From ‘GoT’ To ‘Maisel’ To ‘Kominsky,’ Jews Dominate The 2019 Emmy Nominations
The golden age of television continues to beat down on us mercilessly, like the sun on a particularly glorious day of global warming. The comedy is cutting-edge, the drama is devastating, and the darkly comic, Talmudic, Kabbalist-influenced prestige series is…popular?
A veritable kehillah of Jewish creators, actors, and more are up for awards at the 71st annual Emmy Awards as of the announcements this Tuesday morning.
Categories for the Emmys are more exhaustive than those for The Oscars — there are enough categories that “Game Of Thrones” leads with 137 nominations, for example. Dan Weiss and David Benioff are nominated for writing the controversial “Game of Thrones” series finale, “The Iron Throne.”
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is next with a whopping 20 nominations. And a surprise competitor comes from father-and-son duo Eugene and Dan Levy’s beloved comedy “Schitt’s Creek,” which nabbed six nominations. “The Kominsky Method” and “Barry” also did well.
Big snubs targeted talented Jewish divas, including Rachel Bloom, creator and star of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Pamela Adlon, creator and star of “Better Things,” and Tracee Ellis Ross, star of “Blackish.”
“Broad City” remains un-nominated despite being the most likely of the entire bunch to be taught in Hebrew school and college Jewish sociology classes in the future (yeah that’s right, we don’t care if “Maisel” and “Kominsky” hear us saying that).
One Jew-heavy category you won’t see reviewed on many lists is Outstanding Short Form Variety Series, which will see Jewish comedian Billy Eichner facing off against Jewish comic-impresario Randy Rainbow.
Let’s take a look at the tribe members and tribe-adjacent folks who are up for prizes in the main categories at the 71st annual Emmy Awards as of the announcements this Tuesday morning. You can watch them win, lose, and schmooze on September 22 on Fox.
“Better Call Saul” This AMC show, a spinoff of the superlatively popular “Breaking Bad,” centers a lawyer who has fashioned himself “Saul Goodman,” to seem more trustworthy and better at business. Hasn’t always worked for us (ever heard of Natalie Hershlag?) but you do you, Saul. Beyond this premise and a few producers, that’s the extent of the Jewish street cred here.
“Bodyguard” There is little-to-nothing that is Jewish about this BBC show about a British policeman struggling with PTSD. But we did like this description of the show from Haaretz’s Adrian Hennigan: “At its best, it’s a tense thriller that grips like a gecko. At its worst, it’s less plausible than a Brett Kavanaugh testimony and has more holes than even President Donald Trump might consider reasonable on a weekend.” You can watch it on Netflix.
“Killing Eve” Unless you count anything that seems to nod to biblical characters as Jewish, there is absolutely nothing for us to claim about this riveting psychological thriller from BBC.
“Ozark” Jewish actresses Jordana Spiro and Julia Garner star in “Ozark,” a Netflix show featuring Jason Bateman as the unwilling linchpin of a Mexican drug cartel.
“Pose” The super-buzzy Ryan Murphy FX show about the New York City drag-scene of the late 1980s was co-created, like most of Murphy’s work, with Bryan Falchuk, husband to Gwyneth Paltrow and, more importantly, the scion of Hadassah leadership. The show, which brilliantly celebrates the primarily African-American and Latinx characters in that movement, also stars Jewish actress Sandra Bernhardt.
“Succession” Jesse Armstrong, the creator of the HBO hit about a family brawling over a media empire, is not Jewish, but one of his earlier works, “No Kaddish In Carmarthen,” is about a teenager who becomes obsessed with Woody Allen and pretends to be Jewish. Jewish actor Peter Friedman stars alongside the ensemble cast.
“This Is Us” The feel-bad NBC show was created by Jewish auteur Dan Fogelman, and features a near-minyan of Jewish producers.
“Barry” Who could forget Jewish actor Henry Winkler joyously accepting his first ever Emmy award in a decades-long career for last year’s first season of “Barry,” HBO’s dark comedy about vocation and assassination. Co-created by Jewish “Seinfeld” writer Alec Berg and actor Bill Hader (not ours, sadly), the show also stars Jewish actors Sarah Goldberg and Glenn Fleshler.
