2013 Emmy Nominations: Best Series

Welcome to our final installment of Mat and I’s fake totally real 2013 Emmy Nominations. If you’ve missed any of our nominations, you can read Part 1 (Guest Performances) here, Part 2 (Supporting Performances) here and Part 3 (Lead Performances) here. In this installment we’ll be covering the big categories: Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Comedy Series.

(Note: My nominees are aligned to the left, Mat’s aligned to the right)

Outstanding Drama Series

Let’s start with the newbie on the list and considering the absolutely dire 2012-13 TV season, a new show being on the list at all is quite the accomplishment, especially when that show is one that a year ago people scoffed at. To be fair, I was one of those that were scoffing because one, it’s on CBS and I’ve grown to distrust anything that comes from CBS (the majority of their show’s demographics aren’t me) and two, haven’t there been enough versions of the Sherlock Holmes character already? Like I mentioned in my nomination of Jonny Lee Miller (no H, as it’s credited in today’s earlier article), I owe a lot of my appreciation of this show to The AV Club because if they hadn’t started covering it, I’m not sure that I would’ve bothered checking it out. That said, Elementary is clearly a strong drama and considering the dramas that are on the air right now, it being nominated should say a lot. I’m still wary of its ability to keep this up for the long haul as it faces the comfort of slipping back into a typical CBS procedural but even when it does, at the absolute minimum it will rival Castle in terms of getting me to tune in regardless (in large part because of the lead).

My infatuation with the show (ask people on EWB) aside, my last nomination in this category happened to come down to this, House of Cards or The Newsroom and since these are my nominations, I went with Suits. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve already pointed out that I probably enjoyed The Newsroom more than most and definitely enjoyed House of Cards more than Mat (though ultimately agree with his sentiments about it) but Suits was just better than them. None of them are perfect and have shown glaring faults at times but ultimately the only one out of the three to be as consistently entertaining and engaging was Suits.

It would’ve been natural to assume this would be the choice to win it, especially if you’ve paid attention to my Twitter accounts the past few days. After all, this is the perennial winner and the first half of Breaking Bad Season 5 was tremendous. That said, the show is clearly reaching the point that if it were to go any longer than the eight remaining episodes might’ve ultimately become quite disappointing. That may sound harsh but I can already see that the writers are running out of stories to tell with a majority of the characters. Saying that, there was no denying that the first half was still a tremendous batch of TV and when the day comes that Breaking Bad is no more, it will be a sad affair. Still, there was one other show that was just better.

I bet you’re surprised this didn’t win, huh? Well me too, kinda. Justified has practically been my favorite show since its debut but ultimately the fourth season did not live up to a certain other show’s season. However, Justified was still one of the best shows on TV and the decision by the writers to shift focus from a “Big Bad” (a season-long villain) to more of a mystery arc was a wise choice because even though Neil McDonough was magnificent in the third season, it’s going to be hard for any antagonist to live up to what Margo Martindale did in Season 2. Still, the twists and turns that Justified took you through in its fourth season was great and very close to deserving a win.

To be honest, I actually wanted to give this show the win more than I did Breaking Bad. I’m, overall, a bigger fan of Breaking Bad than I am of Mad Men but this season of Mad Men just clicked with me. Maybe it’s because I don’t think there’s a finer moment in the series than the one in which Jon Hamm’s Don Draper decides to stop lying to people (the scene that I ultimately awarded him the Best Lead in a Drama for) or Pete Campbell’s evolution from straight-up brat to somewhat tragic sympathetic figure but I do know that there hasn’t been a season of Mad Men that kept me this engaged in a few years. It wasn’t perfect, though. As mentioned in my Linda Cardellini nomination, the Don-Sylvia arc was boring and seemed directionless at time. In addition, the “benching” of Elisabeth Moss and Kiernan Shipka were also not exactly the greatest because those two are quite possibly the second and third strongest actors on the show (behind Hamm of course). Ultimately there was only one show that was more engaging and compelling and that is…

Red Wedding anyone? And I thought choosing Lead Actor in a Drama was hard. Geeze, this category is stacked to the ceiling with great shows and I ultimately chose the show that I felt was just slightly more compelling. Ultimately I have my doubts that Game of Thrones will win the award in real life but I just couldn’t help but give it the award. All of the other nominees had fantastic seasons and I think I could be justified (pun intended, heh) in choosing any of them. However, none of them quite lived up to the expectation and hype that I had for the third season of Game of Thrones and none of them were even close to surpassing it like Game of Thrones.

Honorable Mention(s): Arrow, House of Cards and The Newsroom were all good but not quite good enough.

A show that helpfully reminds that procedural dramas are not inherently evil, and not an automatically bad form of television. They just end up that way a lot. Elementary hasn’t yet, having started a bit slow but eventually hitting a great run of form thanks to some very clever mystery ideas and the excellent chemistry of Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. Long may it stay good.

