The two-week voting window for the 2016 Emmys began on Monday, and I want to make it a little easier for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to honor the year's best programming. So listen up, voters: Just copy and paste this ballot, and wham-o! You're well on your way to a fine slate.
Actually, it's not that simple. I had to snub so many worthy candidates -- TV is great! Life would be easier if Outstanding Comedy Series would permit dozens of nominees. If nothing else, it would be nice to see "Modern Family" and "Downton Abbey" not rubber-stamped in umpteen categories this year. I'll try to help you diversify, wise voters.
Use the comments to let us know who you'd like to see make the short list when nominations are announced on July 14. Until then, the race is on.
Outstanding Comedy Series
"Master of None"
By now, calling the Emmys' comedy races "loaded" is dull. After five consecutive wins, "Modern Family" finally succumbed last year to "Veep," a show that has only grown richer despite original showrunner Armando Iannucci's departure. And while it would be lovely to see "Please Like Me," "The Carmichael Show," "Casual," "You're the Worst," "The Grinder," "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," "Fresh Off the Boat" or "Broad City" crack the list, it's the remarkable rebound of "Girls" and the tender swan song of "Getting On" that deserve unlikely recognition.
Outstanding Drama Series
"Game of Thrones"
"Horace and Pete"
"Orange Is the New Black"
Don't ignore the soapy facade of "UnREAL" -- it was the year's most provocative drama and just so happened to be delicious and addictive at the same time. It's likely that "Game of Thrones" will stage a repeat win, but if anything knocks staler entries like "House of Cards" and "Homeland" from the ballot, it should be Louis C.K.'s delicate "Horace and Pete" and the poetic second season of "The Leftovers."
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Rachel Bloom, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"
Ellie Kemper, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"
Laurie Metcalf, "Getting On"
Tracee Ellis Ross, "Black-ish"
Michaela Watkins, "Casual"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been indomitable across all four seasons of "Veep," and there's no such thing as JLD fatigue. Every contender submits a standout episode for voters to screen, and, if Louis-Dreyfus selects the one about her mother's death, she'll be especially hard to beat. But no one in this category's history has won five times, and this is the Emmys' chance to recognize Tracee Ellis Ross as the "Black-ish" MVP. There's no parent on TV like Rainbow Johnson, who has both a vulnerability and a laid-back self-assurance that Ross always mines for comedy.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Anthony Anderson, "Black-ish"
Aziz Ansari, "Master of None"
Chris Geere, "You're the Worst"
Rob Lowe, "The Grinder"
Thomas Middleditch, "Silicon Valley"
Jeffrey Tambor, "Transparent"
As long as "Transparent" is on the air streaming, Jeffrey Tambor makes a strong contender. Even though the Amazon series' second season emphasized the Pfefferman kids' messy maturations, Tambor shined as Maura battled outrage at a "womyn" festival and struggled to grasp her relationship with her ex-wife. Alas, since the day "Silicon Valley" premiered, I have stumped for Thomas Middleditch, who imbues his tech-whiz wunderkind with such skittish giddiness. It is a delight to watch Middleditch perform every week. Give him this award.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Caitriona Balfe, "Outlander"
Carrie Coon, "The Leftovers"
Taraji P. Henson, "Empire"
Julianna Marguiles, "The Good Wife"
Keri Russell, "The Americans"
Shiri Appleby, "UnREAL"
"How to Get Away with Murder" and "Empire" are barely getting away with how exhausting they've become, but another Viola-Davis-Taraji-P.-Henson battle royale could ensue. This category is stacked with the typical players, including favorites like Claire Danes ("Homeland") and Robin Wright ("House of Cards"). Let's make things interesting. Whether it's the pulp of Priyanka Chopra on "Quantico" or the fragility of Krysten Ritter on "Jessica Jones," there are more than enough left-field candidates. Give "The Leftovers" and "UnREAL" a try, voters, and you may discover that Carrie Coon and Shiri Appleby are every bit as good without any razzmatazz.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Louis C.K., "Horace and Pete"
Bobby Cannavale, "Vinyl"
Rami Malek, "Mr. Robot"
Bob Odenkirk, "Better Call Saul"
Clive Owen, "The Knick"
Aden Young, "Rectify"
This category isn't as electrifying now that the Hamm-Cranston era is behind us. With fewer mainstays on deck, this is one of the year's most open-ended races. That should work out in favor of recent Golden Globe nominees Bob Odenkirk and Rami Malek, who give two of the buzziest performances on TV.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Loretta Devine, "The Carmichael Show"
Jane Krakowski, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"
Amy Landecker, "Transparent"
Judith Light, "Transparent"
Melanie Lynskey, "Togetherness"
Niecy Nash, "Getting On"
"Transparent" is the story of a transgender woman exploring her gender, sexuality and age. But as the second season's focus shifted to Maura's family, Judith Light shined, capturing the confusion and loneliness of a lost love. Let's also ensure Niecy Nash makes another appearance in this category, whether it's for her quiet work on "Getting On" or her quizzical bombast on "Scream Queens." Allison Janney is masterful on "Mom," but she has enough hardware on her mantlepiece.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Tituss Burgess, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"
