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Emmys 2022: All you need to know about the drama races

A dapper man in a tan jacket stands away from the crowd at an elegant outdoor reception as he talks on a cellphone.
Matthew Macfadyen takes a call in the Season 3 finale of “Succession.”
(Graeme Hunter)

I could prattle on for a few paragraphs in this introduction about what might happen in the drama categories when the 74th Emmys are presented on Sept. 12. But let’s be concise. Remember that series of McDonald’s commercials that “Succession” star Brian Cox did, the spots that were so delightful it almost made you forget the chain’s terrible food and unconscionable carbon footprint, the ones that ended with the tagline: “I’m lovin’ it”?

“Succession,” its stars (though maybe not Cox) and its fans are going to be lovin’ it when the ceremony ends. Here’s hoping they find a better meal to celebrate with. Ba-da-ba-ba-ba!

DRAMA SERIES
(Ranked in order of preference)
1. “Succession”
2. “Severance”
3. “Better Call Saul”
4. “Yellowjackets”
5. “Squid Game”
6. “Stranger Things”
7. “Euphoria”
8. “Ozark”

Likely winner: “Succession.” With 25 nominations, the most of any series, the swaggering, Shakespearean family drama looks like a sure bet to reclaim the series Emmy it won in 2020. With that foregone conclusion, can I be excused for looking forward to next year when “Succession” and “The Crown” will likely, finally, compete for the first time, setting up an epic clash rivaling only “Boar on the Floor” in terms of the cutthroat, psychological drama it promises.

Deserving alternate: “Severance” inspired plenty of passionate debate during its spring run on Apple TV+, as well as offering a bevy of ideas for office life if/when office life ever returns as we once knew it. (Every workplace should have an egg bar, right?) A smart, stylish inquiry into the toll an insidious corporation takes upon its workforce, “Severance” tapped into the existential angst of our times and our elusive quest for some semblance of a work-life balance. I loved it, even if I’ll never look at waffles the same way again.

DRAMA ACTRESS
1. Melanie Lynskey, “Yellowjackets”
2. Zendaya, “Euphoria”
3. Laura Linney, “Ozark”
4. Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”
5. Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”
6. Reese Witherspoon, “The Morning Show”

Likely winner: Zendaya. Zendaya’s 2020 surprise win — I won’t call it an “upset” at the risk of triggering her fans — feels like a distant memory (though, truthfully, everything from two years ago does). She won when “Euphoria” wasn’t nominated, and now that voters have recognized the series for its harrowing, ruthlessly bleak (but never boring!) second season, it’s no leap to predict a repeat.

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Deserving alternate: First, let’s ask the obvious: Did voters watch the new seasons of “The Morning Show” and “Killing Eve”? Because they were bad and did their actors no favors. Meanwhile, Kelly Reilly (“Yellowstone”), Britt Lower (“Severance”) and Mandy Moore (“This Is Us”) were no-shows. Bizarre. At least Lynskey secured a nomination for her superb turn as a woman understandably haunted by (and angry about) youthful trauma in “Yellowjackets.” Can Lynskey win? Well, that’s a long shot. But it’s hard not to root for a woman who celebrates her Emmy nomination by going fridge shopping with her husband.

DRAMA ACTOR
1. Lee Jung-jae, “Squid Game”
2. Jeremy Strong, “Succession”
3. Adam Scott, “Severance”
4. Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
5. Brian Cox, “Succession”
6. Jason Bateman, “Ozark”

Likely winner: Vote-splitting really isn’t a thing, so this Emmy could return to one of the members of the Roy family, with Strong having won in 2020. But Lee won the Screen Actors Guild Award earlier this year, and I’d guess that his hit series won’t go home empty-handed. Plus, he took us and his character on such a journey through the show’s heart-wrenching first season that it feels like he needs to be rewarded many times over.

Deserving alternate: Really, anyone from this list, save for Bateman, would be worthy of winning. (Not to hate on Bateman, but he already won an Emmy — drama series direction — for the empty, inane “Ozark.”)

DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Rhea Seehorn, “Better Call Saul”
2. Jung Ho-yeon, “Squid Game”
3. Patricia Arquette, “Severance”
4. Julia Garner, “Ozark”
5. Sydney Sweeney, “Euphoria”
6. Christina Ricci, “Yellowjackets”
7. Sarah Snook, “Succession”
8. J. Smith-Cameron, “Succession”

Likely winner: Garner was also nominated for her lead turn on the limited series “Inventing Anna,” a shallow, formulaic true(ish) crime story. Voters like her! They really like her! And they love her bad-ass “Ozark” character (and Garner’s performance) enough to give her Emmys the last two times she earned nominations. A three-peat seems probable.

Deserving alternate: “Better Call Saul” now has 46 Emmy nominations. It has never won an Emmy. That’s beyond ridiculous, almost as absurd as the length of time it took Seehorn to earn her first nomination. Given all that history, it might be a bit optimistic to think that Seehorn could go from perpetual snub to Emmy winner, but the work speaks for itself — and, with the last episodes of “Better Call Saul” now airing, it continues to do so right as voters are pondering their ballots. Yes, these particular episodes will be eligible for next year’s Emmys, but the way Seehorn has conveyed Kim Wexler’s despair and guilt and self-loathing has been riveting and will undoubtedly linger in voters’ minds. Why wait until next year?

DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Matthew Macfadyen, “Succession”
2. Kieran Culkin, “Succession”
3. Oh Young-soo, “Squid Game”
4. John Turturro, “Severance”
5. Park Hae-soo, “Squid Game”
6. Nicholas Braun, “Succession”
7. Christopher Walken, “Severance”
8. Billy Crudup, “The Morning Show”

Likely winner: I know a lot of people think Culkin will win, which is perfect because once again, everyone’s underestimating Tom and the brilliant actor who plays him, Macfadyen. Tom spent most of the season musing about prison life, making creepy proposals to Shiv about starting a family (“I’m just vibing to your sexy window”) and nursing resentments until the thrilling finale when he sells out Shiv and her siblings and casts his lot with Logan. It was brilliantly executed, the stuff that wins awards.

Deserving alternate: But maybe everyone is right and Culkin wins. Who could complain? He was equally good in the season finale, opening up Roman’s pain and vulnerability in ways that probably snuck up on even the show’s most cynical fans. He still believed Dad cared! To see Roman discarded was absolutely heartbreaking.


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