Give Netflix’s BEEF All the Emmys

I’ll just cut to the chase: Netflix’s BEEF is one of the best things I’ve seen across any medium – film or television – in years. And it deserves essentially every Emmy it can possibly compete for.

This isn’t an official review of BEEF, but given that any discussion of its Emmy potential naturally must include discussion of its quality as well, I had to start with saying how truly sublime this series really is, and don’t just take my word for it, because its 99% on the Tomatometer and 86 on Metacritic speak for themselves. When watching BEEF, I felt like a new style of storytelling was being invented before my very eyes. You’ll see shades of Barry in its blistering dark comedy and maybe some Killing Eve in its protagonists’ emotionally complex cat-and-mouse game, but at the end of the day, BEEF is its own outrageously original thing – which is something quite rare in the industry today, where capitalism has threatened to annihilate all artistry and creativity in favor of more “reliably profitable” rehashes and reboots. But the gem that is BEEF managed to sneak through the system – with its tonally twisty and morally multidimensional meditation on the modern pursuit for contentment and connection in this mad world intact – and thank God it did, because it’s set a new standard for television for the rest of the 2020s and beyond.

When I first started writing this piece earlier this week, many of us assumed BEEF would be competing in the Comedy categories at this year’s Emmys (especially after creator Lee Sung Jin stated that he had “three seasons mapped out in [his] head” for the show), but it was later announced that it would instead contend as a Limited or Anthology Series. Does this mean we’ll never see those next two seasons and Netflix decided not to renew it? Or does it mean BEEF is pulling a Big Little Lies/The White Lotus and competing in the less-competitive Limited or Anthology Series categories for its first season prior to a renewal to win big before moving to the main Drama or Comedy categories when it returns? If I had to guess, it’s most likely the latter scenario, and some will no doubt scream “CATEGORY FRAUD!” at this news, but at the end of the day, the decision has been made, and what matters most to me – and others who now bow at the altar of BEEF – is that the show is simply honored at all, and the truth is that the Limited or Anthology Series races are significantly less stacked than the the Drama and Comedy races this year, so this was a smart and strategic move, as you’re about to see.

Steven Yeun and Ali Wong in BEEF

Let’s begin at the top with the main Limited or Anthology Series category. Truth be told, there hasn’t been a real frontrunner to win at this point in the season, let alone a consensus line-up of potential nominees, so there’s more than enough room for BEEF to break in and challenge its competitors for the crown. Netflix’s other contender Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story has been the presumptive frontrunner for some time, but it wasn’t actually all that well-received outside of its performances (only earning a 57% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 46 on Metacritic) and it ran into some controversy after the families of Dahmer’s victims accused Netflix of profiting off their traumatic experiences and “retraumatizing [the families] all over again.” Dahmer is still highly likely to earn a nomination – it was a huge hit on the service after all, becoming Netflix’s second most-watched English-language series of all time within 28 days and the third Netflix series to pass 1 billion views in 60 days – but with BEEF now in the race, Netflix has a contender that won’t court controversy if it wins and one that’s been embraced by both crowds and critics.

Beyond that, Hulu has Fleishman Is in Trouble in contention – an adaptation of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s 2019 novel of the same name – which, in contrast to Dahmerwas a critical darling, earning an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 79 on Metacritic, with raves in particular for its trio of main performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Lizzy Caplan, and Emmy winner Claire Danes. This, along with Apple TV+’s Black Bird – which has already earned a slew of nominations from the Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and SAG Awards, along with a Golden Globe win for Paul Walter Hauser in Best Supporting Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Television Film – feel like the next best bets in this category, which takes us up to four. Recently, there’s been five nominees in the Emmys’ Limited or Anthology Series line-up, but they can go up to six every now and then (depending on how many submissions they receive), and after this quartet, there are a number of other compelling contenders including HBO Max’s White House Plumbers and Love and Death, Amazon Prime’s Daisy Jones and the Six, and Showtime’s George and Tammy, but I don’t think BEEF will have to worry about competing against any of these shows to break in, as it’s already premiered (unlike White House Plumbers and Love and Death) and made its mark and has the white-hot critical buzz to back it up. And as of now, I’d say it’s the potential contender best positioned to win as well.

Ali Wong and Steven Yeun in BEEF

Moving on to the acting categories, both are bloodbaths this year, but Steven Yeun’s and Ali Wong’s performances as a down-on-his-luck contractor and a wealthy small business owner consumed by desires to ruin one another’s lives after an incident of road rage are simply so sensational (and both are already “names” in the industry, with Yeun being an Academy Award nominee and Wong being nominated at the Emmys last year) that they still should have no trouble getting in, especially in likely line-ups of six nominees. Yeun will be going head-to-head with Dahmer‘s Evan Peters, who won the Golden Globe in this category, as well as Black Bird‘s Taron Egerton and Weird: The Al Yankovic Story‘s Daniel Radcliffe (since this is Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie), but there’s some flexibility in the rest of the line-up, with Fleishman Is in Trouble‘s Jesse Eisenberg, White House Plumbers‘ Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux, Love and Death‘s Jesse Plemons, and George and Tammy‘s Michael Shannon all fighting for those last two spots, with all on near-even ground at the moment. Still, as I mentioned above, I believe the race will come down to Peters – who has long been seen as the one to beat – and the newly contending Yeun, who has the benefit of the buzzier show. Peters could still win here even if BEEF takes Limited or Anthology Series (as a consolation prize to Dahmer), but he did also just win two years ago for Mare of Easttown, which could make voters more willing to go with Yeun this time.

