supporting Actress field.

Welcome back, The Daily Show
This is a little out there. The Variety Talk category is pretty set as it is. Trevor Noah and company have settled into their Daily Show a little more. I could see them sneaking a writing or directing nomination at the very least.

Bonus: Diversity becomes a problem again
This one is hard to measure. But, after how nicely diverse the winners were this year and given likely hiatuses from shows like Atlanta and Master of None, and the media hair-trigger for this topic after #OscarSoWhite, I could the Emmys getting more vanilla in 2018 and a lot of people making a lot of noise about it. For the record, I am hoping the diversity on TV continues. It's led to many of my favorite shows being made. This just never seems to last though.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Emmy Predictions 2017 Results and Post Mortem

The Emmys are over, so now it's time to look back. I'm going to break this into two parts: My 2016 predictions for 2017 and my thoughts on this year's winners.

Part 1: 2017 [Blind] Predictions:

Perhaps my favorite tradition on this blog is when I make predictions for the next Emmys right after the current ceremony. In other words, on September 21, 2016, I made the following predictions about the 2017 Emmys. Let's see how I did.

Previous Editions:
2012 Predictions
2013 Predictions
2014 Predictions
2015 Predictions
2016 Predictions

Prediction: Julia Louis-Dreyfus fails to win a 6th consecutive Emmy for Veep
Reasoning: JLD was the first person to ever win five times in a row. Six is almost laughable, and surely, someone new will excite voters enough to go another way.
Reality: While Allison Janney moving up to Lead Actress for Mom made it a little more interesting, the overall competition wasn't enough for JLD to be dethroned. And, it's not like JLD wasn't the best performer.

Prediction: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee gets a Variety Talk Series nomination.Reasoning: It was surprising that it was snubbed in the first place. That had to be a fluke.
Reality: It was nominated and arguably in the mix to win. I'd also like to point out that I mentioned Colbert was likely to be nominated as well and he was.

Prediction: Kiefer Sutherland joins the Lead Actor field
Reasoning: The broadcast networks were due a Lead Actor in a Drama nomination and Keifer Sutherland (Designated Survivor) was a former winner for 24.
Reality: Well, I was right about the broadcast networks being due a Lead Actor in a Drama nomination (2, in fact). It just wasn't for Designated Survivor or Sutherland.

Prediction: Fargo win Outstanding Limited Series on the strength of Ewan McGreggor's Lead Actor winReasoning: There were no obvious contenders at the time to unseat Fargo's third season and Ewan McGreggor playing twins sounded like great Emmy-bait.
Reality: I should just stat away from Emmy predictions about Limited Series. It's getting more competitive every year and something in the winter is sure to surprise me. This year, FEUD and Big Little Lies knocked a weaker Fargo season down. And, I should get a big demerit because when I made this prediction, I'd already seen The Night Of and knew it would be eligible. The Night Of's Riz Ahmed ultimately beat McGreggor for the Lead Actor Emmy.

Prediction: Reality Competition will have a first time winner
Reasoning: The category is old and need of a shake up. RuPaul's Drag Race was picking up steam. It sounded like a sure thing.
Reality: Well, Drag Race did get that nomination. However, voters weren't ready to let go of The Voice.

Prediction: Hulu is still ignoredReasoning: Hulu hadn't had much luck in previous years and I don't think I knew enough about The Handmaid's Tale at the time to take it seriously.
Reality: The Handmaid's Tale won many for Drama Series, direction, writing, lead actress, and supporting actress, so what do I know? Even looking at overall nominations, Hulu jumped from 2 to 18 nominations.

Prediction: Netflix loses ground in the major nomination count (Drama, Comedy, Limited, Movie)Reasoning: They gained nominations every year since 2013. They were bound to take a slight step back at the very least.
Reality: Netflix had 16 nominations during the main ceremony in 2016. In 2017, they have 25. So, again, big miss by me. Mostly, I assumed that Stranger Things would go away by the time people got to voting, and even if it hadn't, it's not the kind of show that normally gets Emmy love in the first place.

