We can’t really claim these are what we think should have been nominated at the Emmys, or should win, since there’s an impossible amount of television to watch in the world. But if we were the only two members of the Television Academy and we could nominate any TV that aired in the most recent television season (from June 2017 to May 2018), and we only cared about the seven major awards in drama and comedy, this is what you’d get.
We didn’t distinguish between limited series and other drama series, since supposed miniseries get second seasons if they’re popular enough (see: Big Little Lies), and regular drama series get rebranded as miniseries when they get prematurely cancelled (see: Dig), while modern anthologies are just regular series that replace narrative continuity with thematic continuity (and some don’t even shed their narrative continuity completely, e.g. American Horror Story, Fargo, Black Mirror). Each of us filled out our personal nominees and then selected the winner by consensus, so the winners only came from shows we’d both nominated, but we’ve each picked a personal runner-up regardless of whether the other has seen or nominated it. We also each gave a Special Achievement Award for something not covered in the major categories – Dean gave the award for Drama, and Ciara gave the award for Comedy.
You can see each of our full slates of nominees at the bottom of the post.
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES – Twin Peaks
Dean: “The third season of Twin Peaks – or Twin Peaks: The Return, if you prefer – is the greatest season of television ever made, by a considerable distance. It was groundbreaking and innovative and rewrote the whole language of television in ways we’ll still be struggling to describe years from now. It was the ultimate expression of the Lynchian narrative structure, with each episode built around creating an emotional journey for the audience rather than conventional plot progression, and the whole season building to a crescendo of emotional extremes. Coop saving Laura back in 1989 (maybe?); his skin-crawling sex scene with Diane (maybe?); the utter confounding horror of the last scene (definitely): any of these scenes would be the crowning achievements of another show, but the finale of Twin Peaks alone is such an embarrassment of riches, it’s impossible to pick just one.
More than any other show in history, Twin Peaks declined to offer easy answers, neat conclusions or even a reasonably clear understanding of what the hell we were watching from one minute to the next. It forced us to spend a long time with characters doing very little so we could soak in their humanity. Two and a half minutes of Jean-Michel Renault sweeping the floor so we’d remember that ordinary human life was going on alongside the bizarre transdimensional terror. Sixteen episodes with the incapacitated Dougie Jones so we’d understand what Coop was giving up when he returned to Twin Peaks. But it was never frustrating for its own sake, and it gave us some wins, like when Ed and Norma were finally freed from every barrier that kept them apart.
I could go on and on, about how even as it broke what television it could be, it was deeply rooted in the medium’s traditions, or how it stayed so steadfastly episodic in the age of ‘it’s really an x-hour movie’, or how the cast was so amazing that it was generous for either of us to even consider performers from other shows for the supporting acting awards this year. But I haven’t yet had the years I’d need to put it any better than this: Twin Peaks is the best TV show ever made, and I’ll be thinking about it for the rest of my life.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Alias Grace – “Alias Grace, a miniseries about an accused murderess in nineteenth-century Canada, is a wonder. I don’t tend to use ‘restrained’ as a compliment, but I make an exception for Alias Grace because you can feel the life pulsing under its restraint at every moment, ready to burst.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Halt and Catch Fire – “Halt and Catch Fire was never a show about technology – it was a show about human connection and how people can use technology as both a bridge and a barrier. Its final season built on years of character work to dig deep into the minutiae of its relationships and tell a small but profoundly moving story about forgiveness. It was one of the best TV shows ever, and I’ll miss it dearly.”
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA – Kyle MacLachlan as Dale Cooper, Dougie Jones and Mr. C in Twin Peaks
Ciara: “Tour-de-force is about the most clichéd thing you can say about a performance, but if any actor has ever delivered a tour-de-force, it’s Kyle MacLachlan in Twin Peaks: The Return. It’s pretty showy stuff: he plays three separate characters – Cooper, Dougie and Coop’s evil doppelganger – one of whom is near-incapable of speech, just repeating words and phrases he hears. It’s hard to peel your eyes away from him.
