Jenna Coleman — Maybe you don’t like the priggish new Doctor (though, I do), and maybe you are completely fed up with Steven Moffat and his sometimes dopey, deus ex Moffat’ed storylines, but it’s hard to argue with Jenna Coleman’s performance. She has been killing it this season as the companion, Clara Oswald. At this point, it almost feels like it’s more her show than it is the Doctor’s, and you have to be impressed with anyone that can outshine Peter Capaldi.
Jake Gyllenhaal — Quietly, and without bringing any added attention to himself through the tabloids, Gyllenhaal has become one of the best, most reliable actors in Hollywood, turning in one phenomenal performance after another, culminating in the number one film at the box office over the weekend, the indie Nightcrawler. Some are even saying that he’s the new George Clooney.
Sarah Koenig (above, left) — After years of filling in for Ira Glass on some of the best episodes of This American Life (seriously, listen to her “7 Things You’re Not Supposed to Talk About” podcast and try not to fall in love), Koenig is now behind the best, most gripping drama of the fall, Serial, which is slowly reaching True Detective levels of water cooler-ness.
Andre Holland — Steven Soderbergh’s brilliant Cinemax series, The Knick, wasn’t seen as much as it should’ve been, which meant that Andre Holland — who played Dr. Algernon Edwards — didn’t get nearly the attention he deserves. It’s too bad they already cast The Black Panther because Holland would’ve been perfect, and at the very least, deserves a place in the Marvel kingdom now.
Lake Bell — Bell kind of struck out as a romantic comedy actress earlier in her career, but she’s managed to quietly become one of the funniest women around. She stole an otherwise mediocre Jon Hamm film, Million Dollar Arm, earlier this year, she has been consistently impressive (along with Malin Ackerman) on Children’s Hospital, and In a World may be the best movie on Netflix that you haven’t seen yet.
Keanu Reeves — John Wick dropped only 44 percent in its second weekend (an amazing hold for an action pic), and while it’s ten-day $27 million gross is not exactly blockbuster territory, it’s impressive given the $20 million budget and the fact that Reeves hadn’t had a hit movie in years. This is his comeback, and spend a half hour with him on the Nerdist podcast and you’ll realize just how much he deserves it. In a free form interview, he is surprisingly one of the most charming, personable, animated guys you will ever hear. I cannot get over how likable he really is.
Eliza Coupe — Two years removed from the cancellation of Happy Endings and Coupe has returned with the best new sitcom of the fall, Benched, which puts her psychotic, sarcastic sexiness front and center.
The Boardwalk Empire Casting Director — I’m not sure what his or her name is (Meredith Tucker?), but whoever cast the young versions of Nucky Thompson, Gillian Darmody, and The Commodore, as well as Jimmy Darmody’s son, in the final season of the HBO series deserves the Emmy for Outstanding Casting in a Drama Series. The younger versions absolutely nailed the look and mannerisms of the older characters, and even if you didn’t ultimately enjoy the flashbacks, you can’t argue with the impeccable performances.
Melissa McBride — Carol has gotten plenty of accolades as a character this last couple of seasons of The Walking Dead, but Melissa McBride has not gotten nearly the attention she deserves for transforming a weak, first season character into the most bad-ass female on television. It’s been a subtle, five-year transformation, but first season Carol is practically unrecognizable now, and McBride deserves all of that credit.
Matt Czuchry — I have no idea how, through five and a half 22-episode seasons, The Good Wife only manages to get better, richer, and more engrossing as it goes along, but this season has been phenomenal. The centerpiece performance this season has been Czuchry’s Cary Agos, who has transformed from the arrogant but likable first-year associate to one of the most dynamic characters in a series full of dynamic characters. Week after week, evidence seems to stack up against him in a particular case, and yet — despite what seems like an open-and-shut case against him — his face betrays nothing, except that we want to root for him.