Prediction: Keri Russell or Matthew Rhys wins for Lead on The Americans
Reasoning: The Americans increased its number of nominations the last couple years and, more recently, Emmy voting has been following a "we finally discovered it" pattern. Shows like Game of Thrones, Veep, and Breaking Bad all took a few seasons before becoming Emmy winners. It looked like The Americans was following the same path.
Reality: It took GoT, Veep, and Breaking Bad several seasons to win the overall series award. All of them got acting wins in their first season. The Americans didn't even get nominations in its first season. It didn't help that it also got lost in an unbelievably crowded April this year and had an uneventful season.

Prediction: Kate McKinnon isn't the only SNL cast member nominated.
Reasoning: McKinnon isn't the only good cast member. People were bound to notice.
Reality: I never thought to bake in the possibility of a potential President Trump bump. Lucky (?) for me it happened and SNL dominated the nominations, even getting two wins.

Prediction: Only 1 of the 8 Drama and Comedy Acting winners will repeatReasoning: A couple winners were guaranteed to gone and a few others felt like flukes to begin with.
Reality: 1/8 was too ambitious. Still, I was almost right. Only JLD and Kate McKinnon repeated.

I also want to include my overall thoughts of these predictions when I made them last year:
Ok, maybe these aren't that bold. They sound good right now. Then again, last year, I had no idea that Limited Series would become the strongest series category. I hadn't even heard of Master of None or Baskets. Blackish hadn't made "the leap" yet. And The Americans was still an Emmy outsider. A lot can change in a year.
A lot did change in a year. I only got 1 out of 10 this year, which I'm pretty sure is the worst since I started in 2011/2012. Oh well. Check back Tuesday for my 2018 predictions. I need some time to lick my wounds.

Part 2: Thoughts on the 2017 Emmy Results

As for this year's ceremony, I'll break this down into my standard Good, Bad, and Meh.

The Good 
Donald GloverI would've been fine to hear Donald Glover give four acceptance speeches tonight. Two (Lead Actor, Directing) is fine though. He deserves whatever accolades anyone wants to give him. Seeing him finally getting major recognition would've been my favorite part of the night if not for...

Elisabeth Moss
Fucking, finally! I still don't understand how she lost every year on Mad Men and once for Top of the Lake, just to add insult to injury. She should have a shelf of Emmys already inside an annex in her house where she keeps all the Golden Globe, SAG, People's Choice, Television Critics Association, Critics Choice, Online Film & Television Association, Satellite, Cable ACE awards she should've also won. This is a good start though.

Black Mirror: San Junipero
I picked this show up late and I'm glad I did. While I liked many of the other nominees, it was nice to see this stand-alone anthology show get some love in the TV Movie and writing categories.

The Bad
Reality Competition



I really don't have anything against The Voice, but literally only three shows have ever won this award since it was created in 2003 (The Amazing Race, Top Chef, The Voice). It's time for voters to watch a few more shows. I really wanted to see something like RuPaul's Drag Race or American Ninja Warrior pull off an upset.

The Wins That Were Never Going to Happen

I didn't have a lot of problems with the ceremony. A lot of shows I liked won. Even ignoring all the snubs that I would've loved to see nominated in the first place, there were a frustrating number of nominees that I didn't even bother rooting for, because I knew they didn't have a chance. Mainly, I'm thinking of Carrie Coon on Fargo, the Better Call Saul episode "Chicanery", and The Night Of pilot.

The Meh
The Handmaid's TaleI liked the show. I don't think it was good enough to deserve the level of domination it had against the field. Then again, it was a pretty weak field overall for drama with all the delayed productions, snubs, and shows that ended last year.

Veep

I don't like when people turn on a good show just because it's won a couple times. Veep wasn't as strong as it was the previous two seasons. It wasn't going against crazy-strong competition this year either. Maybe Atlanta or Master of None, but even huge fans (including myself) have to admit those are niche series. I'm pleased that voters didn't turn on Veep and that other deserving shows got some wins as well.

Emmys: Final Picks

Check the last few days of posts for my fill explanations. Here's the summary though.