Dougie got a pretty mixed reception from Twin Peaks fans – a lot of people thought he stayed as Dougie as too long – but nothing on TV this year came close to providing me the same kind of unbridled delight. The Dougie part of MacLachlan’s performance is just about one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen – the scene where he drinks coffee for the first time! – as well as being, impossibly, sweet and sad and moving, particularly in scenes with Sonny Jim. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any acting quite like it.
There’s one thing that brings me as much delight as my favourite Dougie moments, and that’s the moment when Coop – finally himself again – says, ‘I am the FBI.’ MacLachlan’s original performance as Cooper in Twin Peaks’ original run was an all-timer, and it would have been easy for the reprisal of it to feel hollow, a pale imitation of something you once loved. Instead, it left me punching the air. The third season of Twin Peaks is the best season of television ever made, and MacLachlan’s performance doesn’t have a single false note.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan in American Crime Story – “I have mixed feelings on this season of American Crime Story, but I consistently admired Darren Criss’s performance, with its façade on top of façade, each always ready to crack. The scenes with his mother are a particular highlight. (Also, when he sings along to ‘Gloria’, obviously.)”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Kofi Siriboe as Ralph-Angel Bordelon in Queen Sugar – “Kofi Siriboe is amazing as the youngest Bordelon sibling, especially in how he uses his performance to explore Ralph-Angel’s anger management problems. Just with facial expressions and body language, you can see the whole journey from initial overreaction to instant regret to instinctual doubling down to protect his ego in just a few seconds of screen time. He’s a really incredible actor.”
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA – Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri in Killing Eve
Dean: “The very first time she was given the lead in a TV show, Sandra Oh proved it was long overdue with her terrific performance as Eve Polastri. There’s lots of ways she makes it work, like her great comic timing, which is so essential to the show’s black humour. But I think my favourite thing about how she plays Eve is that she’s somehow both the first character in a show like this to have the kind of reactions a normal person would have to the mad stuff she deals with – there’s no steely-eyed determination when Villanelle kills Bill, just Eve screaming futilely into the crowd – and also makes her interest in serial killers, a fairly common interest, come off as weird and toxic as it should.
She’s a fan girl in a wish fulfilment fic who’s forced to confront the twisted nature of her obsession (and the real moral horror underpinning it) even as she just gets drawn deeper and deeper into this self-destructive hobby. She’s simultaneously having the time her life and watching her life come apart at the seams. And it’s in the subtleties and ambiguities of Sandra Oh’s performance that you find yourself unsure whether Eve is obsessed with destroying Villanelle or becoming her. Even when she’s stabbed Villanelle in the stomach, you’re still asking yourself where she’s secretly fallen in love with her. It’s a pitch-perfect portrait of someone experiencing that liminal moment where they can either become the best possible version of themselves or the worst expression of their darkest tendencies. Thank God it was already renewed for a second season.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Sarah Gadon as Grace Marks in Alias Grace – “Alias Grace is grounded in Sarah Gadon’s performance. She’s so compelling that the tiniest subtleties of her expression are haunting. Moments where her calm, icy exterior slips are stunning. Also, I don’t care about accents, but she nails her Irish accent, it’s crazy.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Kerry Bishé as Donna Emerson in Halt and Catch Fire – “After her heartbreaking villainous turn in the previous season, Kerry Bishé made Donna’s halting, meandering path to redemption one of the most urgent stories on television. From the tiny details of her descent into alcoholism to her joyous line reading as she rushes to Cameron in the finale – ‘I have an idea!’ – it was Kerry Bishé’s performance that made Donna the star of the final season.”
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA – David Lynch as Gordon Cole in Twin Peaks
Ciara: “Gordon Cole was a silly bit of comic relief when he was introduced way back when. It’s kind of stunning, then, how emotional he made me in The Return, and how – of all the incredible moments in the show – ones involving Gordon are the ones most often rattling around in my brain.
