The Emmy nominations are announced next week. For those who don’t know, the Emmy Awards are either an affirmation of our excellent taste in television or prizes that award the same outdated nonsense over and over, depending on who wins. Either way, it’s fun to imagine what the nominations would look like if the Emmys got things right.
Best Comedy Series (a.k.a. Shows that are Better than Modern Family).
First, we must stipulate that the Emmys are strange. Funny shows like Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele, and Kroll Show are all variety shows through the lens of Emmy. Fine. Also, many shows listed below may not seem like comedies the way we know comedy to be, laugh-a-minute, but they are still submitted as comedies, and that’s how we’ll treat them. Also, Bob’s Burgers, one of the best shows on tv, is not eligible in this category. Onward!
Close, but no cigar, but still better than four-time champ Modern Family
I am a philistine who doesn’t get Louie, but many people I know think it’s fantastic. I hope it makes their personal Emmy lists. There was a stretch of Girls this season that was fantastic, far better than its dismal second season, particularly when episodes had nothing to do with its main cast. Getting On was a beautiful gem about the hilarious world of hospice care. The gorgeous final episodes of Looking made up for its shaky, staid beginning. And New Girl is a show I still watch, even if it’s now a show about couples breaking up while everyone screams as loud as they can.
The comedies that make the cut for me are as follows:
Broad City- Another piece of media about stoner friends trying to make their way through the urban jungle of New York sounds like my television kryptonite, but I’m so glad I tuned in for this. It’s actually a show about female friendship and the adventures that go along with it. They also realized that smoking pot in itself is not a funny punchline unless the smokers are doing hilarious things. Take note, Seth Rogen!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine– This Andy Samberg vehicle roared right out of the gate with the most self-assured, funny debut of a comedy in quite some time. Impressive cast chemistry and a deadpan Andre Braugher make murder investigation far funnier than it should be. It’s probably the best workplace comedy on TV right now.
Orange is the New Black– This show is more of a dramedy than comedy. It’s also a tender exploration of race, gender, sexuality, and the prison industrial complex. At first, a show about a privileged white woman who enters the system, the camera pulls back to reveal the backstories of others until we the viewers stand atop the panopticon and get the full picture.
Parks and Recreation– It’s not quite the show that it used to be, but it’s still one of the most clever and thoughtful comedies on TV. Amy Poehler won’t win an Emmy again this year, but she probably should.
Review– Maybe the most ironically strange part of this year’s television season was that some of the funniest shows were actually on Comedy Central. Andy Daly is hilarious as a man whose life spirals downward as he’s tasked with giving Yelp-like reviews to everything in his life. This is comedy at its darkest and driest.
Veep– This used to be merely a one-liner machine, firing caustic remarks like tennis balls against the wall. This season, with the Veep’s presidential campaign, everything came together to make it a quotable journey where you can’t miss a word of dialogue.
Dramas, the Serious Shows.
Close, but no cigar:
I stopped my entire life to binge House of Cards, but I forgot everything that happened a couple minutes after I turned it off. Except the threesome. Mad Men struggled a bit, but effectively set up next season’s finale while letting its female characters shine. I’m still catching up on the wonderful The Americans. Fargo, Broadchurch and Sherlock, all better than most things listed below, are movies or mini-series.
Without further ado, the shortlist:
Breaking Bad- The final eight episodes were as chilling and tense as anything on television this year. Episode after episode raised the stakes and prepared you for the inevitable. The little show that could became the big show that did.
Game of Thrones– Even though the show didn’t pull the trigger on THAT moment that book readers were expecting, there were still plenty of jaw-dropping moments that made up for the brood-a-thon happening north of The Wall. For the second straight season, the show was also a study in how not to plan a wedding.
The Good Wife– This network show has no right having as spectacular a fifth ( ! ) season as it did. By rebooting the show and taking characters down surprising roads, it became the most unpredictable, compelling show on television, network or otherwise.
Masters of Sex- This was a fascinating, complex look at how the practice of Masters and Johnson came to be. Plus, any show that allows Allison Janney to orgasm on screen is DVR-worthy for me. Bonus points for sex scenes that feel like they belong in a show.
Orphan Black- If I have to be honest, this season was a bit of a narrative train wreck, but I almost didn’t care because Tatiana Maslany’s performance is like nothing else on television. For that alone, it’s worth watching. If she doesn’t win an Emmy, it will be criminal.
True Detective- As a cultural phenomenon, this show makes my list. It was a dark, gorgeously directed exploration into the depths of evil. It was a famed part of the ‘McConaughsance’ where Matthew put on a shirt and became an actor. It was also really boring at times, super uneven and its faux-philosophizing didn’t really add up to anything in the end. But what excited me about it was the idea that an auteur’s vision was realized from end to end, and they’re going to try it again with different participants next year. It shouldn’t win, but I’m happy it represents risks worth taking in the medium.