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13 Emmy Underdogs That Deserve a Nomination

Rotten Tomatoes staff members pick talent and titles we think deserve recognition by the Television Academy in the form of a 2019 nomination.

by | July 12, 2019 | Comments

When the Emmy nominations are announced on Tuesday, July 16, there are some names and series that will definitely be on the list: Game of Thrones, Veep, and Chernobyl (and plenty more series and miniseries from other networks) are among the frontrunners. But in a world where around 500 scripted series are set to air in 2019, there’s a lot of excellent TV out there that will unfortunately not be recognized by the Television Academy.

The Rotten Tomatoes staff wanted to make sure to recognize some of our favorite series and stars that might not necessarily receive a nod come Tuesday, so read on for our list of Emmy underdogs we’re rooting for.


Superstore 88%, Outstanding Comedy Series

Over the last four years Superstore has quietly established itself as one of network televisions’ best offerings. It’s the rare show that can successfully tackle a wide-array of hot-button issues — from identity politics to immigration and every robot-trying-to-take-our-jobs in-between — while consistently providing full-belly laughs. The season four finale alone is a masterclass in finding levity in impossible situations. It also features one of TV’s most exceptional (and insanely-likeable) ensembles, who vibe so well off of one another that it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “work family.” It’s smart, insightful, ridiculously funny, and absolutely worthy of awards consideration. – Haña Lucero-Colin


Broad City 99%, Outstanding Comedy Series

Believe it or not, Comedy Central’s ode to female friendship from Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson has never been nominated for an Emmy, despite its critical success — four of its five seasons are Certified Fresh at 100% on the Tomatometer (and the first is CF at a not-too-shabby 96%). Broad City has paved the way for plenty of female-fronted comedies currently on TV, like Hulu’s PEN15, Netflix’s animated Tuca & Bertie, and Pop TV’s just-premiered Florida Girls — so honoring the groundbreaking sitcom in its fifth and final season would be a fitting end for the series. – Jean Bentley


Tuca & Bertie 100%, Outstanding Comedy Series

Tuca & Bertie is for those wondering how their lives will go on after the end of Broad City. Creator Lisa Hanawalt’s buddy comedy goes to some pretty heavy places, but with a more surreal and absurdist bent. There’s an array of talented actors voicing the supporting characters (Steven Yeun! Richard E. Grant! Isabella Rossellini!), but Ali Wong and Tiffany Haddish really bring the endearing, sloppy charm of these characters to life. An Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance nom for either would be awesome, but the show’s adult themes and newness probably won’t work in its favor. – Sara Ataiiyan


One Day at a Time 98%, Outstanding Comedy Series

Talk about a Cinderella story. Imagine this: The critically acclaimed sitcom reboot that Netflix axed following its third season, but which — after a long fan campaign — was saved by Pop, takes home the Emmy for Best Comedy. Gods, wherever you are: Make it happen. It would be a miracle of course, but it would be a well-deserved one. One Day at A Time, created by Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce and executive produced by Norman Lear, has shown that the multi-camera sitcom can still be hilarious, heartfelt, and just as edgy as many of the rougher-edged comedies on streaming and cable. The setup is simple — a working-class Cuban-American family lives in an apartment building where they are friendly with their hipster landlord — but the character arcs and writing are anything but. Watch how skillfully the showrunners blend complex narratives about immigration and gentrification into the laughs, and how organically season-long storylines coalesce. It’s smart, underappreciated stuff. As are the performances, particularly from Justina Machado as the mother trying to keep everything together and Rita Moreno as the scene-stealing live-in grandma, Lydia. – Joel Meares


BoJack Horseman 92%, Outstanding Comedy Series

Season 5 gave Bojack his Horseman-aissance after being cast in an edgy TV show. We also got a deeper look at supporting characters Diane, Princess Carolyn, and everyone’s favorite asexual, Todd. Maybe it’s because of and not despite the fact that it’s a cartoon that allows the series to deal so astutely with questions about what it means to be person who’s trying to be better, and the #MeToo movement. – Ataiiyan


Fleabag 100%, Outstanding Comedy Series

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is seemingly a lock for a comedy actress nomination, but with the comedy series category overstuffed with hilarious options, we’re unsure if this member of our exclusive 100% club is an underdog or a frontrunner. Look at the contenders: Veep, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Barry, The Kominsky Method, The Good Place, GLOW, Russian Doll, black-ish, Schitt’s Creek, Better Things, and on. What’s a Fleabag got to do to get some recognition around here? – Debbie Day


