If we left it up to the networks and their campaign departments, almost no one worthy of an Emmy nomination would make the cut (stop nominating Jim Parsons!). So we here at Indiewire are hoping to start some grassroots campaigns of our own, pushing the best of the unlikely nominees to the forefront and hoping to receive some support from you, our wonderful readers. So far, we’ve already done our comedy series picks as well as the acting groups — supporting drama & comedy as well as lead drama & comedy. Below you’ll find our picks — from Indiewire Awards Editor Peter Knegt and Assistant TV Editor Ben Travers — for the dramas we’d like to see honored by the Television Academy, as well as video evidence of their best work. Votes have been counted and the nominations will be announced tomorrow. Here’s hoping some of these make the cut:
6) “Mad Men”
PK: Now, I know it’s hard to feel sorry for a show that’s won four best dramatic series trophies, which is indeed the case with “Mad Men,” but for the first time the conversation revolving around the show is very muted heading into Emmy time, and I suspect it might very well end up not getting nominated for the first half of its split up seventh season. Which well on the one hand might open the door for the shows that I’ll be listing after this, on the other it wouldn’t be a deserved snub. Like any season of “Mad Men,” round No. 7 was a slow burn, but it paid off significantly in its final episodes and collectively came together in a way that was as layered and complex as any of the seasons to come before it… So if it loses out and say, “Homeland” or “Downton Abbey” make it in, that would just be plain wrong.
6) “The Walking Dead”
BT: You couldn’t have said it better regarding “Mad Men” (though I may try a new angle later on in my list). For my No. 6 pick, I’ve chosen a program I’m actually not a big fan of, but would still love to see make the cut. Why? Because “Game of Thrones,” that’s why. If I’m forced to pick sides between gory, soulless TV shows with rabid fan bases that thrive on shock value, I’m taking AMC’s entry every time. While I wouldn’t stack it up against the likes of “Mad Men” or a few other choices on this list, I’d much rather see the zombie drama break into the pack than George R.R. Martin’s humorless exercise get another undeserved nomination.
PK: I remain one of the few people on Earth who has seen neither “The Walking Dead” or “Game of Thrones,” so I’m just going to happily take your word on all that. And there’s really no respectable segue way from them to my No. 5, other than maybe, like: “The Walking Dead” is a genre series the Emmys have never nominated in the top category. “Justified” has got a bunch of nominations over its now five season run (and acting wins for Margo Martindale and Jeremy Davies), but never series. And that is highly unlikely to change this time around given the competition and the lack of buzz surrounding the series’ excellent, penultimate season.
BT: I’m already hoping for next year in regards to “Justified.” Maybe the Academy will give it a sympathy nod in its final season, much like the love it showed “Friday Night Lights” when it was too late to save it. But it’s funny you mentioned “Homeland” in your earlier post. While I’ve spoken with many fans (former fans now) about the show’s disappointing third season, I would still argue the Showtime drama outsmarts enough of its peers to deserve contention. Yes, so-and-so’s death was a major bummer, but it also delivered on the promise (/expectation) given to us from Season 1. Yes, Carrie seems to be spinning her wheels a bit, but Claire Danes performance hasn’t been dampened and she handled the third season solo for most of its run. The real turning point will come in Season 4, as a whole new story needs to be introduced. Can it succeed? Maybe not, but Season 3 didn’t make me lose as much hope as the rest of the viewership.
4) “Orphan Black”
PK: I can half not stand by your “Homeland” defense, only because it was half way through the season that I couldn’t take Carrie and company anymore and called it quits. I did hear from even the most severe Season 3 detractors there was some redemption, but I haven’t worked up the nerve to seek it out just yet. I just wonder how many Emmy voters found themselves in the same boat? But I digress, and turn your attention to my No. 4: “Orphan Black”! Which, yes, gets a lot more (deserved) attention for its powerhouse lead performance from Tatiana Maslany, but the series itself is pretty consistently awesome itself. And while I have a mild bias in being Canadian (it’s the only Canadian show ever to stand even a remote chance at a best series nomination at the Emmys — sorry “Degrassi” fans), I suspect there’s many a non-Canuck that would wholeheartedly agree with me.
