Best Drama Series
Winner - Mad Men
Runners Up - The Americans, Game of Thrones, Parenthood, Masters of Sex and Empire
Commentary - So the seventh season of Mad Men was not its best. I admit this fully, and as many of you know, for every honor that is about a particular season or episode, I am fully guilty of honoring career achievement, history, etc. But I really don't feel bad about it, because if I don't do it now, I will never get another chance. Mad Men will go down as one of the best television series of all time. Period. It was a groundbreaking series that brought quality dramas and Emmys beyond the early dichotomy of Broadcast shows and paid-for cable networks. It was one of the most essential pieces to the Golden Age of Television that started with the birth of The West Wing and The Sopranos in 1999. It will be sorely missed, and there will be a gap in our culture in its absence. Yes, it was that good.
Best Comedy Series
Winner - Please Like Me
Runners Up - black-ish, Silicon Valley, Parks & Recreation, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Commentary - Please Like Me didn't submit for any Emmys. It is not a super popular show. Instead it is a quirky millennial dramedy from Australia that airs on a little seen network called Pivot. But for this 25 year old, this is one of the few shows on television that spoke to me. It is a brilliantly written and acted show from the mind of the talented Josh Thomas. It is half a coming of age tale for the millennial age, and half a family psychological drama. And while so many shows try to balance these types of distinct poles unsuccessfully. Please Like Me does it with an ease, and a shrug, that is admirable, and remarkable to watch. Don't get me wrong, I am not just picking this to look different or pretentious. Transparent was remarkable, black-ish and Brooklyn Nine-Nine make me laugh every week, and Parks and Recreation (which has won this award twice) went out with a bang. But this is my personal choice, and no comedy series in the last year had quite the same impact. Most of you have not watched it yet. Do it now, before the new season starts in October. It is definitely worth your time.
Best Actor in a Drama Series
Winner - Jon Hamm "Mad Men"
Runners Up - James Spader "The Blacklist", Michael Sheen "Masters of Sex", Bob Odenkirk "Better Call Saul"
Commentary - It is a well-known fact at this point that Jon Hamm has never won an Emmy. It is ridiculous, and hopefully, with three chances this year, the streak will be over. I don't want to go down like the Emmys, and say I never gave him an honor. I'm really not that in tune with what people think, but I agree that he is worthy of any honor he gets. He has been phenomenal the last seven years on Mad Men, and has created a new iconic character in the television canon, Don Draper, and it would be ridiculous not to reward one of our finest actors working on television, and in film, today.
Best Actress in a Drama Series
Winner - (TIE) Viola Davis "How to Get Away With Murder" and Taraji P. Henson "Empire"
Runners Up - Lizzy Caplan "Masters of Sex", Keri Russell "The Americans", Vera Farmiga "Bate's Motel"
Commentary - This year, two of our finest actresses, both of whom have never been given as much credit as they deserve, blazed onto our television sets. Of course I am speaking of Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson. They were firing on all cylinders this year, gave remarkable, game-changing performances, and elevated what could have been mediocre primetime soaps into wildly entertaining, high quality dramas that were two of the highest rated shows on television. If either of them win, it will be an historical moment, one that is way overdue. But this is not just about historical firsts, or the changing demographics of television and its audience. This is about rewarding the best, and if Emmy voters want to do that, then pick one of these incredible women.
Best Actor in a Comedy Series
Winner - (TIE) Jeffrey Tambor "Transparent" and Anthony Anderson "black-ish"
Runners Up - Josh Thomas "Please Like Me" and Thomas Middleditch "Silicon Valley"
Commentary - Sometimes ties are about copping out of actually having to make a decision. Sometimes they are rewarding two different ends of the spectrum. Jeffrey Tambor was phenomenal, and groundbreaking in his work in Transparent, and gave us all more to think about the way we see the world and ourselves. He has always been a great actor, but Transparent proves he is one of the best. But this is a comedy category, and while Tambor is great, he is not that funny. So I had to split here to honor probably my favorite Emmy nominee this year. Anthony Anderson, and the entire cast of black-ish, are fantastic and have a great energy and chemistry. But it is his charisma and humor as Andre that lead that show and that cast, and his magnetism on screen is endearing. And finally, after years of playing the joke sidekick, Anderson has finally found the perfect project to match his eminent comedic talent.
Best Actress in a Comedy Series
Winner - Lisa Kudrow "The Comeback"
Runners Up - Mindy Kaling "The Mindy Project" and Amy Poehler "Parks & Recreation"
Commentary - Poehler is fantastic as always in Parks & Recreation, and Mindy Kaling was very close to winning this award for a stellar season of The Mindy Project. But the single best performance in any comedy series this year was the fantastic Lisa Kudrow. The Comeback had a rough comeback, pun intended, but it soon found its way, mostly because of the magnetism of Kudrow. Her Valerie Cherish is a singular creation, a sensational unique character that is not only our hero (and sometimes our anti-hero), but is always worth watching. And that is because Kudrow is one of our finest comedic actors working today, something she has proved time and time again for now over two decades on television and in film. I'm glad we got to see The Comeback come back, and I hope that we don't have to wait another ten years to see Valerie Cherish on our small screens yet again.