Adam Driver, "Girls"
Tony Hale, "Veep"
T.J. Miller, "Silicon Valley"
Sam Richardson, "Veep"
Zach Woods, "Silicon Valley"
The gentlemen of "Veep" and "Silicon Valley" could rightfully occupy this entire category with one preeminent exception: Tituss Burgess, who makes the broadest comedy on "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" look refined and effortless.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Christine Baranski, "The Good Wife"
Regina King, "The Leftovers"
Artemis Pebdani, "Scandal"
Sophie Turner, "Game of Thrones"
Alison Wright, "The Americans"
Constance Zimmer, "UnREAL"
After two wins, Uzo Aduba must know she is the "Orange Is the New Black" priestess -- yet Season 3 belonged to Adrienne C. Moore, who walked Black Cindy through a poignant religious conversion. Too bad Netflix didn't submit her for consideration. After six losses, it's time for Christine Baranski to finally receive recognition for "The Good Wife." Her final scenes in the series -- the silent grief during Peter's trial and her fateful confrontation with Alicia -- are worth their own trophies.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Alan Alda, "Horace and Pete"
Jonathan Banks, "Better Call Saul"
Christopher Eccleston, "The Leftovers"
Andre Holland, "The Knick"
Ben Mendelsohn, "Bloodline"
Christian Slater, "Mr. Robot"
"Game of Thrones" hasn't given Peter Dinklage much to do this season beyond gape at dragons, so let's give his spot away. Blasphemy, I know, but he's already had his turn at the podium. Might I suggest Andre Holland? His work as a turn-of-the-century surgeon facing racism on "The Knick" is the perfect counterpoint to the brittle, ego-driven maniacs who surround his character. Or Alan Alda, who gave a career-defining performance at age 80 on "Horace and Pete."
Outstanding Limited Series
"The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story"
"Show Me a Hero"
As TV formats evolve, the real excitement has shifted to limited series, where some of the most limitless content is emerging. To wit, this could be the first year the tired "American Horror Story" is omitted. Also facing a potential ouster: "Time Traveling Bong," "Flesh and Bone," "The Night Manager," "The Girlfriend Experience," "War and Peace" and, thankfully, "True Detective." If all goes well, "The People v. O.J. Simpson" will sweep.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
Kirsten Dunst, "Fargo"
Felicity Huffman, "American Crime"
Audra McDonald, "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill"
Sarah Paulson, "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story"
Lili Taylor, "American Crime"
Kerry Washington, "Confirmation"
Lady Gaga won a Golden Globe for her performance on "American Horror Story: Hotel," but that felt like a nod to her celebrity status more than anything else. She's fine on the show, but her breathy turn as a vampire countess didn't have the depth of these other ladies. It's a toss-up as to whether Kirsten Dunst or Sarah Paulson should take home the trophy. Both submitted career-best work.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Bryan Cranston, "All the Way"
Idris Elba, "Luther"
Oscar Isaac, "Show Me a Hero"
Courtney B. Vance, "People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story"
Ben Whishaw, "London Spy"
Patrick Wilson, "Fargo"
All of the internet's boyfriends are competing for slots in this race. Matt Bomer (“American Horror Story: Hotel"), Aaron Tveit (“Grease: Live”), Tom Hiddleston (“The Night Manager”) and Ian McKellen (“The Dresser”) are also eligible.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
Olivia Colman, "The Night Manager"
Catherine Keener, "Show Me a Hero"
Regina King, "American Crime"
Cristin Milioti, "Fargo"
Anika Noni Rose, "Roots"
Jean Smart, "Fargo"
It's hard to cast off Emayatzy Corinealdi and the rest of the sprawling "Roots" ensemble, but the women of "Fargo" (which includes Rachel Keller) captured the devilish backwoods of Midwest suburbia, while Regina King deserves both the nominations she is eligible for this year.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Sterling K. Brown, "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story"
Connor Jessup, "American Crime"
Alfred Molina, "Show Me a Hero"
Denis O'Hare, "American Horror Story: Hotel"
Jesse Plemons, "Fargo"
Bokeem Woodbine, "Fargo"
Unlike some critics, I appreciated John Travolta's mannered performance in "The People v. O.J. Simpson." If nothing else, it was an interesting role for him. But it's Sterling K. Brown who best captured the trial's heartbreaking politics, while Bokeem Woodbine and Jesse Plemons both played against type on "Fargo" and Denis O'Hare gave "American Horror Story: Hotel" some semblance of an emotional core.
A few other nominations that would be great:
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series: Richard Shepard, "Girls" (Episode: "The Panic in Central Park")
Outstanding Variety Talk Series: "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee"
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series: Josh Thomas, "Please Like Me" (Episode: "Coq Au Vin")
Outstanding Main Title Design: "The Leftovers"
Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special: "Everything Is Copy - Nora Ephron: Scripted and Unscripted"