He Said, He Said

Emmys 2013: What Show Should Win It All? Our Critics Debate

In anticipation of Sunday night’s Emmy Awards ceremony, our critics debate what should win best show.

OUTSTANDING DRAMABreaking Bad Downton Abbey Game of Thrones Homeland (2012 Winner) House of Cards Mad Men

OUTSTANDING COMEDY 30 Rock The Big Bang Theory Girls Louie Modern Family (2012 Winner) Veep

Marlow: And then there were two... [Slow clap] Last year’s Emmys was all about Homeland, which swept all three major categories (Outstanding Drama, Best Actor, Best Actress), and it’s up for even more awards this year. But I thought Homeland slipped a bit in Season 2 with storylines more erratic than Carrie Mathison off her meds wielding a ball of yarn. I’ve got to go with Game of Thrones here in the Outstanding Drama category. The show is only getting better, and the third season was outstanding. You had the Machiavellian Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) amassing her slave army one clever deal/massacre at a time, Peter Dinklage chewing up scenery, and—gasp!—The Red Wedding which, with its slit throats, flying arrows, and pregnant belly-shivving, made the Internet lose its collective shit. Creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss brought the fire and brimstone this season, and for this, deserve the shiny hardware.

Kevin: This year’s Outstanding Drama nominees, for the first time, don’t include a single series from the four major broadcast networks. It’s a shame because my personal list of best dramas from the last TV season, for example, would have included Parenthood (which accomplishes the rare feat of being earnest without being cloying), The Good Wife (the best legal drama on TV), and Scandal (which each week had me gasping and thinking, Wow, this was such a good episode" and then I’d look at the clock and realize it’s only been 20 minutes).

I think the cleverly addicting House of Cards would’ve been a more serious threat here as Netflix’s big coming out series had Orange Is the New Black not debuted this summer and proved even more clever and more addicting. Downton Abbey’s most recent season was admittedly more uneven that the previous two. But it was also epically more emotional—Lady Sybil’s death! Poor Thomas being outed! The shocking death at the end of the season! Game of Thrones was fantastic last season, and “Red Wedding” is my pick for episode of the year, but I’m going to go with Mad Men here. Six seasons in (it’s the show’s fifth season that’s up for Emmys this year) it was just stuffed with water-cooler moments: Don’s affair, Peggy’s affair, Pete’s break up, Joan’s power move, the merger, Don sleeping with Betty, Bob Benson, that haunting final scene. It’s rote at this point to praise Mad Men. But it’s as good as ever.

Marlow: Hmm… I thought this season of Mad Men had some outstanding moments, including Don’s tryst with Betty, Don getting walked in on by Sally, Don going Fifty Shades, and Joan’s aforementioned power move, telling Don what’s what. But I also thought this was an incredibly uneven season of Mad Men. Why won’t anyone badmouth this show? Far too much of Season 6 was us wading around inside Don’s head. The Hawaii trip… what the heck was that? It felt like I was watching a lame reappropriation of the paradise scenes in Punch-Drunk Love. And I can’t handle the flashbacks anymore to Don’s childhood in the brothel. I refuse to believe that the actor who plays Young Don grows up to be Don Draper and, between Hawaii and the flashbacks, I’m reminded of those snooze-worthy scenes late in The Sopranos’ run where Tony was wandering around in purgatory And all the stuff with Pete’s mom, and the weird girl in Betty’s care, and Ken Cosgrove getting shot in the face. Season 6 was kind of a mess! But Christina Hendricks was superb. Joan telling off Don over torpedoing Jaguar, the hospital visit, her weird relationship with Bob Benson, and even the psychedelic clubbing scene. Joan hit the glass ceiling hard this past season and Hendricks did a great job conveying her torment and anguish.

Kevin: I thought this most recent season of Mad Men was moodier and more introspective than past ones, but I didn’t think that translated to worse. And while I admire that Game of Thrones bucks against the notion that all TV shows must be accessible—three seasons in, I still need a guide to keep track of these characters—I didn’t get the satisfaction of a payoff at the end of the season for my investment, certainly not compared to the hefty one Mad Men gave me with Don’s nosedive in the finale. I stand by my choice!

Marlow: Agree to disagree. But who would you rather get drunk with: Don Draper, or Tyrion Lannister? I’m going with Tyrion. Anyways, let’s move on to Outstanding Comedy. ABC’s Modern Family won last year, but I don’t see it repeating this year. And look, I think Modern Family is an important show—I genuinely believe its helped in the fight for gay rights—but, despite the brilliance of Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet, its pacing and general premise has always struck me as too reminiscent of Arrested Development. While Girls was fantastic this past season, the finale—with Adam (Adam Driver) running across New York City while Facetiming with Hannah (Lena Dunham)—left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, and I will just never give a shit about The Big Bang Theory, so I’m going with F/X’s Louie. The third season of Louie really saw the show come into its own. We saw Louis C.K. explore his heterosexuality in Miami with Ramon; his bizarre dating quirks with the psycho Laurie (Melissa Leo, brilliant), the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (Parker Posey), and the public masturbator (Chloe Sevigny); his professional insecurities with CBS and The Late Show; his parenting issues with Lilly; and much, much more. This is probably the best comedy on television, so give it the damn prize.

Kevin: It would be so boring for Modern Family to win again this year…but I can totally see it happening, particularly as the show had a handful of stellar episodes this season. And even though you can’t afford any shits to give it, I actually think The Big Bang Theory could be Modern Family’s biggest threat. It’s unfathomably popular, and the cast gets tighter and tighter with each season. Everybody Loves Raymond and Friends—two shows of which Bang Theory reminds me of, in different ways—didn’t pull off Emmy wins for Best Comedy until later in their runs, and I think this could be the time for the CBS geekapalooza. But for the sheer impressiveness of its laughs-per-second ration, I’d hand the award this year to Veep. As much as I was transfixed by every second of this past season of Louie, Veep just made me giddy. The cast is ridiculously talented—Julia Louis-Dreyfus is an insult-doling beast—and the writing is so sharp that I think the show could actually slay the Modern Family beast this year.

Marlow: I just cannot and will not ever get into The Big Bang Theory, then again, I wasn’t crazy about Everybody Loves Raymond either—or Friends after its second season when they all started sleeping with each other and it transformed into a stale rom-com. I enjoy Veep, and Louis-Dreyfus is brilliant, as is Anna Chlumsky as her girl Friday, but I’ve also always been a bit let down by it, too, since it really pales in comparison to Iannucci’s other political satire, In the Loop. It’s just always felt a bit watered down to me. I’m sticking with Louie… and am also incredibly annoyed that New Girl wasn’t nominated this season. FOR SHAME! But, for all our bickering, we have been presented with an embarrassment of riches here. This is truly the Golden Age of Television, and we should all be glad we get to plant our asses on the couch with takeout and a glass—or box—of wine, and indulge.