Outstanding Comedy Series
Will Win: Veep
Could Win: Atlanta
Should Win: Master of None

Outstanding Drama Series
Will Win: The Handmaid's Tale
Could Win: This Is Us
Should Win: Better Call Saul

Outstanding Variety Talk Series
Will Win: Last Week Tonight
Could Win: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Should Win: Last Week Tonight

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
Will Win: Saturday Night Live
Could Win: Documentary Now!
Should Win: Saturday Night Live

Outstanding Limited Series
Will Win: Big Little Lies
Could Win: FEUD: Better and Joan
Should Win: Fargo

Outstanding Television Movie
Will Win: The Wizard of Lies
Could Win: Sherlock: The Lying Detective
Should Win: Black Mirror: San Junipero

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
Will Win: RuPail's Drag Race
Could Win: The Voice
Should Win: American Ninja Warrior

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
Will Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
Could Win: Allison Janney (Mom)
Should Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)

Outstanding Lead Actor - Comedy Series
Will Win: Donald Glover (Atlanta)
Could Win: Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)
Should Win: Aziz Ansari (Master Of None)

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Will Win: Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid's Tale)
Could Win: Claire Foy (The Crown)
Should Win: Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid's Tale)

Outstanding Lead Actor - Drama Series
Will Win: Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)
Could Win: Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul)
Should Win: Matthew Rhys (The Americans)

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie
Will Win: Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies)
Could Win: Jessica Lange (FEUD: Bette And Joan)
Should Win: Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies)

Outstanding Lead Actor - Limited Series Or Movie
Will Win: Geoffrey Rush (Genius)
Could Win: Robert De Niro (The Wizard Of Lies)
Should Win: Riz Ahmed (The Night Of)

Outstanding Supporting Actress - Comedy Series
Will Win: Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)
Could Win: Anna Chlumsky (Veep)
Should Win: Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)

Outstanding Supporting Actor - Comedy Series
Will Win: Alec Baldwin (Saturday Night Live)
Could Win: Louie Anderson (Baskets)
Should Win: Tony Hale (Veep)

Outstanding Supporting Actress - Drama Series
Will Win: Thandie Newton (Westworld)
Could Win: Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things)
Should Win: Thandie Newton (Westworld)

Outstanding Supporting Actor - Drama Series
Will Win: John Lithgow (The Crown)
Could Win: Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us)
Should Win: John Lithgow (The Crown)

Outstanding Supporting Actress - Limited Series Or Movie
Will Win: Laura Dern (Big Little Lies)
Could Win: Regina King (American Crime)
Should Win: Jackie Hoffman (FEUD: Bette And Joan)

Outstanding Supporting Actor - Limited Series Or Movie
Will Win: Alexander SkarsgÄrd (Big Little Lies)
Could Win: David Thewlis (Fargo)
Should Win: Stanley Tucci (FEUD: Bette And Joan)

Outstanding Directing - Comedy Series
Will Win: Atlanta - "B.A.N."
Could Win: Veep - "Groundbreaking"
Should Win: Atlanta - "B.A.N."

Outstanding Directing - Drama Series
Will Win: Westworld - "The Bicameral Mind"
Could Win: The Handmaid's Tale - "Offred (Pilot)"
Should Win: The Handmaid's Tale - "Offred (Pilot)"

Outstanding Directing - Limited Series, Movie, Special
Will Win: Big Little Lies
Could Win: FEUD: Bette And Joan - "And The Winner Is… (The Oscars Of 1963)"
Should Win: Steven Zaillian (The Night Of - "The Beach"

Outstanding Directing - Variety Series
Will Win: Saturday Night Live
Could Win: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Should Win: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

Outstanding Writing - Comedy Series
Will Win: Master Of None - "Thanksgiving"
Could Win: Atlanta - "B.A.N."
Should Win: Master Of None - "Thanksgiving"

Outstanding Writing - Drama Series
Will Win: The Handmaid's Tale - "Offred (Pilot)"
Could Win: The Crown - "Assassins"
Should Win: Better Call Saul - "Chicanery"

Outstanding Writing - Limited Series, Movie, Special
Will Win: Big Little Lies
Could Win: FEUD: Bette And Joan - "And The Winner Is... (The Oscars Of 1963)"
Should Win: Big Little Lies

Outstanding Writing - Variety Series
Will Win: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Could Win: Full Frontal With Samantha Bee
Should Win: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

Friday, September 15, 2017

Emmy Picks: Series

The Emmys have nearly arrived*. If you haven't picked up on how this goes from the last few years, let me explain. Over the next few days, I'll go through all the Primetime Emmy categories. I will order the nominees from most to least likely to win and explain why I think that. I'll also include a Biggest Snub because I like to complain, and I'll note My Personal Favorite to show how often I'd like to be wrong about my predictions. 

