The Primetime Emmy voters have actually already had their say. Ballots were due last Friday, and the nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 10th. In the meantime, though, we at The Wire feel it's only fair that we should have our say. Hindsight is not only 20/20, it's also fun, and if on Thursday July 10th we can't point at the Emmy voters' choices and say WRONG!, why are we even in this business? So these are the picks that Emmy voters should make. In the interests of a level playing field, we're limiting ourselves to the official Emmy ballot, though we've made sure to do our fair share of complaining about who was left off of that.
Outstanding Supporting Actor/Actress in a Comedy
Outstanding Guest Actor/Actress in a Comedy
Outstanding Supporting Actor/Actress in a Drama
Outstanding Guest Actor/Actress in a Drama
Outstanding Lead Actor/Actress in a Comedy
Outstanding Lead Actor/Actress in a Drama
Outstanding Comedy Series
Just to remind you folks: a lot of comedies that we all enjoy, like Inside Amy Schumer or Kroll Show or what have you, are submitted in the Variety Series category. I don’t make the rules!
Honorable mentions: Brooklyn Nine-Nine had a solid debut season with much room for improvement. Girls remains a flawed though often ambitious effort. I still adore New Girl but can’t deny it had a down season. Silicon Valley was strong out of the gate but faltered later on, and will hopefully recover in year two. Trophy Wife will be sorely missed. Veep is a show everyone else thinks is amazing and I think is just okay but whatever, it’s fine I guess.
The year’s biggest out-of-nowhere hit would be a worthy winner in this stacked category, which is amazing considering what strides it made just over the course of its first ten episodes. It started out a little unpolished, but Broad City had so much going for it right away: Abbi Jacobson and Illana Glazer’s beautiful chemistry, the fun they have with a much more realistic-feeling New York City and a stupendous supporting cast, especially Hannibal Burress. But most of all, just a strong grasp of how to craft hilarious, shambling adventures for our heroes to go on.
I’m happy this show found such a good note to go out on after the nonsense of its fourth season, and while some episodes were so complicated and thematic that they forgot to be funny, Dan Harmon’s ambition in returning to the writer’s room was hard to fault. The show dealt with a lot of crap—Donald Glover leaving, Chevy Chase getting fired—and did it with aplomb. It’s time for Community to exit the airways, but people will look back at season five and realize what a good job it did righting the ship.
People who say Louie is barely a comedy anymore—Louie is a comedy! It’s more of a comedy than some prison dramas that wormed their way into this category because Netflix likes golden trophies! Yes, Louie was a very melancholy, introspective work this year, but Louis C.K. did some very fun things with TV formatting and the six-part “Elevator” saga, including the absurd and then scary hurricane and the translated Hungarian restaurant breakup, was pretty spellbinding.
The Emmys will probably nominate Modern Family in this category again, and again, and again, forever and ever, but they should give this newer, better version a look-in. Playing House appeals to a broad audience and it does it while laying out some real story arcs and building up a goofy little world for our central pair (the wonderful Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham) to play in. We’ve said so much about this show already—embrace it!
Orange Is the New Black
It’s really not a comedy, although it has plenty of funny moments and always defaults back to a wry look at things rather than a bleak one. But Jenji Kohan’s prison saga was a legitimate TV sensation last summer, that rare event where suddenly everyone is talking about a show, exactly what Netflix hopes for with its all-the-episodes-at-once release strategy. And while the dramatic moments were often where the first season struggled, the comic ones were usually the most memorable.
Much like Playing House, we’ve said plenty about this already, but Review is very much worth checking out and happily coming back for a second season on Comedy Central. You’d need a stomach of steel to do it, but watch all nine episodes back to back and experience the decline and fall of Forrest MacNeil, who sacrifices himself at the altar of great television for reasons we can’t begin to understand.
Outstanding Drama Series
Honorable Mentions: Honestly, this was a pretty down year for TV dramas, which is partly why Orange Is the New Black competing as a comedy is such a bummer. It would have proudly taken a slot in this lineup, and it would've freed up the begrudging-recognition slot in David's lineup for Veep. Justified and Parenthood are both good shows that had down years; most people say Scandal did as well, but I thought it was the same insane good time it's always been; Orphan Black is a good show that nonetheless failed to grip me the way it gripped others; Mad Men is a solid little TV program.
Look, I think Breaking Bad was the best drama on television for its last four seasons, and even I'm looking forward to not talking about it for a year or so. But we have to just power through this Emmys season anyway and try to remember the hours of bone-breaking tension, heartless plot turns, and an ultimately stuck landing that is more and more difficult to achieve in the modern TV age. One more time to throw awards at it, then we're done.
Game of Thrones
I know there's been talk of a down season this year, and without a Rains of Castamere episode for everyone to hang their hat on (that raid on Castle Black just wasn't the same; mostly because everything that happens in the North is boring), it's tempting to agree with that talk. But you'd have a hard time convincing me these weren't still the most compelling hours on TV. Rather than just one jaw-dropping moment, they were spread out across the season and across the many characters, with as many old narrative structures swept away as new ones were built. Hell, we even did away with the central mystery that started the whole series, all in service of a storyline that culminated with the year's best makeover.
The Good Wife
After surviving a season full of ill-advised plot diversions last year and coming out all the more intriguing, The Good Wife paid off the potential of the Florrick-Agos breakaway republic in some spectacular ways. Even the few flawed storylines were either made better (Melissa George's strange ethics advisor) or nearly disappeared (Jason O'Mara's unbearable mafia-thug lawyer). And then there was what became of the Alicia-Will storyline, which ended up pulling the whole canvass together.
What may have been TV's best drama was certainly often its most unwatchable. As in, hide your eyes, turn your face away, maybe even turn your volume down, anything to keep from experiencing the operatic, squishy horror unfolding every week. Or do we need to remind you of where the Michael Pitt storyline ultimately went. Some slight wheel-spinning in the early episodes gave way to a fascinating cat-and-mouse (or cat-and-cat ... -and-cat-and-cat) game and a season finale that had the kind of guts that don't get artfully strewn about a crime scene.
Masters of Sex
Full disclosure: I still have yet to finish the full first season. But in a year when I could only really feel good about five drama nominees, it seems silly not to recognize the boldness of Showtime's series, which set out to tell a story that expanded well beyond its (strongly-drawn) main characters Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan). Nominally, yes, another show with a male protagonist, Masters felt far more egalitarian in its intentions, even as it navigated backwards patriarchal attitudes.
We can quibble over an oddly limiting season finale — or whether it was a series or a miniseries — all we want, but that would ultimately only distract from a season that managed to be clever, wise, and terrifying, all while interrogating notions of what it means to be clever, wise, and terrifying, The McConaugh-losophizing got to be a bit much, sure, but in many ways, that was the point. Or one of the points. Another point was that terrifying, horrible things are happening in all corners of America, and people in swamps with masks and machetes will stop your heart.