Your Viewing Guide to the 2018 Emmy-Nominated Shows You May Have Skipped
By Stacy Lambe
Netflix / USA / Netflix / BBC America / Hulu
When the nominees for the 70th Emmy Awards were announced in July, there were plenty of familiar shows and ratings hits -- The Americans, black-ish, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, This Is Us, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Westworld -- along with a handful of newer series that have garnered plenty of buzz, but may have been overlooked when trying to decide what to watch each week in the ever-crowded TV season.
Emmy Nominations: Six including Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Period Costumes Key Episodes: “The Boy on the Bridge,” and two co-written by Cary Joji Fukunaga: “These Bloody Thoughts” and “Castle in the Sky” Where to Watch: Watch TNT app, TNT on Demand
Based on the novel by Caleb Carr, the psychological thriller begins after a series of gruesome murders of young male prostitutes in 1896 captures the attention of New York City. New police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) recruits criminal psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Bruhl), aka the alienist, and illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans) to secretly investigate the murders alongside Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning), who has goals of becoming the city's first female detective. The unexpectedly resonant series is moody drama, reminiscent of other period shows like Alias Grace, Boardwalk Empire and The Knick. Come for the lush costumes and settings, stay for the performances by Fanning and Bruhl, in a rare break from his career-making villainous roles. Plus, TNT just ordered a second installment in the series: The Angel of Darkness. --Stacy Lambe
Poking fun at true-crime entertainment like Serial and Making a Murderer, the surprise Netflix hit American Vandal caught plenty of viewers off guard by mining unexpectedly resonant television out of a prurient high school mystery. Budding filmmakers and, let’s face it, nerds, Peter (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam (Griffin Gluck) set out to clear the name of class clown Dylan (Jimmy Tatro, nailing the role of dumb jock) after he’s been expelled because of an elaborate prank that left teachers’ cars covered in genitalia at their Southern California school. The resulting documentary explores, in hilarious and often painstaking detail, the “heinous” crime and its aftermath for both the accused and his defenders. Start streaming for the dick jokes but keep watching because Vandal also has plenty to say about the high school experience and manages to create a compelling mystery that is still being parsed by obsessed fans. --Elliott Smith
Following the success of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, a courtroom drama about the 1995 murder trial of the former footballer that earned Sarah Paulson her first Emmy for portraying prosecutor Marcia Clark, the second installment of ACS steers far away from the law and order of the first. Instead, The Assassination of Gianni Versace takes audiences on a dark journey about Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss at his best), a troubled gay man who murdered five men, including designer Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez). Told in reverse order, the show kicks off with the killing of Versace and then traces Cunanan’s journey back through the four prior murders -- with notable appearances by Finn Wittrock and Cody Fern, on the cusp of a breakout with upcoming roles in American Horror Story and House of Cards, and Judith Light as the widow of one of Cunanan’s victims -- and his strained relationship with his father in an attempt to explain Cunanan’s psyche and what drove him to seek fame, notoriety and bloodshed. --S.L.
Emmy Nominations: 13 including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series - Bill Hader Key Episodes: “Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast, and Keep Going” and “Chapter Eight: Know Your Truth” Where to Watch: HBO Go, HBO Now
On Barry, Bill Hader’s first scripted series following his tenure on Saturday Night Live, see the actor playing a disaffected Midwest assassin who begrudgingly accepts a hit job in Los Angeles, where he meets a troupe of aspiring Hollywood hopefuls and realizes his true calling: acting. The darkly funny, weirdly meta series supported by standout performances from newcomer Sarah Goldberg and fellow nominee Henry Winkler is better binged than watched week-to-week, with the humor building on itself until the explosive season finale. --S.L.
Emmy Nominations: 10 including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series - Betty Gilpin Key Episodes: “Pilot,” “Debbie Does Something” and “Money's in the Chase” Where to Watch: Netflix
It's woman vs. woman in the ring, but somehow it doesn't get much more girl power than this. Inspired by the 1980s women's wrestling promotion, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, GLOW follows struggling actress Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) as she and other women put their acting and athleticism to the test to join a female-centered wrestling show. Things get more complicated when Ruth's former BFF, soap star Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin, who portrays a woman scorned like we've never seen before), joins the show, setting up a match for the ages -- if she and Ruth could only put their differences aside. With striking makeup and costumes, an exquisite ensemble and a 1980s setting that somehow makes everything feel fresh, there's nothing not to love. And season two was just released, so what are you waiting for? --Jennifer Drysdale
Emmy Nominations: 12 including Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie - Michelle Dockery Key Episodes: “An Incident at Creede” and “The Ladies of La Belle” Where to Watch: Netflix
In her second series regular role following Downton Abbey, Michelle Dockery washes away any memory of Lady Mary with Godless. On the 1880s-set Western saga from Steven Soderbergh and Scott Frank (Logan screenwriter), Dockery plays the steely Alice Fletcher, one of many widowed women in La Belle, New Mexico, whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of injured outlaw Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell), who is being pursued by the crazed Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels). While the series has all the makings of a classic Western, particularly in its themes of revenge, redemption and survival, its focus on the female perspective offers a fresh take on a tried and trued, male-dominated genre that lets its female cast -- including nominees Dockery and Merritt Wever -- shine. --S.L.
