If I Had an Emmy Ballot: ‘Squid Game,’ ‘Chucky’ In, ‘Better Call Saul,’ ‘Killing Eve’ Out

This is not your umpteenth Emmy predictions article, but rather a rundown of how the choices this columnist would make if he was casting a vote
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I watch a lot of television, but it’s probably not the television that you watch. I never got into Game of Thrones. I don’t watch The Handmaid’s Tale or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I don’t care about the rich people problems found in abundance in Succession and Billions, and thus, I don’t watch those very popular shows, or a lot of leading awards contenders, for that matter. Instead, I’m the guy who was happy that Showtime brought back Dexter and made a Ray Donovan movie. Suffice to say, my taste is… weird. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good!

Right now, Emmy voters are wading through dozens if not hundreds of TV shows, but do you really want to read the umpteenth Emmy predictions article about how Succession and Better Call Saul are going to be nominated? Of course you don’t. This is about our relationship, the one between columnist and reader. You’re ostensibly here because you respect or value my taste, so here’s how I would vote if I had an Emmy ballot.

Again, keep in mind that these are not predictions, and the list below hardly reflects the entirety of the year in television, as it doesn’t account for things like W. Kamau Bell‘s staggering docuseries We Need to Talk About Cosby, which is a must-watch on Showtime. Instead, these are just my personal picks after reviewing the full list of eligible contenders. Hopefully, they’ll job your memory or inspire you to seek out some of these shows that might have fallen through the cracks in the fast-paced world of Peak TV.

One last note: My picks are in preferential order, so you can assume that the top nominee listed in each category would garner my personal vote to win an Emmy as well…


DRAMA CATEGORIES

Images via Netflix/HBO/Showtime

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
Squid Game
Euphoria
Winning Time
Dexter: New Blood
Chucky
Stranger Things
Ozark
Mayor of Kingstown

Contenders I Don’t Watch: Bridgerton, Better Call Saul, Succession, This Is Us, Yellowstone

Contenders I Didn’t Finish: Loki, Outer Range, Pachinko, Severance, Yellowjackets

Absolutely Not: Killing Eve

Analysis: Most pundits will tell you that Succession is the clear frontrunner, but keep an eye on Better Call Saul, or perhaps the final season of This Is Us. Malarkey, I say! This was the year of Squid Game. Everyone you know watched it, and so did everyone they know. Besides, I greatly prefer HBO’s other contenders, Euphoria and Winning Time, while Showtime did a great job with its Dexter revival, which made for a strong pairing with Yellowjackets.


ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
John C. Reilly, Winning Time
Lee Jung-jae, Squid Game
Michael C. Hall, Dexter: New Blood
Jeremy Renner, Mayor of Kingstown
Jeff Daniels, American Rust

Other Contenders I Support: Jason Bateman (Ozark), Ansel Elgort (Tokyo Vice), Courtney B. Vance (61st Street)

Analysis: Michael C. Hall is just so perfect as Dexter. It’s the role he was born to play. Lee Jung-jae kept the whole world glued to the edge of their seat as they waited to see if he would survive the events of Squid Game. But John C. Reilly is just having a blast in Winning Time as Lakers owner Jerry Buss, and he deserves a lot of credit for making us root for Dr. Buss even though he was kind of an asshole.


ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Zendaya, Euphoria
Laura Linney, Ozark
Nicole Kidman, Nine Perfect Strangers
Maura Tierney, American Rust
Victoria Pedretti, You

Other Contenders I Support: Aunjanue Ellis (61st Street)

Analysis: This is a very thin category this year, and the race is ultimately between Zendaya and Laura Linney, both of whom delivered powerhouse performances this year on HBO and Netflix, respectively. Zendaya has already won for Euphoria, while Linney has been nominated twice before for Ozark, though she has yet to win for her sinister turn as Wendy Byrde. Perhaps she’ll take home the gold this year for the crime drama’s final season.


SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Clancy Brown, Dexter: New Blood
Eric Dane, Euphoria
Quincy Isaiah, Winning Time
Heo Sung-tae, Squid Game
Adrien Brody, Winning Time

Other Contenders I Support: Jack Alcott (Dexter: New Blood), Jason Clarke (Winning Time), Joseph Quinn (Stranger Things), Jason Segel (Winning Time), Ken Watanabe (Tokyo Vice), Oh Young-soo (Squid Game)

