Emmys 2011: Best Series Contenders Tournament


When it comes to television, there’s no limit on the diversity of our opinions. Claim one show is the tops, and fans of copious other series will jump down your throat in an instant to make sure you know just how wrong you are. Don’t you know Sofia Vergara’s delivery takes far more effort than Jane Lynch’s Grinchy Sue Sylvester? Don’t you know that Johnny Galecki’s whining can never match wits with Donald Glover’s screaming-crying schtick over on Community? Don’t you know that no one enjoyed that last episode of Entourage? (Okay, I think most of us are probably in agreement on that one.) The point is, television shows require a lot of devotion, so when you put one down, fans are bound to get riled. And seeing as we’re mere days away from Television’s biggest night — The Emmys — we’d like to take this opportunity to break down all the nominated series, pit them against eachother and crown our own winner. You may agree with us, you may disagree. But that’s the beauty of Emmy season; we all get to defend our shows and hide our faces in shame when they’re robbed of their well-earned golden trophies. So, without further ado, let’s get ready to rumble, TV fans.

Click on the bracket for a larger version.

Emmys 2011 Best Series Contender Deathmatch

Round 1

Dexter vs. Game of Thrones

This one’s almost too easy. Sure, we love Michael C. Hall as Dexter and we haven’t forsaken the series, but last season was just a little subpar. Game of Thrones, however, burst onto television with a scope and fervor that we haven’t seen before. The series broke new ground in television drama, while Dexter relegated itself to stale tricks. Game of Thrones moves on to the next round. 

Boardwalk Empire vs. Friday Night Lights

This match-up is a bit more difficult. Boardwalk Empire takes us inside the well-crafted world of the Prohibition Era East Coast mobster. The drama is ripe and salacious with plenty of old timey charms to boot, but when you pit Steve Buscemi and company against Coach Taylor and his classic pep talks, the competition gets tough. The bootlegging ways of Boardwalk Empire are fun and the show is well-made, but it can’t compare with Friday Night Lights’ intimate, realistic, heartfelt portrayal of Middle America. Clear eyes, full hearts, FNL can’t lose.

Glee vs. The Big Bang Theory

Here’s another easy one. On one hand, you’ve got a consistently giggle-worthy show about a gang of nerds and their babely neighbor. On the other hand you have a show that used to be a riotous look at the world of a high school show choir. And therein lies the basis of our decision. The Big Bang Theory continues to garner laughs — granted they’re laughs that we’ve shared time and again, but they’re laughs none the less. Glee lost its touch last season. Eschewing solid humor for unnecessarily complicated plotlines, one of the most promising, refreshing shows on television loosened a bit of its grip. We’ll hand the K.O. to Big Bang this round.

30 Rock vs. The Office

It almost seems wrong to pit Tina Fey against Steve Carrell, but this isn’t kindergarten play time, it’s our all-important Emmys Deathmatch. And the fact of the matter is, any manner of antics on the fifth season of 30 Rock can’t even pretend to match the pure emotion and humor in Michael’s final episodes on The Office. While it’s left us all uncertain of the show’s future, it was a skillful goodbye and it gets the jump on Liz Lemon’s plastic bag reveries.

Round 2

Game of Thrones vs.

Mad Men

This is a tough comparison, because now we’re getting into shows that are wildly different from eachother. GoT is undoubtedly a fantastic series deserving of loads of recognition, but when Mad Men delivers the best season the show has seen after four seasons on television, you know there’s some serious talent and television magic going on behind the scenes. Mad Men for the win, hands down.

The Good Wife vs. Friday Night Lights

This is another toughie. Both of these shows are recipients of widespread critical acclaim, and for good reason, but only one can continue. The Good Wife didn’t score 10 Emmy nominations for no reason; the series is smart, sexy and engrossing. But what the CBS show is lacking is the incredible heart of Friday Night Lights. Maybe we’re sentimenal because it’s over, but there’s just something far more powerful about a great show in its final season. The Good Wife is just hitting its stride and it’s got seasons stretching out before it. FNL said farewell just as we’d hoped and that is a rare occurence that deserves our praise.

The Big Bang Theory vs. Modern Family

The Big Bang Theory

is funny. We can admit that. But can it compare to the clever, gut-busting scenarios we find our favorite ambiguously Southern Californian family in week after week? It simply can’t. Give me Gloria ordering a box of Baby Jesuses any day over Sheldon’s snarky, nerdtastic insults. Big Bang’s ensemble works, it really does, but Modern Family boasts one of the most talented, consistent ensembles on television, so it gets our vote.

Parks and Recreation vs. The Office

Here we have a contentious, almost Oedipal match. Parks and Rec started as a spinoff of The Office and many of us groaned at that notion. The Office didn’t need a spinoff. It seemed a bit gratuitous and self-indulgent. But while our favorite workplace comedy slowed its roll and started to loose the sharp wit (though it’s still somewhat funny) that we loved it for, Parks and Rec quickly stepped up its game to take The Office’s place as the new NBC comedy du jour. And it keeps getting better. Season 3 far surpassed all of our expectations and I’m pretty sure I still have permanent injuries from laughing so heartily. Amy Poehler and company take the winner’s seat.

Round 3

Mad Men vs.

Friday Night Lights


has our hearts, but Mad Men has our minds, so much so that we’re having trouble remembering what’s in our hearts. While I want to give FNL the winning spot as a parting gift, this season of Mad Men was so subtly beautiful and well-done, like a man plucking an upright bass in some smokey, mahogany-laden bar room, that we’re forced to give the AMC series the win. I’m like a secretary in the presence of Don Draper; the allure is irresistable.

Modern Family vs. Parks and Recreation

The Pritchetts and the Dunphys are certainly a wealth of comedy in their Wednesday night slot, but it really can’t compare to the hodgepodge of government employees in Pawnee’s Parks Department. Between the continuation of Ron Swanson’s greatness, Leslie Knope’s hilarious do-gooder ways, Tom Haverford’s small town baller habits, and the addition of Rob Lowe’s health nut and perfectionist Chris Traeger to City Hall, Parks has no where to go but up, and as much as I love Modern Family, it seems to stay on the same level, which is fine. It just means it loses this round to Parks.

Deathmatch: Final Round

Mad Men vs.

Parks and Recreation

Now comes the hard part: deciding whether a comedy or a drama gets to take home the ultimate (fake) Emmys Best Series title. In one corner, we have Mad Men, which with its sly, seductive ways strings us along through the daily intrigues surrounding the men and women of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. We have layered characters with struggles and inner demons that rarely ever express themselves outright, but are instead hinted at by characters’ subdued behaviors, body language and even brief facial ticks. It’s a show that demands every ounce of our attention — and one that deserves ever last one of those ounces. But what about Parks? It’s madcap; it’s zany. Can it even compare to the Mad Mens of the world? Yes, I say. What Parks does that few other comedies manage to do (Modern Family is the next show capable of this feat) is that is manages to deliver the zany and the outrageous antics we come to expect from a sitcom and it weaves them ever so gently in with a depth of character that almost sneaks up on you. We aren’t really thinking about how far under our skin these folks are because we’re laughing too hard, but once things slow down a bit when the plot calls for it, we’re suddenly hit over the head with how incredible they are. Parks touches all the bases and it does this without overexerting itself or losing any charm, momentum or depth. You can disagree with us (because there are many of you who are already shaking your heads and skipping to the bottom to find the comment section) but in our book, Parks and Recreation offered up the best season of television this past year.