It's time to celebrate the year's best television performances as we head into Emmys season. And with more than 500 scripted shows on television, streaming, and digital platforms, there are a lot of contenders in the mix. We don't envy Emmy voters who have to choose between this season's outstanding entries, from heartbreaking true stories like The Act and Chernobyl to groundbreaking comedies like Barry and The Good Place.

Ahead of the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, TV Guide is celebrating some of the best TV had to offer in 2019. Join us as we look back at some of the standout performances of the year, and check back often for more interviews, videos, and more.


Emmy Contender Profiles

<p>Christopher Abbott, <em>Catch-22</em> </p>

Christopher Abbott, Catch-22

Christopher Abbott on Clooney and Laying Himself (Totally) Bare in Catch-22

If the buzz about Hulu's exceptional original series Catch-22 made you feel even the faintest bit of shame for not finishing the book as part of your required reading in school, give yourself a break: Even Christopher Abbott, who plays the existentially tormented protagonist, Capt. John Yossarian, in the six-episode series, hadn't read it before taking on the role. "I wasn't a particularly great student," Abbott told TV Guide via phone. "But it worked out for the better, because I got to read it as an adult with a certain energy knowing I was going to do this piece." As Yossarian, a B-25 bombardier in World War II desperately trying to get out of his war missions, Abbott spends the season toggling between despair, befuddlement, anger, terror in combat, and then, at his breaking point, borderline insanity, as he protests his unfortunate lot by refusing to wear clothes and strutting around the base nude. Keep reading about Christopher Abbott in Catch-22...

<p>D'Arcy Carden, <em>The Good Place</em> </p>

D'Arcy Carden, The Good Place

The Good Place's D'Arcy Carden Wouldn't Have Been Ready for Janet 10 Years Ago

D'Arcy Carden has a caterpillar crawling on her sweater. It's the first thing she notices before we meet up in Silver Lake, a hipster neighborhood on the east side of Los Angeles. Even as we discover that our original proposed lunch location is closed and wander down the street to a new pizza place, Carden is worried about where the small bug came from. Was it in her car? Was there a nest in her sweater drawer at home? Did he fall out of a tree? Over the course of our hourlong lunch, I discover this concern for the things and people around her is a pretty central part of who Carden is. A pupil of the Upright Citizens Brigade improv scene, Carden is an expert at throwing the proverbial ball to other people, even when talking about her rise to fan-favorite status as Janet on NBC's The Good Place. Keep reading about D'Arcy Carden on The Good Place...

<p>Jharrel Jerome, <em>When They See Us</em> </p>

Jharrel Jerome, When They See Us

When They See Us' Jharrel Jerome Is as Blown Away by His Performance as the Rest of Us

Anyone who witnessed Jharrel Jerome own the screen in Episode 4 of When They See Us can attest that "transformative" is not an exaggeration of the young actor's portrayal of the real-life Korey Wise. Jerome is desperate and deranged in solitary confinement, having hallucinatory conversations with loved ones; he's meek and child-like with the sole guard who shows him any humanity; he's scorched-earth hysterical as he is pulled away from his mother on what we assume to be his last time seeing her ever. "It weighed on me so heavy," Jerome said. "The fact that he's alive and breathing, I get to see him and hug him — I wanted to do this man justice." Keep reading about Jharrell Jerome in When They See Us...

<p>Joey King, The Act </p>

Joey King, The Act

Joey King on Tackling her 'Mentally Taxing' Role in The Act

For Joey King, it started with her speaking voice. To play Gypsy Rose, the young woman in Hulu's The Act whose mom, Dee Dee Blanchard (Patricia Arquette), convinced Gypsy and the world that Gypsy suffered from ailments she didn't actually have, King had to affect the squeaky voice of the real-life Gypsy. Knowing she's much older than her mom has let on and she's not immobile from leukemia, muscular dystrophy, and other diseases makes her chirpy, saccharine, and uncomfortably naïve voice deeply unsettling. But King's voice was just a brick in the pyramid of her transformative role. She wore prosthetic teeth, she conveyed the singular physical demands of a wheelchair user who later realizes she can walk, and she deftly handled a 180-degree psychological turn from from sweet to sinister. Combined, King's multi-pronged part is an epic metamorphosis with few rivals this season. "It was pretty intense," King told TV Guide. "I've never played a character where I had to transform myself so much." Keep reading about Joey King in The Act...

