And so we’ve finally come to the end of Emmy Two-Plus Weeks here at HitFix, as Fienberg and I have gone through our picks for all the major categories. As always, Dan offers predictions of who will be nominated, along with some wishful thinking, while I suggest who would be on my hypothetical ballot if I were an Emmy voter.
Our last category is the big one: Outstanding Drama Series. Dan’s gallery is up, my picks are after the jump, and at the end of the post I’ll have links to all my previous posts on the subject:
If you’ve been reading the previous entries in this series, or reading me in general for a while, these picks shouldn’t be a surprise, but I still had a hard time narrowing the field down to six. (Some people asked yesterday about the fact that there were seven series nominees last year; that was because of ties in the voting, I believe.) In alphabetical order (with my favorite conveniently coming first):
TV critics (myself included) and obsessed TV fans spend a lot of time (particularly in regards to another show on this list) dwelling on the notion of plans. How much was this planned out? Did you have the ending in mind all along? How can we trust you if you don’t have a plan? Season three of “Breaking Bad,” which creator Vince Gilligan said was written largely on the fly – and which featured a brilliant, introspective episode about a fly – also happened to be not only the best season for that show to date, but the best season for any series on television this season. Sometimes, it’s not about knowing where you’re going, but knowing what to do once you arrive at an unknown destination.
“Friday Night Lights” boldly reinvented itself in its fourth season, turning the beloved Panthers into the show’s villains, moving Coach Taylor from a position of privilege to one of immense struggle, and introducing not only a quartet of new characters, but essentially a whole new community (largely black and poor) for our returning characters to interact with. And while there were a few missteps along the way (mostly having to do with trying to squeeze what felt like 22 episodes of story into the 13 episodes that come with the DirecTV deal), it was pretty fantastic, and easily the best I’ve ever seen a high school drama deal with the inevitable graduation of most of its younger characters.
For the longest time, I wasn’t sure whether “Lost” would make the cut for this list. There were some incredible highs this year and also some maddening lows, up to and including parts of the finale. But I re-watched that finale again yesterday, and without giving too much away about the post I hope to finish writing by this afternoon, I simply couldn’t in good conscience omit a series that gave me a final episode that worked on as many levels as “The End” did – nor a season that provided great moments like Ben begging Ilana for forgiveness, or Richard trapped in the hold of the Black Rock, or Sawyer being self-destructive with the help of Iggy & the Stooges. Not a perfect ending to one of the all-time great dramas, but one that felt appropriately bipolar given the ups and downs of the series as a whole.
Because the third season of “Mad Men” aired so long ago, and because other dramas like “Breaking Bad” and “Sons of Anarchy” aired fantastic seasons after it ended, it’s easy to forget just how compelling the 1963 chapter in the life of Don Draper was, with highs including the birth of the runaway lawn mower, Betty coming alive in Rome, the final third of “The Gypsy and the Hobo” and pretty much every moment of the finale (but especially Joan’s entrance). The scheduling of “Mad Men” means we’re always in the middle of a new season while the Emmys are busy honoring the old one; I’m hopeful that as season three makes its inevitable march to multiple victories, season four continues to live up to the series’ standard.
I thought “Sons of Anarchy” dramatically improved over the course of its first season, but even that growth curve didn’t quite prepare for me just how intense, unsparing and devastating so much of season two was, from the brutal assault at the end of the premiere through a tearful confession, an outlaw with mercy and a skinhead who died very, very well. I fear the subject matter (both bikers in general and the twisted imaginings of Kurt Sutter within that world) will scare the voters off, which would be a shame, because the show’s just incredible.
As David Simon’s first ongoing series after “The Wire,” “Treme” had an almost impossible act to follow, and the show’s emphasis on characterization, musical performances and small moments over the grand plotting of “The Wire” certainly didn’t endear the show to all who sampled it. But its portrait of a city and its people trying to rise up from a catastrophe, and its depiction of the power music and culture can play in those people’s lives, and the work of the cast were all first-rate.
Tough omissions: “Justified,” “Men of a Certain Age”
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com
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