The Emmys’ darling Breaking Bad is out. The critics’ darling Hannibal didn’t even air. And the biggest series on broadcast television premiered—Empire. All that’s got to shake up the slate for the drama series nominations right? Oh, plus they added another slot into the category! With seven(!) potential series getting the nod, what will make the cut?
Well, I think you can probably already guess. Same old, same old. Some of them are deserving, most are more than deserving. But here are seven shows I think deserve the drama series nomination this season:
The 100 (The CW)
Shocked? You shouldn’t be. The CW’s apocalyptic sci-fi thriller was the most breathless, engrossing drama on the TV landscape this season. The creators took their YA backdrop and transformed these teenyboppers into complex survivors. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they were heroes. In a sophomore season that rivaled sagas seen on Game of Thrones, The 100 didn’t question its audience’s intelligence, and it didn’t dare hold back. Every episode saw Clarke having to push the proverbial lever to survive—until the very literal lever came, and each tragic decision was even more grandiose than the last. The 100 thrives in questions of morality; its best being: Is anyone actually good… or are we all just villains in someone else’s story? With each episode, and with each spiraling decision toward darkness, The 100 seems clear the answer’s no, but there are shades of grey. That ambiguity is exactly where it thrives.
The Americans (FX)
With each passing season of FX’s underrated drama The Americans, I always think, “What a perfect season.” This third season was no exception. Talk about moral ambiguity, The Americans has been questioning the humanity of its main characters since its premiere. But the third season was something to be seen. Philip unraveled more and more, trying to connect with someone—anyone—at the expense of his own safety; Elizabeth grew even more close to her political ties. And the shock of the season: daughter Paige finds out about everything. In The Americans, no one is a fool—Paige’s confrontation, a prime example of that. But most importantly, this is that rare series that is infinitely smarter than you, but isn’t pretentious about it. Simply put, I couldn’t look away, even when a dental surgery, or a tire fire, or a forced suicide, or an underage seduction dared me to, over and over again. I’d ask how it could get better from here, but that’s a thought I have at the end of each season, too.
Fox’s Dallas-for-the-music-industry soap opera is the most ridiculous series on all of television at the moment—and we wouldn’t have it any other way. In twists and storylines that rival even the most over-the-top O.M.G. moments from the heyday of Gossip Girl, Empire has reminded us that television should be, first and foremost, absolutely entertaining. In a way, it reminds me of Jane the Virgin, a show that also has decided, for better or worse, to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the screen. Whatever crazy plot line you’ve ever thought out: Empire has probably already done it, and then some. It’s a ratings juggernaut for a reason, and that’s because it’s escapism at its finest. Touching upon taboo issues within the community is the icing on this most delicious cake. And, to be honest, it would be a shame if the series that created the most iconic character this season in Cookie was not recognized.
The Good Wife (CBS)
Season five of The Good Wife made it the best series on all of television that season. In season six, the writers behind the show said it was going to be different. Of course it was going to be. Trying to recreate season five would have been disastrous. So instead, season six started with a complete drive toward Cary being sent to jail—and then being found guilty. Never before had The Good Wife done a 10-episode whirlwind stretch of episodes like this. This CBS legal drama can make my heart palpitate with a strut down an office hallway more than any scene in a gritty cable drama. Season six saw its fair share of bumps in the road, but ultimately pushing the-most-actualized-character-on-TV Alicia Florrick deeper into her anti-heroine ways found her in that oh-so-issue with privilege: Once you have what you want, what comes next? And, then, of course, when you get what you want, can you be different? The answer, at least this season: No. The Good Wife season six was cyclical in the most intentional way. Once Alicia got her firm, she realized she and Cary were basically Lockhart/Gardner. Once she became State’s Attorney, she realized the system wins out. With Alicia focused on making a change, not making a name, can she arise from the muck she spun in through season six? The Rebuilding of Alicia Florrick awaits—and I’ll have a front-row seat to it!
Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Many felt as though Masters of Sex had its sophomore slump this season. Sure, it wavered in a couple of episodes, but, if I can be honest, nothing gives me that indescribable feeling like an episode of Masters of Sex does. It’s difficult to put in words, but every time the credits roll, there’s just a sense of complete television satisfaction. I realize this is sounding like double entendres, but I assure you they are not. Masters of Sex has the ability to just completely affect you in an unprecedented way. The bottle episode this season, “Fight,” in which Bill and Virginia were holed up in their hotel room for most of the hour, is perhaps the best episode of television this past season. It’s episodes, and moments, like these that make you realize television is so much more—it can affect you right in the core of your sense of being. Just sublime.
Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)
There is just no better representation of minorities on television at the moment than Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black. For that alone, it deserves its accolades. But season two of the prison drama was more than that, darker than that, too. If season one didn’t make you realize it, season two certainly cemented it: the series makes no qualms for why any of these women are behind bars. Their complete sense of agency is something to delight in and makes for some of the most three-dimensional female characters on television at the moment—and there are quite a few, trust me! Doing all that, servicing all of these wonderful characters (and there nay is a dud in the bunch), is no easy feat. More so, it does it with a complete sense of joy, something most shows would do good to learn. Is it Friday yet so we can binge season three!?
Rectify (Sundance Channel)
Rectify is one of the most sublime, quiet, intricate dramas on television. My least favorite trope on television is when they hold back secrets as their only way to create drama. Now, Rectify doesn’t do this per se. All of its characters relationships yield drama in their own right, but the series central question hinges on it: Did Daniel murder that girl? They way this series looks at morality, religion, vengeance, and envy is a vision. I don’t want to bog it with too many words, except to say it’s absolutely splendid, and you should all be watching.
Honorable Mentions: If I’m being honest, this past season of Game of Thrones has been lacking except for the last couple of episodes. When it’s good, it’s good. I also loved the second series of Netflix’s The Fall. And I enjoyed House of Cards!
Predictions: I think this going to be an easy one with Mad Men being recognized for its final season. Game of Thrones is sure to make an appearance, and then I think the Academy will nod both of Netflix’s flagship series House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. Empire is practically its own network, and it would be strange if it didn’t get a nod. Somehow I feel like it could come down to between Downton Abbey and Better Call Saul, but I think maybe Better Call Saul will win out. And then, finally, The Good Wife will squeeze its way in there!
This is one in a series of Emmys posts this awards season. Check out the Emmys tag for more dream nominees and features.