I already knew that David Lynch was an underrated comic actor, and that’s on full display, particularly the scene with the French lady which makes me laugh out loud just remembering. But his dramatic turns are the most impressive. The scene where he turns his hearing aid up high enough to whisper and tells Albert that he worries about him, or when he tells Denise that after she came out as transgender, he told the other FBI agents to fix their hearts or die.
Because the Cooper we knew and loved was missing-in-action for so much of The Return, Gordon Cole ended up taking up a similar kind of narrative space: a kind, good man, weighed down by the death and supernatural horror that surrounds him even as he does everything to help. The Return is in no small part about getting older, and Gordon – who has seen so many of his colleagues disappear or die – is one of the main carriers of that thematic weight. David Lynch isn’t even ‘an actor’, really – most of his acting credits are cameo roles – but I was so moved by his performance that it’s hard to even put into words.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Harry Dean Stanton as Carl Rodd in Twin Peaks – “Stanton was one of the best ever to do it, and in Twin Peaks – one of the last performances before his death – he is as extraordinary as ever. He’s full of gruff warmth and kindness in scenes like the one where he tells a tenant at the trailer park not to sell his blood, but his best work doesn’t involve him saying a word: the incredibly powerful scene where a child gets hit by a car.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Dana Ashbrook as Bobby Briggs in Twin Peaks – “When Bobby Briggs burst into tears at the sight of Laura Palmer’s picture, as her theme soared in the background, Dana Ashbrook told us everything we needed to know about how Bobby has changed since we last saw him, both with the sudden, explosive openness of his emotions and the sweet way he tries to jokingly play it off for the benefit of his colleagues. It’s pure, uncut Twin Peaks.”
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA – Laura Dern as Diane Evans in Twin Peaks
Dean: “No one could have played Diane but David Lynch’s muse of muses, the incomparable Laura Dern, so it’s a blessing that, even in the midst of a huge resurgence in her career, she signed on for his magnum opus. We’ve been waiting decades to meet Diane, the mysterious addressee of Coop’s tape-recorded case notes from the show’s first two seasons, and she was, to put it mildly, not what anyone expected. Witty, bitter and filled with a sadness eclipsed only be her rage, Diane was the opposite of Coop. Even as the evidence mounted that Diane was a double agent working for Coop’s doppelganger, Dern played her so uncomfortably human that we hoped against hope for any other conclusion, which made it all the more shocking when it turned out she was actually Diane’s tulpa, and therefore not human at all.
The monologue where the tulpa describes Diane’s rape by Coop’s doppelganger and then figures out she’s a tulpa only to be shot and sent to the Black Lodge where she implodes after saying ‘fuck you’ to MIKE is crazy amazing acting. (The way she moves her mouth right before her face cracks open!) But to outdo it just two episodes later with the most viscerally unsettling scene of consensual sex ever put to film is a whole other level. Also, every time she says ‘fuck you’ is somehow the funniest thing ever and yet so rich in pathos. Ever before you know the details, you know Diane has been through some shit.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Naomi Watts as Janey-E Jones in Twin Peaks – “Naomi Watts is insanely funny as Janey-E. She makes a hell of a double act with MacLachlan-as-Cooper-as-Dougie, alternately furious and affectionate as he remains placid. Yet by the time she says goodbye to him, it literally gave me goosebumps: Watt’s performance, like Twin Peaks, can shift from goofy to heartbreaking at the drop of a hat and pull both off.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Danielle Brooks as Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson in Orange is the New Black – “Thrust suddenly into the spotlight as the de facto leader of season five’s riot, Danielle Brooks rises to the occasion with a performance so perfectly sad and furious and hilarious that it could only possibly lose to a Twin Peaks sweep. Her speech about Poussey when she walks Judy King out for the press still makes me fall apart over a year later.”
OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A DRAMA – Mark Frost & David Lynch for Twin Peaks: “The Return, Part 14”
Ciara: “I could pick literally any episode of this season of Twin Peaks at random and it would deserve to win Best Writing. It’s such a director-led show that I think the writing gets overlooked, which is a damn shame. It was the funniest show of the year and it’s not even a comedy: the jokes are so sharp and fresh and weird, from the absurdist family sitcom of Dougie and Janey-E to Wally Brando to Dr. Jacoby’s crazy InfoWars-style internet show (complete with hocking gold-painted shovels to ‘dig yourself out of the shit’). It was also the most interesting, the bravest, and the most sincerely moving. I could talk about Twin Peaks for days, and probably have, in no small part due to the strength of its writing. It is literally an embarrassment of riches.
‘Part 14’ stands out in particular due its mixture of wonderfully surreal comedy – Freddie telling James about how he got the green glove on his hand – horror – Sarah Palmer biting a man’s throat – and patented Twin Peaks weirdness – when Andy is given a vision at Jack Rabbit’s Palace. There’s also Gordon’s Monica Bellucci dream, the first Blue Rose case, and that absolute piece of shit Chad getting arrested. Sometimes when people complain about tonal inconsistency, they’re really complaining that something has multiple tones, and Twin Peaks in general, and this episode in particular, should stand as evidence that hugely diverse tones can work alongside each other perfectly.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Phoebe Waller-Bridge for Killing Eve: “Nice Face” – “Killing Eve is such a tightly written show: it’s funny, tense and absorbing. Nowhere is all of this clearer than its excellent pilot, ‘Nice Face’, in which its two protagonists arrive fully-formed. What I love the most about it is how, even as it sets up the whole season’s story, you don’t feel the seams of exposition: it is first and foremost a thrilling episode of television.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Tom Rob Smith for American Crime Story: “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” – “ACS: Versace didn’t necessarily hang together that well as a season of television, but it had a lot of good episodes and ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ was the best. It managed to situate Andrew Cunanan’s killing spree in the historical context of the Clinton administration without eschewing the ultra-close character study that made the show’s best episodes shine.”
OUTSTANDING DIRECTING IN A DRAMA – David Lynch for Twin Peaks: “The Return, Part 8”
Dean: “‘The Return, Part 8’ is the best episode of television ever made. It’s ‘show, don’t tell’ at its most extreme: with hardly a word of dialogue, it shows the origin of the supernatural evil in Twin Peaks, the evil of BOB and the other denizens of the Black Lodge, who eat ‘garmonbozia (pain and sorrow)’, in the dawn of the atomic age. The centrepiece of the episode is a five-minute descent into the heart of the mushroom cloud created by the Trinity nuclear test in 1945, first swooping slowly into it before cutting to dust clouds and static and what look like fireworks exploding inside clouds, an image that manages to evoke both hellfire and the Big Bang. It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen represented in motion picture, every frame a masterpiece of visual composition and a stunning entry in the tradition of avant-garde filmmaking in the United States.
But as impressive as ‘The Return, Part 8’ would be just as a stand-alone visual spectacle – as a short film, essentially – it’s how it fits into the series as an episode of television that makes it so transcendent. For all the violence and surrealism of his work, David Lynch has always been a profoundly empathetic artist, deeply concerned with ethics and how to live the very real, immanent presence of evil in the world. ‘The Return, Part 8’ recontextualises the moral conflicts of the show’s characters as fronts in a cosmic war between good and evil, not in a way that cheapens the human drama that has always been the heart of Twin Peaks but makes explicit the universal stakes of morality itself. The struggle towards good is necessarily an existential one. To paraphrase Gordon in a previous episode, we must all ‘fix [our] hearts or die’.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Mary Harron for Alias Grace: “Part 6” – “It’s such a delight to watch Mary Harron’s work. There’s a lot I could point to here, including the use of Grace looking directly into the camera and the repeated tracking shots through empty rooms, but the highpoint is the hypnosis scene at the centre of the episode.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Tricia Brock for Halt and Catch Fire: “Who Needs a Guy” – “The hallucinatory final scene of ‘Who Needs a Guy’ – in which we gradually realise we’re watching someone’s death from inside their mind, a series of lens flares pushing us backwards through time – is easily the show’s finest moment. But it only hits as hard because the rest of the episode doles out so many stand-out scenes in its trademark sombre naturalism, especially the confrontation between Joe and Donna that unleashes four season’s worth of tension. I was sobbing into my hands in seconds.”