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Winner - Craig T. Nelson "Parenthood"
Runners Up - Jonathan Banks "Better Call Saul" and Michael Kelly "House of Cards"
Commentary - Parenthood remains one of the most criminally under-rewarded dramas on television in the last decade. Its cast was simply fantastic, its stories beautiful, painful, and authentic, and the fact that Emmy voters never embraced it should be a black mark on their otherwise pretty good track record the last couple of years. In its final season, Parenthood was better than ever, and at its center was an incredible and painful performance from the great Craig T. Nelson. He has been on television and in film for years, and I have always enjoyed his work. But I think that his role as Zeek Braverman is his crowning achievement, and his final story line was the series' most heartbreaking, and most exceptional to watch. And that is saying a lot.
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Winner - Lorraine Touissant "Orange is the New Black"
Runners Up - Lena Heady "Game of Thrones" and Christine Baranski "The Good Wife"
Commentary - This was a great year, overall, for Emmy nominations, but I am devastated that Lorraine Touissant did not get in for Orange is the New Black. I love me some Uzo Aduba, but if only one of those cast members could get in it should have been Touissant. She has been an incredible veteran character actress for years (I loved her role in Selma this year), but his year she simply explodes in Orange is the New Black, and takes command of every scene she was in. The Emmys might have made the mistake of ignoring her, but I will not. She is simply too damn good to not win a well-deserved honor.
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Winner - Nick Offerman "Parks & Recreation"
Runners Up - T.J. Miller "Silicon Valley" and Tituss Burgess "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"
Commentary - T.J. Miller continues to be the best part of Silicon Valley and Tituss Burgess is going to win one of these awards someday if he keeps us his fabulous-ness on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. But in its final season, I was reminded of how awesome Nick Offerman has been on seven seasons of one of my favorite shows. He had so many great moments throughout all the seasons, and the Ron and Leslie episode was simply perfect. I hate that I now have to live in a world where Parks and Recreation is not on the air anymore. But I love that I got one last opportunity to give Nick Offerman a final farewell.
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Winner - Anna Chlumsky "Veep"
Runners Up - Allison Janney "Mom" and Chelsea Peretti "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"
Commentary - Allison Janney was once again brilliant on Mom (although she as already won an Awards Psychic Television Award), and if she wins another Emmy, you will here no complaints from me. And I personally love the antics of Chelsea Peretti on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But was everyone has jaw-dropped as I was at how good Anna Chlumsky was this year on Veep? It wasn't just that incredible scene where she finally lets Selina Meyer have it. It was an entire season where we finally got to see a depth of character to Amy. We got to see her break down, rise again, go back to the dream she always had, and break through as an actress. The season as a whole was not its best, but it was definitely Chlumsky's best, and she nailed it.
Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Winner - Walton Goggins "Sons of Anarchy"
Runners Up - Courtney B. Vance "Scandal" and Sam Shepard "Bloodline"
Commentary - Sons of Anarchy ended its run this year with a bang, and while Emmy voters never really saw its greatness, plenty of fans will keep it living on for years to come as a classic. Throughout its run there were multitudes of memorable performances. But none so memorable as Walton Goggins playing Venus Van Dam, the transgender prostitute with a horrifying past. This is a role that could have been a way to over-the-top caricature, but in the hands of Walton Goggins it was transformed into a memorable and important character that proves he is one of the best actors working today.
Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Winner - Lois Smith "The Americans"
Runners Up - Allison Janney "Masters of Sex" and CCH Pounder "Sons of Anarchy"
Commentary - I love Margo Martindale, and I love her character on The Americans, but if there was only going to be one of the guest stars nominated in this category it should have been Lois Smith. Smith is a veteran character actress that most of you would recognize as soon as you saw her, even if you didn't know how you knew her. She has been working in film and on television for 64 years, and she has stolen many scenes in her time. But this year on The Americans, she was probably the best I have ever seen her. She simply lit up the screen, and had probably some of the season's most memorable moments, which is saying a lot considering how great this season was. The Emmys may have ignored her, but I will not let her go away without out at least a little recognition.
Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
Winner - Bradley Whitford "Transparent"
Runner Up - Bill Hader "Saturday Night Live"
Commentary - Bradley Whitford is one of my favorite actors, and not just because he was Josh on the West Wing (although that is a big part of it). I thought he was great on the criminally under-appreciated Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and last year's Trophy Wife was a laugh-out-loud gem that unfortunately never got an audience behind it. His role on HAPPYish was great, it is just a shame the rest of the show didn't match its actor's talents. But this year he had another triumphant role that earned him yet another Emmy nomination for his role as a fellow transgender opposite Jeffrey Tambor in the new hit Transparent. He is a perfect on-screen companion for Tambor, and the two form a special bond on screen that is magnificent to watch. He has some stiff competition in his Emmy category from the likes of Bill Hader and Jon Hamm. But don't be surprised if he walks away with another Emmy. He is that good.
Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Winner - Gaby Hoffman "Girls"
Runners Up - Pamela Adlon "Louie" and Susie Essman "Broad City"
Commentary - After watching this so-so season of Girls, the one episode that stood out to me was the finale when Gaby Hoffman, playing Adam's sister in the show, makes a recurring appearance as a soon-to-be mother trying to give birth her to newborn child in a bathtub. It is a ridiculous, surprisingly funny, and yet ultimately sweet episode, and it all hinges on Hoffman's performance. It really was a lackluster season, but Hoffman's work in the finale almost made the whole experience worth it. She was that good, and combined with her work in Transparent, she is having a banner year on television, and is knocking it out of the park. And her double Emmy nominations this year were a complete, yet awesome, surprise.
Winner - Olive Kitteridge
Runner Up - American Horror Story: Freak Show
Commentary - Adapting Elizabeth Strout's sprawling Pulitzer-Prize winning novel was no easy task. It spreads itself over decades, has plenty of one-time and intertwining characters that weave their way in and out of the title character's life, and is more thematically cohesive, than it is on a plot-based level. But Lisa Cholodenko and her top-notch cast and crew rose to the challenge to create what was easily, the best, most profound, and most emotionally resonant miniseries of the past television season.
Best TV Movie
Winner - Bessie
Runner Up - A Poet in New York
Commentary - In a weak year for Television movies, one stood out so much, that honestly, it was a waste of time even coming up with other nominees. Of course I am speaking of HBO's triumphant Bessie. An important and untold story that lights up the screen thanks to a stellar lead performance from Queen Latifah, and a widly talented supporting cast. Bessie was entertaining, well-made, and big-screen quality. An easy, and deserving winner.
Best Actor in a TV Movie/Minseries
Winner - Richard Jenkins "Olive Kitteridge"
Runner Up - Evan Peters "American Horror Story: Freak Show"
Commentary - Frances McDormand has gotten a lot of the credit for her lead role in Olive Kitteridge (see below), but I don't know how you can reward her without also rewarding the spectacular Richard Jenkins. He has a quiet, yet powerful presence throughout, and provides the warm counterpart to McDormand's prickliness. But there is a darkness, a sensitivity, and a presence that only a talented actor like Jenkins can pull off. He is remarkable, and at the end, it is his story, as much as Olive's that ends up being powerful. Jenkins has been working hard for years in Hollywood and has never won a major award. I would love to see him accept an Emmy award next month. It would be a long-awaited, and well-deserved honor.
Best Actress in a TV Movie/Miniseries
Winner - Frances McDormand "Olive Kitteridge"
Runners Up - Queen Latifah "Bessie" and Jessica Lange "American Horror Story: Freak Show"
Commentary - So like I was saying, most of the hype of Olive Kitteridge belongs to its central performance by Frances McDormand, and there is a very good reason for this. She is a towering presence, creates an emotional, and yet simultaneously emotionally-hollow character that is tough, beloved, and yet disliked by many who encounter her, and whose strength and wisdom are both a force of good, and a detriment to her life, family, and friendships. Making such a complicated character successful takes good writing, which Olive Kitteridge certainly has, but more importantly, a seasoned and talented actor to make it pop and cohere on screen. McDormand does that and more. She is one of our finest actresses, and this is yet another singular and fantastic performance.
Best Supporting Actor in a TV Movie/Miniseries
Winner - Finn Wittrock "American Horror Story: Freak Show"
Runners Up - Brian Cox "The Game" and Michael Kenneth Williams "Bessie"
Commentary - A stacked category filled with plenty of talented veteran actors, and yet for me, the standout among the group was a relative newcomer. Finn Wittrock is fantastic as Dandy on this chapter of American Horror Story. His balance of the childishness, the sinister, the pain, and the desperation, made for a character that easily stole the show from much more popular and well-known co-stars, and created yet another remarkable character that will go down in history along with some of the others that Murphy and his team have concocted in the first four years of AHS's run, as wild, scary, and simply unforgettable.
Best Supporting Actress in a TV Movie/Miniseries
Winner - Sarah Paulson "American Horror Story: Freak Show"
Runners Up - Monique "Bessie" and Zoe Kazan "Olive Kitteridge"
Commentary - Unlike the Television Academy, I have already given Sarah Paulson an award for her work on American Horror Story. But, even with someone like Monique as a possibility, I could not pass up yet another chance to reward one of my favorite actresses. This year she plays conjoined twins, and like all of her recent work, it is astounding at just how good she really is. And most importantly, she always seems up for the challenge, and Murphy keeps giving her more and more complicated and deep work. And every single time she rises to the challenge.
Best Animated Series
Winner - Bob's Burgers
Runner Up - Archer
Commentary - Archer Vice was better than I thought it was going to be, and has left us with a lot of potential next season. But like last year, I was just in love with Bob's Burgers, it is so much fun, with such a kooky and fun cast of characters that it is simply infectious. Definitely the best animated series on broadcast television today.