Popular TV favorites like “Game of Thrones,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Westworld,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Atlanta” lead this year’s Emmy Awards hopefuls, announced last week, but the nominations are also a reminder of how much great TV is out there right now — much of it less heralded or underseen, but deserving of at least as much attention. These 10 nominees are well worth watching if you haven’t checked them out yet, all of which are streaming somewhere.
Major nominations: Best drama series, best lead actress in a drama series (Keri Russell), best lead actor in a drama series (Matthew Rhys), best writing for a drama series (Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg)
There has always been a disparity between critical acclaim and viewership numbers for this consistently excellent series from Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg about Soviet spies in suburbia, but latecomers can be assured that the ending will pay off their investment. The sixth and final season unspools as a nuclear deal between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan brings an end to the Cold War that the central couple, Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, have been fighting so faithfully and catastrophically. The growing divisions within the K.G.B. are manifested in their marriage, which faces its stiffest test as forces gather to upend their cover as a normal American family.
Major nominations: Best variety sketch series
Scratch the surface of any do-it-yourself TV cooking and craft show and there’s a whiff of existential despair, a natural byproduct of the relentlessly cheery attitude of hosts who create dishes and tchotchkes for guests that never arrive. “At Home With Amy Sedaris” evokes that feeling through spectacularly deranged comedy: Although Sedaris’s down-the-dial Martha Stewart labors under a sign that reads “Being Alone Is A-OK,” she craves company so much, she lets a murderer (Michael Shannon) into the house in the Agatha Christie-themed season finale. Paul Giamatti, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Dratch, Chris Elliott and Michael Stipe are among the many friends who pop in for cameos, but it’s Sedaris, in multiple roles, whose manic brilliance sets the tone.
Major nominations: Best comedy series, Best lead actor in a comedy series (Bill Hader), best supporting actor in a comedy series (Henry Winkler), best directing for a comedy series (Bill Hader), best writing for a comedy series (Alec Berg and Bill Hader), best writing for a comedy series (Liz Sarnoff)
The premise for this black comedy from Bill Hader and Alec Berg makes it sound frivolous and disposable, like a TV version of “Grosse Pointe Blank,” following a contract killer who mingles with ordinary people during off hours. But while “Barry” gets plenty of laughs from Hader’s former-Marine-turned-hit man wandering into the Los Angeles theater scene — particularly Henry Winkler’s standout performance as a vain yet lovable acting teacher — the series’ inaugural season grew darker and more emotionally rich as it progressed. Suddenly, a show about a killer’s whimsical side project morphed into a tragicomedy about the torments of a man who can’t transcend or escape the life he’s chosen.
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Major nominations: Best lead actress in a comedy series (Pamela Adlon)
The second season of this frank comedy by Pamela Adlon was wrapping up just as news broke that her co-creator and frequent writer, Louis C.K., had been involved in sexual misconduct. Yet the show makes it easy to imagine Adlon’s character, a divorced actress struggling to raise three daughters on her own, persevering through such a terrible setback and continuing to do the best she can. Season 2 of “Better Things” opens with Adlon’s Sam Fox deftly peeling her 16-year-old away from a suitor 20 years her senior and reaches a touching apotheosis with “Eulogy,” in which Sam asks her loved ones to eulogize her while she’s still alive. As ever, she’s bruised but unbowed.
Where to watch: Netflix
Major nominations: Best limited series, best lead actress in a limited series or movie (Michelle Dockery), best supporting actress in a limited series or movie (Merritt Wever), best supporting actor in a limited series or movie (Jeff Daniels), best directing for a limited series or movie (Scott Frank), best writing for a limited series or movie (Scott Frank)
Back when he was one of Hollywood’s most sought-after genre specialists, the creator of “Godless,” Scott Frank (“Dead Again,” “Out of Sight” and “Minority Report”), conceived the show as a feature film. But he could never raise the money from a studio system in which the Western had fallen out of favor. By expanding it for a seven-episode Netflix series, Frank takes “Godless” in several directions at once, lifting from sources as diverse as Howard Hawks’s classic jailhouse shoot ’em up, “Rio Bravo,” and the pitiless Judge Holden character from Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian.” The compelling hook at its core, however, is a besieged town run by the widows of men who lost their lives in a mining accident. Do they even need men? Or rather, will they have a choice?
