By Peter Knegt and Ben Travers | Indiewire July 3, 2014 at 1:1PM
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 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 best comedies we'd like to see honored by the Television Academy, as well as video evidence of their best work. Next week, we'll pick our favorites for drama series before the nominations are announced July 10th. Without further ado, our picks:
6) "Faking It"
PK: I have to admit, I wasn't exactly excited for this show when we heard its premise: Two straight girls fake being lesbians to become more popular at high school? In the hands of MTV, God only knew where something like that could go. But the show -- which finished its first season a few weeks ago -- was impressively way more complicated than that and got better with every episode. Set at a progressive high school in Austin, Texas, "Faking It" is probably as insightful as it gets when it comes to portraying youth on television. It sort of feels like a more melancholic, more transgressive, and certainly much more gay version of the cult WB series "Popular." And that's a major compliment, though one I can't imagine Emmy voters will second. Largely because I'd bet 95 percent of them haven't even heard of the show.
6) "Hello Ladies"
BT: Ninety-five percent might be generous in that regard considering the Emmys inability to keep with the times -- if Kevin Spacey wasn't in "House of Cards," they'd probably be discovering Netflix shows next year. But enough venting. My pick is more of a pity endorsement than a full-fledged "pro" vote. Steven Merchant's HBO comedy "Hello Ladies" was cut after its first season by the pay cable network with higher demands for its funny programming (dramas are almost never axed that early), but I felt like it was finding its stride through those first eight episodes. Merchant's lead character, Stuart Pritchard, had one or two too many moments of true dickishness that were being filtered out by the season's end, instead focusing on just how lonely LA can be for someone seeking true intimacy. It's an extremely relevant, relatable topic, and one Merchant found an enjoyable way to explore each week. If only it had gotten another year to perfect its execution.
PK: A show I'm very glad is getting is a getting another year to perfect it's own execution is "Mom," which I can't believe I'm actually saying about a show that's a) on CBS and b) created by Chuck Lorre. But Chuck Lorre returned to the kind of female-led, crass but emotional comedies that started his career ("Grace Under Fire," "Cybill" and especially "Roseanne") with the series, and it generally was a success as far as I'm concerned. And that was in large part due to it's cast, made up of some of my very favorites: Anna Faris, Allison Janney, Mimi Kennedy, Octavia Spencer... all as recovering alcoholics, which I realize doesn't sound like a laugh riot, but a lot of the time it really was. And then other times it effectively portrayed the lower middle class in a way that's rarely seen on television these days. It's still no "Roseanne," but "Mom" sensitively and hilariously represents self-proclaimed white trash in a way that is certainly more worthy of a nomination here than Lorre's much-more-likely-to-succeed "The Big Bang Theory."
BT: I'd argue almost any show on television is more worthy of a nomination than "The Big Bang Theory," but that would take up my whole paragraph. And I need that paragraph to remind people that "Episodes" exists. Matt LeBlanc deserved the Golden Globe he won in 2012 for the self-aware Showtime series that's now surpassed its initial appeal as "the show where Joey swears and talks about being Joey." In Season 3, it's even managed to make its two leads (Stephen Mangin and Tamsin Grieg) likable after two seasons of off-putting Brit banter (they sounded so whiny). With solid support from veteran character actors like John Pankow, Kathleen Rose Perkins, and Mircea Monroe, "Episodes" is actually one of the best ensemble comedies on television, despite being sold as a one-man show. LeBlanc's best role post-"Friends" (one of only a few, granted) earned him his second Emmy nomination for the show last year, when it also received a nod for writing. It's a long shot, but here's hoping it can ascend the ranks to best comedy series as well.
4) "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"
PK: Here's an even longer shot: The Emmys finally acknowledging "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" nine seasons in. I finally binge-watched the entire season a few weeks ago, and though it was as hit-and-miss as most other seasons, when it hit it did so gloriously. "The Gang Tries Desperately To Win an Award" is case in point, and oddly enough a satirical take on the very fact they never get any Emmy love, as the "Sunny" cast went all out campaigning to win an award for the best bar in Philadelphia (I assume and hope that's the episode they're submitting to the Academy). And really, this show just deserves some sort of recognition for nearly a decade of unique, trashy comedy that has sustained itself over such a long period of time.
4) "Raising Hope"
BT: I couldn't agree more about "Sunny." I see it as the aughts successor to "Seinfeld." It deserves better from the Academy, and I was glad the "Sunny" team at least drew attention to it in that episode. But I'm heading from one series that's stuck around a while to another on this list put to pasture. "Raising Hope" earned some Emmys love early on for stars Martha Plimpton and Cloris Leachman (who was nominated as a Guest Actress, despite being a pretty regular player). Since then, it's been ignored by Emmys similarly to how the decline in viewership led to its cancellation this year. The quality, though, didn't suffer a bit. Plots got a little convoluted for the last few season finales, in what felt like a ratings grab by a show in need of a boost, but otherwise the poor family rich with love found new ways to surprise us in little moments every week -- especially with Burt's business ventures (Burt bucks!) and Virginia's goofy quests ("Bee Story"!). It's a shame they won't be returning, but a nice parting gift from Emmy would ease the sting.
