18 TV Shows You Need to Binge Watch Before the Emmys

Not sure where to start catching up? Here are Real Simple editors’ favorites.

1

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

emmy-nominated-shows
Photo by Clockwise, from top left: Steve Sands/Getty Images, Lacey Terrell/HBO via AP, K.C. Bailey/Netflix via AP, AP Photo/The CW, Danny Feld

Number of noms: 4 (including Outstanding Lead Actress In a Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor In a Comedy Series, and Outstanding Comedy Series)
Why we love it: After 15 years of being held in a bunker in Indiana by a cult leader, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) is finally free. Her first stop? New York City. There, she meets a group of loveable, but imperfect friends, including landlord Lillian (Carol Kane), roommate Titus (Tituss Burgess), and boss Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski). Kimmy keeps her trademark positivity intact as she—hilariously—learns how much the world has changed in the last decade and a half. The 30 minute episodes are perfectly bingeable.
Favorite episode: “Kimmy Meets a Drunk Lady” (Season 2, Episode 9). Spoiler alert: the “drunk lady” is co-creator Tina Fey, as a therapist, in a six-episode arc.
Number of seasons: 2
Where you can binge: Netflix

2

Catastrophe

Number of noms: 1 (Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series)
Why we love it: A one night stand turns permanent when Sharon (Sharon Horgan), a London schoolteacher, finds herself pregnant. Rob (Rob Delaney), an advertising executive from Boston, moves in with her and the two become an insta-couple. Written by the show’s co-stars, this quirky comedy is a spot on portrait of a marriage between two virtual strangers who somehow seem to work together. At just six episodes a season, you can easily cross this one off your list in a weekend.
Favorite episode: “#1.1” (Season 1, Episode 1). It’s been a long time since we’ve liked a pilot so much.
Number of seasons: 2
Where you can binge: Amazon Prime

3

UnREAL

Number of noms: 3 (including Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Supporting Actress In a Drama Series)
Why we love it: This dark show-within-a-show chronicles the making of a Bachelor-like dating “reality” show. At the center of the drama isn’t the so-called “suitor” or contestants, but showrunner Quinn (Constance Zimmer) and her main producer Rachel (Shiri Appleby). Quinn, Rachel, and the other producers emotionally manipulate the female contestants to churn out ratings and must-see TV—repeatedly pushing the boundaries of basic human decency. After a few episodes it becomes clear: the only genuine relationship on the show is the (platonic) one between the two female protagonists.
Favorite episode: “Future” (Season 1, Episode 10). We’ll spare you the spoiler alerts, but the season finale of season 1 had us hooked for season 2.
Number of seasons: 2
Where you can binge: Hulu (season 1) and MyLifetime.com (season 2)



4

Transparent

Number of noms: 10 (including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actor In a Comedy Series, and two nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress In a Comedy Series).
Why we love it: Tolstoy’s claim that “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” could have been written about the Pfeffermans of Los Angeles, a damaged and narcissistic crew led by Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) who came out to her wife and grown children as transgender in season one. In season two, Maura reflects on her closeted past, while diving headlong into her new life. Her children, meanwhile, struggle to maintain intimacy and honor commitments. Sarah (Amy Landecker), marries Tammy (Melora Hardin) in episode one – only to call things off before the reception is over. Josh (Jay Duplass), leaves his fiancé, Raquel (Kathryn Hahn), after she has a miscarriage. And Ali (the incomparable Gaby Hoffman) discovers she’s a lesbian, falls in love with her best friend Syd (Carrie Brownstein), but then decides she wants to keep things loose or she will “just start shutting down.” Brilliantly directed by Jill Soloway, “Transparent” is wrenching one minute, hilarious the next. And while the characters are not always sympathetic, they are so fascinating and complicated it's nearly impossible to watch just one episode at a time.
Favorite episode: “The Book of Life” (Season 2, Episode 7). It’s Yom Kippur, and all the Pfeffermans have plenty of atoning to do. Ali and Syd host a break-the-fast dinner just as their relationship is coming undone.
Number of seasons: 2
Where you can binge: Amazon Prime

5

The People v. O.J. Simpson

Number of noms: 22 (including Outstanding Lead Actress In a Limited Series or Movie and 2 nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor In a Limited Series or Movie)
Why we love it: No matter how much of the 1995 case you remember, this 10-episode limited series will take you behind the headlines. Based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Run of His Life, the drama explores how both sides built their case, the complicated racial dynamics at play, the jury selection process, that Bronco chase, and much more. For a show where the ending is known from the start, you’ll still be engrossed. Courtney B. Vance (as Johnnie Cochran), Cuba Gooding, Jr. (as O.J. Simpson), Sarah Paulson (as Marcia Clark), Sterling K. Brown (as Christopher Darden), John Travolta (as Robert Shaprio), and David Schwimmer (as Robert Kardashian—before the Kardashians were “The Kardashians”), all received Emmy nominations for their performances.
Favorite episode: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” (Season 1, Episode 6). A compassionate look at how Marcia Clark was bullied by the press
Number of seasons: 1
Where you can binge: Amazon, $19.99 to stream the season