The Good Fight 96%, Outstanding Drama Series

This tight and punchy spin-off to The Good Wife is the single best reason to subscribe to CBS All Access (and there are a bunch of very good reasons its competing against, with The Twilight Zone and Star Trek: Discovery available on the streaming service). The super-smart and sometimes surreal legal drama offers fascinating cases — many of which touch on “big issues” in tech and politics in small and intimate ways — and a compelling crew to tackle them. Chief among that crew is Diane Lockhart (played by Christine Baranski, who deserves her Emmy, now!), who featured in The Good Wife, and she’s well-matched by rising star and new mom Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo), senior partner Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo), and the scandal-hounded young Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie), who’s taken a liking to Fentanyl lollipops in season 3. The Good Fight deserves its nomination not just for being the smartest legal drama out there, but for being one of the few shows on TV right now to grapple with — and laugh at — some of the meatiest issues in American politics, law, and society. – Meares


Busy Tonight , Outstanding Variety Talk Series

Busy Philipps translated her personable, intimate online presence into a TV show that felt more like eavesdropping on friends hanging out than a traditional late-night series, which made Busy Tonight’s untimely cancellation sting a little bit more. The actress proved to be both a likable and skilled host, and her accomplishments deserve to be recognized. – Bentley


Emmy Rossum, Shameless 90%, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

For years Emmy Rossum has been turning in some of the best work of her expansive career on Shameless, and for years the TV Academy has been ignoring her in favor of William H. Macy’s much showier role as the deadbeat patriarch of a large Chicago family. But Rossum’s performance as the eldest child keeping her siblings together as they struggle to keep their heads above water is at times hilarious and heartbreaking, and what better way to repent for their years of ignorance than by the Academy recognizing her work in her final season on the show? – Bentley


Catherine O’Hara, Schitt's Creek 90%, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Catherine O’Hara has never won an Emmy award for acting, and that, in and of itself, is criminal. O’Hara, who currently stars as matriarch Moira Rose on Canadian Pop TV sensation Schitt’s Creek is as good as it gets. Schitt’s Creek itself deserves all the awards. From the writing to the acting to hair and makeup, the series is genuinely one of the greatest shows to ever hit the small screen, but what O’Hara brings to Moira makes the character so special and the actress so deserving. She has given an unlikable person a depth and a growth that is unseen in on television today. She is eccentric, she is quick-witted, she is wearing a fabulous wig, and she truly deserves to be in the conversation for best actress in a comedy series. – Zoey Moore


Suranne Jones, Gentleman Jack 89%, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Not content to simply act the role, Gentleman Jack star Suranne Jones paints her worldly, outsider character, Anne Lister, with bold strokes into otherwise placid scenes of lush 19th–century West Yorkshire, England. When she takes on local graft, she bares her teeth with such palpable menace that in her more vulnerable moments — as when she confronts a skittish lover — her tears break hearts. But in a category stuffed with meaty dramatic roles performed by names more familiar to voters, Jones, like her Lister, seems an upstart with an uncertain fate. – Day


Stephan James, Homecoming 98%, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Sam Esmail’s Homecoming was one of the best reviewed series of 2018, and it’s not hard to see why. This taut adaptation of the beloved narrative podcast played out like 11 little shots of Hitchcock — a slow burn that caught fire as the story evolved, back and forth through time, with twists upon twists and some of the finest performances of the year. Julia Roberts has been rightly lauded for her put-upon Heidi Bergman, and Bobby Cannavale gives excellent Cannavalian obnoxiousness as Colin Belfast. But Stephan James, as military veteran Walter Cruz, gives what could be a pretty cold affair its warmth and heart and makes that final diner scene so damn devastating. – Meares


Annie Murphy, Schitt's Creek 90%, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Yes, Twitter, we know, and we agree: Catherine O’Hara is everything in Schitt’s Creek, and the fact that she doesn’t have four Emmys on a shelf somewhere right next to a collection of Moira Rose wigs is some sort of crime against comedy. But let’s shine equal light on Annie Murphy, who plays the younger socialite-in-the-sticks, Alexis Rose, in the Canadian series. It’s the less showy role — no wigs, no accent — but it’s also stealthily a bit of genius. Murphy plays a ditzy rich girl mid-awakening and every season her characterization deepens. She still gets to nail those insane Alexis lines alluding to a wild past of kidnappings, engagements, and foreign dignitaries, and put out the occasional puppy-dog whine. But she’s also increasingly real, grounded, drawing us into her increasingly tender relationships with her family and Ted. David, giver her an Emmy nom, like, now! – Meares


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Thumbnail photo credit: Tyler Golden/NBC; Pop TV; Amazon Prime Video

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