“Fleabag” There is exactly one Jewish thing about the exquisite BBC series “Fleabag,” and that is Jewish actor Brett Gelman, who plays the protagonist’s vile brother-in-law. In fact, the show’s demonically brilliant recent second season centers around the story of a Catholic priest. But it’s so deeply, vitally demanding about questions of faith that the Amazon Prime show should be required viewing for all religious people. It’s that good.
“The Good Place” The brilliant Michael Shur, creator of NBC’s “The Good Place,” is one of ours — and his show is not about religion, but it is about morality, finding funny and touching ways to ask how people should live, and what we owe to one another.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” We believe the Jewishness of Amazon Prime’s “Mrs. Maisel” is self-evident.
“Russian Doll” “The show’s themes are undeniably Jewish,” wrote PJ Grisar for the Forward, of Natasha Lyonne’s eerie Netflix piece about death. In the space of just a few episodes, the Orthodox-raised actress and show-creator invokes Jewish numerology, Talmudic quotes, rabbis, yeshivas, Freud, therapists, and angels.
“Schitt’s Creek” Unexpected but nevertheless delightful is the slow-rising mass-obsession over the schticky Canadian comedy show developed by longtime comedy fixture Eugene Levy and his son Dan Levy.
“Veep” The HBO political satire that tends to sweep awards season stars Jew-ish phenom Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
“Chernobyl” The celebrated HBO mini-series was created by Craig Mazin, the Jewish screenwriter who also has the distinction of being Senator Ted Cruz’s former college roommate.
“Escape at Dannemora” The electrifying Showtime drama was created by Jewish actor Ben Stiller, and stars Jewish actress Patricia Arquette.
“Fosse/Verdon” FX’s biographical story of dance visionaries Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon (not ours, folks!) also portrays real-life Jewish celebrities and intellectuals Neil Simon, Joel Grey, Hal Prince, Jerry Orbach, Paddy Chayefsky, Michael Kidd, and Dustin Hoffman.
“Sharp Objects” The eerie HBO show about mothers and daughters was created by Jewish hit-maker Marti Noxon.
“When They See Us” A Jewish character plays a major role in this Netflix mini-series, but maybe not in the way you would like — Felicity Huffman plays Linda Fairstein in the story of the Central Park Five from Ava DuVernay.
Interestingly, no Jewish actors are up for awards in Outstanding Lead Actors or Actresses in a Drama Series. When it comes to the comedy categories, that changes.
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:
Jewish actors Michael Douglas, for “The Kominsky Method” and Eugene Levy, for “Schitt’s Creek” are nominated alongside Anthony Anderson for “Black-ish, “Don Cheadle for “Black Monday,” Ted Danson for “The Good Place,” and Bill Hader for “Barry.”
Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
It’s Selina Meyer’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) last ride through award season, and the Jew-ish actress, who is the winner of the more Emmy awards than any actor or actress in history. But hot on her heels are Rachel Brosnahan, who has already collected a handful of statuettes for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and beloved newcomer to the category Natasha Lyonne, for “Russian Doll.” The rest of the ladies are just as formidable:
Christina Applegate for “Dead to Me,” Catherine O’Hara for “Schitt’s Creek,” and Phoebe Waller-Bridge for “Fleabag.” It’s been said often, but never felt truer — all of these artists are outstanding. There is simply no need to pick a “best.”
In less-central categories, Adam Sandler got a nod for his Saturday Night Live hosting gig, Maya Rudolph was nominated for guest-starring as God (essentially) on “The Good Place,” Julia Garner for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama for “Ozark,” and the immensely lovely Alex Bornstein, for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” with Sarah Goldberg nominated for “Barry” in the same category. Alan Arkin and Henry Winkler will face off for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy for “The Kominsky Method” and “Barry,” respectively. Jewish-ish Forward-favorite Trevor Noah is nominated for Outstanding Variety/Talk Series for his show “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” and the dependable warmhearted genius Sarah Silverman got a nom for Outstanding Variety/Sketch Series for “I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman.”
Can you believe people still have the nerve to be anti-Semitic, what with these glorious talents? Not that we think it should work that way, but come on! We’ll see our best friends Sarah, Billy, Eugene, Brad, Marti, Henry, and Natasha in just a few weeks.
Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny