Emmy Day has finally arrived. Be sure to scroll through the rest of the Emmy preview on our homepage, but now it is time to preview the big two, Outstanding Drama and Comedy Series. Genre’s have become a bit muddled in Television over the years. When the Television Academy of Arts first gave out awards it was easy to distinguish between comedy and drama, but now the lines are blurred. It is great to honor two top shows rather than just one, as the Oscars do, but in some ways it dilutes the value of the Emmys.
A best show in television Emmy in which genre is thrown out the window would bring a lot more prestige to the series that wins it. However, as exciting as that sounds, there is so much quality television on-air that narrowing it down to even ten nominees is a daunting task. Voters would also elevate Drama series over Comedy, just as the Academy Awards do with film, and many deserving comedy series would be left out in the cold. This would be a far bigger tragedy than the dilution of the current Emmys by splitting them into two categories. Let’s take a look at this year’s nominees and see how they compare to the field of the “Tommy Awards.”
Outstanding Comedy Series
Orange is the New Black, Netflix (3/2) – The new kid in town, Netflix, has found a lot of success in its early years of original programming. At least we can assume based on buzz and awards, but since Netflix does not release its viewership numbers there is no definitive way to know. But no one foresaw this series about a women’s prison being its biggest creative success. The show is fresh, riveting, and funny. It has the largest ensemble cast of any comedy and the fact that it is easy to remember the backstory on all of them even when they spend several episodes offscreen speaks to how well the characterization of each one is done.
Modern Family, ABC (2/1) – The three-time defending champ has seen its odds shift from (4/1) to (2/1) in the last month, which speaks to the power this traditional sitcom has over Emmy voters. It seems improbable that it would win four straight in its first four seasons. Yes, Mad Men just accomplished this feat on the drama side, but its fourth season is the best of the series and was also a fresh new creative direction. Modern Family, on the other hand, has grown more tired and repetitive with each passing season.
Veep, HBO (3/1) – An all-timer that works on so many levels, political satire, dysfunctional workplace comedy, terrific performances, vulgar humor, etc. It should’ve topped Modern Family last year and upped its game again this season by taking Selina Meyer out on the campaign trail in an effort to become the next President of the United States. Selina and an outrageously expensive wooden crate equals pure comedic gold.
Louie, FX (10/1) – Any show that comes so singularly from the genius mind of Louis C.K. deserves to be amongst the best shows in television. It is not always laugh out loud funny, but C.K. is such a keen observer of human nature and how we function as a society that he always has something interesting to say.
The Big Bang Theory, CBS (10/1) – It’s surprising that with all the love Emmy voters have shown Modern Family they have failed to crown this more classic and successful throwback sitcom as Best Comedy Series. It is a well executed show that delivers punchline after punchline. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but succeeds ridiculously well at what it is trying to do.
Silicon Valley, HBO (30/1) – I have to plead ignorance on this one, having only seen the pilot episode of which I was not a fan. From what people tell me the show improved markedly as the season went along. It is by far the most surprising nomination in the category, but then again given HBO’s track record of lobbying for and getting the most nominations I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised.
Orange is the New Black
Broad City, Comedy Central – Stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson shared my Outstanding Lead Actress award and led by their brilliance Broad City is the funniest new show of the year. It is ballsy and absurdist at times, but executes its ridiculous premises with ease. Glazer and Jacobson’s chemistry is so strong that the show could put them in any situation and mine comedy out of it.
Inside Amy Schumer, Comedy Central – Comedy Central has really come into its own the last few years and if this category was made up completely of its shows I would not take much issue with Key and Peele, the above mentioned Broad City, Review, and Nathan for You all worthy nominees. But Schumer gets the nod for the funniest sketch show on TV. A star on the rise, Schumer flips feminine stereotypes on its head and does so with unabashed brashness.
Shameless, Showtime – This is where the blurred lines of the comedy genre comes into play. Do I honor more traditional, network comedies such as Parks and Rec and Brooklyn 99? Or go with another Comedy Central sketch show such as Review or Key and Peele. Or honor the strangeness of FX with “Seinfeld on acid” It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Wilfred, or Legit. All of those shows are worthy of recognition, but the last spot goes to Showtime’s Shameless. A category flipper from drama to comedy, this bold show does not fit either genre. It simply is what it is, nothing else, and what it is, is brilliant.
This is a wide open category with Silicon Valley serving as the lone “happy to be here” show. Any of the other five have a decent shot at winning. It feels like a good category to take a long shot. Modern Family fatigue seems very legit this year and the chances of four-peating feel a lot slimmer than (2/1). Emmy voters may not be ready to honor less traditional shows, such as OITNB and Louie. HBO’s track record in comedy is less successful than the drama side, eliminating Veep and Silicon Valley. This leaves Big Bang Theory at (10/1). Emmy voters may feel more comfortable voting for something more traditional as well as honoring far and away the biggest scripted hit on television.
And the Tommy Goes to…
Veep. The best comedy on television. It works on so many levels. While Broad City and Inside Amy Schumer made me laugh harder, no comedy left me more satisfied than Veep. Tremendous writing for a powerful lead performance with a splendid supporting cast around her. Veep has it all, including the honor of taking home the Tommy.
And the Emmy Goes to…
Orange is the New Black. The only thing I’m sure of is that Modern Family will fall. It is a wide open field behind it, but tonight just feels like a coronation of Orange is the New Black. The only thing that might prevent it from dominating is that the entire second season, which is not eligible till next year, has been watched by voters and is better than the first. Perhaps this makes them hesitate and wait till next year to crown it, but I’m banking on it only improving its chances this year.
Outstanding Drama Series
Breaking Bad, AMC (1/5) – Let’s remove the suspense, Breaking Bad should and will win this award. There is no one else to bet on and no case to be made for any other show. Yes, True Detective was fascinating and the performances from its two leads made it riveting. Game of Thrones is a true splendor to watch and more than deserving of a win in any other year. The only knock against Breaking Bad is the split season format in which AMC aired it. I’m not a big fan of this “split season” format as it is only used to cut down costs since everyone involved gets pay raises in each new season. It is obviously a terrific business plan as it saves money, increases streaming viewing of previous seasons, and led to a finale audience of over 10 million people.
But there should be a creative consequence in that the show cannot be eligible for awards until the entire season is completed. Last year, the first eight episodes were not nearly as deserving of the win, but when combined with these final 8 to form the complete 16 episode season then Breaking Bad becomes an even bigger favorite. It is the same reason why Mad Men shouldn’t be nominated this year for the first 7 episodes of its final season. A Mad Men season has a certain rhythm to it as it builds upon each previous episode to a satisfying conclusion. By splitting the season in half AMC has disrupted that rhythm and the seventh season of Mad Men is not complete, which is why it joins Downton Abbey and House of Cards on my undeserving nominees list.
Breaking Bad, AMC – The Champ, plain and simple.
True Detective, HBO – Admire the balls on HBO for submitting in the drama series category instead of miniseries in which it would’ve most likely won, but Fargo would make it closer than expected. It will forever be remembered in the history of television thanks to the brilliance of McConnaughey and Woody.
Game of Thrones, HBO – A grand Hollywood epic that airs 10 weeks a year on our TV screens. Tied with Breaking Bad as far as entertainment value and deserves this award at some point in its run.
Boardwalk Empire, HBO – The best example of a novel format on TV. The whole of each season is more satisfying than each individual episode. The execution is simply remarkable.
Orphan Black, BBC America – All conversation about Orphan Black starts with Tatiana Maslany’s performance, as well it should, but behind that performance is the best thriller on television. The action packed thrills combined with the heart that Maslany’s performance brings makes this the most enjoyable show to watch.
The Good Wife, CBS – Grading a bit on a curve for this nominee, but The Good Wife continues to provide an example of the advantages to network television, the biggest being the extra episodes, 22 compared to 8, 8, 10, 12, and 10 from the other Tommy nominees respectively. While most other network shows view this as a burden, Good Wife sees it as an opportunity for more character study.
The Champ Says Goodbye
Back to tonight’s winner. Breaking Bad leaves an indelible mark on the television landscape and it will forever be debated amongst the best show’s of all time. As much as I’m against split season’s getting nominated twice, this show and especially this final season deserves at least two Emmys for all it has accomplished. Vince Gilligan is a television genius and the premise behind this series may never be topped, but the execution of the brilliant premise is what makes this an all-time great.