Call Me Emmy: The Best in Comedy

Emmy

Awards don’t affect the way I watch television or my appreciation for the shows I like. They serve a particular function in the entertainment community and another one for viewers who want to see their favorite programs recognized, but by and large, complaining that a particular show hasn’t won a particular award is a fool’s errand. It’s better to acknowledge the deficit and simply continue liking the show. Give it your own personal award, so to speak.

That being said, it’s always nice when award nominations line up with your personal picks. In that spirit, I’ve come up with my preferred list of Emmy nominations. The actual list will be released on July 18th, and it will substantially different. I’m not paid to watch television. I can only watch what I have time to watch, so I can’t nominate undoubtedly high-quality shows like Game of Thrones, Enlightened, 30 Rock, Girls or Boardwalk Empire, just to name a few. In other cases, I can’t nominate a particular show because I haven’t seen the current season, as with The Office, Louie, Homeland and The Walking Dead.

Consider this a highly personal Emmy list and (hopefully) an entertaining read. What would your list look like? If you have the time or energy, write your own list and post it in the comments! I’m curious.

Here’s what the Emmy nominations would look like if I chose them. I’ve also distinguished my favorite in each category in bold print.

Outstanding Comedy Series
Ben and Kate
Happy Endings
New Girl
Parks and Recreation
Raising Hope
Suburgatory

Comments: With the exception of the amiable, promising, now-cancelled Ben and Kate, these nominees pushed the boundaries of television comedy within a broadcast network framework. (Ben and Kate was unambitious, but funny. Nothing wrong with that.) Parks and Recreation might be my favorite television show ever, but I want to reward New Girl this year for an exceptionally strong improvement over its rickety first season. By modulating Zooey Deschanel’s adorkable charms with more traditionally impressive leading-lady comedy chops, the show instantly felt more relatable and controlled. By pushing the show’s sexual tension to the fore with the Nick-Jess arc, the show avoided the perils of well-trodden “will they, won’t they” tension and developed a solid, sweet central relationship worth rooting for. Parks and Recreation, meanwhile, continued its legendary run of consistency with nary a dud in its twenty-three season five episodes; Happy Endings went out on a high note with wildly fast-paced jokes and hilarious situations; Raising Hope continued to be quietly experimental, especially with “Burt Mitzvah: The Musical”; and Suburgatory struggled to be consistently funny but found potent dramatic material in the relationship between Tessa and her mother (guest star Malin Akerman).

It was a great year for comedy, and I haven’t seen many of the presumptive nominees: The Big Bang Theory, The Office, 30 Rock, Girls, Louie, Enlightened.

New Girl

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Garret Dillahunt, Raising Hope
Jake Johnson, New Girl
Joel McHale, Community
Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation

Comments: I simply couldn’t find six actors worth honoring in this category. I like Jeremy Sisto, but his character on Suburgatory has never clicked with the show’s tone. And Rob Lowe, while hilarious on Parks and Recreation, is not even close to the lead. (Lowe has a history of submitting himself as a lead actor even when he clearly belongs in the supporting category.)

But these four choices are strong. I wavered quite a bit between Scott, who pulls an amazing triple-duty as the romantic lead alongside Amy Poehler, straight man alongside Nick Offerman and Chris Pratt, and occasional lovable goofball alongside cops or television cameras. These three modes intersect beautifully. Johnson, meanwhile, wrenched the MVP title out from under his co-star Max Greenfield this season, also with a mix of romantic sentiment and grouchy wackiness. Dillahunt, meanwhile, commanded the aforementioned musical episode and continued to dazzle in the underrated Raising Hope, while McHale managed to escape the messy fourth season of Community with his dignity largely intact.

Adam

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Sutton Foster, Bunheads
Dakota Johnson, Ben and Kate
Jane Levy, Suburgatory
Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Comments: There’s quite a range of talents and styles in this category, but Poehler stands above the rest of the television landscape with her relentlessly sunny and continuously inventive portrayal of Leslie Knope, the perfect character to guide us through the most pessimistic moments of our lives. Deschanel and Foster came in close behind Poehler, though. I particularly enjoyed the way that Deschanel’s Jess evolved from the intolerably cutesy center of the show to a supportive and consistent piece of an even-handed ensemble. Foster, meanwhile, translated all of her performance chops from Broadway into Amy Sherman-Palladino’s terrifically appealing blend of comedy and drama.

Poehler

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Max Greenfield, New Girl
Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live
Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation
Damon Wayans Jr., Happy Endings
Adam Pally, Happy Endings
Chris Pratt, Parks and Recreation

Also Considered: Aziz Ansari, Parks and Recreation; Donald Glover, Community; Echo Kellum, Ben and Kate; Danny Pudi, Community; Jim Rash, Community, Zachary Knighton, Happy Endings

Comments: This category is simply overflowing with comedy talent, but I tried to tailor my six nominees to a variety of sensibilities. Greenfield’s Schmidt is one of those dynamite breakout characters that threatens to overwhelm the show until the writers figure out how to turn less into more. New Girl did just that in season two. Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson similarly stands out in the colorful Parks and Rec ensemble. Then again, his character is one of the best in TV history, so the more the merrier.

Ultimately, I give the edge to Wayans. I didn’t count, but I’m pretty sure Wayans elicited embarrassingly loud giggling from me the most out of any of these nominees or his fellow cast members on Happy Endings. He’s also part of one of the least stereotypical and most delightful marriages on television. I’ll miss that show, and I’ll miss Wayans especially.

Wayans

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Carly Chaikin, Suburgatory
Eliza Coupe, Happy Endings
Elisha Cuthbert, Happy Endings
Cloris Leachman, Raising Hope
Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation
Hannah Simone, New Girl

Also Considered: Ana Gasteyer, Suburgatory; Allie Grant, Suburgatory; Gillian Jacobs, Community; Retta, Parks and Recreation; Casey Wilson, Happy Endings; Alison Brie, Community

Comments: I’m going to keep this short and sweet. If Cuthbert wants to star in a sitcom that consists of entire episodes in which all she does is eat ribs, that’d be fine by me. (In all seriousness, though, this was a tough choice. Has there ever been a more sardonic sitcom character than Aubrey Plaza’s April Ludgate? Oh, wait – she might have competition in Carly Chaikin’s Dahlia.)

Happy

I’ll be back in a few days with my drama picks. For now, check out these fine shows and feel free to share your own Emmy picks.

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