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA – NXT TakeOver: New Orleans
Dean: “I decided to properly get into wrestling this year after flirting with it on-and-off for the past decade. I spent a lot of time catching up on the plot threads of WWE’s main roster shows, Raw and SmackDown, before WrestleMania. It was an okay show. Then a couple of weeks later, I went into TakeOver: New Orleans, the most recent pay-per-view of their developmental territory, NXT, totally blind. I didn’t know anything about the characters or their relationships. I had only as much context as was given in the short recaps before matches. And it was the best fucking thing I’d seen in my life.
It’s not that just that NXT is overflowing with incredible in-ring performers who sell their emotions as well as they sell their injuries. The visual storytelling in NXT’s shows is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the WWE. There’s a low-angle shot of Velveteen Dream grasping desperately at the title belt in the ladder match that opens the New Orleans pay-per-view that told me in one frame everything I needed to know about how Velveteen has struggled for respect, success and opportunities in NXT. My heart was in my mouth as he reached towards it, every fibre of my being willing him towards success even though I didn’t know who he was half an hour earlier. And when the show’s ultimate villain, Tommaso Ciampa, the devil himself, walked into the ring with no entrance music but the boos of the crowd and then stood facing the crowd as the focus pushed to show dozens of people holding the symbol of his archenemy, Johnny Gargano, my heart stopped altogether.
It’s nothing new to say wrestling as an art form doesn’t get the respect it deserves. But NXT in particular is so damn good that it feels criminal. I hardly watched any television this summer, but I was on the edge of my seat every week to watch NXT, chasing that first high I got from TakeOver: New Orleans.”
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES – Vice Principals
Ciara: “We at The Sundae have waxed lyrical on Vice Principals on a couple of occasions. But, well, somebody’s got to, because it’s truly one of the best shows of all time. There’s so much I love about Vice Principals that it’s hard to know where to begin. Firstly, like all great comedies, it’s extremely funny, which apparently no longer goes without saying. But it’s also an intensely political show about masculinity, race and class. It’s the best piece of art about Trump’s America even though it was made in its entirety in 2015. It’s one of the most empathic shows I’ve ever seen, with one of the most affecting moral journeys.
The first season was great, but this season elevated it to another level, as we got a satisfying mystery, deeper insight into Gamby and especially Russell, who gains unlikely depth through his difficult childhood and failing marriage, and an actual live tiger. It became a show with hope at its heart. It made me so sad for it to end, to not to get any more of its magic, but it was built to end here, and that’s what made it perfect.
I love Vice Principals so, so much. It’s a truly beautiful thing.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: American Vandal – “American Vandal is a parody of true crime docu-series, trying to unravel the mystery of who drew the dicks on the teachers’ cars. It really should be a show with one bit that it rams into the ground, but instead, it is somehow an astute commentary on modern high school, one of the funniest comedies of the year, and – most unlikely of all – a completely engrossing mystery.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Lady Dynamite – “Lady Dynamite’s decision to replace the first season’s multiple timelines conceit – before, during and after Maria’s mental breakdown – with new timelines for Maria’s memories of her troubled adolescence and a dystopian future representing her worst fears is already utter genius. But the boldness of using the future timeline to critique Maria Bamford’s mistreatment by Netflix during the production of the first season, and also a bizarre subplot about Jill Soloway of Transparent leading an apocalyptic feminist cult, made it second only to Twin Peaks in blowing up what television could be this year.”
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY – Danny McBride as Neal Gamby in Vice Principals
Ciara: “I never really got Danny McBride before I watched Vice Principals, and now I’m pretty sure I’d watch him in almost anything (I mean, not Your Highness, but still). His performance is the show’s heart and soul. He does cringe comedy in a way that manages to be completely comedically fearless even as it’s painfully human, as seen in basically any of his interactions with the other teachers.