On one hand, I wish this show were a bit more loved and appreciated, but on the other hand I get why it isn’t. Treme is a pretty hard show to get into, honestly, because it doesn’t have the same kind of hook that other shows have (see: anything involving crime, which Treme has a bit of but not a lot). Because of its broad focus and lack of a single main dramatic throughline, sometimes it gets perceived as a show that’s not actually about anything. But that’s because it’s about a lot of things; the rebuilding of a city, the importance of unique local cultures, the way systems fail the people who live within them, the relationship between who you are and where you’re from. It’s great stuff. I’m glad it lasted as long as it did, because there are a lot of networks where it wouldn’t have even made it past two seasons.

Boardwalk took a while to reach the potential that the talent level of its collaborators (such as showrunner Terrence Winter, executive producer Martin Scorsese, a cast that includes the likes of Steve Buscemi, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Michael K. Williams) would suggest it could reach, but now that it has it should be getting a lot more acclaim than it does. Perhaps the impending departure of Breaking Bad and Mad Men, and the bloom coming off the Homeland rose, will help a bit, but the most important thing would just be to keep putting out episodes as good as “Sunday Best.” The rest will hopefully follow.

If season two of Game of Thrones was a step or two off how good it can be, season three was a great return to form. A brilliant, ever-expanding cast, a refreshing return to the political intrigues and backstabbing after a bit more of a supernatural bent last season, and one major, brilliant gutpunch of a scene near the end of the season.

Breaking Bad pulled off the trick of being an incredibly smart, well-crafted character study that appeals to fans of prestige dramas while also being action-packed and funny enough to appeal to people who just want to see a good crime show with fun characters. In terms of general consensus it might actually go down as the best drama of this current decade, and this season’s storyarc with Walter White finally getting the power he’s always wanted and being completely corrupted by it was a great setup for the final eight episodes, starting next month. I’ll miss it. I’ll also for sure be nominating it next year.

What do you say about Mad Men that hasn’t been said before by every other TV critic? It’s the best-written show on TV. It’s the best-acted show on TV. It has the best design choices, the best soundtrack. Two characters in it can have a seemingly innocuous conversation at a bar and yet the influence six seasons’ worth of development can visibly hang over those characters in a way it just doesn’t quite do with other shows. It’s a classic. I can’t believe next year both it and Breaking Bad will be receiving their final Emmy nominations. Good news, every other TV drama, the competition will have gotten a little less impossibly hard.

Not Eligible Because I Haven’t Caught Up With Them: The Americans, Justified, Nashville, Southland

Outstanding Comedy Series

You knew this was coming right? The tragically cancelled series wasn’t just good new show during the 2012-13 TV season, it was a good show in general and I’m really not willing to abandon my “Fox Cancels Everything Great!” attitude despite the fact that it’s been making decent-to-good choices lately. What’s amazing about Ben and Kate is that it came at the perfect time for those looking for a comedy with heart after being shooed away by the new-but-now-previous writers of Community. Unfortunately, like Community, Ben and Kate was far from a ratings success in spite of its near universal critical acclaim and Fox didn’t feel like waiting it out despite it being the perfect show to bridge an audience between Raising Hope and New Girl. Still, Ben and Kate will forever live my heart as yet another show that Fox canceled (the line goes around the corner) and hey, at least it’ll be known for something. Right?

Oh look, another great comedy prematurely cancelled by a network with a history of cancelling things. There is something to be said about the studio’s (Sony) effort to get the show on another network (USA was the most likely; to pair it with their re-runs of Modern Family) but that ultimately didn’t work out.  And that’s unfortunate because while there may have been better comedies out there, there weren’t any that would tell jokes that the lightning-quick pace that Happy Endings would and that’s one of the things that made it so great. Ultimately I feel like most of the stars will go on to find their own things, they’re just too talented but I’m not quite sure how long it will take. One thing’s for sure, though, Elisha Cuthbert needs to find herself on another sitcom STAT and if there’s one thing that the show accomplished, it’s getting people to care about her again.

Did someone say cancelled ABC sitcom? Luckily the show was able to land on TBS but there was a time that it looked like Cougar Town was going to end up in the same boat (just first on it) as Happy Endings. What’s remarkable about the show is that despite its change of networks, it didn’t miss a beat at all. Well, not because of the network change at least because it did show signs of age simply because the fourth season is around the time that sitcoms start becoming less about what the premise of the show was when it started (though Cougar Town has changed drastically since its inception in general) and more about just hanging out with the character you know and, at this point, love. The fact that the change of networks also coincided with creator/showrunner Bill Lawrence’s departure from it makes the latest season of Cougar Town even more impressive. Not quite impressive enough to garner the win, though.