As high-concept as Lost and as hysterical as The Office, The Good Place is uniquely its own in every sense. Following a group of scrappy former bad people trying to find eternal happiness in the afterlife, the show’s sophomore season had the difficult task of reinventing itself following a bombshell season one finale reveal. Ted Danson’s comedic genius has never been more evident, while guest star Maya Rudolph nearly steals the show with her dry wit. Through endless amounts of puns, shocking twists and delightful performances from Kristen Bell et al., viewers will root for these would-be antiheroes in their quest for goodness. While it’s definitely worth bingeing the whole show in order to watch the jaw-dropping season one twist play out, any episode is guaranteed to put a smile on your mother-forking face. --Paige Gawley
Emmy Nominations: Two including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series - Sandra Oh, Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series - Phoebe Waller-Bridge Key Episodes: “Nice Face,” “Don’t I Know You?” and “God, I’m Tired” Where to Watch: BBC America app, Buy on Amazon/iTunes
Based on Luke Jennings’ Villanelle novella series and developed for television by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Killing Eve is your next female-centric binge-watch. The eight-episode first season offers just as many laughs as it does thrills, anchored by two incredible lead performances: Jodie Comer as the ruthless assassin Villanelle, and the fantastic Sandra Oh as the naïve but eager Eve, whose first job as a secret agent is tracking her. The two women quickly become obsessed with one another, providing the most fun cat-and-mouse dynamic since Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs. Oh and Comer work so delightfully off of one another you can’t help but root for both of them, even if they are technically adversaries. While Oh is irresistibly likable and relatable in her portrayal of Eve, Comer takes the clichéd femme fatale role of Villanelle and makes her just as funny and sexy as she is terrifying. This globe-trotting thriller, which has been renewed for a second season, is not to be missed. --Rande Iaboni
Emmy Nominations: Four including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie - Jeff Daniels, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie - Michael Stuhlbarg Key Episodes: “Mistakes Were Made,” “Y2K” and “9/11” Where to Watch: Hulu
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Lawrence Wright, this 10-episode series follows the real-life events leading up to Sept. 11, 2001. Jeff Daniels is superb as FBI Agent John O’Neill, who grapples with infedelity, a rivalry with the CIA and his dwindling power. Flash-forwards of the 2004 9/11 hearings add an eerie sense of reality and serve as a showcase for his fellow nominee, Michael Stuhlbarg (coming off of Call Me by Your Name), as Richard Clarke, who was the national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counter-terrorism during the attacks. The show’s finale, which covers the day of the attacks, is devastating and difficult to watch, but it’s not gratuitous. Fans of Homeland and The Americans will be riveted by The Looming Tower’s intense character studies, international setting and fast-paced plot. --P.G.
Emmy Nominations: 14 including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - Rachel Brosnahan Key Episodes: “Pilot,” “Put That on Your Plate!” and "Thank You and Good Night" Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
Think Gilmore Girls, if Lorelai was a wealthy Jewish 1950s housewife pursuing a career in stand-up comedy. That description alone -- along with Amy Sherman-Palladino as creator and executive producer -- was enough to ensure The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel would be a hit. But it's the Amazon series' cast that really takes it to the next level. Rachel Brosnahan could not be more captivating as the show's titular character, bringing vibrancy, life and a whole lot of charm to the signature, snappy Sherman-Palladino dialogue. She makes an unstoppable pair with the also-nominated Alex Borstein as her manager, Susie Myerson, while Tony Shalhoub as her father, Abe Weissman, offers the perfect amount of cynicism to bring the show back to earth. Mrs. Maisel's 14 Emmy nominations couldn't be more deserved. It is, in fact, marvelous. --J.D.
With Mindhunter, David Fincher reimagines the cop thriller for TV. Jonathan Groff -- doing his best work since HBO’s short-lived Looking -- and Holt McCallany play two FBI agents researching serial killers in the early days of criminal psychology. Part procedural, part Fincher-esque horror show -- both Seven and Zodiac are great reference points here -- the series shines when the agents try to get into the minds of the many psychopaths they interview and hunt down. The deeper they go, the scarier it gets, with the most chilling interactions happening between agent Ford (Groff) and convicted killer Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton, who rightfully earned the show's sole Emmy nomination). --S.L.
Emmy Nominations: Five including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series - Jason Bateman, Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series - Jason Bateman Key Episodes: “Sugarwood” and “The Toll” Where to Watch: Netflix
On Ozark, Jason Bateman shines as financial planner Marty Byrd, a man who seems to do everything right but always remains in someone else's shadow -- and cleaning up someone else's mess. The Netflix series created by Bill Dubuque kicks off as Marty is dragged into a high-stakes, dangerous mission to launder money for a Mexican drug lord in the Missouri Ozarks, though viewers soon realize that Marty isn't a victim at all. Rather, he's just as morally questionable as the cartel boss he serves. Also starring Laura Linney as Marty's wife, Wendy, and Julia Garner as spunky spitfire Ruth Langmore, whose criminal family threatens to blow Marty's cover, Ozark offers more than just comparisons to Breaking Bad. Like the mountains themselves, there's much more to be discovered. --J.D.
