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Tired of waiting for the delayed Emmys? Our TV critic presents The Deggy Awards

So what if the second season of <em>The Bear</em> isn't eligible for Monday's Emmys? The annual, imaginary Deggy Awards aren't concerned with arbitrary cutoffs or categories. Above, Jeremy Allen White and Molly Gordon in <em>The Bear, </em>Season 2.
Chuck Hodes
So what if the second season of The Bear isn't eligible for Monday's Emmys? The annual, imaginary Deggy Awards aren't concerned with arbitrary cutoffs or categories. Above, Jeremy Allen White and Molly Gordon in The Bear, Season 2.

There may not be a more confusing time for the 75th Emmy awards to take the stage.

That's because 2023's Emmys ceremony, delayed by the Hollywood writers and performers strikes to Monday, Jan. 15, will probably wind up honoring a different set of TV episodes than the programs honored a day earlier by the Critics' Choice Awards or this past Sunday by the Golden Globes.

Let's look at FX's The Bear – a searing drama with touches of humor, already confusingly classified as a comedy. It's nominated at the Emmys for its first season, which aired before the May 31, 2023, cutofffor the current nominees. But at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards, The Bear is judged on episodes from its second season, which dropped on Hulu June 22, because those shows can honor anything that aired in 2023.

Jamie Lee Curtis as Carmy's mother, Donna, in Season 2 of <em>The Bear.</em>
Chuck Hodes / FX
Jamie Lee Curtis as Carmy's mother, Donna, in Season 2 of The Bear.

(So please, don't send me any emails or social media posts complaining that Jamie Lee Curtis got robbed at the Emmys. Her excellent turn in The Bear's second season as Carmy Berzatto's unhinged mom won't be eligible until this fall, when she will likely scoop up all the flowers she deserves at the 76th Emmy awards.)

All this serves as a poignant argument for why the Emmys academy (officially known as the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences) might need a little help picking out the best TV performances in a turbulent year. Yes, TV fanatics, it's time for my own, annual – strike-delayed – edition of The Deggys.

Improving the Emmys with The Deggys

Through tireless TV watching and a know-it-all critic's stubborn insistence that my opinion can kickstart a fun pop culture conversation, I've managed to turn The Deggys into something of an NPR tradition. The rules are pretty simple – there aren't many. That's because too often those knuckleheaded requirements – like cutoff dates for when series are eligible – can keep the most deserving efforts from the winners circle. Not on my watch, pal.

Here's is where I get to dish on what should and will win, with few-holds-barred and a skeptical eye out for groupthink and prevailing trends.

As a bonus, this can be your handy guide to what's worth watching on TV from 2023 that you might have missed. So let's get into it!

Best Drama Series

Nominees: Andor (Disney+), Better Call Saul (AMC), The Crown (Netflix), House of the Dragon (HBO), The Last of Us (HBO), Succession (HBO), The White Lotus (HBO), Yellowjackets (Showtime).

And the Deggy goes to ... Succession.

Matthew MacFadyen and Sarah Snook in HBO's <em>Succession</em>.
Matthew MacFadyen and Sarah Snook in HBO's Succession.

One of the toughest things to do in television is to provide a finale that is surprising, thrilling, appropriate and completely true-to-form for a high-quality series that, frankly, every fan on the planet has already gamed out with their own proposed endings. But somehow, creator/showrunner Jesse Armstrong and the crew at Succession pulled it off, denying Jeremy Strong's man-child Kendall control of the family-run, Murdoch-ish media behemoth, while staying true to the series' incisive look at a corrosive family and America's dysfunctional political/business systems.

I also wonder if Emmy voters will even remember some of these competing series enough to consider them seriously as contenders. Disney+'s Star Wars spinoff Andor debuted in September 2022; Better Call Saul concluded its stellar run with a mesmerizing finalein August 2022. Good as some of these other contenders were, none of them achieved what Succession did in a final season where sticking the landing justified the obsessive focus so many of us had on this show from its very first season.

OK, but who will actually win? That's also Succession. For years now, I've been giving away my big secret for predicting awards show winners, which involves looking at the list of most-nominated programs overall. That tells you what the voting body thinks of each series, and Succession has the most nominations of any series this time around at 27 – including nominations for just about every major performer on the program. So it seems like the Emmy academy is tracking with my own taste on this one, despite strong competition from The Last of Us (24 nominations) and The White Lotus (23 nominations).

Best Comedy Series

Nominees: Abbott Elementary (ABC), Barry (HBO), The Bear (FX/Hulu), Jury Duty (Peacock), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Prime Video), Only Murders in the Building (Hulu), Ted Lasso (Apple TV+), Wednesday (Netflix).

And the Deggy goes to ... The Bear

Jeremy Allen White as Carmy Berzatto in <em>The Bear.</em>
Chuck Hodes / FX
Jeremy Allen White as Carmy Berzatto in The Bear.