*OK, technically, with the Creative Arts Emmys this past weekend, they already started, but most people don't care about those.



First, I'd like to discuss something. A lot of people complain about Emmy complacency. What does that even mean though? The idea is that once a show starts getting nominated for Emmys, it keeps getting nominated, and once it finally falls out of the field, there's no coming back.So, I broke it down. I looked back at the Emmy Comedy and Drama series nominations going back to 1991. I stopped there for no specific reason. In that time, here's some fact and misconceptions. (Note: I'm not including shows that are still on the air)

Fact: When a show stops getting nominated, it's not likely to be nominated again. 22 dramas and 19 comedies got at least one series nomination before their final season and were never nominated again. Only one drama (LOST) and two Comedies (Friends - a couple times - and Parks & Recreation) got nominated again at least a second time after skipping a year. 

Misconception: If a show isn't nominated when it's new, then it's not going to be nominated. This is more true for Dramas than Comedies. 67% of first-time drama nominees (31 shows) are in their first season. 22% (10 shows) are nominated for the first time in the second season. Only 11% (5 shows) were nominated for later seasons for the first time (Boston Legal - Season 3, Star Trek: TNG - S7, Big Love - S3, Friday Night Lights - S5, The Americans - S4). For the record, none of those shows have won and only FNL had a remote chance of winning. The Comedy Emmy is very patient though. Only 53% (21 shows) of shows get nominated for the first time in season 1. 20% (8 shows) for season 2. 15% (6 shows) for season 3. 12% of first time nominees are for season 4 or later (The Big Bang Theory - Season 4, Scrubs - S4, How I Met Your Mother - S4, Weeds - S4, Family Guy - S7). Oddly, three of those late-series nominations all came on the same year - 2009. Some of those third season nominees even managed to win eventually. None of those S4 or later shows ever stood a chance.

Exaggeration: Once you start getting nominated, you keep getting nominated. A true lifetime nomination is rare. 19% of dramas and 14% of comedies have been nominated for all eligible seasons. On average, about half the run of a series gets nominated (51% for dramas, 48% for comedies). More specifically, series with at least one Outstanding Drama or Comedy Series nomination run for 7 seasons and about 3.5 of those seasons are nominated. 

Faction: If you don't win early, you don't win. That's hard to say. Comedy Series has been marked by a lot of streaks -- Frasier (1994-1998), 30 Rock (2007-2009), Modern Family (2010-2014), Veep (2015-present) -- but, from 1999-2006 there were six different shows that won with an average age of 4.25 seasons. And, even Veep took 4 years to win. In other words, as long as there isn't a dominant comedy on a run, the field is very friendly to older shows. Drama Series is pretty similar. The category definitely likes to go on runs. Mad Men and The West Wing won four in a row each. Game of Thrones is currently on a run. Voters get sucked in by new series on occasion (Homeland, LOST), but Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and The Sopranos are all recent winners that didn't win until their fifth seasons. So, I suppose the more factual claim would be Fact: If you don't start strong then end strong.

Stone Cold Fact: Emmy complacency is very real for Reality Competition Series and Variety Series. The Reality Comp. Emmy has only been given out since 2003 (15 years). Only 14 series have ever been nominated and the average series gets nominated for almost 6 seasons. Variety has been a little inconsistent since it was split a couple years back. Keeping with the "since 1991" numbers, let's look at some nomination counts. 

  • Politically IncorrectReal Time with Bill Maher - 20 nominations
  • The Tonight Show (any iteration) - 16
  • Late Show (any iteration) - 16
  • Saturday Night Live - 16
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - 15 nominations. 
  • Late Night (any iteration) - 11
  • The Colbert Report - 10

Ladies and gentlemen, get out your rubber stamps.

OK, time for the picks.
  