<p>Rhea Seehorn, <em>Better Call Saul</em> </p>

Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul

Rhea Seehorn on Kim's Season 4 Struggle and the Better Call Saul Scene That Surprised Her

For Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul lives in the unexpected. Saul may be working backwards from an ending Breaking Bad fans already know, tracing Jimmy McGill's (Bob Odenkirk) moral descent into scheming lawyer Saul Goodman, but the AMC drama isn't exactly chafing at the constraints of a prequel. At every turn — sometimes multiple times within a scene — Better Call Saul finds room to breathe, allowing the characters to pull the story in new directions. That's especially true for Kim Wexler, one of the few characters whose fate in the Breaking Bad era is still a question mark. Better Call Saul's fourth season pushed Kim to new limits, revealing how many lines she was willing to cross out of loyalty to Jimmy even as she grew more isolated from her grieving partner. "Season 4 more than ever, Kim, who often chooses not to speak over speaking, has a relationship with the audience," Seehorn told TV Guide. "They are my closest confidante because Jimmy is not anymore. The audience became like my co-conspirator or my secret keeper. They're the only ones that knew what I was thinking in certain rooms." Keep reading about Rhea Seehorn in Better Call Saul...

<p>William Jackson Harper, <em>The Good Place</em> </p>

William Jackson Harper, The Good Place

The Good Place's William Jackson Harper on Becoming an Unexpected Thirst Icon

One of the biggest surprises of the 2018-19 TV season came in The Good Place, when the bookish, perpetually flustered ethics professor Chidi Anagonye, played by William Jackson Harper, took off his shirt and revealed he was, as the kids say, serving serious body ody ody. And we're not talking adorable dad bod fitness either, but real-deal, chiseled pecs, BBQ grill abs, and sides as defined as fish gills. Sure, Chidi had to recite all manner of highly intellectual philosophical mumbo jumbo in "Jeremy Bearimy," as he had been for the three seasons prior, but for William Jackson Harper, going topless on the thought-provoking NBC sitcom not only make him an unexpected thirst icon but it also proved to be more challenging for the actor than memorizing lines ever could. "I was scared sh--less," Harper told TV Guide. "It was frightening." Keep reading about William Jackson Harper in The Good Place...

<p>Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver, <em>The Other Two</em> </p>

Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver, The Other Two

The Other Two Is the Comedy Dark Horse We're Rooting for at the 2019 Emmys

Comedy Central is a bit of an Emmys juggernaut when it comes to the variety series categories, but the network with comedy literally in its name has never landed a nomination for Best Comedy Series. This could be the year that changes thanks to The Other Two, a satire from former Saturday Night Live writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider about two thirtysomething siblings, Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary (Drew Tarver), who must adjust to life after their teen brother Chase (Case Walker) becomes the next Justin Bieber overnight. There's plenty of room within The Other Two to mock Gen-Z or to take a cynical look at the millennial struggle to succeed in the modern day, but the heart of the show is a family that genuinely cares about each other despite going through a unique, bizarre experience. "It was important that this was a real family, and that they loved each other and that these are real people going through this weird thing," Kelly told TV Guide. Keep reading about The Other Two...

<p>Connie Britton, Dirty John </p>

Connie Britton, Dirty John

How Connie Britton Tackled Her Most Challenging Scene in Dirty John

One of the biggest challenges for Dirty John, the dramatized version of a true story about a California businesswoman caught in a bad romance that ended in homicide, was nailing the tone. To call a show or movie "Lifetime-y" has become a thinly veiled insult — an insinuation that the material rings of cheap melodrama, sentimentality, or overwrought emotion. And though Dirty John's tale of a woman escaping a Prince Charming who turned out to be a violent con man is a terrifying one with wider societal implications, there are moments in the series — particularly when Debra Newell, played by Connie Britton, is cowering or frozen with fear — that get dangerously close to seeming, well, Lifetime-y. Nonetheless, melodrama is a danger that Britton, also an executive producer on the series, recognized from the start and took great care to avoid. "What was so important to me is that I did absolutely not want the depiction to be written off as melodramatic and cliche," Britton told TV Guide. "Because as soon as people write it off like that they couldn't take in the messages or find the truth." Keep reading about Connie Britton in Dirty John...

