MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And finally today, the 73rd Emmy Awards air tonight on CBS live from Los Angeles. It will be a smaller ceremony than we were used to and socially distanced, of course. Still, no matter how it unfolds, what really matters is who wins, right? NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says you can't trust the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to get it right. So he created his own awards, the Deggys (ph). And he's here to tell us about them.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hey, I'm taking over the TV industry...
MARTIN: You are. You are.
DEGGANS: ...You know?
DEGGANS: Why not?
MARTIN: Who better than you?
DEGGANS: (Laughter) I can't do a worse job...
MARTIN: (Laughter) OK.
DEGGANS: ...Than they're doing, so (laughter).
MARTIN: All right. Your first category is best TV drama.
DEGGANS: Yeah, we got lots of cool shows nominated here, including "Bridgerton" on Netflix, FX's "Pose," "This Is Us" on NBC. But my Deggy goes to...
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MARTIN: "The Mandalorian" and "Lovecraft Country" - two winners. Come on, Eric. You can't do that, can you?
DEGGANS: Well, you know, I always like to start with two winners just to show how different the Deggys can be. Now, these two shows represent important trends. First, "The Mandalorian" is the rise of genre categories like science fiction and fantasy. This series from Disney+ was a giant step forward for sci-fi TV. And spoiler alert if you haven't seen it, they revived a certain one-handed Jedi night for the best cameo on TV from that year.
Now, "Lovecraft Country" on HBO was a kind of supernatural story that usually features white characters. But they centered it on a Black family in the 1950s. And they equaled the horror of sorcery with the horror of racism. Now, "Lovecraft Country" also features the late, great character actor Michael K. Williams. He's nominated for best supporting actor. "Lovecraft Country" also feature another great character actor, Courtney B. Vance, who actually won an Emmy last week as best guest actor in a drama.
Now, we've got a clip of him. His character is telling his nephew not to believe this terrible supernatural vision that he had. But in telling him this, he actually sounds like he could be talking about the way that Black folks had to cope with Jim Crow racism back then.
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COURTNEY B VANCE: (As George Freeman) Don't you ever let them make you question yourself. That's how they win. They want to make us crazy, terrorize us, make us scared.
DEGGANS: I'm telling you.
MARTIN: So who do you think will win best drama?
DEGGANS: Well, the two dramas with the most nominations, which tell you how excited the Academy is about the shows, are "The Mandalorian" and "The Crown." And given that there's this - usually this bias against science fiction shows, I'm going to say this award is going to go to "The Crown," which could be the first time it's won best drama after four nominations.
MARTIN: I see. OK. Let's go to best comedy series.
DEGGANS: OK. We got a lot of great nominees here, too, including HBO Max's "Hacks," "PEN15" on Hulu. But my Deggy goes to...
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MARTIN: "Ted Lasso" on Apple TV+. Wow, come on. This is pretty much the favorite, right?
DEGGANS: I know. I know. This show about a clueless American coach winning over a British soccer team and its managers with the power of his niceness was the most popular show of last summer. And to me, it was the best comedy of 2020. So I'm just going to give it a Deggy before it wins best comedy at the Emmys on Sunday.
MARTIN: Well, sometimes there's synergy between the Deggys and the Emmys. Sometimes...
DEGGANS: That's right.
MARTIN: ...It happens, OK.
DEGGANS: Sometimes they get it right.
MARTIN: Sometimes. Now, this category, best limited series, is one that's become much more important in recent years. Am I right about that?
DEGGANS: Yeah, because these series have become much more high quality, like movies themselves. Kate Winslet's "Mare Of Easttown" is nominated here. But I'm giving my Deggy to...
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MARTIN: HBO's "I May Destroy You." Oh, all right. So this was a critically acclaimed drama from last year. But it wasn't eligible for the 2020 Emmys. I don't remember why, but tell me about it.
DEGGANS: Well, it aired late. I think it debuted in July, which is past the deadline for that year's awards. So we're considering it for this awards. And British actress Michaela Coel, she created, she wrote, she co-directed and stars in this powerful series about a young writer who slowly comes to think that she may have been drugged and raped during a night out. And it got snubbed by the Golden Globes. So I want to make sure that Michaela gets her flowers here.
And, you know, I got to argue that this is the year that is proving that the Emmys are just as important as the Oscars in quality and impact because these honors are going to projects that people have actually seen, unlike some of the Oscar movies. And they're coming from big studios like Marvel and Lucasfilm. So, you know, maybe the Deggys can kind of help elevate them.
MARTIN: And why not? That was NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans. Eric, thank you so much.
DEGGANS: Thank you.
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