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The Emmys That Should Have Been
If we made the rules, The CW would have way more of those gold figurines
The Emmys are one of television’s most prestigious award shows, and the nominators from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences did not ask us to weigh in, which is ultimately their decision but also potentially their downfall.
We’re cheering for a lot of the nominees — many of which are from Succession and White Lotus — but we’re also petty so we decided to put together the Emmys That Should Have Been. Below are a random assortment of performances from throughout the years that we say should have been nominated but never would be because either they’re from cheesy/teeny bopper/CW/crime shows that the Emmys would never consider, or because we’re joking. Which is which? That’s a secret we’ll never tell.
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Blake Lively, Gossip Girl
In the spring of 2014, 17-year-old Rachel had an AP Literature exam in the morning she had yet to study for, but she thought, Whatever, I can read. So instead she opened up her Dell laptop and went to Limewire or 123movies or one of those sites to pick up where she left off on season one of Gossip Girl — Jenny was lying about having sex with her gay boyfriend. Georgina was torturing Serena so intensely she had to go crawling to Chuck Bass. It was peak GG debauchery. But no one could have prepared young Rachel for the final scene of the episode. Serena, sobbing in Blair’s stairwell, is reluctant to open up about what Georgina is blackmailing her with. Blair assures Serena that nothing she says could shake their, in reality, very shaky friendship. Serena looks up at her, her eyeliner so heavy and her pupils so dilated, it’s like her eye slits have gone completely black and she might be in need of an exorcism. In the lowest register of Lively’s already breathy and coarse voice, she says, “I killed someone.”
A heavy drum machine synths at the same rhythm of Lively’s heaving chest and then the screen cuts to black. Safe to say, young Rachel did not pass that exam.
Did Serena really kill someone? No. But Lively had me believing she had, at minimum, one body stuffed somewhere in that penthouse bedroom of hers. Shows like Gossip Girl are filled with melodramatic moments like this, but Lively doesn’t get enough credit for how she played this scene. The way her eyes go dead after she delivers that punctuated sentence (girl, you could FEEL the period at the end of “someone”). Her entire face changes, her head straightens to an upright position, the tension in her cheekbones releases, like her soul really did leave her body. The performance was so terrifying and shocking I let out a shout and closed my laptop immediately. The line reading still pops into my head at any given moment and I get a little shiver down my spine. Emmy! -- Rachel
Aubrey Plaza, Criminal Minds
If you can make Matthew Grey Gubler somehow even more attractive in Criminal Minds, you deserve an Emmy and that’s just simple math. Aubrey Plaza did just this every time she guest starred as Cat Adams, a psychopathic serial killer who had it out for Gubler’s character Spencer Reid. There’s the maniacal smile, the little tongue curl and the classic Aubrey Plaza eye roll placed so perfectly in between shots of the Behavioral Analysis Unit’s clear fear. Plaza brought so much sexual tension to a show about rapists and murderers that I’m surprised she didn’t get immediately booted off. -- Mallika
Paul Wesley, The Vampire Diaries
Not everyone watched The CW’s The Vampire Diaries, but anyone who did knows exactly what you’re talking about when you reference “that one ‘Drop in the Ocean’ scene.” And this is a credit not just to the Ron Pope song, but to Paul Wesley. Season three opens with a dejected Elena (Nina Dobrev, who played four separate characters on this show and probably also belongs on this list but sorry!). She hasn’t heard from her vampire/bloodaholic boyfriend Stefan, who essentially traded his soul for his brother’s life at the end of last season and has been on a murdering rampage throughout the South (he feels super bad about it though!), in weeks, but on her birthday she gets a call from an unknown number. Dobrev gives a very soft and convincing “Stefan?” but it’s Wesley who breaks all of our hearts, sobbing like a toddler lost in the grocery store aisle on the other line. Had he just ripped many innocent humans to shreds a few scenes before? Yes, but in that moment he was babygirl. And if we’re giving Jeremy Strong the Emmy, he deserved one too! — Rachel
Whoever drew that line, Succession
Speaking of Succession, the show may have sweeped this year’s Emmy nominations but you know who didn’t get a nod? Whoever drew that little line that was either underlining Kendall’s name and indicating that Logan thought he should be Waystar Royco’s next CEO, or was crossing his name out completely. I like to think there was someone doing that over and over again until Jesse Armstrong finally walked over, patted them on the back and said “that’s the one.” — Mallika
Michael Seater and Ashley Leggat in Life with Derek
The trauma this scene in the short lived Canadian show Life with Derek wreaked in all our adolescent brains simply cannot be measured. It’s one of those childhood moments you look back on and think, wait?? Was that real or did we all collectively hallucinate implied incest on Disney? That the most sexual tension you have EVER seen on a Disney show happened between two stEP**** siblings locked in a closet together is of course scandalous. But no one is talking about the craft here. That soft smile Leggat gives. The sustained eye contact from Seater. This is a scene out of Bridgerton season two. Some readers might say, the two were dating in real life at the time, so it wasn’t really acting. But both came out recently to dispel that rumor: They were not dating, they just made a creative choice and stuck to it, baby! It takes some real gusto to insert some incestual horniness into a Disney show and for that, they deserve a reward. — Rachel
Leighton Meester & Ed Westwick, Gossip Girl
Okay well Rachel took one of the most obvious Gossip Girl Emmys-that-should-have-been scenes but I’m also going to argue that anytime Blair and Chuck were on a roof, it should have resulted in an award. That time Chuck was drunk, threatening to jump as Blair begged him to come down, and every high school girl watching thought “that’s love, baby!” when really that’s just manipulative behavior? Emmy. That time they couldn’t get together (again) because they were both running full-fledged companies as teenagers? Emmy. That time they didn’t exactly kill Chuck’s dad but didn’t exactly not kill him? Emmy. — Mallika
