Written by Chris Walker (@cwlkr20)
With last week’s announcement of this year’s Emmy nominations, there has been a solid mix of usual contenders, surprises, and snubs. Nonetheless, as we are in the age of peak TV, there are definitely shows we’ll have missed or need a refresher on. That’s where I come in, with a viewer’s guide of nominated shows to catch up on before the September 17th ceremony.
Brown Girls — All of it (Open TV)
— If I told you there was a Broad City with women of color, you know you’d be interested. That’s basically the premise of Brown Girls, a web series about two young, artistic women of color, by women of color. One is Black and figuring out her issues with commitment; the other is South Asian, exploring her sexual identity. The DIY show, loaded with people of color, is funny and honest, giving a fuller picture of women that media often portrays in a one size fits all frame. The show only debuted in February, but have a deal to build it out for HBO.
Nominated For — Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series
Black Mirror — ”San Junipero” (Netflix)
— Black Mirror examines the reach and perils that technology could one day bring, from artificial intelligence bringing back the dead to a reality that allows people’s evaluations of you to determine your life. The show fits into the peak television norm of today, thanks to being revived on Netflix after cancellation. “San Junipero” questions our society, however, through the view of a love story, played out by MacKenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, but with a twist. No spoilers, but Davis and Raw exhibit a natural chemistry through the episode/TV movie. It is both beautiful and respectful at the same time, which has allowed it to become an easy fan favorite.
Nominated For — Outstanding Television Movie; Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special for Charlie Brooker
This Is Us — ”Memphis” (NBC)
— The rapport of Ron Cephas Jones and Sterling K. Brown is warming, as they play father and son, reconnecting after decades apart. It’s a paramount focus of Brown’s character, building a bond with a man who left him, as a newborn, at a fire station. The two make up the real soul of the show, sharing a lot of honest, loving moments and a fair amount of comedy. I’d literally watch them make a buddy comedy, which is what the episode “Memphis” amounts to — a buddy road trip to Jones’ character’s hometown, to continue growing as father and son. There’s a Brian Tyree Henry guest appearance, music is made, but the heart is the performance by Brown and Jones just trying to get to know each other. I’m not going to give anything away, but I’ll say this — I do not cry while I watch anything. I cried while watching this episode. If you have soul, you’ll cry at the end.
Nominated For — Outstanding Drama Series; Outstanding Lead Actor in Drama Series for Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia; Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Ron Cephas Jones; Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Christie Metz; Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for Brian Tyree Henry, Gerald McRaney, and Denis O’Hare
Saturday Night Live — ”Melissa McCarthy” (NBC)
— Trump is probably going to be a consistent punching bag for a while, so why not milk it? That’s been the thesis for this recent season of SNL, which has clawed itself back to relevancy over the past 2 years. Thanks Trump. It’d be a lie to not acknowledge that. Especially since the Melissa McCarthy episode brings back her Sean Spicer impression so spicy that it’s really taken a life of its own. McCarthy, a member of the show’s 5 timer club, is everywhere. Her hosting run doesn’t feel stale though. She’s refreshing and hilarious because she’s just going for it and having fun.
Nominated For — Outstanding Variety Sketch Series; Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Vanessa Bayer, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon; Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Alec Baldwin; Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for Dave Chappelle, Tom Hanks, and Lin-Manuel Miranda; Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig
black-ish — ”Bow Racial” (ABC)
— Ok, so “Lemons” got all the talk because of Trump, an Anthony Anderson speech, etc. I get it: Anthony Anderson did great. Trump angers everyone. You know what, though? Tracie Ellis Ross is that show’s backbone, regardless of an episode’s focus. Three seasons in, the Girlfriends alumnus consistently brings hilarity in every scene she shares with her castmates. Nonetheless, when the show digs into her character, it adds a layer to an already interesting, smart, and fun character (her name is Rainbow, she’s always going to be interesting). See “Bow-Racial”, where the show deals with her racial identity of being half black/half white through the prism of her son, Junior, dating a white girl and how she reconciles the first & the second differently. As well, Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs is a huge comedic highlight of an all-around great episode.
Nominated For — Outstanding Comedy Series; Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Anthony Anderson; Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Tracie Ellis Ross; Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for Wanda Sykes
Steven Universe — ”Mr. Greg” (Cartoon Network)
— For a show built on the backbone of 11 minute episodes, Steven Universe packs a lot of lessons, color, and laughs. Literally, every episode is different and bright, never boring or overly ridiculous because it’s already ridiculous. It’s about a half alien boy raised by his 3 alien ‘aunts’ and their adventures. He has a teleporting pink lion as a pet. It’s wild. This episode is the show’s first musical episode, based around Steven’s vagrant father gaining $10 million dollars from music royalties. The songs about lost loves and being rich weave together to bring about a tale that all can learn from.
Nominated For — Outstanding Short-Format Animation
Insecure — “Insecure as Fuck” (HBO)
Time for the snubs, and I’m dismayed to choose just one since there are so many to choose from. The Television Academy can do better, especially since it still gives Modern Family looks. From shutting out the entire supporting cast of Atlanta to the continued shunning Jane the Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez, there are still shows being left out. That being said, I found the biggest snub to be HBO’s Insecure, and especially its star/creator Issa Rae, who gives an honest look at what it is like to be a grown-ass black woman who is still trying to figure it out today. Whether she’s rapping in a mirror for confidence or breaking down issues with her friends, Issa brings a stimulating face to the table, that I think this year’s nominations is missing. See the pilot, where Issa tries to celebrate her birthday, which her boyfriend forgot, and she starts contemplating life while in a club. Ah, the struggle of youth. As well, Yvonne Orji is brilliant as Molly, Issa’s lawyer best friend, equal parts intelligent and lost, seeking a man, but very clearly capable of handling the world on her own, if necessary.