Wong, meanwhile, will also be going up against numerous heavyweights, but Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie is just as unsettled as Lead Actor, with no clear consensus yet on a final line-up of six nominees or even an early frontrunner. Some will say its George and Tammy‘s Jessica Chastain, who won the SAG Award in this category, which should at least start to secure her a nomination if nothing else. But her show’s buzz is muted outside of her, and a lot of the Emmy contenders aren’t women she competed against at the SAG Awards, such as Love and Death‘s Elizabeth Olsen (who earned raves out of SXSW), Daisy Jones and the Six‘s Riley Keough, and Swarm‘s Dominique Fishback – while Fleishman Is in Trouble‘s Lizzy Caplan is lurking too. It’s hard to say what Wong’s win chances are at this point in time since we don’t know who she’s truly targeting (as we did with Yeun and Peters), but I would put her in the top three at the moment alongside Olsen and Chastain. The latter two may get a “biopic bump” – you don’t need me to tell you how often actors win awards for “playing real people” – but Wong’s work speaks for itself, and if BEEF fever continues to build, she could be swept up in it too and taken all the way to the stage.

Young Mazino in BEEF

The rest of BEEF‘s ensemble is also expectedly outstanding, but since most of the best material naturally goes to Yeun and Wong, the only other actor I could see feasibly contending for a nomination is breakout Young Mazino as Yeun’s Danny’s younger brother Paul, who takes on an increasingly interesting – and important – place in the plot as the series goes on and has quickly become a fan-favorite. Not only does he have the attention and acclaim to pull of a nom, but the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie race is also just pretty barren right now, with only Black Bird‘s Paul Walter Hauser, Dahmer‘s Richard Jenkins, and Black Bird‘s Ray Liotta seeming like “sure things” for three of the six available spots, leaving Mazino with space to surprise should the BEEF campaign play their cards right.

Elsewhere, BEEF is a shoo-in for directing and writing recognition, and it can land more than one nomination in the former category, with one for Hikari (who directed the pilot along with episodes four and five) and one for Jake Schreier (who directed episodes two, three, seven, eight, and nine – with nine likely being his standout and submission). Hikari might have the edge for a win thanks to pulling off that near-perfect pilot that sets the stage for the series and its tone so successfully, but it’s still early days (though it helps that there has been no consensus on nominees or potential winners from the other contending miniseries yet). And with BEEF‘s move to the Limited or Anthology Series categories, series creator Lee Sung Jin is now undeniably the one to beat for the writing Emmy, leapfrogging over Dahmer‘s, Fleishman Is in Trouble‘s, and Black Bird‘s contenders. If BEEF manages nothing else, I feel the most confident in it winning here – it’s the kind of bold, risky, and wildly original storytelling that tends to take the lead in writing races, and many will want to give Lee Sung Jin something for pulling this all off as the one who first dreamed it all up.

Ashley Park, Maria Bello, and Ali Wong in BEEF

Below-the-line, BEEF will almost certainly be recognized in the Limited or Anthology Series or Movie categories for casting (there are literally no weak links here), cinematography (with Everything Everywhere All at Once cinematographer Larkin Seiple shooting the series with style to spare), editing (courtesy of Euphoria and Minari editor Harry Yoon), and production design (Danny’s and Amy’s houses truly are characters themselves), as well as the all-genre categories of main title design (every opening is instantly striking and memorable thanks to David Choe’s arresting artwork) and music supervision (the needle drops during the credits of each episode are absolutely brilliant), and it should be considered a contender to win several of these categories as well; I’m personally crossing my fingers for music supervision if for no other reason than the show’s immaculate use of Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know” at the end of episode seven.

All-in-all, when you’re campaigning a show as special as BEEF, the sky is the limit when it comes to its awards recognition. From top-to-bottom, it features the type of exemplary acting, directing, writing, and craftwork that all art should aspire to, and it’s already abundantly clear that many agree with me. Additionally, it will benefit from being “the show of the moment” in a way – a series that speaks to these increasingly hateful and hostile times we live in where it seems like everyone is only one bad day away from losing their minds and turning on their fellow man, before reminding us how much we ultimately have in common, and how true healing is possible, but can only come from authentic human connection where we allow ourselves to see others for all they are and be seen for all we are at the same time, without hiding the ugliest parts of our personality. It’s a lesson we’ve heard a million times, but never like this, and perhaps it needed this cast and crew’s blend of brutal and beautiful brilliance to be heard. And for pulling that task off (especially with all the tricky twists and turns this show takes, asking audiences to eventually follow it off the rails and trust that it still knows where it’s going), BEEF deserves the world – but we’ll settle for a few Emmys.

Written by
Though Zoë Rose Bryant has only worked in film criticism for a little under three years - turning a collegiate passion into a full-time career by writing for outlets such as Next Best Picture and Awards Watch - her captivation with cinema has been a lifelong fascination, appreciating film in all its varying forms, from horror movies to heartfelt romantic comedies and everything in between. Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, she made the move to Los Angeles in 2021 after graduating college and now spends her days keeping tabs on all things pop culture and attempting to attend every screening under the sun. As a trans critic, she also seeks to champion underrepresented voices in the LGBTQ+ community in film criticism and offer original insight on how gender and sexuality are explored in modern entertainment. You can find Zoë on Twitter, Instagram, and Letterboxd at @ZoeRoseBryant.

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