With the 2013 Primetime Emmys just a few days away, it’s finally time to finally look at the two biggest categories of the night. We’ve spent the past month here analyzing the lead and supporting actor nominations in comedy and drama, and today it’s time to size up the programs themselves. Let’s not waste any time introducing the stakes at play. Instead, let’s get right down to the analysis.
As established in the last few weeks, we’ll look at three things when analyzing each category: Who Will Win, Who Should Win, and What Show Would Benefit Most From Winning. There may be overlap in some cases. Maybe there will be a three-way split. Who knows? Only one way to find out.
Outstanding comedy series
Who Will Win?
Today’s study question: Will Emmys voters recognize that other comedy series besides “Modern Family” exist? That show has collected this award for the past three years, and even while its fourth season was its most uneven, it’s difficult to see a path for any other show to overthrow it. If you want to look at one potential show that could usurp the “Modern Family” run, it would be “30 Rock,” a show that won three consecutive awards in this category before “Modern Family” started its run. Every other show will live to see another chance to get nominated. But as this past season was the swan song for “30 Rock,” this is the last opportunity for Emmys voters to shower accolades on one of the smartest comedies of the past decade. Look for “Modern Family” to hang on, but it wouldn’t surprise us in the least to see Tina Fey onstage accepting this award.
Who Should Win?
A few weeks back, we looked at the confusion that surrounds certain shows deemed “comedies,” even though evoking audience laughter is often not the first goal for these programs. Taking unflinching looks at mortality, relationships, and the daring pursuit of personal happiness, “Louie” often packed a more dramatic punch than many shows in the drama categories. Still, of the six shows in this category, no other program offered up so many solid episodes, and only “Girls” offered up a consistent point of view that challenged audiences’ perceptions on a weekly basis. That might not sound like the job of a “comedy,” but that’s really a problem for the Emmys, not for these programs. “Louie” doesn’t have a chance to win here, but as one of the five best shows of the past year, it really should.
What Show Would Benefit Most From Winning?
All new NBC comedies, should “30 Rock” win. “The Big Bang Theory” will settle for being the most popular comedy on television, and sleep well atop its Scrooge McDuck-esque pile of money each night. HBO will get a win for Julia Louis-Dreyfus and continue to get plenty of buzz for “Girls.” ABC has a solid lineup of comedies that all fit within an easily identifiable brand identity, yet has never been able to truly replicate the ratings for “Modern Family” no matter what show it places immediately after that juggernaut. “Louie” does miniscule numbers but also has episodes that cost as much as the catering for most other programs in this category. But NBC desperately needs any good news at all, even if it’s for a show that is no longer on the air. The network already has plenty of talent under its wing. If it can’t provide its talent with ratings, at least it can demonstrate that it can provide its talent trophies.
What’s your pick? Vote below.
Outstanding drama series
Who Will Win?
Do we have to choose? Oh wait, that’s the whole concept of these weekly analyses. Good point. Let’s start by eliminating three shows from contention. “Homeland” had a polarizing second season, having as many head-scratching episodes as jaw-dropping ones. “Downton Abbey” is the kind of show that’s fun to nominate, since it has all the surface-level trappings of quality, but will be shut out. And while “Game of Thrones” probably turned in its best season, it’s only won one major award in the past two years (Peter Dinklage won for best supporting actor in a drama in 2011).
That leaves two AMC shows and one Netflix show. (Sorry, broadcast networks. The Emmys like your comedies, but not your dramas.) In many ways, “Mad Men” had just as polarizing a season as “Homeland,” but in its rigorous refusal to proceed according to a strict narrative progression, it’s also one of the most unique, hypnotic programs on the air. Throw in the fact that it won four straight awards in this category before “Homeland” swooped in last year and you have a compelling case that this show appeals to voters as much, if not more, than the show’s core audience.
“Breaking Bad” and “House of Cards” each have as many pros as cons when considering their chances to win. “Breaking Bad” currently is completing one of the great home stretches in TV history, but the eight episodes under consideration here didn’t always live up to the current crop. Furthermore, some voters may consider last year’s eight episodes and this year’s batch as a complete season, leading them to cast their vote for the sum total next year. As for “House of Cards,” it has Kevin Spacey, David Fincher and the allure of prestige drama delivered in a potentially revolutionary way. But look under the hood, and “House of Cards” isn’t a bold new step for drama so much as for distribution. There’s nothing wrong with the show sharing many things in common with its broadcast and cable brethren. But aside from a great lead performance by Spacey and an award-worthy supporting turn by Corey Stoll, there’s not a lot of “there” there. Still, this is the “sexy” pick this year, and deserves consideration as the winner.
Honestly, it’s a toss-up between the last three, and saying otherwise is foolish. No one saw “Homeland” coming last year, even though few questioned the quality of that program. “House of Cards” didn’t produce a show equal in quality to “Homeland.” But look for it to win, and also look for a thousand think pieces about the future of “television” to launch the following morning. God help us all.
Who Should Win?
Are we allowed to put “Louie” here? No? OK. Taken on a weekly basis, “Mad Men” can be a frustrating experience, especially for those neck-deep in the weekly review game. But taken as a whole, the decentralization of Don Draper was the entire point: He’s being pushed off the stage so slowly not even he can recognize it, while the playing field is cleared for compelling characters such as Peggy Olson, Pete Campbell, and even Bob Benson to take center stage. No show on this list is without flaws, but “Mad Men” eschews plot momentum in favor of character study, and in doing so has created one of the richest tapestries on television. We’ll be praising “Breaking Bad” next year, but this is a chance to honor “Mad Men” one last time.
What Show Would Benefit Most From Winning?
Netflix, by a nearly exponential amount. It actually produced a show superior to all in this category in the form of “Orange Is the New Black,” but it won’t be eligible till 2014. Still, this is a fight for bragging rights, for the future of the medium, and for the future of “television” consumption. If “House of Cards” wins, the world of television won’t change overnight. But the change already underway relating to how shows are greenlit, produced, and aired will only accelerate. It’s an exciting time, but also a terrifying time, for those producing long-form narrative. The “small screen” no longer means televisions, but computers, tablets, phones, and whatever new device is just around the corner. A win for “House of Cards” won’t immediately destabilize the industry, but the house of cards that is television itself is already on shaky ground. There’s opportunity in this chaotic mess, to be certain. But the next “golden age” of television may be measured not in Nielsen ratings, but rather the number of bars on your device’s WiFi signal.
What’s your choice? Vote!
Now that you’ve voted, explain your choices in the comments below. Who will take home the night’s biggest prizes?