Sophia Bush, One Tree Hill
Chad Michael Murray is my enemy no. 1 (on screen and off) and that is because I will be supporting Mrs. Sophia Bush no matter what. She’s got a ton of great scenes as Brooke Davis in One Tree Hill (they really put that lady through the wringer) but the “I wanted you to fight for me” may take the cake as far as monologues go. The intensity with which she says “fight,” the sass in “I wanted you to say that there is no one else you could ever be with and that you’d rather be alone than without me,” … Brooke was even convincing herself that Lucas was worth all the fuss, which of course, he was not. She just wanted her partner to read her mind — is that so much to ask??? — Mallika
Scott Patterson, Gilmore Girls
There is one scene in Gilmore Girls that plays in a loop in my head over and over and ironically it does not include a Gilmore girl. It’s a scene between Luke Danes and his nephew/ resident bad boy Jess Mariano in which the two are fighting over Jess’ very poor school attendance. Luke tells Jess if he wants to keep living with him, he’s going to have to take the grade over, and Milo Ventimglia delivers his most Sylvester Stallone line reading of “I am NaUGHT going BACK to SCHOUUOL.” (It actually feels reminiscent of my favorite line delivery of all time: Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight yelling, “THEY KNEW, AHND THEY LET IT HAHPPEN.”) But it’s Luke’s monologue in response to his nephew’s angst that has my heart, and also my honorary Emmy nomination. Jess makes a classically snide comment about the life Luke has made for himself: he’ll go back to school so what? So he can be a diner owner? And Luke (pointedly NOT wearing his quintessential backwards baseball cap) lets him absolutely have it. Literally no one talks enough about this monologue so I’m just pasting it here:
“I own this business, kid! I built it, this is mine! I’m not at the mercy of some boss waiting and hoping to be chosen employee of the month for a couple extra hundred bucks and a plaque. I’m always employee of the month. I’m employee of the year, of the century, of the universe. You should be so lucky to have a job like mine.”
Patterson’s incredible delivery of this line invades my psyche constantly. When I’m the one to take the trash out in my apartment twice in a row? Employee of the YEAR of the YOONIVERSE. When I ordered 600 stickers with QR codes to our website last week? I own this business, kid! I built it, this is mine! — Rachel
Robert Sheehan, Misfits
I’ve brought up the 2009 British sci-fi comedy-drama Misfits several times in this newsletter and that’s because if you haven’t seen it yet, you should absolutely change that. There’s one scene in which the gang gets brainwashed by a straight-laced organization that wants them all to be “virtuous” into basically being squares. Nathan — who escapes this fate — gives a monologue to convince all the teens to snap out of it. “We’re young! We’re supposed to drink too much. We’re supposed to have bad attitudes and shag each other’s brains out. We are designed to party!” he yells from the roof. But the best line delivery comes when he describes what his friends now look like: “If you could just see yourselves. It breaks my heart. YOU’RE WEARING CARDIGANS!” — Mallika
Michaela Coel, Chewing Gum
Look, this is obviously a silly list and Michaela Coel has actually won a real Emmy for her dazzling HBO show I May Destroy You. But this Chewing Gum scene should have won her an Emmy immediately. Like they should have delivered it to her door as soon as this episode dropped on Netflix. The Jonathan Bailey guest spot just makes it all the better, but Coel’s “I’m a grown up woman. I JUST regularly make childlike mistakes.” She is God. — Rachel
Andrew Liu, Love Is Blind
From the monsters in American Horror Story to the demogorgon in Stranger Things, nothing on television has been more terrifying than when that guy Andrew on Love is Blind pretended to cry after his proposal was rejected. Asking the producers if they’re rolling… pulling out that little bottle of eye drops … all that sniffling… the “tears” rolling down his cheeks. The second hand embarrassment is too much for me. The least we can do is give him an Emmy-that-should-have-been nod for that performance. — Mallika
Question: What’s the best TV show theme song?
Mallika: I think I have to go with Succession’s because every time that little piano jingle comes on I can’t help but do that thing people do where they’re pretending to conduct an orchestra. Absolute banger! The iCarly theme song is also stuck in my head at least once a week despite me having nothing to do with the reboot, so that can be the runner up.
Rachel: There are so many, it’s impossible really. The obvious ones are The Sopranos of course, and I love any theme song selected by Rob Thomas (the tv writer for shows like Veronica Mars, IZombie and Party Down, NOT the Matchbox 20 singer, though it would be fun if he chose a Matchbox 20song for one of his shows). But I’m going to go with Regina Spektor’s “You’ve Got Time” opener for Orange is the New Black because I genuinely think I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did in that show if I didn’t have that song to look forward to at the start of every ep.
In the latest news of the Hollywood strikes, executives and writers are returning to the bargaining table this week. Meanwhile Robert Carradine, who played Lizzie’s dad on Lizzie McGuire, posted a residual check he got from Disney for… literally $0. And that’s why they’re striking, people!
As this is one of many newsletters we will write about The Emmys, we were fascinated by this Variety break down of the episodes actors chose for their Emmy submissions. The move that’s probably most notable is that none of the army of Succession actors who are nominated chose the episode in which Logan dies as the one that illustrates their acting chops. We would have given Jeremy Strong the Emmy simply for the line delivery of “Peter doesn't like the nobbies, darling,” but that’s neither here nor there.
I actually debated putting Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas’ guest appearance as himself on IZombie on this Emmys list, but determined it would be too niche.