Analysis: This category was absolutely stacked this year, but here’s how it breaks down. The entire supporting cast of Winning Time is fantastic, but newcomer Quincy Isaiah makes his presence felt as Magic Johnson. The guy is an instant star. And I gave Oscar winner Adrien Brody the edge over the two Jasons. The conversation surrounding the supporting cast of Squid Game has been wrong from the start, as you’ll also see below. Heo Sung-tae, who plays the villainous, tough-guy contestant, was the clear standout, followed by the old man, Oh Young-Soo. I’m not sure why Park Hae-soo has been getting more love from critics but Heo Sung-tae was great. I also loved newcomers Jack Alcott and Joseph Quinn on Dexter: New Blood and Stranger Things, and Ken Watanabe brought a lot of gravitas to Tokyo Vice, but this race is between Dexter villain Clancy Brown, who was absolutely chilling as a serial killer pretending to be a pillar of the community, and Eric Dane, who is nothing short of riveting on Euphoria as a family man struggling with his sexuality. I can’t wait to see what happens here…


SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Julia Garner, Ozark
Sydney Sweeney, Euphoria
Maude Apatow, Euphoria
Kim Joo-ryung, Squid Game
Fiona Dourif, Chucky

Other Contenders I Support: Gaby Hoffmann (Winning Time), Julia Jones (Dexter: New Blood), Sadie Sink (Stranger Things)

Analysis:
I’m not sure why HoYeon Jung has been getting the lion’s share of attention from Squid Game fans, but Kim Joo-ryung played her part to perfection as the annoying contestant who was a little to slippery to get a firm handle on. Fiona Dourif was fantastic playing male serial killer Charles Lee Ray (with an assist from her father, Brad Dourif, who provided the voice), and Gaby Hoffmann displayed incredible strength while hustling to make it in the hyper-competitive front office of the LA Lakers. But this race is between the blondes — Ozark‘s Julia Garner and Euphoria‘s Sydney Sweeney. I think Garner has the edge with it being Ozark‘s final season, but Sweeney could surprise if voters have had their fill of Ruth Langmore. Sweeney made real strides as an actress this past season and I think her work paid off, as her character, Cassie, had more depth this season.


COMEDY CATEGORIES

Images via FXX/HBO Max/HBO

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Hacks
Barry
Ted Lasso
Only Murders
Reservation Dogs
Dave
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Afterparty

Contenders I Don’t Watch: Abbott Elementary, Atlanta, Black-ish, Cobra Kai, The Flight Attendant, Ghosts, The Great, Insecure, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, What We Do in the Shadows

Contenders I Didn’t Finish: The Chair, Life & Beth, MacGruber, Mr. Corman, Our Flag Means Death, Peacemaker, The Pentaverate

Absolutely Not: Physical

Analysis: It was a great year for comedy on the small screen, and on any given day, I might have top contenders Barry, Hacks, and Ted Lasso in a different order. But it feels like a three-way race, with Only Murders in the Building and Reservation Dogs among a strong crop of newcomers that also includes The Afterparty.

LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso
Bill Hader, Barry
Steve Martin, Only Murders in the Building
Martin Short, Only Murders in the Building
Dave Burd, Dave

Other Contenders I Support: Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Danny McBride (The Righteous Gemstones), Sam Richardson (The Afterparty)

Analysis: I tend to think that the Only Murders neighbors will cancel each other out, so this is going to be a battle between Sudeikis and Hader, and honestly, I’m not sure which way the TV Academy will lean. I suppose it depends on voters’ mood that day because these two characters could not be more different.

LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Jean Smart, Hacks
Selena Gomez, Only Murders in the Building
Rose Byrne, Physical
Tiffany Haddish, The Afterparty
Devery Jacobs, Reservation Dogs

Other Contenders I Support: Hailee Steinfeld (Hawkeye)

Analysis: Just give Jean Smart her second Emmy already. She’s delicious as Deborah Vance. Selena Gomez really impressed me with her turn in Only Murders in the Building, where she really held her own opposite Steve Martin and Martin Short. And while I can’t really stand Apple’s dark comedy Physical, it’s hard to deny that Rose Byrne is giving her all on that show.

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Henry Winkler, Barry
Brett Goldstein, Ted Lasso
Anthony Carrigan, Barry
Nick Mohammed, Ted Lasso
Stephen Root, Barry

Other Contenders I Support: Paul W. Downs (Hacks), John Goodman (The Righteous Gemstones), James Hiroyuki Liao (Barry), Toheeb Jimoh (Ted Lasso), Please Don’t Destroy (Saturday Night Live), Andrew Santino (Dave), JB Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Robert Wisdom (Barry), Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live)

Analysis: Expect this category to be dominated by Barry and Ted Lasso, with Henry Winkler holding the edge thanks to the excellent Season 3 finale of his HBO show, which was well worth the long wait.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Hannah Waddingham, Ted Lasso
Hannah Einbinder, Hacks
Megan Stalter, Hacks
Sarah Goldberg, Barry
Juno Temple, Ted Lasso

Other Contenders I Support: Paulina Alexis (Reservation Dogs), Zoe Chao (The Afterparty), Susie Essman (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Amy Ryan (Only Murders in the Building), The Women of SNL

Analysis: Mark my words, a woman named Hannah will win this award. The problem for Einbinder is that she’s somewhat overshadowed on Hacks by the brilliant Jean Smart, which leaves room for Waddingham to pull off the victory on the strength of Rebecca’s romantic storyline this past season with AFC Richmond player Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh).