Previously:
2016 Picks | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 
Lead Actor and Actress
Supporting Actor and Actress
Writing
Directing
Creative Arts Emmy Picks
Emmy B-Teams
Why You Should Dismiss the Emmys



Outstanding Comedy Series
Veep (HBO) After a couple wins, it's easy to turn on any show. Considering that there's been three winners over the last 10 years (30 Rock, Modern Family, Veep), I wouldn't mind seeing a new winner. I don't see this as the year that Veep steps down though. It has the same number of nominations as last year and dominated the writing and directing fields. It has almost identical competition as last year. This season was not quite as good as the last three or four, but that didn't hurt Modern Family for most of its wins. And, the HBO voting block is the largest in the Academy.

Atlanta (FX) The biggest threat to beat Veep is the only new threat, as all the other shows lost to Veep last year. Eventually a show of this ilk - the experimental, auteur-driven half hour comedies that aren't always trying to be funny -  will win. Louie, Transparent, and Master of None have all failed so far. Maybe Atlanta will break through. Comedies don't win very often with ensembles this small. Donald Glover has the only acting nomination for Atlanta (although Brian Tyree Henry, Keith Stanfield, and Zazie Beetz should've been in discussion for nominations as well). Technically, when The Office won in 2006 and Arrested Development won in 2004, they both also only had a single acting nomination (Steve Carrell and Jeffrey Tambor respectively), but both shows were undeniably larger ensembles than Atlanta. It's hard to find past winners that were this dominated by the lead. You could maybe argue Ally McBeal (1999) or Murphy Brown (1990, 1992). I guess The Wonder Years (1988) is the closest to that. What I'm saying is, it can happen. Just don't call it likely.

black-ish (ABC) Here's my thinking. First, black-ish is a hilarious show with a talented cast, thoughtful writers with who make points without sacrificing the humor, and an easy premise to pick up on. This is from the same ABC family comedy factory that made Modern Family a juggernaut. While it isn't picking up new nominations, it isn't losing them either. They are using "Lemons" (the post-election results episode) as one of the submission episodes, so if voters are making their picks transparently politically, that could also help.

[My Favorite] Master Of None (Netflix) Everything I said about Atlanta applies to Master of None except that Master Of None doesn't carry any of the heat that Atlanta does. It's not the surprise new hot show this year.  Also, the fact that there wasn't room for this exceptionally directed series to get a directing nomination this year is troubling.

Modern Family (ABC) I'm scared to ever count out this show entirely. Five wins is not nothing, even if it has clearly fallen out of Emmy favor.

Silicon Valley (HBO) As good as Silicon Valley is, I have trouble coming up with a scenario where Veep doesn't suck up more of the HBO voting support.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix) This is probably the last season UKS will be nominated.

Biggest Snub: Review (Comedy Central). Just of the shows I watched this year, there's a bunch of shows I would've liked to see nominated. Speechless might be the best of the ABC comedies right now. Girls ended strong. Brooklyn Nine Nine is consistently great. Amazon has some gems with Transparent and Catastrophe. I just love Review so much though. It was a tiny season, only three episodes. More of a favor, really, that Comedy Central gave them to end the show on their terms. It was a great end that had everything I loved about the show.

Outstanding Drama Series
The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu) This is the hardest this category has been in years. Five first time nominees, all with a decent shot at a win. That never happens. Last year's winner isn't eligible either. Better yet, all the shows have massive followings among critics and viewers. So, I'm just going to admit now that I'm probably wrong with whatever I pick. That said, The Handmaid's Tale makes the most sense. It's tied with Westworld for the most nominations among dramas. It has across the board nominations - directing, writing, and supporting and lead roles (For the record, so does Westworld and The Crown). It successfully tapped into the zeitgeist and ended its season at the perfect time to be fresh in voters' minds. Working against it is that Hulu doesn't have any proven heft on the Emmy circuit and the series more of a critical hit than a highly rated hit. It's hard to tell which better reflects the Emmy votes these days.