<p>Eric Lange, <em>Escape at Dannemora</em> </p>

Eric Lange, Escape at Dannemora

Escape at Dannemora's Eric Lange Lost 35 Pounds for a Single Episode

After building up to and finally showing the long-awaited prison break in Episode 5, Escape at Dannemora's sixth episode flashed back and showed viewers how David Sweat (Paul Dano) and Richard Matt (Benicio Del Toro) ended up in the prison, as well as how Tilly (Patricia Arquette) and Lyle Mitchell (Eric Lange) started their relationship. And, well, these are not good people. TV Guide talked to Lange about the stunning episode, and he shared some previously untold information about the creation of Episode 6, which he called a "brain-breaker." According to Lange, "an obsessive level of culling the details and culling the research" went into nailing Lyle and Tilly's backstory. Keep reading about Eric Lange in Escape at Dannemora...

<p>Hannah Gadsby, <em>Nanette</em> </p>

Hannah Gadsby, Nanette

Hannah Gadsby Redefined the Rules of Stand-Up With Her Poignant Netflix Special Nanette

"I have to tell my story, properly," is a line that Hannah Gadsby repeats multiple times throughout her critically acclaimed stand-up special, Nanette. Unlike other comedy specials, Nanette only begins with the standard build, joke, release tension cycle of most stand-up routines. As the audience gets comfortable, Gadsby slowly begins to reveal that her set is not full of punchlines; rather, it is a dramatic and vulnerable piece of art that shows how modern comedy has failed as a healing device for maligned communities. Keep reading about Hannah Gadsby's Nanette...

Bill Hader, <em>Barry</em>Bill Hader, Barry

Only Bill Hader Could Think Up Barry's Killer Kid Plot (and make it work)

The episode — which Hader directed and wrote with co-creator Alec Berg based on weird ideas Hader had — is different than every episode of Barry previous, a format-breaking standout in the vein of The Sopranos' "Pine Barrens" or Atlanta's "Teddy Perkins." It essentially hits pause on Barry's breakneck plot to focus its entire 38-minute run time on a hit gone wrong. Keep reading about Bill Hader and Barry...

Eric Bana, <em>Dirty John</em>Eric Bana, Dirty John

Here's How Playing a Sociopath on Dirty John Totally Messed With Eric Bana's Head

Eric Bana played a narcissistic, toxically masculine, manipulative, violent sociopath in Dirty John and, given that Bana is also known for becoming the Hulk in the 2003 superhero movie, it's not unreasonable to wonder if the actor has some special connection to the minds of men nobody likes when they're angry. "Zero," he says via phone from Australia, his home country and where he spends most of his time when not working. In real life, he's usually Zen'd out from his main pastime — restoring old bikes and cars — that he's too calm to be anything like John Meehan, the man he portrays in Dirty John who becomes a nightmare for Debra Newell (Connie Britton). Keep reading about Eric Bana in Dirty John...

Susan Kelechi Watson, <em>This Is Us</em>Susan Kelechi Watson, This Is Us

This Is Us' Susan Kelechi Watson on the Importance of Cracking Beth's 'Supportive Wife' Mold

Beth Pearson (Susan Kelechi Watson) emerged as a fan-favorite character on NBC's This Is Us the moment fans saw her fake-smoking before having a verbal sparring match with her husband, Randall (Sterling K. Brown). From the beginning, she's been the rock in his corner, keeping the adopted member of the Big 3 going and helping him find the inner strength to pursue his dreams, whether it was reconnecting with his birth father, buying an apartment building, or running for office. In Season 3, it was finally Beth's turn to fight for her own dreams, and Watson was suddenly flooded with a lot of new information about a character she had deftly managed for over two years. Keep reading about Susan Kelechi Watson in This Is Us...


Dream Emmy Nominees

Every year, the Primetime Emmy Awards honor what is supposed to be the best that television has to offer. But Emmy voters don't always know what the best television actually is. Sorry, but you know it's true. And while we don't know for sure that today's Emmy voters don't watch most of the TV shows that are currently out there, we wouldn't be surprised by it. After all, there is a lot of TV out there! We can hardly keep up with it all, and it's literally our job to keep up with it all. So, as voting continues through June 24 to determine who and what will be nominated for an Emmy come July, we thought we would help out those overwhelmed Emmy voters and provide a little guidance. Check out all of our dream Emmy nominees...