But more than anything, McBride makes us feel Gamby’s soul, in a way that seems impossible as we watch him consistently choose to do the wrong thing but that’s absolutely necessary for the show to work. McBride allows us to see moral choice operate right on the canvas of Gamby’s face. It’s frequently painful to watch. Without McBride giving Gamby that soul, Vice Principals could have been a cruel, callous show, but instead, it’s elevated to something much greater. It might be one of my favourite pieces of acting of all time, and it makes what could have seemed like a sudden change seem like the most natural character development in the world.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Chris Barrie as Arnold Rimmer in Red Dwarf – “Chris Barrie has been playing Rimmer on and off for thirty years, so has no right to be giving one of the best performances of the year. Yet here we are. I especially enjoyed how he reacted to all the different realities when he skipped across the multiverse to look for somewhere he wasn’t such a giant loser.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Will Forte as Phil “Tandy” Miller in The Last Man on Earth – “Only a performer as preternaturally talented as Will Forte could have pulled off the transformation of Phil Miller across four seasons of The Last Man on Earth. The man who once spent months floating in a paddling pool full of margherita mix became the voice of reason, the conscience and the heart of the family he found at the end of the world. Even more, he did it without sacrificing his incredibly dumb sense of humour: ‘we’re all still fighting a raging case of HPV – Human People Vanished’.”
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY – Kaitlin Olson as Mackenzie “Mickey” Molng in The Mick
Dean: “Kaitlin Olson is the best comic actress on television, with the possible exception of Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, who wasn’t on TV this year, so this was a pretty easy choice to make. I’ve written before about how she’s a particularly exceptional physical comedian, the only serious talented practitioner of slapstick left, in fact, and she maintained that high standard in the second season of The Mick. Everything she does in the police car episode – smashing herself in the face with a rock, contorting herself through the car boot only to end up pinned by her collarbone behind the back seat – is the work of a master at the height of her powers.
The big reveal of the first season was Kaitlin Olson showing she could play sweet after over a decade as Dee Reynolds, one of the worst people in the world. She continued to develop Mickey’s heart in the second season – it was honestly hard to watch when she broke down crying at the bedside of her comatose niece – but then she added a whole new exciting layer when she started to develop, of all things, a conscience. The revelation that Mickey burned Jimmy’s entire ass off when they were younger and blamed it on someone else could have just been another stain on her character. But then she actually felt bad about it and tried to work on improving their relationship, at least for a while. The specific pitch of a bad person who knows they’re a bad person but can’t be bothered to change is really hard to hit without being repulsive, but Kaitlin Olson pulled it off perfectly. We may not get another season of The Mick but with any luck, she’ll be back on TV soon – as Leah Remini’s wife!”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Jessica Barden as Alyssa in The End of the F***ing World – “The performances of the leads are the heart of The End of the F***ing World, and Barden is especially brilliant. She goes from perfect deadpan to righteous fury at the turn of a dime, and just becomes more and more compelling as the show goes on. This culminates in the show’s final moments, which she sells so well it feels like a punch in the gut.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Alia Shawkat as Dory Sief in Search Party – “In the space of a few episodes, Dory goes from screaming on a rooftop as she contemplates jumping to escape the web of lies she’s trapped herself in to committing cold-blooded murder to protect her new reputation as a hero. It’s a dramatic shift and the connective tissue that makes it work is rooted entirely in Alia Shawkat’s terrific performance. You can see her whole thought process flash across her face every time she makes a decision, whether it’s to step back from the ledge or push someone else over it.”
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY – Walton Goggins as Lee Russell in Vice Principals
Dean: “Lee Russell’s flamboyance could easily veer into gay panic on a lesser show, but on a show as great as Vice Principals, and in the hands of an actor like Walton Goggins, he’s a brilliant portrayal of a very particular kind of insecure man, who attempts to express his masculinity through his taste in place of the physical prowess he lacks. He struts like a peacock and purrs like a panther, with vicious put-downs in place of claws. He wears fitted suits and has awful frosted tips and even if he doesn’t really think he’s the pinnacle of manhood, even if he’s terrified of other men until he’s principal and can ruin their lives, he carries himself as if he knows he’s hot shit. And when his self-image is threatened by the mockery of others, he resorts to awful violence to reassert it, but only against people he knows can’t retaliate.
