It’s downright criminal that FX’s wily western isn’t nominated every year in all the drama categories — and this season, supporting players Walton Goggins and Joelle Carter elevated their game with gravitas and gusto. With their Kentucky drawls and piquant dialogue, Harlan County’s killer couple make the most heinous crimes seem downright charming.
— DRU MOORHOUSE
Mads Mikkelson radiates urbane menace in the criminally underrated NBC horror series. As the cannibalistic shrink who first kept audiences up at night in “The Silence of the Lambs,” the Danish star is so convincing that he pulls off the impossible: banishing the specter of Anthony Hopkins and making the part his own.
— BRENT LANG
As great as June Squibb was as Lena Dunham’s grandmother, and as fun as it was watching the charming Andrew Rannells and Danny Strong play a gay couple in the “Beach House” episode, it was Alex Karpovsky who stood out this season among the supporting cast. Ray’s relationship with Marnie showed us a new side of both characters, so while Hollywood has taken notice of Adam Driver (and deservedly so), you can’t underestimate Karpovsky’s contribution to the show.
Bob Odenkirk brought much needed levity to the tar-black final season of Breaking Bad as comically shady attorney Saul Goodman. His performance was so indelible throughout the series’ run that creator Vince Gilligan decided to build a prequel around “Better Call Saul” Goodman. In a more just universe, he would also be awarded with Emmy love.
— DIANE GARRETT
Writer-creator Ray McKinnon has crafted a slow-burn Southern drama about a recent death-row inmate struggling to re-enter the world 20 years after his incarceration. Thanks largely to McKinnon, the show effortlessly steers clear of melodrama and cliché, while giving actors like Abigail Spencer — who plays the convict’s loving sister — several Emmy-worthy moments.
— PHIL PIRELLO
Fred Armisen’s and Carrie Brownstein’s deliciously oddball sketch show, with a sharp and satiric but also affectionate eye for obsessions and quirks, has been slowly inching into the Emmy picture: It got one nomination in 2011, two in 2012 and three (including its first win) in 2013. A comedy-series nod for the charmingly surreal show might be asking a lot, but one can dream.
— STEVE POND
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
Jenji Kohan has packed her compulsively watchable Netflix series with intriguing characters, from good girl gone bad Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) to lascivious prison guard George “Pornstache” Mendez (Pablo Schreiber). Two supporting performances especially deserving Emmy love: Laura Prepon as Piper’s inscrutable former lover, and Uzo Aduba as sweetly devoted Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren.
As twenty-something Fiona Gallagher struggling to keep her family afloat on the South Side of Chicago, Emmy Rossum has been a profile in poverty-stricken resourcefulness and resolve. This season, even though she and her show have switched from the Emmy drama to comedy categories, Fiona hit rock bottom, turning to drugs and ending up in jail. That allowed Rossum to crack her character’s tough veneer to expose the frightened person within.
IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA
“Always Sunny” is always ignored by the Emmys, yet it has been consistently hilarious for nine seasons, always finding new ways for its horrible, no-good, dirty, rotten characters to thoughtfully parody our society’s issues.
— GREG GILMAN
KEY & PEELE
These former “MADtv” performers have taken up the Comedy Central sketch throne that Dave Chappelle didn’t want. From President Obama’s anger translator Luther to oddly-named college football players and Liam Neeson-loving valet attendants, “Key & Peele” make the case that there’s a new comedy sheriff in town.
— JEFF SNEIDER
The conversation seems silly and retrograde, but if you for some reason need proof that women can be as funny — or funnier — than men, just watch an episode of Abbi Jacobson’s and Ilana Glazer’s “Broad City.” They took a web series all the way to critical acclaim on cable, and as both writers and performers, they’re the freshest new voices on TV this year.
— JORDAN ZAKARIN