If I had an Emmy ballot: Outstanding Comedy Series

Emmy Week (and a half) at HitFix had to be extended to Emmy Two-Plus Weeks for a variety of boring reasons, but Fienberg and I are finally back with our next-to-last category: Outstanding Comedy Series.

As usual with these, Fienberg and I are approaching the potential nominees from two different angles. Dan is trying to predict what shows will be nominated (along with a bit of wishful thinking), while I simply state who would get my vote if I had a hypothetical Emmy ballot.

Dan’s gallery of nominees is up, and after the jump are my picks…

This was a great year for TV comedy – specifically, a great year for new (or at least young) comedies like “Community,” “Modern Family,” “Parks and Recreation,” etc. And those strong rookie or sophomore seasons stood in stark contrast to the underwhelming years turned in by a bunch of former winners and nominees like “30 Rock,” “The Office” and “How I Met Your Mother.”

In reality, I expect this to be a coronation for “Modern Family,” with “Glee” having an outside shot at the upset. And, of course, the part of me that assumes voter laziness above all else would not be shocked by a “30 Rock” win. But in my fantasy ballot, only one of my six choices is a former nominee. In alphabetical order:

By far the show on my ballot least likely to be an actual nominee is “Better Off Ted.” There are great comedies that were watched by even fewer people, but they tended to be the right people. (You could fit the “Party Down” audience into the Staples Center, but a lot of the seats would be filled by people in the business, and who therefore might have a vote.) But if the point of this category is to honor the funniest shows on television, then “Ted” needs to be on this list, if only for the episode where a Veridian employee worked himself to death and then was turned into a religious icon by management.

Demographically, “Community” could not be more in my sweet spot. Dan Harmon and I are close in age, have the same taste in ’80s movies (the other day on Twitter I discovered he’s also a devout “Midnight Run” fan), TV shows, etc. So even if “Community” was nothing but homages to the films of my youth, I imagine I would greatly enjoy it. But “Community” aspires to much more than reference humor as it looks – in a usually silly, occasionally sweet, style – at how actual communities come together and at how people try to reinvent themselves in college (whether they’re 18 like Annie or ancient like Pierce). More consistent than this year’s other rookie on my list, and it offered up the season’s single-funniest half-hour in the paintball/action movie pastiche “Modern Warfare.”

The “Seinfeld” season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” feels like it was a very long time ago, but its excellence – both in the “Seinfeld”-centric episodes like “The Table Read” and more Jerry-light episodes like “The Bare Midriff” – shouldn’t be forgotten. A decade later, Larry David gave better closure to “Seinfeld” than he did on NBC. He proved Jason Alexander was doing more than a Larry David impression when he played George. He put Leon in a room with Michael Richards (and not in the way we expected) and was pretty blisteringly funny throughout.

If “Modern Family” does win this category, I’ll be pleased, both because it will keep “30 Rock” from winning for a pretty rotten season, and because “Modern Family” had itself a pretty nifty debut season that put on hold the usual “Is the sitcom dead?” stories. I had some issues with it – the saccharine predictability of some of the closing voiceovers, the long string of episodes in the early part of the season that kept the three families largely separate – but this is a show that gave us Cam (and Cam-as-Fizbo), Manny, comb-sheaths, Luke as a dog, Phil and Claire’s role-playing and a whole lot of other ingenious people and moments. And it proved that the struggles of the family comedy had more to do with execution than with format.

In its first season, “Parks and Recreation” was a show I made a lot of allowances for because I liked the cast and creative team, and because I remembered the huge leap that creative team took between seasons one and two of “The Office.” My faith was rewarded with a similar jump in quality, one where Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope went from delusional to admirable, where Chris Pratt’s Andy went from buffoon to convincing center of a sweet and goofy romantic triangle, and where the writers recognized early and often that the key to laughter was through Ron Effing Swanson’s stomach full of breakfast foods. I doubt it will actually be nominated, unfortunately – if you assume “Curb” (which didn’t air last season and therefore wasn’t nominated), “Modern Family” and “Glee” all get in, that’s half the category turned over, and that’s more change than Emmy voters can usually stand – but it was my favorite comedy on television this season

An Emmy nomination might be enough to convince Chris Albrecht to renew “Party Down,” even though the ratings are horrible, and even though the show was developed before he got to Starz (and therefore has no personal stake in it). That would be the longest of longshots, but as with “Ted,” I feel that laugh-out-loud hilarity should be rewarded – particularly on a show that manged to mix all the crude humor about bodily fluids in with some genuine pathos about how is team of loser Hollywood wannabes keep getting their dreams dashed.

Tough omissions:
“Chuck,” “Cougar Town,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “United States of Tara.”

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com