My appreciation for the show has slowly dwindled as the seasons have progressed but The League is still one of the best comedies on TV. There’s still a lot to love about it but the show’s focus going from dickish friends making fun of each other while in a fantasy football league to a bunch of terrible people doing terrible things hasn’t exactly been my favorite progression (especially since I already grew tired of that schtick with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). Still, there are still parts of it that are great (most notably anytime Taco or Rafi are on screen), it’s just not as consistent.

With Community’s down year, I would’ve assumed that this would be the year in which I’d consider Parks and Recreation to easily be the best comedy of the year. However, a certain animated show was simply more consistent and stronger. That said, there were a lot of great things in Parks and Recreation this season and, had it not been for that animated show’s continuing surge in quality, it would’ve walked away with the win pretty easily.

This was really just a two-horse race but while I adore Parks and Recreation, I don’t think it’s last season was as strong as Archer’s. What’s weird about Archer is that the show hasn’t really shown any signs of dropping in quality and in fact, continues to somehow get better. Like I mentioned with Cougar Town, usually at around the fourth season a show starts to run out of ideas that aren’t just the characters hanging out but with Archer it’s different. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s animated and can get away with things that a live-action show can’t, causing the show to hit that downward trend later but Archer just keeps getting better and better. This year that means an Emmy award for its troubles.

Honorable Mention(s): If this were any other year, I have no doubt that Community would’ve won it but considering how uneven the fourth season was, I can’t really justify it. How I Met Your Mother is not as great as it once was but it still one of the better sitcoms on TV and when it’s on, it’s on. It’s just that unfortunately it’s not on that much anymore. Again, Arrested Development would be a practical shoe-in had it not been for me being lame and not watching the new season prior to all of this writing.

I had bad luck with network comedies this season, and the start of my six reflects that. I could put the fairly good final season of 30 Rock here, or acknowledge The Office’s amazing series finale, but instead I have to go with what I loved, and I loved Ben and Kate. In a perfect world it would have been bought by ABC, aired after Modern Family, and become a hit (this is a universe where ABC actually decides to keep one show airing after Modern Family instead of changing it every season). Oh well.

See above for why two canceled shows in a row are here. In a perfect world, Fox would have either put it on their network or, even better, given it to FX. Tonally it actually would have been a great fit for Fox’s Animation Domination block if not for the part where it was, well, a live-action show. But that doesn’t stop Cartoon Network, right?

Parks and Rec had an off-year. While it didn’t have any single storyline that fell flat (unlike, say, season four’s ill-conceived Tom/Ann relationship), on more than one occasion it felt like a show that was treading water. That being said, it’s a better show whilst treading water than most comedies are when they’re trying their hardest. I mean, I can’t be too disappointed with a show that gave me things like Benji’s Cool Times Summer Jamz Mixtape and Leslie meeting Joe Biden, can I? Of course not.

The wait between the end of season three of Louie last year and the start of season four of Louie next year is going to kill me. I love Louie because it’s a show that I genuinely don’t know what to expect from it on any given week; it has a definite style, but the structure itself is whatever Louis C.K. wants it to be. Sometimes it’s not even funny on the whole, but the episodes that aren’t hilarious make up for it by being genuinely fascinating in a way most comedies aren’t.

The funniest show in this group. Season one was good, but season two is even better thanks to great additions to the cast (Kevin Dunn, Gary Cole), and the way it deftly juggles various plots and schemes, building to a chaotic, brilliant finale. If you’re ever lacking in creative, beautifully profane insults in your life, watch any given minute of this season for inspiration.

WINNER: Arrested Development
It’s a giant labyrinthine mess of overarching plots and subtle callbacks and links between anything and everything that may have happened over the course of the season’s fifteen episode. Some episodes don’t work, some jokes go on too long, sometimes the editing or the props look or sound a little off. But no comedy managed to capture my imagination and make me think about what was going on so much, no running gag killed me as much as the use of “The Sound of Silence” in the Gob episodes, and no show made me as giddy with excitement when I realized that they had actually brought back my favorite comedy of all time and done it successfully. Welcome back, Arrested Development. Please let the wait for season five be shorter than the wait for season four.

Not Eligible Because I Haven’t Caught Up With Them: Archer, New Girl, Wilfred, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

And that’s a wrap on all of our nominations! It’s been real, it’s been fun but it hasn’t been real fun (that’s a lie). Here’s where I would normally pimp out our Twitter accounts but before I do, I do want to mention that I will be live-tweeting the actual nominations tomorrow morning. So if you’re bored at work or you’re somehow up at 8:15am EST/5:15am PST then follow me on Twitter @kyle_igr and I’ll try my best to make it seem like I’m at least half awake. As always, the site’s Twitter account is @igresponsibly and if you haven’t already done it (you should), you can follow Mat @thedesertpope.

Latest posts by Kyle Russell (see all)