This Is Us (NBC) I am not convinced. The last family drama to win the Emmy was thirtysomething almost thirty years ago (1988). Family dramas don't even get nominated very often. Once & Again, Brothers & Sisters, Parenthood, and even Big Love were never players beyond a couple acting nominations. This Is Us has a lot of the same DNA. Despite all the acting nominations, This Is Us didn't manage anything for writing or directing. While it's possible to win without those nominations (Law & Order won in 1997 with only a single acting nomination against the massively favored E.R., which had 17 nominations across the board), it is still the exception, not the rule. All that said, as I learned with the Moonlight win at the Oscars, narrative matters, and a This Is Us win would be a triumph for the long-assumed dead broadcast network dramas.

The Crown (Netflix) The Crown collected numerous nominations across the board, so the support is there. I keep thinking back to 2012 though, when Downton Abbey was at peak popularity, and it couldn't beat fellow upstart series Homeland. Downton Abbey hit a higher state of public consciousness than The Crown has, so that's pretty damming. The people who love The Crown though, really love it, and with the "plurality wins" voting model, that's very valuable.

Stranger Things (Netflix) I'm probably not giving Stranger Things enough of a chance. It just aired so long ago and is such a gut reaction of a show, that I don't see how it carries all the way over to the Emmy voting over a year later. SciFi shows can sometimes make it through to the nominations - The X-Files was an Emmy staple throughout the 90s. Star Trek: TNG got a nomination in 1994. Quantum Leap got a couple nominations in the early 90s - but they never win (not in several decades). You can possibly point to the LOST win in 2005, but that was for the mostly straightforward first season. It wasn't until season 2 that it really got weird. Game of Thrones certainly carved out room for genre shows winning Emmys, but the HBO-backing cannot be overstated when talking about its success. Just the simple fact that the show is led by kids is enough to convince voters that they don't need to take it seriously. I'm not necessarily rooting against Stranger Things. I just don't see it happening.

Westworld (HBO) I'd be shocked to see Westworld win. It aired a while ago and had no kind of critical consensus when it aired. Still, the HBO voting wing that has made Game of Thrones unstoppable the last couple years is fully behind Westworld now. And, the show was a ratings hit for HBO with undeniably impressive production value.

[My Favorite] Better Call Saul (AMC) I cannot speak highly enough about how great Better Call Saul has managed to get. It is way more than a Breaking Bad spinoff at this point. However, the fact that Breaking Bad staples, Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks, are getting nominated and not original characters played by Rhea Seahorn and Michael McKean tells me that BCS is still looked at as Breaking Bad's little brother. Few shows escape a shadow that large.

House Of Cards (Netflix) This is not a series that is picking up momentum. If it hasn't happened yet, it's not going to.

Biggest Snub: The Leftovers (HBO) If you are surprised by this, then you haven't been reading any of my other Emmy prep posts (for the last several years). I love this show and the third season was just so crazy and satisfying. It has many of the best performances on TV and writing that can be unpacked so much. I love the style, the music, and even the dark humor of it. I'd also like to point out that Sundance's Rectify should've received some kind of attention over the years.

Outstanding Variety Talk Series
[My Favorite] Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO) Popular. HBO-backing. Daily Show with Jon Stewart lineage. Incredibly funny. Last year's winner. There isn't much working against it.

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee (TBS) Emmy voters were slow to pick up on the show, failing to nominate it last year. With the strong anti-Trump sentiment in the voting overall, I wouldn't be surprised to see Full Frontal jump to the head of the line and win.

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert (CBS) The Colbert Report was a former powerhouse series in the category and Colbert's Late Show has finally settled in.

The Late Late Show With James Corden (CBS) People sure love Carpool Karaoke.

Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC) I can't think of much to push the show into a win after this many years of being nominated and not winning. Perhaps Kimmel's touching speech about the birth of his son went viral enough to get the win. I doubt it, but it's possible.

Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO) The show has been nominated 10 times in 11 years. This year, any time the show came up in discussion, it was for controversy rather than quality. That's a bad sign.

Biggest Snub: @ Midnight (Comedy Central) Especially now that it's gone, it wouldn've been nice to see it sneak in a nomination at some point.

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
[My Favorite] Saturday Night Live (NBC) It is by far the most popular of the nominees and doesn't have to worry about some young show surprising it.

