If I Had An Emmy Ballot 2014: Outstanding Comedy Series

The Television Academy of Arts & Sciences released this year’s Emmy ballots on Monday. Now that the ballots are out, it’s time for our annual two-pronged experiment, in which Dan tries to predict the likeliest nominees in each major category, while I pretend that I’m an actually TV Academy member and pick the six nominees that would make me the happiest.

We are, as always, playing by the Emmy rules, which means we can’t argue for someone who didn’t submit themselves (say, Alan Cumming for “The Good Wife”), can’t move someone from lead to supporting or vice versa, and can’t declare that “True Detective” is a miniseries and therefore clear more room in the drama categories. I’m also obviously limited by what I watched and what I haven’t. I think I saw maybe three episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” this season, for instance, and while I like the show a lot, the sample size wasn’t enough.

Having done Outstanding Drama Series yesterday, it’s time for its counterpart on the comedy side. Dan’s analysis is here, and mine is coming right up.

The thing with this category is that half of the shows on my list right now are not what I would call comedies.

As I said above, I have to work with what the Emmy rules say, and if “Shameless” is allowed to jump from drama to comedy after giving us its darkest and most serious season to date, then I have to consider it here. It’s not one of the six best comedies on television, but – thanks to the usual great performances from Emmy Rossum and company and the commitment to taking the Gallaghers’ plight seriously even as it noodles with comedy on the margins – it is absolutely one of the six best shows eligible in this category.

“Louie” has at least been grandfathered in from the days when it was more overtly a comedy, not to mention that half-hour shows inevitably wind up here regardless of their humor quotient. This latest season has been another terrific one, with Louis C.K. getting much more serious about long-form storytelling, including the six-part “Elevator” and this week’s moving 90-minute episode “In the Woods.” Comedy? No. Great television? Yes.

“Orange Is the New Black” probably has the best argument of these first three for being in the category, as it’s split close enough down the middle – even if I’d argue the balance is 60/40 in favor of drama – but it’s mainly here so that Netflix could try to double-dip nominations between this show and “House of Cards.” The first season is the one that’s up for nomination here (the eligibility window closed at the end of May), and you know how much I liked that season.

Now we get to the more unequivocal comedies, and let’s start with a couple of first-year shows. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” started out with some promising raw material in its fine cast and many key creative types from “Parks and Recreation.” While that sort of pedigree doesn’t always lead to outstanding television, it did in this case, once creators Mike Schur and Dan Goor figured out exactly what was funny about each of their actors and characters (Andre Braugher’s deadpan delivery, Melissa Fumero’s anxiety, Joe Lo Truglio’s goofy enthusiasm) and how they interacted with one another. As traditionally-formatted (or as traditional as you think single-camera comedies are) go, “Brooklyn” was perhaps the best in the business by the end of its first season.

I unfortunately haven’t had the time to watch enough of “Broad City” to seriously consider it (even though the first few episodes are very promising), but another new Comedy Central series knocked me off my feet this year: “Review,” starring Andy Daly as a “reviewer of life” who lets his own life gradually crumble due to his insane commitment to his TV show. (Daly and I spoke about the show last week.) A fascinating blend of sketch comedy, reality TV satire and serialized character study, it gave us the season’s single funniest episode in the pancakes episode, its single funniest joke in the Fred Willard episode, and the shocking emotion and discomfort of the coffee cart review from the season finale. From seemingly out of nowhere (but actually out of Australia, where the concept originated), genius.

Finally, this last spot was likely going to go to either “Parks and Rec” (which had an uneven season that nonetheless featured a bunch of standout episodes) or “Enlisted” (which found itself even more quickly than “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” not that the outgoing head of FOX cared). Then I caught up on “Veep” season 3 to discuss on this week’s video show, and the bathroom scene with Selina and Gary locked down the sixth spot on its own. As I wrote at the start of the season, having Selina run for president – therefore making her every mistake vastly more public and important than when she was a marginalized vice-president – took the show to a new level, and the campaign arc featured these characters and the vicious writing of Armando Ianucci and company at their best/worst. The bathroom scene was the season’s highlight, but the whole year was very strong – maybe enough for “Veep” to break the “Modern Family” streak of winning this category, given that Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale have already won individual Emmys.

Also considered: “Parks and Recreation,” “Enlisted,” “Community,” “Girls,” “Raising Hope,” “Surviving Jack,” “Trophy Wife.”

What does everybody else think? What would be your ideal nomination field?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com

PREVIOUSLY: Outstanding Drama Series