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Critic's picks for Emmy nominations: Love for Kristen Bell, ‘Twin Peaks’ and … ‘Detectorists’

Critic's picks for Emmy nominations: Love for Kristen Bell, ‘Twin Peaks’ and … ‘Detectorists’
Toby Jones, left, and costar, director and writer Mackenzie Crook in a scene from Acorn TV's "Detectorists." (Acorn TV)

The nominations for the 70th annual Emmy Awards will be announced Thursday. And once again, a lot of excellent television airing on networks, cable and streaming services will get nods while more excellent television on those same platforms are relegated to the sidelines.

However, TV critics Lorraine Ali and Robert Lloyd have come up with their picks on what they feel is Emmy nomination-worthy. There are some familiar choices, and even more non-familiar ones. If they were voting, here’s what they would choose.

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ROBERT LLOYD’S PICKS

I want to say first that I find the Emmys nonsensical. Giving out trophies for something as various and impossible to quantify as creative work seems to me not just silly but actually inimical to creativity, which does not need your stinking badges and, indeed, suffers when it strives to win them. Nevertheless, I offer these names, which might as easily be (many) others, in the spirit of spreading the love.

Comedy series: "Detectorists" (Acorn TV). Written and directed by and starring Mackenzie Crook, this beautiful pastoral comedy – set around metal-detecting hobbyists searching for Saxon gold and spiritual connection – makes a song out of the present and past, what changes and what remains.

Drama series: "Twin Peaks: The Return" (Showtime). Superbly unaccountable, the extremely belated, happily inconclusive third and final season of David Lynch's Northwest noir supernatural comic melodrama was a show in which you not only never knew what would happen next, but how it would happen – as farce, horror, in color or black and white, a tribute to Georges Méliès, or something made by people who had never worked a camera before.

Limited series: “American Vandal” (Netflix). This pitch-perfect mockuseries — I guess that’s the word — plays off the current vogue for anthology shows and true crime, with “Serial”/”Jinx”-style investigation into a high school student accused of vandalizing cars in the teachers’ parking lot. It’s also a teen romance, with teen sleuthing, and an inquiry into the process of inquiring.

Lead actress in a comedy series: Kristen Bell ("The Good Place," NBC). A team player as star, Bell would have fit perfectly in the films of Frank Capra or Preston Sturges and anywhere else Jean Arthur and Irene Dunne might have landed. The glue that cements a universally great cast, she balances awfulness and likability in a way that doesn’t cancel out either one, as step by back-step by step she becomes a person worthy of something better than eternal punishment.

Lead actor in a comedy series: Louie Anderson ("Baskets," FX). Some would classify Anderson, who plays the mother of obvious lead Zach Galifianakis (in two roles), as a supporting actor; but it's his quiet performance that defines the series and makes it real, grounding Galifianakis’ more hectic characters with equal parts disappointment and caring.

Lead actress in a drama: Sandra Oh ("Killing Eve," BBC America). Casting a 40-something Korean-Canadian actress best known for a long run on a hospital show as the protagonist in a sexy, international cat-and-mouse suspense thriller was not the obvious choice. But Oh makes it feel like the inevitable one, as a dreamy intelligence agent suddenly thrust into the dream.

Lead actor in a drama: Kyle MacLachlan ("Twin Peaks,” Showtime). One of those actors whose roles are habitually out of the norm, MacLachlan's acting is not so much a case of good or bad as right or wrong. "Twin Peaks" – in which he plays three roles but one person, maybe – wouldn't be "Twin Peaks" without him.

Eden Sher, right, with Atticus Shaffer as brother Brick, was a delight through nine seasons of "The Middle."
Eden Sher, right, with Atticus Shaffer as brother Brick, was a delight through nine seasons of "The Middle." (Michael Ansell / ABC)

Supporting actress in a comedy: Eden Sher (“The Middle,” ABC). For nine seasons, Sher shepherded the coming of age of Sue Heck, an entirely original character whose abilities never matched her enthusiasm, but whose enthusiasm was matchless.

Supporting actor in a comedy: Lamorne Morris ("New Girl," Fox). Nobody in “New Girl” made me laugh as reliably or as hard as Morris' goofball Winston – police officer, lover, cat fancier and, alongside star Zooey Deschanel, the lovable one. (But I am going to cheat and squeeze Dan Levy in beside him, whose new emotional depth on "Schitt's Creek" was emblematic of a great season for that show.)

Supporting actress in a drama: Jean Smart ("Legion," FX). Three decades after she arrived on the set of "Designing Women" in clouds of sweet innocence, Smart continues to surprise with her depth and sharp edges. This choice is also a memo to myself to finish the second season of "Legion."

Supporting actor in a drama: Harry Dean Stanton ("Twin Peaks: The Return," Showtime). This is for singing "Red River Valley,” and all the rest of it.

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