Documentary Now! (IFC) This is the most impressive production of the nominees. The problem is that no one watches IFC.

Billy On The Street (truTV) This is a popular dark horse candidate the way that Gary Johnson was a dark horse candidate to win a state in the 2016 election: I'm sure it could happen, but I wouldn't waste any good money on it.

Portlandia (IFC) It's not even the buzz-worthy IFC show anymore.

Drunk History (Comedy Central) I mean, maybe all the Key & Peele and Inside Amy Schumer votes go to the only remaining Comedy Central nominee.

Biggest Snub: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return (Netflix) This is such a shallow pool that it's hard to use the word "snub"

Outstanding Limited Series
Big Little Lies (HBO) Star power. HBO-backing. Terrific performances. Showy direction. Fun writing flourishes. This is an easy pick.

FEUD: Bette And Joan (FX) For all the success Ryan Murphy has had with limited series in the last few years, last year's The People vs. OJ Simpson was his first to win. FEUD doesn't have nearly the same pop culture penetration as OJ did. It's the only real competitor for BLL though.

[My Favorite] Fargo (FX) Fargo always struck me as more of a critical darling than an Emmy darling anyway, so the third season being weaker than the first two is enough to count it out.

Genius (Nat Geo) I need evidence that people can find NatGeo first and that those who did find it see Genius as more than a Geoffrey Rush showcase before I believe it can win.

The Night Of (HBO) HBO has given its backing to BLL.

Biggest Snub: When We Rise (ABC) I really liked it. Despite the topic, it was actually a very traditional series compared to the shows that did get nominated. So, I get why it wasn't nominated, but it's a shame that it wasn't.

Outstanding Television Movie
The Wizard Of Lies (HBO) The last time that HBO or PBS didn't win this was Door to Door in 2003. HBO has won this award 20 of the last 24 years. In other words, always vote of whichever HBO movie has the most backing. This year, that would be The Wizard of Lies.

Sherlock: The Lying Detective (PBS) Sherlock did, somewhat surprisingly win last year. Maybe people just really love Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

[My Favorite] Black Mirror: San Junipero (Netflix) I hear just enough rumblings about Black Mirror that this could be a real possibility. People can't even agree if this was the best submission episode though.

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks (HBO) Orpah didn't even get nominated for a very big and Emmy-baity performance. This has no shot.

Dolly Parton's Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle Of Love (NBC) Am I crazy to think that voters will dismiss this based on the name alone? I mean, I know I did.

Biggest Snub: Looking: The Movie (HBO) Normally, I'd say something like, "this shouldn't be considered, because it was more of a super-sized TV episode than a legit movie", but with Sherlock and Black Mirror being nominated, that reasoning goes away. C'mon. Where's the Looking love? It was a charming ending.

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
RuPaul's Drag Race (VH1) This is the hardest category to break into. Once a show starts getting nominated, it keeps getting nominated. From 2012 to 2015, the exact same shows were nominated every time. That makes a win for RuPaul's Drag Race sound incredibly unlikely on the surface. RuPaul won for Host in his first season nominated - last year. The move to VH1 has certainly helped the show's visibility. I don't remember any other of these shows getting an SNL sketch in the last year. This is Drag Race's time.

The Voice (NBC) This is the 6th consecutive nomination for The Voice and it's won 3 of the last 4 years. If I was voting for Emmy complacency, which I should be, then this would be my pick.

[My Favorite] American Ninja Warrior (NBC) Maybe I'm just being optimistic about seeing new blood in the category, but it feels like ANW has a chance. It broke through the nomination field last year. There's not a lot of overlap with it and the other nominees (maybe Amazing Race). It's a summer series that was airing all throughout the voting period.

The Amazing Race (CBS) This is the only series that's been nominated every year since the category was created in 2003 and it's won 10 times. It hasn't been winning recently though and is feeling its age.

Top Chef (Bravo) Former winner (2010) on it's 11th consecutive nomination. It too feels pretty old.

Project Runway (Lifetime) 13 consecutive nominations and no wins. No quite Angela Lansbury territory, but close. 

Biggest Snub: N/A (N/A) I don't watch enough Reality Competition series to name a snub. Go Drag Race!!!