As TV continues to evolve, so does the Emmy voting process. This year, The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences leaked the preliminary results of the voting for Best Comedy and Best Drama Series. In the coming weeks, a blue ribbon panel will narrow the top 10 down to the final five nominees. Their findings will be presented along with the rest of the nominees on the morning of July 17.
In the meantime, their top 10 lists are ripe for debate. Who among the chosen few deserves the honor of an actual nomination? I'm here to help the panel by offering an expert opinion honed over an entire season of television viewing, and not the three or four episodes of each series the selectors will use to make their final decisions.
The following is the way I would vote if I were on the panel.
Best Drama Contenders
"Friday Night Lights
Three choices in this category are absolute no-brainers. "The Wire" is the undisputed champ of TV drama, and despite a lackluster last season, it certainly deserves a nomination. Heck, if the last season would have just been ten episodes of Clay Davis uttering his favorite four-letter catchphrase, it would still deserve a nomination just for its preceding seasons' never being honored.
"Mad Men" brought sixties bad-boy cool back onto television in a delicious amalgam of debauchery, wit, and excellent writing. It should certainly earn a nomination for its maiden season.
The easy three rounds out with "Lost", the best serialized television show of all time coming of its best season. It may be tough for the panelists to glean its true quality from a few standalone episodes, but the excitement and richness of the plot should be evident no matter what.
Now's the hard part - sifting through the muck to find two more diamonds. There's no clear standout among the remainders, so it's time to play the elimination game.
The inclusion of "The Tudors" is extremely curious. Its overwrought melodrama is far too cheesy for an Emmy nomination, or even the writer's room of a daytime soap. The same can be said for both "Damages" and "Grey's Anatomy." The former indulges in its frothy ludicrousness while the latter takes it all seriously. Either way, both are a bit too ridiculous for this category. A similar fate continued to threaten the once-brilliant "Friday Night Lights" this year as its murderous and drug-dealing plotlines saw it veer into "7th Heaven
" territory. It did manage to keep its heading barely, however, and still deserves a make-up nod for its transcendent first season, so it squeaks in at the final gun.
That leaves three acting showcases to vie for the final spot. The first, "Boston Legal" has the weakest writing of the three, and splits its brilliance between two characters, so it's out, meaning "Dexter" and "House" are left to do battle.
Both series are pretty weak beyond their main characters. One-dimensionality and formulaic plotlines fester around them, threatening to ruin their series. In a tight race, "Dexter" gets the edge for the overall originality of its premise and the fact the show stayed good despite one of the worst performances (Jaime Murray's atrocious Lila) in the history of television.
Best Comedy Contenders
"Curb Your Enthusiasm
"Flight of the Conchords
"Two and a Half Men
Very slim pickins in the comedy category. It's pretty sad when comedy on television has sunk so low that "Family Guy" makes any sort of top ten list other than an award for most recycled "Simpsons
" jokes in an episode.
Still, there are two easy choices. "Flight of the Conchords" brought surreal musical comedy to television in a way nobody's ever seen. The sublime nature of the comedy and the ease with which its leads pull it off certainly merits recognition.
The other easy choice is "30 Rock," which has with the end of "Extras
" and the post-strike decline of "How I Met Your Mother
" established itself as doubtlessly the best comedy on television. There were more laughs in its season finale than there are in an entire season of "'Til Death
Those two are really the only two series that deserve to get nominated from this list as several more worthy competitors were passed over. But this isn't the list of Emmy snubs (stay tuned for those), so we must barrel forward and pick the three lesser of the seven remaining evils.
Let's start with the two most overrated series on television: "The Office" and "Ugly Betty". The first of these just wrapped its worst season to date, a decline it's been on since the first season ended, while "Betty" decided to get much, much worse. Apparently jokes about bad ponchos and fashion-related puns are the height of good comedy these days. "Ugly Betty" just isn't good by any stretch of the imagination, but "The Office" despite its shortcomings still manages to squeeze some laughs and pathos out of the gang at Dunder-Mifflin. It gets in.
My teeth still hurts from watching "Pushing Daisies." Way, way too sweet. Maybe if the Emmys were chocolate statues wrapped in gold foil.
"Two and a Half Men" was funny about five years ago, and then the writers decided to just replace the names of the guest characters in old scripts and pretend they were new episodes. At least that's the way it seems.
"Weeds" peaked in its second season and plummeted into a deep dark valley in its third from which it was never able to escape. Rather than stick with the dark suburban satire that made the show so great, the writers decided it best to make it a show solely about a drug-dealing mommy. Most of the fun and most of the humor went up in smoke with that decision.
This means two formerly great series get in by default. Well, not totally.
Season 6 of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" was its worst, but a bad season of "Curb" is still funnier than nearly anything else on TV. It should get a nomination and deserves it.
That cannot be said for "Entourage." Showing a decline in quality similar to "Weeds" as the writers chose to feature Ari's exploits as almost a series-within-a-series and turned Johnny Drama into a cartoon character. Still there were enough funny moments and memorable situations for this Hollywood comedy to deserve the final slot. Barely.
Make sure to check back in a few weeks when the nominations are announced to find out who got in, who got snubbed, and who doesn't deserve to be there.
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Story by Andrew Payne
Starpulse contributing writer