From “Succession” to “When They See Us,” here are 10 Emmy-nominated series to catch before the awards show on Sept. 22.
Best Drama Series
“Bodyguard” (Netflix); “Ozark” (Netflix); “Succession” (HBO, streaming)
Let’s see. We’ve got a British thriller about a military veteran charged with protecting a controversial politician, a Southern noir about a Chicago family on the run from many bad people and much bad decision-making, and a pulpy drama about a Murdoch-style media family at war with itself.
What “Bodyguard,” “Ozark” and “Succession” have in common besides tremendous acting by every member of their top-shelf casts is that they will leave your nails and nerves in shreds, and you will always be back for more. Probably within about 30 seconds. I am not a fan of binge-watching, but these shows broke me and made me like it. Consider yourself wooed and warned.
Best Comedy Series
“The Good Place” (NBC, streaming); “Russian Doll” (Netflix); “Schitt’s Creek” (Pop TV, Netflix, streaming)
It kills me to say this, but I resisted all three of these shows when they first came out. A philosophically minded network sitcom about life, death and frozen yogurt? An alleged comedy where the heroine dies at least once per episode? A show called “Schitt’s Creek”? Why would I want to watch any of these? But I was very wrong. With the irresistible Kristen Bell and Ted Danson at the helm, “The Good Place” is smart, heart-warming and so deftly funny, I love it like it is an actual member of my family, as opposed to a TV show that my whole family loves watching.
The name still gives me pause, but “Schitt’s Creek” — starring the priceless Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as rich people who have to relocate to a small town they once bought as a joke — is fall-off-the-couch hilarious.
And while “Russian Doll” does have a high death count, this beautifully eccentric comedy about finding meaning in life, friendship and community is dark on the outside and dazzlingly hopeful on the inside. The Season 1 finale might be one of the most perfect 30 minutes of TV ever.
Best Limited Series
“Fosse/Verdon” (FX, streaming); “When They See Us” (Netflix)
The category is Limited Series, but what is so striking about “Fosse/Verdon” and “When They See Us” is how they both use sweeping storytelling and intimate moments to expand your historical and emotional horizons in such eye-opening ways. The eight-episode “Fosse/Verdon” takes a detailed, forensic look at the relationship between director/choreographer Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and dancer Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). In addition to an intuitive collaboration that resulted in award-winning films and Broadway musicals, that relationship also produced a complicated marriage that resulted in domestic drama and heartache.
In its four searing episodes, director Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” tells the heart-wrenching true stories of the boys who were unjustly accused of brutally raping a jogger in Central Park in 1989. The performances by the actors playing the accused as terrified young men and traumatized adults are all astounding, and the series itself is both remarkable and essential.
Two for the (Emmys) Road
“A Very English Scandal” (Amazon Prime) and “Fleabag” (Amazon Prime)
The three-part “A Very English Scandal” nabbed Emmy nominations for Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw, and watching them is your reward. Grant plays Jeremy Thorpe (Grant), the real-life British politician whose career ended in tatters after he was charged and tried for instigating a murder plot against Norman Scott. Whishaw plays Scott, the sweet, but unstable, much-younger man with whom Thorpe was allegedly having an affair. Thorpe always denied their relationship, but the series doesn’t. Its wry examination of very British conflicts — both personal and political — is campy and damning at the same time.
And speaking of damning comedy, please make room in your TV life for “Fleabag.” Phoebe Waller-Bridge created and stars in this spiky series, which follows the many misadventures of its title character, a young Londoner dealing with grief, sexual conflict and high-level family dysfunction in ways that will make you wince while also laughing in horror and recognition. It is one jagged little pill, but “Fleabag” is funny in a warped way that is seriously healing.