Robbin’ season: Why ‘Atlanta’ deserves all the Emmys
As we prep for this year’s soul-destroying TV awards season at the Emmys in September, we revisit this prescient piece about Atlanta’s chances in 2018. (The show won for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour), and Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) and Animation.)
We’re in the slow climb towards the Emmy Awards (which take place on September 17, FYI) and that means it’s officially chin-stroking season. In the lead up to the awards, everyone has an opinion on who deserves to win big and who deserves to go home empty handed.
There are a few shows we’re rallying behind with support for the prime time TV awards, but there’s one in particular that we’re still unpacking and utterly obsessed with: S2 of Atlanta.
Atlanta is a rare beast of comedy, fleshing out rarely explored perspectives with depth, innovation, and nuance. The show is always surprising, stupendously funny, and so monumentally well written, we’re already deep diving through another rewatch of the season to really soak up the skills at work in it.
Come September 17, we’re hoping the singular comedy show wins everything owed to it. Here’s a breakdown of all the categories the show is nominated in and why it deserves to scoop a trophy in each.
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Though Donald Glover is up against some huge names in comedy like Ted Danson for The Good Place, Larry David for Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Bill Hader for Barry (arguably his biggest competition in the category), the actor is the only one who has turned in a truly transformative performance in the past year.
In S2 of Atlanta, Glover pushed his performance of Earn to new and unexpected levels of comedy and drama in exploring a character always teetering on the border of dire straits.
However, it’s Glover’s extraordinary and deeply unnerving performance as the Michael Jackson-esque Teddy Perkins that really seals his name as a winner in this category. Glover’s turn as the abused and abusive former child star is tragic, horrific, and disturbingly funny.
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
We’re still beyond disappointed that the phenomenal Lakeith Stanfield didn’t receive a nomination for his subtle, layered performance as philosophical Darius (seriously, couldn’t he have taken Alec Baldwin’s nomination for SNL?). But we’re at least happy that Brian Tyree Henry’s performance as Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles has been recognized.
The actor has been consistently on point with his performance since S1 of the show and manages to express an emotional traffic jam of feelings with little more than a stern shake of his head or a well timed nonchalant pause in the midst of pure chaos.
There’s real power behind his minimalist performance which carries some staggering emotional depth and tragic comedic beats. His spectacular comedic range is fully flexed in the episodes “Barbershop” and “Woods”, where Paper Boi’s signature patience is set atop an open flame of frustrations and bubbled into a fine rage.
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Van is quite possibly one of the greatest and most complex female characters ever seen on screen and Zazie Beetz’s performance is a large part of that. In “Helen”, Van takes Earn to a disconcerting Germanic town where they participate in a local festival and break up.
Within the role, Beetz is both vulnerable and tenacious, exploring Van’s need for freedom while testing the power dynamics of her floundering romantic relationship with Earn. The character refuses to back down and she refuses to make allowances for Earn’s attitude.
As a result, Beetz moves like a woman desperate to be weightless who is instead burdened by commitment and loyalty. Her performance is luminous and electric, jagged and cocky, providing a magnetic complexity to the character.
Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
Showing up as the truly unhinged Uncle Willie in “Alligator Man”, Katt Williams provides an unexpectedly toned down version of his comedic persona and gives a strangely naturalistic performance. As the first episode of S2, “Alligator Man” manages to set up the dark, absurd, but ultimately hilarious tone that underpins the season and Williams’s performance presents a lucid embodiment of that tone.
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
We’re fine with the tragicomic gothic horror episode “Teddy Perkins” not being nominated in this category since it sweeps the board in so many others (more on that in a second). Plus the two episodes that are nominated (Stefani Robinson’s script for “Barbershop” and Glover’s script for “Alligator Man”) are undoubtedly two of the sharpest and most original seen on the small screen in years.
“Barbershop” presents an unsettlingly familiar dissection of that one asshole everyone seems to know and wishes they didn’t – the kind that can derail your day (or your life) in the smallest and most thoughtless of ways.
Meanwhile, “Alligator Man” does the opposite, taking what should be a banal meeting between a dysfunctional family and turning it into a shock of uncanny events and dialogue that dazzles with invention.
“Teddy Perkins” needs to win everything it’s up for
Like everyone else, we’re still completely floored by “Teddy Perkins” and the richness of its production on just about every feasible level (including Stanfield’s truly heartbreaking performance in the episode, which we think deserves acknowledgement).
Hiro Murai’s directing achievements are nominated for the episode alongside other acknowledgments for the cinematography, sound editing, production design, and single camera editing of “Teddy Perkins”.
All of which are well deserved. The episode is one of the most atmospheric half hours we’ve experienced on TV and a great deal of that comes down to the synchronicity of background components that add a thick residue of nope to the whole horrifying ordeal.
Outstanding Comedy Series
Realistically, we think it has a fighting chance of winning too. The only real (and deserving) contenders it has to fight against is Barry, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Glow – all of which have arguably brought fresh comedic voices to the fore at a similar level of quality to Atlanta.
But in our hearts? We’re cheering for Paper Boi to get his big win with this one.