I don’t want to alarm anyone, but it’s about to be Emmy time again, and since it’s only a matter of days before other people start talking about it, I figured I might as well jump ahead of the curve and start the conversation.
I’m not going to take the normal tack, talking about all the great television out there and what we should expect to see when the nominations come out this summer, because that’s boring. It’s always the same group of people and shows nominated every year, unless a bunch of critics and pundits complain long and loudly enough, at which point someone else might join the club, like Tatiana Maslany finally getting noticed last year for Orphan Black.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, like when Mr. Robot got some attention after its stellar first year, but those tend to be just that: exceptions. Otherwise, we wouldn’t see Julia Louis-Dreyfus win every year, nor would the Modern Family crowd keep getting invited to the party. Not that any of them aren’t worthy, of course, but when the same thing happens again and again and again, it’s hard to call it anything other than stiflingly dull.
No, I think a better way to introduce the conversation is to take a look at the long shots. The outsiders. The shows that have no real chance to be nominated, even though they are doing things that no one else on TV is doing, and doing them exceedingly well.
That, to me, is a far better use of my time and yours, and is certainly a much more entertaining use of 1300 words and the space allotted than yet another think piece on why The Americans should be winning Best Drama, or how yet another FX show like Atlanta (deservedly) gets all kinds of kudos when the time comes.
I think it’s safe to say that Stranger Things is going to get its due, especially now that Netflix is an Emmy juggernaut, and the same can be said of The Crown. But you know what is one of my favorite Netflix shows that gets almost no due at all? Love Sick, which is notable for having undergone a title change from its original moniker, the unfortunate Scrotal Recall (yes, really). This British import is an at times uproarious story of a young man who is diagnosed with chlamydia, and has to go back and talk to all his former partners to let them know, and also see if perhaps they’re the one who gave it to him.
Hard to imagine that this show is actually incredibly charming and, in fact, maybe the best romantic comedy on television, and yet that’s exactly what it is.
Or does that honor go to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend? I lamented a year ago that Rachel Bloom should have been nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy and there is no reason not to make this plea once again in 2017, especially since the show’s second season was smarter and funnier than the first. At the very least, though, even if the show itself isn’t nominated (and I cannot fathom how on Earth it ever will be), I am holding out hope that Donna Lynne Champlin gets a nod for Supporting Actress in a Comedy, because she consistently turns in some of the best work on the small screen, week in and week out, drama or comedy, and she often does it while singing, which only increases the degree of difficulty.
Y’know what? I might be wrong about those first two, because it’s entirely possible that the best romantic comedy on television is IFC’s Brockmire. If you’re not watching this show, do yourself a favor and tune in this very night for what might well be the single funniest program of the 21st century. Hank Azaria stars as the title character, a legendary baseball play-by-play man who, after an on-air meltdown ten years before, is dragged back to the airwaves by the owner of a minor league baseball team to call their games.
The owner is played by Amanda Peet, doing her best work in years, and their dysfunctional relationship adds layers to the comedy, as does their mutual alcoholism and general ongoing degradation (again, sounds counterintuitive, but you need to trust me on this). To give you one example of the kind of humor on display here, one of Brockmire’s best home run calls goes thusly: “That ball cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery, because it has been tattooed!”
Another happens the first time the pair have sex, and Brockmire can’t help but call play-by-plays on the ongoing action.
Needless to say, this stuff ain’t safe for work, and not nearly clean enough for network, and thank goodness for that. It’s really a shame Azaria and Peet won’t get their due here, just like the show’s creator, Joel Church-Cooper, will also be ignored when the time comes. If only the Television Academy would expand its horizons a little, and recognize some of the outside-the-box comedies the way they occasionally do on the drama side (aka the aforementioned Orphan Black and Mr. Robot).
Speaking of that, actually, there are a couple hour-longs that deserve some love, even though they probably won’t get any. The first is a sci-fi show on, appropriately enough, the Syfy network. The Expanse is one of those programs that, on the surface, seems like just another space opera, but it’s actually doing something that only the very best sci-fi stories do: it takes a look at the modern world and tells a parable set in another reality, in this case a few hundred years in the future, when Mars has been colonized and is at war with Earth. The politics, the intrigue, the way the episodes focus on how it all affects very specific individuals caught in between the factions, are fascinating and represent something of a platonic ideal when it comes to real science fiction.
The acting is universally good, yes, but it’s the writing and directing that really deserve the attention here, as well as the show itself. If Syfy is smart, it would be sending screeners to every Emmy voter, plus the voter’s kids, relatives, and friends, all in the hope that someone will watch it and tell said voter, “Dude, you gotta check this out.”
Ironically, one of the best new shows on broadcast television this year is also going to be on the outside looking in, simply because of how the nature of the awards have changed. What used to be their exclusive domain is now ruled by cable, especially when it comes to the drama category, which is why Designated Survivor doesn’t stand a chance. Kiefer Sutherland is doing his standard schtick, which is solid enough, but it’s the storytelling that really brings this home for me. Week in and week out, we’re getting smart, exciting tales about what happens after a major terrorist attack takes out the entire U.S. government, save for one low-level cabinet member who is now forced into a job for which he is in no way prepared. As good as it is, though, it is sure to be lost in the shuffle, because so much more attention will be paid to similar cable competition, like Homeland.
When people ask me what I’m watching, I have to think about it, because I tend to watch so much and what they’re really asking me is, “What are you watching that’s really good and worth my time?”
Each of these shows makes my list, but it frustrates me to think — to know, really — that none of them will make Emmy’s.