6

The Good Wife

Number of noms: 4 (including Outstanding Guest Actor In a Drama Series and Outstanding Guest Actress In a Drama Series)
Why we love it: If you didn’t watch this seven-season CBS legal drama before it was ended this year, now is a great chance to catch up. After her husband (Chris Noth) is imprisoned for a public sex scandal, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Marguiles) needs to go back to work full-time at a law firm. While the cast is stellar, the real standouts are its guest starring lawyers and judges, including the eccentric Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston, nominated this year), the cunning Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox, also nominated), the shrewd Nancy Crozier (Mamie Gummer), and the sly Patti Nyholm (Martha Plimpton). This show has repeatedly reinvented itself (along with Alicia) over the past seven years—sometimes for better, other times for worse, but we promise it’s worth sticking with.
Favorite episode: “Bad” (Season 1, Episode 13). The first time we meet Colin Sweeney, who’s both bone-chillingly terrifying and uproariously funny.
Number of seasons: 7
Where you can binge: Amazon Prime



7

Master of None

Number of noms: 4 (including Outstanding Lead Actor In a Comedy Series and Outstanding Comedy Series)
Why we love it: Pretty much any 20- or 30-something can find something to relate to in this sharp, funny, and honest comedy. Comedian and actor Aziz Ansari portrays Dev, a struggling actor, who is trying to navigate life, career, and romance in New York City, along with his funnys group of friends and love interests. It’s not just another comedy, but a study of human nature and everyday experiences—commentary about racism and sexism included—with a humorous, thoughtful touch, of course.
Favorite episode: “Parents” (Season 1, Episode 2). It will make you think twice about how you treat your own mom and dad.
Number of seasons: 1
Where you can binge: Netflix

8

Sherlock

Number of noms: 6 (including Outstanding Lead Actor In a Limited Series or Movie and Outstanding Television Movie)
Why we love it: Even if you know nothing about the famous fictional British detective and his trusty sidekick, you’ll get hooked. And if you’re a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fanatic? You’ll still find something new about this series. It’s set in present day London and the storylines are based on the original detective stories, but have some unique and shocking twists. Each episode is like a mini movie (clocking in at 90 minutes) full of stellar performances and clever writing. The only drawback is that there are long gaps between seasons—the third season premiered in 2014 and we can’t expect the fourth until 2017—but we say it’s 100-percent worth the wait!
Favorite episode: “The Reichenbach Fall” (Season 2, Episode 3). We had to wait two years after that cliffhanger!
Number of seasons: 3, plus one mini-episode in 2013 and one special episode in 2016
Where you can binge: Netflix

9

Survivor

Number of noms: 2 (including Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program and Outstanding Picture Editing for a Structured or Competition Reality Program)
Why we love it: Even after 32 seasons, Survivor is as entertaining—and physically demanding—as ever. Between the campsite sabotages, the epic challenges, the introduction of the Super Idol, and the back stabbing at tribal council, there’s never a dull moment. Plus, we have a soft spot for host Jeff Probst.
Favorite episode: “It’s Psychological Warfare.” (Season 32, Episode 9). Get ready for an epic blindside.
Number of seasons: 32(!)
Where you can binge: CBS All Access



10

Jane the Virgin

Number of noms: 1 (Outstanding Narrator)
Why we love it: Here’s the premise: Jane (Gina Rodriguez) was accidentally artificially inseminated with Rafael’s (Justin Baldoni) sperm. What follows is a spoof on a telenovela, as these unlikely circumstances lead to, well, more unlikely circumstances. Every one of the characters is perfectly cast, and the show manages to be over-the-top (think underground plastic surgery rings and hallucinatory Bachelorette appearances) while still feeling relatable. Our favorite part? Anthony Mendez, the narrator (who is nominated for an Emmy for the second year in a row). He provides a quick recap of the previous episode and then chimes in throughout to add his (often hysterical) two cents.
Favorite episode: “Chapter Ten” (Season 1, Episode 10). There’s nothing like a big storm to stir things up.
Number of seasons: 2
Where you can binge: Netflix

11

How to Get Away With Murder

Number of noms: 1 (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series)
Why we love it: Viola Davis is incredible as Professor Annalise Keating, and as her character develops and the series unfolds, you find yourself rooting for her one moment and loathing her the next. Every episode ends with a cliffhanger—making it the perfect show for binge-watching.
Favorite episode: “Something Bad Happened” (Season 2, Episode 13). You’ll want to watch this one with the lights on.
Number of seasons: 2
Where you can binge: Netflix

