2011 Dream Emmy Ballot: Outstanding Drama Series

It’s that time again, folks. The Emmy nominations will be announced on July 14, which means I have almost an entire month to flood this space with hopes, dreams and predictions about what could happen come nomination time. To kick things off, I’ll be bringing back the Dream Emmy Ballot. It’s something I did last year and even with my much smaller readership back then, folks seemed to enjoy it. You can find the archives of previous Dream Emmy Ballot posts here.

In any event, just a qualifier or two: This is obviously my Dream Emmy Ballot. Meaning, these initial picks are going to be who I would love to see be nominated for the awards. I know that many of these people don’t actually have a chance in garnering a nomination, just as I know that I will miss some of your personal favorites because I don’t watch that series. I watched more television than ever this season, so I imagine my personal picks will more closely align with more “official” selections, but nevertheless, this is all based on my personal taste and wishes. I’ll do more concrete, objective analysis as we get closer to the actual nomination announcement. Secondly, these picks are all based on the official nomination ballot, just so you know.

Here we are folks, the end. After a dozen posts spread out over three weeks, I’m finally finished with my fake prognosticating. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey at least a little bit. I know I have. I think. Anyway, it’s time for one final round of picks. With no Breaking Bad or Lost and my generally lukewarm feelings on some of the series that will probably make this category anyway, I think I have a few interesting picks in here. As a reminder, these are in order of preference. Check it out:

Terriers

Talk about dreams. Terriers will absolutely not be nominated in this category and if we were to see the voting breakdown, I have to imagine that it probably won’t even finish in the top 30. A CSI: series will probably get more votes. But its sole season on the air, the FX drama delivered shaggy dog investigations, biting humor, dark detours and very palpable drama. It probably shouldn’t have worked as well as it did, but the production team and the actors, led by the fantastic Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James, brought their A-games from the very beginning. I’m rarely upset by one-and-done series. Months later, the cancellation of Terriers still makes me angry.

Friday Night Lights

If it weren’t for Terriers, Friday Night Lights would definitely top this list. The DirecTV/NBC series is in its final season of eligibility and thankfully turned in one of its best – and probably my favorite, honestly – batches of episodes. Season five of FNL successfully managed goodbyes for its longtime veteran characters and arced out wonderful stories for its newer East Dillon kids as well. Freed from the stresses of the renewal/cancellation game, this season feels complete and conclusive in all the ways it should. Wonderful performances, tremendous writing here. Come on Emmy voters, it’s been five years. Give the series the props it deserves.

Mad Men

Listen, I love Mad Men and I don’t think there is much doubt that season four is the best overall season of the series thus far. The only real reason Men is this far down the list is because I have a more personal attachment and investment in the two series above it, quality be damned. Anyway, Mad Men season four was fantastic. It nicely handled the downfall of Don Draper but never failed to throw in an occasionally hilarious moment – Peggy riding the bike! Mrs. Blankenship! – and actually surprised at various times. The performances were awesome as always and the plotting was just as sharp, despite my issues with the season finale. Unless voters get enchanted by Boardwalk Empire, Men takes this category for the fourth straight time, and I’m OK with that.

Justified

Wow, I freaking loved this season of Justified and here it is in the number four position. That top three is tough to crack for me and therefore, Justified’s middle-of-the-pack listing has absolutely nothing to do with my thoughts on it. I adored the series’ first season and this one was even better, as it mastered the balance between close-ended, procedural-y stories and the long-running threads and introduced a slew of fascinating new characters. Top to bottom, Justified probably had the best acting on all of television this year and the suffocatingly intense pacing and plotting was damn fine as well.

The Good Wife

I sometimes don’t understand how The Good Wife is as great as it is. CBS procedurals starring Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth and Christine Baranski shouldn’t be this addictive, infectious and compelling on a regular basis (no offense, obviously). I didn’t watch the series until earlier this year and so its Emmy successes last year made no sense to me. They do now, especially after the second season raised the bar even further. With the political backdrop and an ever-growing slate of recurring guest stars, The Good Wife’s version of Chicago became even more fully-formed and ultimately, even more interesting. The procedural cases don’t always work, but there is always something in an episode of The Good Wife that stands out.

Fringe

It kind of petered out – see what I did there? – a bit with a disappointing finale, but season three of Fringe is one of my favorite television seasons of recent memory and therefore, must grab the final spot on this Dream Emmy Ballot over tough competition like Boardwalk Empire and Parenthood. The Fringe team handled the dual universe conceit with complete grace, making for an always compelling viewing experience every time viewers tuned in to the low-rated, but beloved FOX series. The mythology developed dramatically, but more so than the previous two seasons, the characters really mattered on Fringe this year. From dominant arcs like Peter and Olivia’s relationship and Walter’s internal struggles to the less important exploration of Lincoln’s love for Fauxlivia, Fringe made sure to ground all its insanity and oddity in personal moments. Terrible finale be damned.

Notable series left just off the list: Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Parenthood, Southland 

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