These series may not have snagged top honors at the 2019 Emmys, but they are well worth your screen time.

By Naveen Kumar
Sep 23, 2019 @ 11:30 am
Nick Wall/BBCAmerica

Awards season can be the best of times and the worst of times. We pore over red carpet looks and root for our favorite shows and movies, all the while hoping for a moment of live TV that will live on in fame or infamy. The 2019 Emmys were no exception. Accepting her award for Fosse/Verdon, Michelle Williams made a powerful speech about empowering women, especially women of color, in the workplace. Patricia Arquette recalled her late sister Alexis in an emotional plea for trans rights and acceptance. Billy Porter made history as the first openly gay black man to win best actor in a drama.

A petition to replace the Emmys statuette with Phoebe Waller-Bridge wouldn’t be a stretch after Fleabag’s triumphant evening. In addition to writing and acting wins for the dynamite creator, the BBC and Amazon series took home the big award for best comedy, too. (Julia-Louis Dreyfus and the cast of Veep went home empty-handed...to the piles of Emmys they’ve won every other year.) On a more inevitable note, juggernaut Game of Thrones received a fond-farewell Best Drama Award for what most would agree wasn’t its most deserving season. But we’ll never stop ‘shipping Brienne and Jaime, and seeing them together one last time is what the heart-face emoji was made for. (As was Gwendoline Christie going Full Jesus for the red carpet.)

Still, as always there were loads of deserving projects and performances that went overlooked. Emmys can’t be broken up in pieces like a plastic crown and tossed into the crowd, Cady Heron-style (though Ozark’s Julia Garner seemed about to try). The good thing about a deluge of peak TV is you’ll probably never run out of shows to watch, and award-losing ones are a great place to start. These series may not have snagged top honors, but they are well worth your screen time. From powerful true stories to spit-your-La-Croix-across-the-room comedies, here are the shows you shouldn’t miss and where to stream them.

Killing Eve (BBC America)

If you were rooting for Fleabag but haven’t watched Killing Eve, WYD? Nothing could’ve been more Killing Eve than Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh facing off against each other for lead actress in a drama (which Comer won). Waller-Bridge created this wry and twisted drama by asking the question, What if an M16 agent were in love with her serial killer mark? Consider it the most slyly erotic game of cat-and-mouse ever. You’ve got two seasons to devour, and honestly we're jealous.

Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

When They See Us (Netflix)

Director Ava DuVernay’s four-part Netflix series presents the true story of the five black men wrongfully convicted in a brutal rape and assault case that captivated the nation in 1989. One of the stars, Jharrel Jerome, became the first Afro-Latinx man to win best lead actor in a limited series for his searing portrayal of Korey Wise, one of the Exonerated Five. He was the night’s only Latinx winner, and at 21, Jerome was also this year’s youngest winner. He dedicated his award to the five men the show is about, who were all present at the ceremony as DuVernay’s guests. “I hope this night makes you feel celebrated and seen,” DuVernay tweeted alongside a photo with the men. When They See Us brings their harrowing story to a new generation, at a time when recognizing the stakes of racial injustice in America have scarcely been higher.

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Wilson Webb/SHOWTIME

Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)

Did you wonder what Ben Stiller was doing at the Emmys? The actor formerly known as Zoolander directed this Showtime limited series based on the true story of two jailbirds who escaped prison in 2015 — with the help of a female employee they both seduced. Patricia Arquette, who won an Emmy for another ripped-from-the-headlines limited series, The Act, was nominated for this performance, too. The series had six nominations, including for co-stars Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano. Though it went home empty-handed, this is one of those off-the-wall, gripping true stories you have to see to believe.

Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Dead to Me (Netflix)

All hail the return of Christina Applegate (the Christinaissance?). The actress goes back to her television roots in this Netflix series, for which she landed a nomination for lead actress in a comedy. A morbidly funny and noir-ish sit-com, Dead to Me is like an artichoke, revealing its dark insides (and characters’ true intentions) with each episode. Applegate plays a recent widow who becomes fast friends with a woman in her grief counseling group (played by fellow small-screen MVP Linda Cardellini). If the acclaimed first season slipped your radar, catch up in time to jump on season two, likely to arrive next summer.

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Alex Lombardi/Hulu

Pen15 (Hulu)

Imagine it’s the year 2000 and you’re starting seventh grade. However that makes you feel, this squirmy, addictive comedy will multiply it by a thousand. Did you ever have a bowl cut or braces? Do the most embarrassing thing ever and then rush to tell your best (and maybe only) friend about it between classes? There’s an uncanny quality to Pen15, both for its emotional accuracy and the fact that creators and stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, who were nominated for comedy writing, play opposite actual kids. Prepare for all the feels and catch up in time for the sophomore season.

Pop

Schitt's Creek (Pop TV, Netflix)

After five seasons on air, the cult-favorite comedy finally landed three Emmy nominations — and took home zero. That these stats seem like just the Rose family’s luck may be some consolation to their many devoted fans. (Catherine O’Hara slaying the red carpet is no cold comfort, either.) The Pop TV series from father-son creators Eugene and Dan Levy follows a wealthy clan that loses everything except a podunk town they bought as a joke, and have no choice but to call home. Come for the sideways humor (father Levy was responsible for Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show), stay for the brilliant character development and to understand all the Moira Rose memes. The final season returns January 7, 2020.

Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

Succession (HBO)

The media mogol heirs of HBO’s buzzy new drama haven’t lost their money (yet), so they’re fighting tooth and nail to get their paws on it before dad kicks the bucket. The King Lear-style saga — inspired by American dynasties like the Murdochs, Redstones, and Hearsts — won an award for writing, but was largely overlooked despite a nomination for best drama. (Fans were likely watching the latest episode, airing concurrently with the ceremony.) With Game of Thrones out of the picture, and the critical frenzy erupting over Succession’s second season, next year’s Emmys could see a lot more love for the self-destructive Roys. Hopefully you'll have caught up by then.

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