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Awards Season

The 5 New TV Dramas That Deserve Emmy Attention

The 5 New TV Dramas That Deserve Emmy Attention
Photo Source: Courtesy Netflix

“American Gods” (Starz)
“You can’t weave the stories that are necessary for belief unless you have a personality,” Mr. Wednesday tells Shadow Moon. And personality is definitely not lacking on “American Gods.” After building a devoted fan base with Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel, this gritty story of war between the old gods and the new had big shoes to fill. Starz has succeeded with its impressive new series starring Ricky Whittle, Gillian Anderson, Pablo Schreiber, Emily Browning, and a superb Ian McShane. Set in modern times, the series follows Shadow Moon (Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (McShane) as they reluctantly team up to wrestle power back from the gods that are worshipped today: technology, media, money, and war. Dreamlike visuals combined with some perfectly camp performances make for a surrealist fantasy reminiscent of a crossover between “Game of Thrones” and co-creator Bryan Fuller’s gone-too-soon “Hannibal.” —Briana Rodriguez

“The Crown” (Netflix)
When Netflix announced it would spend $100 million to produce a 10-part historical drama series about the ascendancy of Elizabeth II, no one knew quite how intriguing the current queen of England’s life could be. But by George, was it worth it. The series is utterly gorgeous: costumes, interiors, exteriors (that safari episode!)—the show doesn’t let you forget for one second that it’s the story of a powerful, wealthy, real (and obsessively private) monarchy. Combined with stellar, award-winning performances from Claire Foy as the queen, John Lithgow as Winston Churchill, and the rest of the brilliant cast, the sumptuousness of it all makes you forget that you’re watching history—real politics, love affairs, rivalries, chauvinism, feminism—unfold onscreen. —Allie White

“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
If you wanted to gain control of the United States, strike down democracy, and birth a dictatorship, how would you do it? Set in a dystopian near-future, “The Handmaid’s Tale” brings its relevance—and the answers to those questions—into close-up. Based on Margaret Atwood’s cult 1985 novel, the Hulu hit stars Elisabeth Moss as Offred, a formerly independent woman taken captive by a patriarchal theocracy. It’s the details that make the dystopia, and Moss is more than adept at stepping aside so that the quotidian horrors of her life as a handmaid—a fertile woman forced to bear the children of men in power—can assert themselves, simultaneously shocking and shaming the viewer. Atwood famously pulled only from historical precedent to write her novel—“There’s nothing in the book that hasn’t already happened,” she says—and the showrunners remain true to that vision. When it comes to human potential for appalling behavior, there is nothing new under the sun. —Rawaan Alkhatib

“Legion” (FX)
While David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” reboot gives it a fair run for its money, when the dust clears, “Legion” may walk away as the best head-scratcher of the year. Thanks to a bevy of alternate realities, long stretches of hallucinatory imagery-as-metaphor, and a penchant for midepisode musical numbers, Noah Hawley’s narratively dense X-Men drama isn’t for everyone. But it’s a creative tour de force—one that manages, too, to reinvigorate the well-trod superhero genre. Fortunately, all talent involved comes out ready to play. This series deserves any awards consideration it’s up for, including production design (that color palette!) and costume design (those vintage flares and graphic tees!), but credit where it’s due: Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza turn in two of the most resolutely against-type performances of the year and remain riveting all the while. As our “hero” David Haller and his friend-turned-nemesis Lenny, respectively, the two present distinct and surprising acting choices that in hindsight simply make us smile. —Benjamin Lindsay

“This Is Us” (NBC)
Who knew that when it came to prime-time network TV, all we really wanted was a good cry? After a trailer that damn near broke the internet, Dan Fogelman’s weepy, twist-driven family drama “This Is Us” gave NBC its most-viewed premiere ever on digital platforms and proceeded to become the fall’s most highly rated new series, breaking records in the coveted 18–49 demographic. And the proof is in the pudding; this show’s network-buoying success stems directly from the talents of its writers, directors, and a cast that includes Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia, Justin Hartley, Chrissy Metz, and Sterling K. Brown. As Rebecca, Jack, Kevin, Kate, and Randall Pearson, they have become a second family for households across America; they play characters so universally recognizable and intimately relatable that their stories teach us more about ourselves. If that sounds unlikely, tune in and see for yourself—just don’t forget the tissues. —Jack Smart

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