This, of course, is the reason why FX decided to place the show in this category, where its gritty emotionalism would stand out, away from the cage match of Succession vs. White Lotus vs. The Last of Us. Normally, I wouldn't reward such shenanigans, but The Bear is a show which has flowered mightily over two seasons, finding its voice while speaking on issues of class, race, capitalism, and found family vs the biological kind, and the scars each can leave. That edges it past Ted Lasso's less-assured third season (Apple TV+ still won't even say if that was the show's finale run) and inspired-yet-not-quite transcendent turns from Only Murders in the Building and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Runner-up: Barry, which turned TV upside down with so much of its production and content. But the finale was even grimmer than The Bear, and left me less excited about the show overall.

OK, but who will actually win? Ted Lasso. Looking at the total nominations, Ted Lasso has nearly twice the number as The Bear (21 versus 13). And in this oddball, delayed Emmycast, Ted Lasso's finale season, which wrapped up May 31, is competing against The Bear's first season, which was a little less impressive than its world-building, cameo-filled second go-round. Fortunately, the Deggys can cut through all that deadline stuff to focus on the episodes which aired in 2023.

Best Limited or Anthology Series

Nominees: Beef (Netflix), Dahmer - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer series (Netflix), Daisy Jones & the Six (Prime Video), Fleishman Is in Trouble (FX), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney+)

And the Deggy goes to ... Beef.

Steven Yeun as Danny in <em>Beef</em>.
Andrew Cooper / Netflix
Steven Yeun as Danny in Beef.

For me, it's not even close. This gonzo look at how an incident of road rage in a parking lot spirals into a blood feud that exposed the hollow hypocrisy of two lives – in the process taking on everything from Asian American family culture to runaway capitalism and forgiveness – is one of the most unexpected pleasures of last year's TV season. Add in Steven Yeun and Ali Wong acting their behinds off – yes, they're getting Deggys for best actor and actress in a limited series, to go with their Golden Globe wins – and you have an undeniable triumph. Which is why...

OK, who will actually win? Beef, once again. Mostly because it doesn't have the moral complications of elevating a serial killer like the Dahmer series, or the uneven story of Daisy Jones and Fleishman or the inexplicable nomination of a moribund Star Wars series in Obi-Wan Kenobi. Even the Emmy academy can't mess up this category that badly. I hope.

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama

Nominees: Aubrey Plaza, The White Lotus; Elizabeth Debicki, The Crown; J. Smith-Cameron, Succession; Jennifer Coolidge, The White Lotus; Meghann Fahy, The White Lotus; Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul; Sabrina Impacciatore, The White Lotus; Simona Tabasco, The White Lotus.

And the Deggy goes to ... Elizabeth Debicki, J. Smith-Cameron AND Rhea Seehorn.

Elizabeth Debicki in <em>The Crown</em>
/ Netflix
Elizabeth Debicki in The Crown

Didn't I say there were few rules here? This follows in a couple of Deggy traditions, handing an award to Seehorn — an actor criminally overlooked by the Emmys during her time on Better Call Saul – and giving multiple honors to deserving nominees in the same category (still waiting on my "thank you" from Steve Martin and Martin Short for 2022, by the way).

Rhea Seehorn in <em>Better Call Saul.</em>
Greg Lewis / AMC/Sony Pictures TV
AMC/Sony Pictures TV
Rhea Seehorn in Better Call Saul.

But these performers all turned in mind-boggling performances this cycle, from Smith-Cameron's exasperated, always-surviving underling Gerri to Debicki's spellbinding ability to embody Princess Diana without ever looking like she was delivering an impression or mimicry. And Seehorn already has a Deggy for her bravura performance as Kim Wexler, a woman who decided to save her soul by leaving behind a man she loved. Fortunately, for the Deggys, I don't have to pick between them.

OK, who will actually win? Jennifer Coolidge. The Emmy academy loves her take on The White Lotus' needy, self-absorbed heiress Tanya McQuoid. And since she – spoiler alert – dies in the most recent episodes, this is the last chance to get a show-stopping Coolidge acceptance speech in the telecast.

Best Talk Series

Nominees: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central), Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC), Late Night with Seth Meyers (NBC), The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS), The Problem with Jon Stewart (Apple TV+).

And the Deggy goes to ... Late Night with Seth Meyers and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Seth Meyers on Dec. 13, 2023.
Lloyd Bishop / NBC
Seth Meyers on Dec. 13, 2023.

This time around, the Emmy academy rejiggered its rules so Oliver, who wins this category most every year, would be shunted off to compete against Saturday Night Live, which always wins its category, Scripted Variety Series. But Meyers' and Oliver's shows belong in the same category, so I'm undoing that nonsense. Oliver deliberately tackles some of the toughest topics on television and makes them entertaining, insightful and impactful (please check out this one on freight trains, this one on dollar stores and this story on how they hijacked New Zealand's Bird of the Century contest). Meyers seems to relax into his own skin more every season, offering incisive political takes with an ease and charm that impresses.

Honorable mention/shoutout: The Daily Show, which has reinvented itself every week to accommodate guest hosts since Trevor Noah left the program in late 2022. And props to every show nominated, which saw new episodes halted for months by the Hollywood writers strike, just as questions about the survival of the genre have grown.

OK, so who will actually win? Colbert in his category and Oliver in his. Because Emmy loves those guys in ways they have certainly earned.

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Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.