Hot take: Everything that is happening in entertainment culture is happening at the Emmys this year. Hotter take: these awards will be more important than the Oscars. Yeah, I said it. 

Here is my supporting evidence: 

First of all, the comedy between nomination presenters D’Arcy Carden and Ken Jeong actually worked, instead of being a stiff and awkward four minutes to endure before the actual nominations. This is because live TV seems to finally be catching up to ‘let the people who know how to do the thing do the thing’. As Carden pointed out, Jeong is in… basically everything, and while his script wasn’t quite as fawning, the truth is Carden is in everything else (we’ll get to the Barry juggernaut in a second). 

It bodes well for a good show, and also boding well? The nominees in almost every major category are the ones that people are talking about, and – crucial point here – have seen. I had fewer “What was that one again?” moments than ever before, because TV is where things happen. 

Case in point? 

A partial list of performance nominees we will see on the big night: 

Mahershala Ali. Sam Rockwell. Amy Adams. Viola Davis. Benicio Del Toro. Patricia Arquette. Michelle Fricking Williams. My beloved Hugh Grant. All of whom would once have been considered to be, you know, “Oscar People”.  Worthy of the big show. 

The Emmys now is the big show. 

And that’s before we even get to Ava DuVernay’s staggering 16 nominations for When They See Us, including noms for writing and directing. Oh, and you know who else has writing and directing nominations? 

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. That’s right. Homecoming got 6 nominations and Ms. Carter, and/or Parkwood entertainment, is on all of them. Are you getting the idea yet that the Emmys are no longer the Junior Varsity league? 

Perhaps you need something else to get excited about? Maybe? How about this? Schitt’s Creek, from our own beloved Dan Levy, got four nominations – including Outstanding Performance nods for both Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, and for Outstanding Comedy Series. That’s a Canadian-made CBC and POPTV co-production, triumphing in the biggest of big leagues at a time when we’re told there is more – and more quality – than ever before. 

This Or That? 

In the past, articles like this would have been about highs and lows, or surprising wins versus snubs – but we’re in such an incredible era right now that you can’t really categorize things that simply. 

Like, is it maybe a surprise that Christina Applegate is nominated in the same Outstanding Lead Actress category as Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Phoebe Waller-Bridge? Maybe, because that show is much newer with much less noise around it – but if you take her out, who do you put in? Especially now that it’s not a strict ‘5 noms per category’? Did you think the day would come when Michelle Williams and Niecy Nash were nominated in the same category? No, but that’s the glory of television in 2019. Everything is happening here, regardless of expectation or pedigree. 

The only places where the ‘awards race’ conversation comes into play are in the Outstanding Performance in a Drama, Supporting Role category, because in both the Actor and Actress fields, there are three Game Of Thrones actors up against one another who could either dominate or cancel each other out. The men are easier – I can compliment Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Alfie Allen but still think Peter Dinklage takes it…but then again, that’s thinking about the whole series, as opposed to Tyrion’s rather impotent last season. That category also has two actors from Better Call Saul and one each fromHouse of Cards and This Is Us so, you see what I mean about snubs being kind of beside the point, right? 

It’s an even trickier conversation where the women are concerned. Lena Headey, Maisie Williams, Gwendoline Christie, AND Sophie Turner are all nominated against one another (Emilia Clarke is in the Lead Actress category), which is probably terrible news for Fiona Shaw, nominated for Killing Eve and Julia Garner for Ozark (submit your jokes now for “The Best Supporting Actress Category is definitely a Game Of Thrones, hahaha!” talking heads over the next few months). 

If I have a complaint in all the greatness, it’s that a very deserved nomination for Surviving R. Kelly is in the same category, ‘Outstanding Informational Series Or Special’, that also includes Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee and David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. Obviously I’d rather have it there than not at all, but it’s kind of… off, right? 

Triage and Prioritise 

Okay, so what do you need to know and do to be able to enjoy the Emmys? Here’s my diagnostic plan. 

I’ll assume you’ve already seen and formed your opinions on the bigger, more well-known, or network shows – The Good Place, Veep, Schitt’s Creek, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, maybe even Russian Doll? Great – because our work goes deeper. 

You absolutely, no question, need to watch Barry if you haven’t. The Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy category is full of its cast, and the writing and directing awards are incredibly Barry-heavy too. Similarly, if you haven’t watched Fleabag, you’ll be very disappointed in a lot of categories, because it has 11 nominations and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who of course also show-ran the first season of Killing Eve) will definitely be a big presence. Pose has just 6 nominations, but they’re big ones, and you know you want to be a part of that conversation. 

Other homework? If you’ve been waiting on watching PEN15, you should prioritise Episode 9, “Anna IIshi-Peters”. Its stars and creators, Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine, are nominated for Best Writing In A Comedy. If you’ve been sleeping on Chernobyl, get on it. When They See Us – you know what I’m going to say. 

But if you’ve skipped, say, Sharp Objects or GLOW, or even Succession I’m not sure you need to run out and couch-lock just for that. My glaring-ish omission has been Ozark – I always knew I’d get there, but these nominations have reminded me it’s high time to get on it. But if I hadn’t seen, say, Killing Eve or even This Is Us, they would definitely be the priority. 

Oh, and there are a surprising number of nominations for guest hosts on SNL – everyone from Sandra Oh to Robert De Niro as well as Kate McKinnon’s nomination as a cast member – so if you love or hate SNL, you may want to study the past season to make sure you know what’s up. 

So. Give your streaming services a workout, chase down the series you’ve never really known where to find. Because the days of a much-nominated choice being the obvious winner are long, long gone, and I’m not mad about it.