If I Had an Emmy Ballot: Drama Writing, Directing, and Series

Emmy voting has just completed. Over the next few weeks, I'll be laying out who I hope gets nominated in the drama, comedy, and limited series categories in this space, looking specifically at achievements in acting, writing, and directing. Below are my six personal picks for Outstanding Drama Series, Writing for a Drama Series, and Directing for a Drama Series, with my preferred winner in bold.


Outstanding Drama Series

  1. The Leftovers — HBO
  2. Rectify — SundanceTV
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale — Hulu
  4. Better Call Saul — AMC
  5. The Americans — FX
  6. Orange Is the New Black — Netflix
  7. The Crown — Netflix
    (alt: Queen Sugar — OWN)

The two shows topping this list are in a class of their own—The Leftovers and Rectify, both ending their runs with stellar eight-episode seasons, will go down as some of the finest (and, if the Emmys’ past is prologue, most under-recognized) dramatic television in the medium’s history. (The Leftovers ended up winning out on my personal ballot, but it was close.) There was some great new blood, too: The Handmaid’s Tale was as legitimately terrifying as it was brilliantly made, and The Crown, while dismissed by some as period porn, was a rigorously written study of power and politics. Other than that, it’s a trio of familiar faces: Better Call Saul, which keeps getting better; The Americans, still one of TV’s best even as it had its weakest season to date; and Orange Is the New Black, whose controversial fourth season played as a blistering slow-burn tragedy. (Its fifth, which debuted last month, will be eligible next cycle.)


In writing, I’m also citing “Coats or Keys” of Masters of Sex, a standout script for a deeply flawed (now ended) series, and “Memphis” of This Is Us, the often saccharine series’ obvious highpoint. Over in directing, there was no denying Ava DuVernay’s sensational direction of the Queen Sugar pilot, nor The Duffer Brothers’ retro wonder Stranger Things.

Drama Writing

  • Dan Fogelman for “Memphis,” This Is Us
  • Amy Lippman for “Coats or Keys,” Masters of Sex
  • Ray McKinnon for “A House Divided,” Rectify
  • Bruce Miller for “Late,” The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Gordon Smith for “Chicanery,” Better Call Saul
  • Patrick Somerville & Carly Wray for “Certified,” The Leftovers

Drama Directing

  • The Duffer Brothers for “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers,” Stranger Things
  • Ava DuVernay for “Far Too Long,” Queen Sugar
  • Carl Franklin for “Certified,” The Leftovers
  • Vince Gilligan for “Witness,” Better Call Saul 
  • Mimi Leder for “The Book of Nora,” The Leftovers
  • Reed Morano for “Offred,” The Handmaid’s Tale

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