When the American Film Institute delivered their list of the Top 10 Television Series of 2009, with critics Maureen Ryan, Brian Lowry and Matt Roush on the jury with CCH Pounder and David Milch, you start to realize that any sort of representative Top 10 is about casting a diverse group of shows which offer an objective spectrum of the television world.
The result, if we look down AFI’s list, is choices which may be more representative than they are substantive, more recognizable than entirely creatively successful. And, accordingly, we could “label” each show as filling a particular niche, if not necessarily filling it as well as another show in our personal opinions.
- “The Big Bang Theory [Newly minted “hit”]
- “Big Love [Transcendent Season]
- “Friday Night Lights [New business model]
- “Glee [New series]
- “Mad Men [Unquestionable Quality]
- “Modern Family [New series]
- “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency [Int’l Co-production]
- “Nurse Jackie [Dramedy]
- “Party Down [Underground sensation]
- “True Blood” [Fan Favourite]
You could replace a show like Big Love with Breaking Bad, or a show like Party Down with Better Off Ted, or Modern Family with Community, or Nurse Jackie with United States of Tara, and the list would ostensibly be the same. And in some ways, when you have the huge range of great television available at the moment, this is all that a small jury can do: use their own subjective analysis to craft a list objective in its diversity, trying to capture the trends and the series which helped define the year in television. We’d all swap out a few shows here or there (as the discussion on Twitter decided, Parks and Recreation is the big name that deserves to be here), but I don’t think anyone can argue the list is a failure (especially considering the fantastic mention of Starz’s Party Down).
However, when the Golden Globes casts its nominations tomorrow morning in the television field, its choices are far more indiscernible, its criteria limited to whatever happens to strike the fancy of the mysterious Hollywood Foreign Press Association. And in most cases that is “the new,” those shows which are new and hip and tapping into the cultural zeitgeist. Combined with the existence of “Comedy and Musical” categories, Glee seems like a sure bet to break through into this year’s awards, but with such a wide range of new shows it’s hard to know which will happen to match the Globes’ casting call.
I like analyzing the Emmys because you understand the nomination process, and can delve into individual performances in predicting who might grab a nomination. However, with the Globe, there is so little logic involved that all you can do is have no expectation of quality and be glad that you live in a time zone where the awards are nominated at a decent time (or, at least that’s what I do). Daniel Fienberg at HitFix has more patience with the awards than I do, and has a detailed analysis of every category, but I just can’t bring myself to predict the unpredictable.
I can, however, bring myself to watch the nominations at 5:30 pacific (that’s 8:30 eastern, and 9:30 for me) tomorrow morning to see just what those crazy folks at the HFPA are up to this year, especially since the show itself is a must watch with Ricky Gervais hosting.