12

Veep

Number of noms: 17 (including Outstanding Lead Actress In a Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor In a Comedy series, and Outstanding Comedy Series)
Why we love it: Politics has never been so funny. Former Senator Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) answers the call to serve as Vice President, but the job is nothing like she had hoped—i.e., she has little to no authority or power. As she tries to leave a lasting legacy, she and her team (one of the best ensembles on television including nominated actors Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, and Matt Walsh) spit more than four jokes per minute, as one study found, keeping viewers hanging on to each spitfire word they utter. Come for the inside look at American government, stay for the pitch-perfect writing and top-notch performances.
Favorite episode: “Frozen Yogurt” (Season 1, Episode 2). A photo opportunity at a D.C. ice cream shop goes hilariously awry thanks to a gastric flu that is sweeping across Capitol Hill.
Number of seasons: 5
Where you can binge: HBO Go (Seasons 1 through 5), Amazon Prime (Seasons 1 through 3)



13

Grace and Frankie

Number of noms: 2 (including Outstanding Lead Actress In a Comedy Series)
Why we love it: When Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie’s (Lily Tomlin) husbands leave them in order to marry to each other, the two women become fast friends despite seeming like total opposites. Grace’s uptight personality and Frankie’s free spirit combine for some serious hilarity in this refreshing comedy that reunites the stars of the 1980 comedy 9 to 5.
Favorite episode: “The Party” (Season 2, Episoe 12). A good friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer asks Frankie to help her throw her last party ever.
Number of seasons: 2
Where you can binge: Netflix

14

Chef’s Table

Number of noms: 3 (including Outstanding Directing for a Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series, and Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score)
Why we love it: The cinematography in this series is gorgeous—complete with close-up and slow-motion shots of food being prepared and plated—and you’ll quickly become transfixed by the chefs, their food, and their cities. The season moves from Asia to Mexico to Brazil, giving viewers an inside look at upscale international cuisine—and also an understanding of how gourmet restaurants can help local communities.
Favorite episode: “Gaggan Anand” (Season 2, Episode 6)
Number of seasons: 2
Where you can binge: Netflix

15

The Affair

Number of noms: 1 (Outstanding Supporting Actress In a Drama Series)
Why we love it: As the title suggests, this series explores the impact of two affairs that are told from different perspectives. The main characters, Noah Solloway (Dominic West) and Alison Bailey (Ruth Wilson), remember their experiences differently as they recount their memories to a detective looking to solve a murder case. The mystery packed into each episode make it perfect for binging—you won’t want to wait a whole week in between each show. Warning: There’s a good chance the Fiona Apple theme song (called Container) will get stuck in your head.
Favorite episode: “2” (Season 1, Episode 2). You see Noah and Alison’s families intertwined in Montauk—foreshadowing future complications in their affair.
Number of seasons: 2
Where you can binge: Showtime Anytime



16

Game of Thrones

Number of noms: 23 (including Outstanding Supporting Actress In a Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor In a Drama Series, and Outstanding Drama Series)
Why we love it: Escapism. Starting with the opening credits, viewers are truly transported to another time and place, where families fight for power, dragons soar through the sky, and, yes, blood spills freely. While the graphic content may not be for everyone, the characters are so richly developed and the storylines are so intricate, that it is hard to stop after a few episodes. As an added bonus, there is no shortage of strong, complex female characters on Game of Thrones. Yes, there is a fair amount of nudity on the show, but with each passing year, the women of Westeros become increasingly more complicated, nuanced, and powerful. It’s no wonder Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) were all nominated for outstanding supporting actress.
Favorite episode: “The Rains of Castamere” (Season 3, Episode 9). It’s practically impossible to pick only one top episode from this consistently strong show. While the latest season delivered two equally epic, game-changing (pun intended) moments—the season finale, “The Winds of Winter,” and “Battle of the Bastards”—Season 3’s “The Rains of Castamere” brought the Red Wedding, one of book series’ most iconic scenes, to life in all of its brutal, bloody glory. As if fans needed a reminder, no one is safe on Game of Thrones.
Number of seasons: 6
Where you can binge: HBO Go

17

Bloodline

Number of noms: 2 (including Outstanding Lead Actor In a Drama Series)
Why we love it: The Rayburns run an inn in Florida, but lies, deceit, and unthinkable crimes are buried under the family’s hard-working exterior. The suspenseful hour-long (almost movie-like) episodes keep you guessing about what adult brother Danny Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) might be up to in order to maintain the ideal of his “perfect” family. Shot on location in the Florida Keys, the show is as beautiful as it is dark.
Favorite episode: “Part 1” (Season 1, Episode 1). It may be the very first episode of the series, but it’s a great introduction to the Rayburns, and hints to what will tear them apart.
Number of seasons: 2
Where you can binge: Netflix

18

Lip Sync Battle

Number of noms: 1 (Outstanding Structured Reality Program)
Why we love it: OK, we initially tuned in for the sole purpose of watching Chrissy Teigen. But the show has kept us coming back with seriously outrageous celebrity battles. The celebs all take it to the extreme, meaning every performance is complete with crazy costumes, embarrassing dance moves, and occasional surprise guest appearances.
Favorite episode: “Channing Tatum vs. Jenna Dewan-Tatum” (Season 2, Episode 1). The married couple faces off in an epic battle (Frozen is involved).
Number of seasons: 2
Where you can binge: Spike.com