It’s a difficult line to walk, especially when Russell does stuff like tossing Gamby out of a wheelchair and humping him in the season premiere, but Walton Goggins makes it work. And he did more in the second season than just keep up the incredible character work he started in the first season – he expanded and deepened it by digging deeper into Russell’s vulnerability. Russell may be a monster, one of the most unabashedly evil characters on television, but it was still gut-wrenching to watch the utter torture he endures at the hands of his even more psychopathic sisters. I never wished Russell well exactly, but I desperately wanted someone to save him when they left him tied up half-naked in a garage full of their dead father’s belongings.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Ian McElhinney as Granda Joe in Derry Girls – “Derry Girls is such a funny show, but I don’t think any character made me laugh as much or as consistently as Granda Joe. His irrational hatred for his son-in-law (Tommy Tiernan) should be a one-note joke, but McElhinney has such perfect delivery that it gets me every damn time.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Riley Soloner as Vacation Jason in The Chris Gethard Show – “For years now, Riley Soloner has been one of the most effortlessly charismatic and funny performers on television. He’s built a huge fandom from his performance as the self-consciously one-note nemesis of Chris Gethard on the strength of his breathless confidence and impeccable comic timing. If he doesn’t get a star vehicle in the future, it’ll be a tragedy.”
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY – D’Arcy Carden as Janet and Bad Janet in The Good Place
Ciara: “The Good Place is a great show, but people sometimes overstate how funny it is. The exception to this is D’Arcy Carden as Janet, who is absolutely hilarious. Her performance should be completely one-note – Janet is robotically sunshiny, Bad Janet is cruelly deadpan – but she has a comic timing and rhythm that is never not funny. Particularly delightful this season was her struggle with developing emotions, and how she bounced off Derek, the rebound boyfriend she created.
Before she got the part on The Good Place, Carden was going to quit acting. Thank God that didn’t happen.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Sofia Black-D’Elia as Sabrina Pemberton in The Mick – “Black-D’Elia really came into her own in the second season of sadly cancelled The Mick. She proved herself as an excellent comic partner for the incomparable Kaitlin Olson, capable of bouncing off her as well as shining in her own right. Episodes that teamed them together will be remembered among the show’s best.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Lauren Ash as Dina Fox in Superstore – “If you were to list Dina’s traits, ‘vegan’ and ‘loves birds’ would be in the top three. So when a scene called for her to eat a half-frozen, half-microwaved chicken leg to help Amy save face at a dinner party, it could only work if Lauren Ash sold the absolute horror of what she was doing in the funniest way possible. She was already the funniest person on Superstore, but when I saw that scene I knew she was one of the funniest people on TV, period.”
OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A COMEDY – Lisa McGee for Derry Girls: “Episode Five”
Dean: “It’s controversial, I know, but I still believe the best way to measure the quality of a comedy show’s writing is how funny it is, and the funniest writing on television this past year was the border crossing episode of Derry Girls. I think often of everyone ragging on Gerry for posing as a Japanese tourist to get past the Orange walk while he insists it was a ‘spot-on’ Australian accent – and then he does it and it is, but everyone else still says it was Japanese for some reason. There was the excessive use of the official name of the Irish currency, the ‘punt’, and Ma Mary’s insistence on bringing ‘the big clock’, and the best iteration of the ‘everyone thinks James is gay for no reason’ joke, when his aunt admits she hates him for being English, but says she’d be very disappointed in Ma Mary if she had a problem with him being gay. (‘Of course not. If anything, the gay thing sort of cancels out the English thing.’) And nothing made me laugh harder this year than when everyone bullied Gerry into giving out to their waitress, only for them to eat the head off him when she burst into tears.
