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Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep, actress Pheobe Waller-Bridges in Fleabag, and actor Jared Harris in Chernobyl. Illustrations by Claire Merchlinsky

10 Emmy-nominated shows you need to watch

Or more accurately, the 10 shows we’re rooting for in this year’s Emmy Awards show.

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This new golden age of television (and streaming) that we’re in — peak TV, or whatever else you may want to call it — means that the number of excellent TV shows to watch, and ultimately shower with awards, feels infinite. How in the world can one possibly weigh a show like This Is Us against a show like Game of Thrones? Or Russian Doll against Schitt’s Creek (arguably the biggest surprise to come out of this year’s nominations, and we’re here for it)? Nonetheless, the 2019 Emmy nominations are out and here to stir up online discussions of surprises and snubs (our hot take: Linda Cardellini’s performance in Dead to Me and Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act were robbed.)

Still, we’re more than happy to share our picks from the current roster of nominations of what’s actually worth the time to watch. We combed through the nominated comedies, dramas, limited series, TV movies, and reality competitions to guarantee you won’t be completely lost when the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards air September 22 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

Note: We’re keeping Game of Thrones out of this in order to highlight television programming that hasn’t taken over the zeitgeist to that level.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Number of Emmy nominations: 9

Nominated for: Outstanding Comedy Series; Outstanding Comedy Actress (Rachel Brosnahan); Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Tony Shalhoub); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Alex Borstein, Marin Hinkle); Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Luke Kirby, Rufus Sewell); Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Jane Lynch); Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series

Rachel Brosnahan’s impeccable performance as Midge Maisel is a ray of laughter and sunshine in what can, at times, seem like a sea of television bleakness. Best described as delightful, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s story of a 1950s housewife who finds herself at a crossroads and discovers she’s an excellent stand-up comic provides a perfect escape. Although at times the show seems narrow in perspective, considering it’s set during a period of serious social change, the acting and writing are some of the best the small screen has to offer. The series is expected to return to Prime by the end of the year, so make sure to catch up on the first two seasons in the meantime.

You’ll love this show if you like: Gilmore Girls. Much like showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino’s previous cultural touchstone, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a show with extremely quick-witted characters whose jokes you’ll easily miss if you stop paying attention for too long.

Fleabag

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Number of Emmy nominations: 8

Nominated for: Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Comedy Actress (Phoebe Waller-Bridge); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Sian Clifford, Olivia Colman); Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Fiona Shaw, Kristin Scott Thomas); Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series; Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

Based on creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one-woman 2013 play of the same name, Fleabag is a pithy, hilarious, and affecting British show about grief, loss, dysfunctional families, and controlling your impulses (or at least not hating yourself when you can’t). By constantly and intimately breaking the fourth wall, Waller-Bridge brings us into her character’s world in a manner no other show does. At only 12 episodes over two seasons, you’ll blow through your binge session so quickly you’ll have the rest of the day to keep laughing about what you just saw...and crying because it’s not coming back for a third season.

You’ll love this show if you like: Crashing, the Netflix series. (Not to be confused with the better-known HBO comedy series of the same name.) Did we just use this as an excuse to get you to watch another Waller-Bridge show? Absolutely.

Chernobyl

Where to watch: HBO

Number of Emmy nominations: 6

Nominated for: Outstanding Limited Series; Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series (Jared Harris); Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series (Stellan Skarsgard); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series (Emily Watson); Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

The end result isn’t always as interesting as how you get there and what happens after. That’s the treatment HBO gives the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in this five-episode telling. Focusing on the human toll from the worst nuclear disaster in history, Chernobyl follows the battle between scientists trying to save lives and Soviet Union bureaucrats trying to control information. (The parallels to today’s climate change debate will punch you in the face.) Fair warning: Chernobyl is a graphic account.

You’ll love this mini-series if you like: Mad Men. Comparing a terrifying late Cold War-era historical drama to a 100% fictional take on 1960s Madison Avenue may seem far-fetched, but hear us out: Like the surroundings at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Chernobyl’s attention to detail and high production quality will instantly transport you in time.

Schitt’s Creek

Where to watch: Pop or Netflix

Number of Emmy nominations: 3

Nominated for: Outstanding Comedy Series; Outstanding Comedy Actor (Eugene Levy); Outstanding Comedy Actress (Catherine O’Hara)

Easily the most bingeable show on this list, Schitt’s Creek is a Canadian family sitcom that genuinely earns its audience’s interest with deep character development that never sacrifices laughs. The premise itself is funny enough: Video store (remember those?) magnate Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) loses everything, so his family — including his spoiled adult children — must move to a tiny rural town and start over. Catherine O’Hara’s (playing Johnny Rose’s wife Moira) outfits and one-liners, e.g. her amazing pronunciation of the word “baby,” and Daniel Levy’s facial expressions will have you in stitches (Eugene’s real-life son also plays his son on the show).

You’ll love this show if you like: Arrested Development. Watching the well-to-do become closer to each other once all the money’s gone can be equal parts hysterical and charming.

