Four “Unpopular” Emmy-Nominated Shows We Should All Be Watching

Outstanding Animated Series

Photo via V Series Finale


What it’s about:

The darkly amusing and wildly impossible exploits of Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin), a master spy working in global espionage for the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS). The show also features a misfit cast of Archer’s reluctant enablers, including his boss and mother Malory, rarely seen without a drink in her hand and a biting remark on her tongue, and fellow ISIS agent Lana Kane, lethal and efficient, as Archer’s sole voice of reason.


Why you should be watching:

Archer’s brand of comedy is smart, mean and loaded with cleverly deployed pop culture references. It’s a rare show that respects its audience’s intelligence, while also giving us the surplus of mindless violence and action we’ve all come to crave (and in gorgeous animation, too!).


HBO’s Veep

Outstanding Comedy Series

Photo via Trbimg


What it’s about:

Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Veep’s fictional Vice President, and her (largely politically inept, way out of depth) staff of advisers and right-hands navigating the increasingly chaotic world of American politics. Selina wants to leave behind a shining legacy worthy of inclusion in history books—but because it’s politics, something is always going up in flames and the POTUS never bothers to call.


Why you should be watching:

If you’ve ever thought that you could be better at verbally demolishing people’s self-worth and shining a harsh light on their mediocrity, let Veep be your crash course. It’s less a show about politics and more about the spiteful, power-hungry people who work in it—and all the scathing burns they regularly inflict on each other.


Netflix’s Master of None

Outstanding Comedy Series

Photo via Netflix


What it is:

A slice-of-life comedy-drama covering a slew of topical sociocultural issues through smart, observational humor. It showcases precisely the kind of quality work you’d expect from Aziz Ansari (and co-creator Alan Young), whose stand-up features commentary on a lot of the same subjects: racism in the film industry, what being an American is like for someone who isn’t white and all the personal crises that comes with being an "adult" millennial.


Why you should be watching:

Ansari and Young do a lot with their ten 25-minute episodes, but not one of those episodes feel like a hack-job. They manage to toe the delicate balance between concluding a complicated arc in a way that feels satisfactory and ensuring that the conversations they have within the show stay nuanced, out of respect for their subject matter. Master of None never pretends to have all the answers, but it so valiantly tries to help us figure them out.


FX’s The Americans

Outstanding Drama Series

Photo via Si WSJ


What it’s about:

Two soviet KGB agents, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) undercover as an American married couple in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. A period drama set during the Cold War in the 1980’s, show creator Joe Weisberg claims that The Americans, despite the dangerous allure that marks the word "spy," is ultimately a story about marriage and the profound difficulties that come with it.


Why I’ll be watching:

Three words: soviet sleeper agents. I’m endlessly fascinated with any piece of pop culture that stylishly and tastefully fictionalizes the world of Cold War era covert operations (cf. the 2015 Man from U.N.C.L.E. reboot, Marvel’s Black Widow and The Winter Soldier characters), and given the truly impressive host of prestigious television awards The Americans has been up for—not to mention the steady stream of think-pieces dedicated to convincing the world it’s the best drama we’re not watching—I’m sold. I’m pulling it up to stream the minute I finish writing this.


Honorable Mentions


IFC’s Portlandia

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

Photo via AMC Networks


A surrealist comedy send-up of hipster culture created by and starring Saturday Night Live alum Fred Armisen and Sleater-Kinney vocalist Carrie Brownstein.


BBC America’s Luther

Outstanding Television Movie

Photo via Oregon Live


A psychological crime drama about London-based homicide detective DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) who’s brought in to investigate a deeply disturbing series of murders.

Words by Ayana Tolentino

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