It was so funny, and it managed to pull it off in the midst of a very dangerous and still live issue in Northern Ireland, the on-going terrorisation of Catholics by right-wing Protestants. I can barely believe Channel 4 aired it, let alone that anyone could pull it off with such brilliance.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Donald Glover for Atlanta: “Teddy Perkins” – “Last year I said that Atlanta could be one of the funniest and most interesting shows on TV, if only they wrote more jokes, so it might seem weird that I’d pick what is by all accounts the dark and unnerving horror episode. But ‘Teddy Perkins’ is by far the funniest episode of this season of Atlanta, featuring what might be my favourite joke ever written about The Breakfast Club.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Jared Keeso & Jacob Tierney for Letterkenny: “A Fuss at the Golf Course” – “If this was just twenty minutes of jokes about the extraordinary qualities of Canada geese – ‘Mike Tyson had a pretty good run of things. Wanna know why? No Canada gooses in his weight class.’ – it would be pretty great. But it also finds time to rag on the class politics of golf courses, introduce a hilarious new gay jock duo and throw Jonesy into the middle of a turf war between Glenn and Stewart. Such are the feats you can accomplish when you’re the most joke-dense comedy on television.”
OUTSTANDING DIRECTING IN A COMEDY – Ben Berman for Lady Dynamite: “Kids Have to Dance”
Ciara: “Lady Dynamite was a wonderful, strange, and very funny show, and no episode was more wonderful, stranger and funnier than ‘Kids Have to Dance’, in which Maria finds herself the unwitting producer of the titular forced-dancing competition show for children in the Philippines. Maria tries to make things right, which eventually escalates to multiple characters dressing up as Joe Dirt to please a little boy who injured himself on Kids Have to Dance and happens to be the world’s biggest Joe Dirt fan.
But what puts it over the top is the Future sequences. All of the Future sequences in the second season of Lady Dynamite are absolutely wild: they’re like nothing else I’ve seen, certainly in comedy television. In ‘Kids Have to Dance’, Maria is replaced by another woman as the star of her own show – a version of Lady Dynamite where Maria relinquishes so much creative control that it becomes, like, a sci-fi soft porn – and slowly feels herself having a breakdown. The image stretches and tilts as the story becomes jumbled and incoherent. The disorientating editing and camerawork make Maria’s breakdown feel visceral and immediate. Lady Dynamite was always a surreal show about mental illness, but the Future sequences take both of these related qualities to their furthest extent.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Danny McBride for Vice Principals: “Venetian Nights” – “After I watched ‘Venetian Nights’ for the first time I ran to Twitter to announce that Vice Principals is one of the best TV shows ever made. I love so much of the directing in this episode, but top of the list is the long, elaborate fight scene, perfectly captured with fluid camerawork and well-deployed reaction shots.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Pamela Adlon for Better Things: “Graduation” – “Sometimes people pay too much attention to big setpieces over the fine work of directing ordinary scenes at a high level, and sometimes the dance sequence in the Better Things finale is one of the most incredible things you’ve ever seen on television and you want to scream it from the rooftops. The way the camera tilts and sweeps up into the air and the shot from below of Sam mouthing the words of the song! It’s so freaking good.”
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY – Detectorists
Ciara: “Detectorists is a show about people that go around with metal detectors as a hobby, particularly Andy (Mackenzie Crook), who is by the third series a recently qualified archaeologist, and Lance (Toby Jones), his best friend. What I love about it is that it’s the most normal shit in the world. Characters regularly talk about what quiz shows they watched last night. They have boring and unsatisfying jobs, or no jobs at all; their relationships have ups and downs but basically remain steady; they never find some life-changing stash of gold. It is, in any objective sense, completely mundane.
But sometimes things only seem boring if you’re not paying close enough attention. Detectorists gets deep into the weeds with very ordinary people, living very ordinary lives, and finds them funny and moving. It’s a love letter to hobbies for their own sake, where it doesn’t matter if they don’t find anything as long as they get to look. It was a delight. I think sometimes we want all television to be boldly challenging, but the world needs television that is primarily pleasant, and few shows are as thoroughly lovely and warm as Detectorists.”