Here it is, the final entry in my 2011 TV Awards series, mere weeks after they were relevant. I must say, that save Dexter, the Academy actually nailed this category. If they simply replaced that with Justified (which was oddly absent despite nominations for Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, and winner Margo Martindale), this might have been the best group of nominees I’d ever seen out of the Emmys. They chose four of my six nominees, with the fifth being the toughest omission I had to make in years.
In case you missed it, here are the other posts for the Sixth Annual Andy TV Awards:
Read on for the final award of the night, the winner of which also gets the title of “Best Show of the TV season”.
Outstanding Drama Series
The nominees are…
Friday Night Lights
The Good Wife
Astute viewers should notice a big gaping hole in that list of nominees, big enough for, say, a direwolf to pass through. When we finished watching Game of Thrones (the last qualifying show we watched), I was blown away, positive that it was one of the best shows of the year. Then I looked at the list of potential nominees, and… couldn’t find room for it. Maybe it’s because I had more time with the other six, and thus had already made my mind up. But honestly, I just think these six are better, if only by a little bit, and the fact that a season like Game of Thrones‘ first couldn’t crack a top six only reveals what a great era we live in for television. Anyone who tells you different is basically not worth your time (especially since you could be using that time watching these TV shows).
My toughest struggle was between GoT and Boardwalk Empire. Both took a little while to get going, as the audience was thrust into complicated worlds with large casts of characters. But in all honesty, I never had the problems getting into Boardwalk that others did. I was hooked pretty quickly, blown away by Scorsese’s pilot, and quickly looked forward to visiting that world every week. Every week, there was a shot, or a monologue, or a sequence that stood out.
And now, let’s take the internet-mandated moment of silence for the late, lamented Terriers. The complete lack of success of this show is utterly baffling to me. I get why Rubicon didn’t find its audience. I get why people feel that Boardwalk Empire keeps them at arms length. But Terriers? This was easy to love, easy to follow television with charm to spare and a great balance between ongoing narrative to keep fans invested and non-serialized elements to provide multiple points of entry for the casual viewer. But no one would watch it. And until FOX Entertainment decides to release it for home video, no one will get the chance. Which is really too bad, because this would basically be the Christmas gift I get everyone were it available. The chemistry between leads Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James was the kind every buddy-cop film or show aspires to, and they achieved it by the end of their first scene. Terriers was as lovable as its titular canines, which is why its supporters are similarly tenacious in our praise.
Justified was a good show in its first season that I’d recommend to anyone. Charismatic lead, unique setting, sharp writing, and thrilling action. It made the leap to great show in its second season, picking out the elements that made it special, while improving those that didn’t. It’ll be interesting to see if it can build on its momentum, given that much of what made the second season an improvement were elements that won’t be back (namely, the Bennett clan storyline). But as long as it can hang on to its core of Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Nick Searcy, Graham Yost, and the spirit of Elmore Leonard, I’m sure it will be fine.
That Friday Night Lights got five seasons of TV is a greater miracle than any Dillon football comeback. It went out on its own terms, with a final season as good as any of the previous (and of course, far better than season two), having fully transitioned from the cast of the first three into a show about the cast from the final two. But while there are no regrets, and nothing but gratitude for those who continued its unlikely existence, I still miss it. There are many great shows on TV, in fact, there were always shows on TV better than FNL (not a lot, but it was never the best show on television). But there aren’t any that come close to matching the emotion this one elicited; none that make me care about its characters like this one. Even when the show took the odd misstep, it could get away with it by maintaining the emotional truth of a situation. Friday Night Lights operated with a level of earnestness that most of the great dramas aren’t comfortable with, without devolving into maudlin melodrama, allowing them to draw out emotional responses from its audiences at will, while avoiding accusations of manipulation. Which, in its own way, is as impressive as anything the medium has to offer.
The Good Wife wasn’t supposed to be this good. A CBS procedural with a terrible title, based on a ripped-from-the-headlines premise, set in the well-trod world of legal drama, I honestly believed the best it could aim for was “a decent show that I have no interest in seeing”. So I ignored it until enough positive responses came in throughout its first season that I decided to check it out over the summer. By the end of the first season, I was a legit fan, but still damning it with the feint praise of the title “the best drama on network TV”. After an even better second season, I’ve moved past the network distinction to simply praise it as one of the best dramas on TV. I suppose it earns extra credit for excelling in the world of network notes, advertiser concerns, legitimate ratings battles, and 23 episode seasons, but honestly, it stands toe-to-toe with cable’s best. In fact, I don’t think it would be as good on cable. No show on television balances serialized plots with procedural elements like The Good Wife, crafting an interconnecting view of Chicago politics and intricate world-building strong enough to make some exclaim it to be a worthy successor to The Wire, while bringing fresh takes on the legal system and social media on a weekly basis. I care just as much about the case of the week elements and the unique elements of law they present as I do the ongoing character development, which isn’t the norm for me. I tend to be serialized or else, but The Good Wife has helped me overcome my procedural bias by simply being better than the rest.
The award goes to…
Maybe it’s boring that Mad Men keeps dominating this award at the Emmys (FWIW, this is only its second Andy TV Award, although I probably should’ve given it the award for its first season too). But best is best. And when you watch Mad Men with its world class writing, precise direction, phenomenal (yet oddly unrecognized, awards-wise) acting, and all the peripherals that people love (costume, set design, etc), you can’t help but feel like it is the best show on television. After building Don Draper up for three seasons as the Randian ideal of the times, the fourth season took us to more interesting places by almost completely tearing him down. Our man of the times never looked worse than he did this season, giving us a glimpse of a world that will soon be passing him by if he’s not ready to change, while hinting at the changing of the guard from Don and Roger Sterling to Pete Campbell and Peggy Olsen (or, if you prefer, from Sonny Liston to Cassius Clay).
The episode that got the most attention was “The Suitcase” (you may have seen me mention it), which may very well been the best the series has ever done (at the very least, it offered a payoff to character developments that stretched back to the pilot). But in true Mad Men fashion, the season was loaded with fantastic episodes, including “The Good News”, “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”, and “The Beautiful Girls”, along with an absolute WTF finale that has made the over a year wait for new episodes unbearable. The show will have its work cut out for it to wrest this award from Breaking Bad‘s clutches, but I’m sure it will put up a fight.