Emmy Nominations: Five including Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie - Benedict Cumberbatch Key Episodes: You shouldn't skip around, but “Bad News” and “At Last” Where to Watch: Showtime Anytime
Benedict Cumberbatch can do literally anything. As if we needed reminding, the Brit stuns us once more with his outstanding turn as the title character in the Showtime miniseries Patrick Melrose, where he plays an Englishman attempting to overcome his addiction, deeply rooted in childhood abuse at the hands of his father (Hugo Weaving) and a delinquent mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh). It’s a tale that’s been told dozens of times over, but the five-part series -- based on the Edward St Aubyn book series -- uses dual narratives of the past and the present (and embraces Cumberbatch’s unwitting charm and likability) to investigate how Patrick, a man extremely uncomfortable with lucidity, has gone so far down the rabbit hole that he may never come out the other side. --Philiana Ng
Emmy Nomination: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie - Regina King Key Episodes: “Pilot,” “Boxed Devil” and “A Boy and a Bike” Where to Watch: Netflix
Based on the Russian film The Major, Seven Seconds' 10-episode season follows the aftermath of a hit-and-run perpetrated by a white cop on a young black boy. As timely as it is devastating, Regina King -- nominated for her fourth Emmy in a row -- is spectacular in the role of a mother who will stop at nothing to get justice for her son. From cover-ups and lies to heartbreaking twists and turns, fans of Bloodline and Broadchurch will be hooked immediately. --P.G.
Emmy Nomination: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie - Jessica Biel Key Episodes: You shouldn't skip around, but “Part I” and “Part VII” Where to Watch: Netflix
Jessica Biel completely reinvents herself in The Sinner as a young mother, Cora Tannetti, who fatally stabs a man on a crowded beach with no apparent idea as to why she did it. Based on the Petra Hammesfahr novel, the USA Network crime drama deftly explores what happens when suppressed trauma -- of the psychological, emotional and sexual kind -- finally combusts, and the ride Biel’s Cora goes on is heartbreakingly tragic and eerily poignant to witness. Throughout the eight-part first season, Biel -- formerly of 7th Heaven fame -- shows us that there’s another gear to her as an actress, and it just may earn her an Emmy. --P.N.
Emmy Nominations: Two including Outstanding Television Movie, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie - Laura Dern Key Episodes: N/A Where to Watch: HBO Go, HBO Now
Filmmaker Jennifer Fox delivers a harrowing exploration of her own sexual abuse with The Tale. Laura Dern portrays Fox, who re-examines her first sexual relationship after coming across a middle school short story, realizing that her memories may have just been idealized versions of the truth that she told herself. The film pushes the boundaries of conventional filmmaking, creating a dialogue between the present and Fox’s memories. After earning rave reviews at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, the movie was picked up by HBO, possibly tanking Dern’s Oscar chances -- but the film was dutifully recognized by the Television Academy, proving there’s no slowing down the Dern-aissance. --S.L.
Emmy Nominations: Three including Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie - John Leguizamo Key Episodes: “The Strangers Across the Street” and “Operation Showtime” Where to Watch: Paramount Network app, Paramount Network on Demand
Based on real-life events, Waco tells the story of David Koresh (Taylor Kitsch), the controversial leader of the Branch Davidians who, along with 75 of his followers, perished in a deadly fire in 1993 following a violent 51-day standoff with the FBI. In the six-part miniseries, John Leguizamo plays undercover ATF agent Jacob Vazquez, who infiltrated the cult, joining the Branch Davidians and unexpectedly connecting with members of the group. While Kitsch was overlooked, Leguizamo’s Emmy nomination came as a genuine surprise due to the fact that he appears in only half the series. Leguizamo pulls off the near-impossible, expertly charting his character’s metamorphosis from a straight-laced fed tasked with a mission to a man sympathetic to the cult’s cause in the span of a handful of scenes. --P.N.
Emmy Nominations: Five including Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series, Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program - Chapman and Maclain Way Key Episodes: “Part 4,” “Part 5” and “Part 6” Where to Watch: Netflix
If you’ve never heard of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh or the residents of Rajneeshpuram, the events of Wild Wild Country unfold like something out of a Gillian Flynn story: residents of a small, rural town in 1980s Oregon find themselves at odds with a strange spiritual sect and the indomitable woman who stands at the right hand of its center. The six-part documentary series, directed by brothers Maclain and Chapman Way, tells the captivating, real-life story of the rise and fall of the Rajneeshees and their mercurial mastermind, Ma Anand Sheela, through present-day interviews as well as archival news footage, which serves as a surreal reminder of the story’s real-life grounding when events escalate to levels too outrageous for even the most ardent believer. --Meredith Kile
The 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, co-hosted by Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost and Michael Che, will air live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Monday, Sept. 17, starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on NBC. Check out the full list of nominees and ET’s ongoing Emmy coverage here.