Major nominations: Best lead actor in a comedy series (Ted Danson), best guest actress in a comedy series (Maya Rudolph)
What happens to a show after it essentially blows up its entire premise? That was the question that lingered between the first and second seasons of this much-loved, ratings-deficient afterlife comedy from NBC, which had to pivot from a twist that made its title ironic. Creator Michael Schur (“Parks and Recreation”) surely has a grand plan in mind, but the second season felt improvised in the best possible sense, shuttling Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) and her fellow Good Place residents through multiple fake utopias and celestial bureaucracies, all under the eye of Ted Danson’s cackling architect. But for as much as “The Good Place” had to change, the show still clung to its optimistic theme about the capacity for self-improvement and how it might be rewarded down the line.
Major nominations: Best lead actress in a drama series (Sandra Oh), best writing for a drama series (Phoebe Waller-Bridge)
After writing and starring in the caustic black comedy “Fleabag,” creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge turned to Luke Jennings’s novella series “Codename Villanelle” for her follow-up, a cat-and-mouse thriller that has the same tart, irreverent edge of her previous work. Villanelle (Jodie Comer) is a psychopathic assassin, barely contained by the shadowy organization that employs her, and Eve (Sandra Oh) is an MI5 analyst who leaves her post and risks losing everything in an obsessive quest to track her down. As the first season unfolds, Villanelle and Eve start to develop an odd intimacy, as if the efforts to monitor the other inadvertently resulted in a dangerous and unsavory tango. Their relationship nudges “Killing Eve” far-off its expected course and lands the show in fascinating new terrain.
‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’
Where to watch: Amazon
Major nominations: Best comedy series, best lead actress in a comedy series (Rachel Brosnahan), best supporting actress in a comedy series (Alex Borstein), best supporting actor in a comedy series (Tony Shalhoub), best guest actress in a comedy series (Jane Lynch), best directing for a comedy series (Amy Sherman-Palladino), best writing for a comedy series (Amy Sherman-Palladino)
The creator Amy Sherman-Palladino (“Gilmore Girls”) is one of a small handful of television writers whose voice is instantly recognizable — fast and quippy, with a gift for stylized dialogue that recalls Old Hollywood screwball comedies. With “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Sherman-Palladino has finally found a period that fully accommodates her sensibility, giving her the opportunity to tell a personal story about a Jewish comedian asserting herself in a male-dominated field. In the impeccably realized world of 1958 New York City, “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) plays the role of dutiful housewife until her husband leaves her and she reinvents herself as a stand-up comedian at a Greenwich Village comedy club. Sherman-Palladino spins Midge’s domestic crises into uproarious stage material and keeps the laughs coming as Midge’s life is turned upside down.
Where to watch: Showtime Anytime
Major nominations: Best limited series, best lead actor in a limited series or movie (Benedict Cumberbatch), best directing for a limited series or movie (Edward Berger), best writing for a limited series or movie (David Nicholls)
Based on a series of novels by Edward St Aubyn, “Patrick Melrose” sounds like an insufferable dirge, following an upper-class addict as he reels from the death of his abusive father in the 1980s. But although the show does marinate in grief, privilege, self-pity and escalating drug and alcohol consumption, it is also mordantly funny and unexpectedly heartbreaking, grounded by a tour de force performance by Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. The voiceover narration grants direct access into Patrick’s addled thought processes, but it’s Cumberbatch’s fits of arrogance and despair that hold the series aloft, making it possible to think well of a hero who treats others nearly as shabbily as he treats himself.
‘Wild Wild Country’
Where to watch: Netflix
Major nominations: Best documentary or nonfiction series
Amid the current mini-boom of true-crime documentary series, “Wild Wild Country” stands out for the complicated questions it raises about spiritual questing, immigration rights and the true beneficiaries of religious freedom in America. The directors Maclain and Chapman Way unearth the forgotten story of the provocative Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his efforts to relocate his followers to a barren ranch in Wasco County, Ore. The Rajneeshees seem like a dangerous cult, as evidenced by its leader’s fleet of Rolls Royces and growing weapons cache, but “Wild Wild Country” approaches this story with an even-handedness that doesn’t make them so easy to dismiss. The doc also has an endlessly fascinating anchor in Ma Anand Sheela, Rajneesh’s former secretary, who led the commune with intimidation and devotion behind the scenes.