PK: My only issue in placing this show on this list is that it's really more of a drama than a comedy, but that's true of many a contender so I'm just letting it go and vouching for "Looking" as one of the best series eligible in this category. It was a slow build, but over a way-too-short season of eight episodes, the San Francisco-set series that looks at the lives of a trio of gay men and their friends and lovers developed into one of the most layered, contemporary and interesting shows on television by season's end -- surviving a mountain of expectation to find a second season in the process (thank god!). There's almost no way the Emmys are going to go for it, but here's to it building even further on its potential in season two to become just too much for them to deny a year from now...
3) "About a Boy"
BT: Mine's certainly more of a comedy than a drama, but like Jason Katims' last shows, "Friday Night Lights" and "Parenthood," it blends both genres together for an effective mix. "About a Boy" struck me as a strange book/film adaptation for TV when I first heard of its development. After all, the previous versions follow a rather deliberate line of growth for our lead character, tracking him as he changes from a selfish "one man is an island" Lothario to a father-esque mature adult (obviously, the boy they refer to in the title isn't the younger of the two leads). I imagined a show extending that development as rather tiring -- how long can we wait for one man to grow up? Instead, Katims wisely forces the friendship rather quickly and the maturation process is appropriately amplified. The show got better as it went along -- after starting in a great place -- making us all quite eager for Season 2. While Minnie Driver seems to be the only element of the show with a shot at Emmy, I'd rather see this freshman series honored than "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."
2) "Broad City"
PK: Another freshman series to add to this list: Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson's absolutely hysterical web series turned Comedy Central cult hit "Broad City." A glorious blend of stoner, absurdist comedy, this is the Brooklyn-set, female-led series that deserves a nomination in this category (though I'm a fan of the third season of "Girls" and would be fine if somehow both made the cut). There's simply nothing else like it on television, and surely if Emmy voters actually get around to watching it, they'd agree and hand it a boatload of nominations -- including for best comedy series. But maybe I'm overestimating the comedic tastes of most Academy members, even if they did see it. Either way, if you readers haven't watched it, make it a post-July 4th-hungover-in-bed priority.
BT: I completely agree with the binge-viewing plan. Even if "Broad City" isn't easily accessible through Netflix or Hulu, you can find it on the Comedy Central website. "Archer," meanwhile, can be binged on Netflix up to Season 4, but the brilliant fifth season of "Archer Vice" is yet to be made available by the streaming stingy network FX. Functioning as some sort of wet dream from a man who worships Burt Reynolds and breaking the law, this past season offered fans a fresh take on the series, essentially flipping the characters' roles from America's ally to their drug-smuggling enemies. Yet the individuals remained the same. Pam gobbled up cocaine faster than food, and Cheryl kept pushing her sexual limits as a slutty country star named Cherlene. Lana had a baby, and Archer, well, Archer just kept on keeping on. It was a ballsy move from a show that can pretty much coast any time it wants to, yet it never has. An even ballsier movie would have been for creator Adam Reed had submitted it as a Comedy Series instead of for Best Animated Program. It's been done before -- notably by "Family Guy," which scored a nod in 2009 while still continuing its controversial campaign tactics in years after -- but Reed's failed attempt to break into the category seems to have spooked him (or FX), as the show is back in the animated only field for 2014.
1) "Please Like Me"
PK: I think I've vouched for this show in every single one of these we've done in which it was eligible, so there's no surprise what my No. 1 is -- and if you have not heard of "Please Like Me," you should immediately find a way to watch it's first season (as soon as you're done reading this article, at least). The Australian import -- picked up for US release on Pivot -- is a half-hour comedy-drama based on the autobiographical stand-up of 26-year-old gay Aussie comedian Josh Thomas. It's hilarious and heartfelt and complex... Enough so that the first season gained something of a cult following, and the second (premiering next month) should be an event as far as I'm concerned. It's probably more likely the other five shows I've mentioned will all be nominated than Emmy voters doing exactly what this show's title suggests, but at least you can be better than them by going and liking it yourself.
1) "Parks and Recreation"
BT: At least the program you keep vouching for is relatively new. I call attention to "Parks and Rec" every year, a show regularly competing and repeatedly ignored at the top level. "Please Like Me" may be a longer shot, but it hurts to come so close year after year (I assume) and then be ignored in every category other than Actress (which is well deserved, but condescending for the best ensemble cast on television). I still haven't come to terms with Rob Lowe's exclusion from the Supporting Actor field (though he's submitted as lead, inexplicably), and now I've stoked my own fire so much I half expect "Parks and Rec" to make the cut this year in the genre's biggest category. Can it happen? Sure. Will it? I want to believe.