 

LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE

Images via HBO/Hulu

OUTSTANDING LIMITED/ANTHOLOGY SERIES OR TV MOVIE
Dr. Death
The Dropout
Pam and Tommy
We Own This City
The White Lotus
The Staircase
The Premise
The Offer

Contenders I Didn’t Watch: 1883, The First Lady, The Girl From Plainview, Maid, Scenes From a Marriage

Contenders I Didn’t Finish: Dopesick, Gaslit, Inventing Anna, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, Moon Knight, Station Eleven, WeCrashed

Absolutely Not: Lisey’s Story

Analysis: It was a great year for limited series, and while The Dropout and The Staircase will soak up most of the kudos, I urge voters not to sleep on Dr. Death, which was truly stomach-churning. Most people didn’t see it because it’s on Peacock and it co-stars Alec Baldwin, but I’m telling you, make time for this one, because it’s excellent.


LEAD ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR TV MOVIE
Jon Bernthal, We Own This City
Joshua Jackson, Dr. Death
Colin Firth, The Staircase
Andrew Garfield, Under the Banner of Heaven
Sebastian Stan, Pam & Tommy

Other Contenders I Support: Sean Bean (Time), Eugenio Derbez (The Valet), Ben Foster (The Survivor), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber), Kevin Hart (True Story)

Analysis: As great as Joshua Jackson was in Dr. Death, I just could not take my eyes off of Jon Bernthal in We Own This City, which is stomach-churning in an entirely different way. Either way, whether they’re a doctor or a cop, a loose cannon should be winning this award, though the competition is pretty stiff, as Colin Firth is a past Oscar winner and Andrew Garfield is a two-time nominee.


LEAD ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR TV MOVIE
Amanda Seyfried, The Dropout
Lily James, Pam & Tommy
Jessica Biel, Candy
Sarah Paulson, Impeachment: American Crime Story
Toni Collette, The Staircase

Other Contenders I Support: Mackenzie Davis (Station Eleven), Beanie Feldstein (Impeachment: American Crime Story), Jenna Ortega (The Fallout)

Analysis: They’ve already engraved Amanda Seyfried’s name on the Emmy. This race is Over with a capital ‘O.’ I never saw it coming, and I doubt her peers did either, but the fact is, when her name is called out — and it will be — the honor will be well-deserved.


SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR TV MOVIE
Naveen Andrews, The Dropout
Murray Bartlett, The White Lotus
Matthew Goode, The Offer
Seth Rogen, Pam & Tommy
Josh Charles, We Own This City

Other Contenders I Support: Dan Fogler (The Offer), Burn Gorman (The Offer), Stephen Graham (Time), Jake Lacy (The White Lotus), William H. Macy (The Dropout), Nick Offerman (Pam & Tommy), Christian Slater (Dr. Death), Wesley Snipes (True Story) Michael Stuhlbarg (The Staircase)

Analysis: Another very strong category with a wide variety of performances to choose from. Seth Rogen shows off a different side of himself in Pam & Tommy, and if you haven’t seen that show yet, it’s much better than you’re probably thinking. Matthew Goode was terrific as Bob Evans on The Offer, and Josh Charles felt like a live explosive device who could go off at any second in HBO’s miniseries We Own This City. But this also feels like a two-man race between Murray Bartlett, who was wonderful on The White Lotus, and Naveen Andrews, who was rather terrifying as Sunny Balwani in The Dropout. For more than a decade, Andrews has been put in a box as Sayeed from Lost, but here he proves that he’s so much more than that, and is allowed to show what he’s truly capable of. They’re both great though, so Emmy voters will have their work cut out for them…


SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR TV MOVIE
Jennifer Coolidge, The White Lotus
Alexandra Daddario, The White Lotus
Grace Gummer, Dr. Death
Laurie Metcalf, The Dropout
Melanie Lynskey, Candy

Other Contenders I Support: Kathryn Hahn (The Shrink Next Door), Wunmi Mosaku (We Own This City), Uma Thurman (Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber), Samara Weaving (The Valet)

Analysis: Yeah, this is another anticlimactic race, as Jennifer Coolidge pretty much has this one in the bag. So instead of breaking down her excellent chances, I’ll just use this space to advocate for Alexandra Daddario over Connie Britton if voters choose a second performance from The White Lotus, which represents Daddario’s best work to date.

Good luck to all of this year’s contenders, and I’m sure we’ll run down the snubs and surprises when the TV Academy unveils the Emmy nominations next month.


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