Killing Eve

Where to watch: AMC, Hulu, or BBC America

Number of Emmy nominations: 6

Nominated for: Outstanding Drama Series; Outstanding Drama Actress (Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Fiona Shaw); Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series; Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

If you’re like us, Killing Eve is the show that took you a while to get to even though your TV-obsessed friends had been telling you for months to start watching. Sandra Oh’s (Grey’s Anatomy) award-winning turn as a British intelligence officer who becomes obsessed with catching an international assassin (expertly played by Jodie Comer) falls into the more accurate, and fluid, category of dramedy. It’s a spy procedural at its core, but don’t confuse it for the tired good-gal-catches-bad-gal cop shows. You truly get to know the dueling protagonists as whole persons, not just who they are at work, and you will have moments where you don’t know whose side you’re on. If the humor feels familiar, then you’ve likely been watching Fleabag. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag’s creator and titular star, also wrote the first of Killing Eve’s two seasons.

You’ll love this show if you like: Dexter. Showtime’s somewhat forgotten mid-2000s crime thriller shares plenty of similarities with Killing Eve, the latter just does it much better.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Where to watch: Netflix

Number of Emmy nominations: 1

Nominated for: Outstanding Television Movie

What if the choose-your-own-adventure books from our childhood fused with Charlie Brooker’s terrifying Black Mirror-verse? You’d get Bandersnatch! Set in the mid-1980s, this interactive movie lets you make life decisions for a young video game programmer — from the mundane to the horrifying. Bandersnatch may not be as realistically chilling as other Black Mirror entries, but the relatively novel idea of deciding what the characters do in a movie deserves your attention.

You’ll love this movie if you like: The longer episodes of Black Mirror. No, this isn’t a cop-out. Like the similarly feature-length episode “White Christmas,” which starred Jon Hamm, Bandersnatch works as a great stand-alone — especially if your infinite curiosity about all the possible outcomes keeps you glued to the screen for close to four hours, like it did to us.

Ozark

Where to watch: Netflix

Number of Emmy nominations: 5

Nominated for: Outstanding Drama Series; Outstanding Drama Actor (Jason Bateman); Outstanding Drama Actress (Laura Linney); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Julia Garner); Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series

We have two confessions: 1) It took us a few beats to adjust our eyes and ears to Jason Bateman not playing a funny dad, and 2) we made the mistake of trying to rip through Ozark’s two seasons all at once. Drug running, money laundering, murder, and uprooting your family aren’t exactly light subjects. Season one will make you care deeply for the well-being of Marty Byrde (Bateman), his wife Wendy (Laura Linney), and their two kids. Season two will make you cheer for a bunch of criminals and keep your fingers crossed on awards night for Linney and Julia Garner, who plays a ruthless and easy-to-like teenager from a struggling family. This is a tough show to binge, but absolutely worth watching — however long it takes you to do so. We suggest splitting up the episodes with more fluffy fare like Nailed It! (see below).

You’ll love this show if you like: Narcos, but with heart. The comparison here is easy: drugs, violence, and criminal underworlds. Ozark merely adds family drama to the formula.

Veep

Where to watch: HBO

Number of Emmy nominations: 5

Nominated for: Outstanding Comedy Series; Outstanding Comedy Actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus); Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Tony Hale); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Anna Chlumsky); Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Peter MacNicol); Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

Who knew we could fall in love with such terrible politicians and even worse hangers-on when our real-life politics are so toxic? Veep is insult comedy at its finest and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s six Emmy awards for her role as on-again-off-again elected official Selina Meyer are more than well-deserved. Seven seasons may appear daunting if you haven’t watched this show already, or even if you’ve fallen behind. However, Veep’s foul-mouthed whimsy will hook you right away; just make sure the show’s biting rudeness doesn’t seep into your own work life.

You’ll love this show if you like: A world where Parks and Recreation is super mean and has bigger stakes.

Nailed It!

Where to watch: Netflix

Number of Emmy nominations: 1

Nominated for: Outstanding Competition Program

“Let’s take Cupcake Wars and make it more like Pinterest fails!” is how we imagine Netflix’s pitch meeting went when the idea for Nailed It! was first concocted. Unlike similar competition shows on Food Network, the contestants’ many “oh s**t” moments make this one infinitely more relatable. Who doesn’t like rooting for comical kitchen fails? It’s all the more fun to do it alongside comedian Nicole Byer, easily the most joyful in the history of competition programming, and the straight man to her whimsy, pastry chef Jacques Torres. The hosts paired together make for the most supportive, yet utterly hilarious, odd couple. If you ever need a mindless palate cleanser that doesn’t need to be watched in any specific order, this is the show for you.

You’ll love this show if you like: Schadenfreude. Seriously, read above; the concept is simple.

Dead to Me

Where to watch: Netflix

Number of Emmy nominations: 1

Nominated for: Outstanding Comedy Actress (Christina Applegate)

Over 10 quick episodes in its first season, Dead to Me goes from grief comedy to BFFs origin story to murder mystery. The chemistry between Christina Applegate’s Jen and Linda Cardellini’s Judy is fantastic, which makes their eventual — yet inevitable — falling out heartbreaking. The cinematography and the acting will make sure you hit “yes” when Netflix asks if you’re still watching. Aside: We’ll pretend not to be upset over Cardellini’s Emmys snub.

You’ll love this show if you like … the original British Death at a Funeral. Dark humor can be very hit or miss. Like the classic 2007 film, Dead to Me hits.

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