BT: Oh, Canada — finally putting forth a worthy Emmys contender. From the Great White North, I’ll head to the San Francisco Bay and the Braverman family who carry enough awards prestige between them to establish their own ceremony. Peter Krause was on “Six Feet Under” (9 Emmy wins); Lauren Graham from “Gilmore Girls” (1 Emmy win); Craig T. Nelson from “Coach” (2 wins); and the rest of the prestigious cast form a group of actors with a wealth of awards experience. Yet all Jason Katims’ family drama has earned from Emmy is a Guest Actor nod for Jason Ritter, which frankly is the least deserving actor to appear on the show. The whole cast should be annual contenders, and the show as a whole is an impressive example of how to best wrangle a large ensemble to full effect. Each character is given his or her own time to shine without losing dramatic emphasis, a practice perfected by Katims on his previous show, “Friday Night Lights.” Here’s hoping the Academy finally recognizes it for fulfilling the potential of its respected cast.
PK: All fair enough, though all I can think about now is how the Emmys screwed over “Gilmore Girls.” That win — I just have to point out — was it’s only nomination, ever. And it was for makeup! So my own enjoyment of “Parenthood” aside, anything to make up for not giving Lauren Graham a boatload of Emmys for playing Lorelai Gilmore. But now onto a show that couldn’t be farther from “Gilmore Girls”: “Hannibal.” Which really, the fact that it’s still on the air and getting a third season is pretty much prize enough given those ratings. But this season was even better than last, and it still blows my mind that network television is airing something so dense and gory and thrilling. There’s nothing else like it on TV — network or otherwise — and it absolutely warrants a best dramatic series nomination. There’s no way in hell that’s happening, sure, but at least I’ve made a tiny contribution on the show’s behalf.
BT: I’ll join you with an even tinier contribution of my own. I fully endorse everything you’ve said (obviously), and humbly add it also features two lead performances as worthy as any of award recognition, which we’ve pointed out before. Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen are in peak form, matching the formal grace of a show so elegant with its presentation and depiction of the gore you mentioned I, of all people, can stomach it — and I have a particularly uneasy stomach when it comes to anything bloody. “Hannibal” is high art produced in a low art shell (NBC), and I’ll be sad to see something as cheap as “The Blacklist” beat it out for Best Drama Series.
2) “Masters of Sex”
PK: Seconded re: “The Blacklist,” and when it comes to a freshman drama it could very well unfairly beat to an Emmy nod, look to Showtime. You know I still heart “Mad Men,” but “Masters of Sex” is giving it a run for its money for the best period drama on television (in fact, my top 2 are both period dramas). Loosely based on the true story of William Masters and Virginia Johnson — pioneering researchers of human sexuality — “Masters of Sex” took history and turned into one of the deeply human shows on television (not that history can’t be “deeply human”). Anchored by Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen’s performances (please give them nominations too), I can’t really say enough about why this show deserves a rare first season bid at Emmy’s top prize.
2) “Mad Men”
BT: Not to keep copying you, but your inclusion of “Mad Men” earlier touched upon much of what I had to say in regard to the high quality of TV given to us in Season 7a. It’s almost as though after six seasons, the TV world has been spoiled with too much excellence (or even five, considering how some people felt about Season 6). They can’t recognize it for what it is — one of the best dramas on TV, and what the WGA called the seventh best show ever written. Seventh! I feel like “Mad Men” is about to get the short shaft much like “30 Rock” did in its final seasons, not because the quality has dipped, but simply because voters have had it good for too long.
1) “The Americans”
PK: Well, voters haven’t had it good for very long at all with “The Americans,” though long enough to snub the show in grand form last year for its first season. I hope but doubt they’ll make up for it the second time around. But they should, because the second season of the spy drama was just as good (if not better than the first), and is in my opinion without a doubt one of the best shows on television (if not the). With the complex storylines and characters backed up by stellar writing and performances (Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell, Noah Emmerich and Annet Mahendru should all get noms as well), either the Emmys are going to jump on board now, or send “The Americans” into the celebrated group of series it consistently ignored (don’t even get me started on that list).
1) “The Newsroom”
BT: I kind of want to get you started on that list, but we’ll save it for another time as I’ll need to convince people I’m not just trolling them with my own top pick. Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama has been met with polarizing reviews. Responses vary from the high praise that met his crowning joy “The West Wing” to defiant dismissals more akin to “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” I defy anyone in the latter group to watch “Red Team III,” the seventh episode of Season 2, and not be pulled toward the other side. “The Newsroom” has never been perfect, but it made leaps forward in its second season, anchored by Jeff Daniels (who won an Emmy last year, shocking a world ready to cheer on Bryan Cranston) and Olivia Munn (who’s excelled in a role originally much smaller than it stands today). Hate if you must, but Sorkin’s eternal optimism is contagious, and — objectively — his writing caught up with his grandiosity last year. I’d love to see the Emmys recognize the show as a whole just as they did Daniels individually.