Emmy’s 2013: Ten Dark Horses To Look Out For

Photo Credit: http://insidetv.ew.com/2013/06/28/emmys-tatiana-maslany-orphan-black/

The folks over at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences aren’t particularly known for leaving their comfort zone when it comes to their annual awards ceremony.  Still, the critical community is buzzing about several dark horses that might just sneak their way in to the Emmy’s competition this year.  With the nominations announcement only a week away, here’s a look at ten exciting shows that could upset the usual order of things:


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The Americans (FX): What could have easily just been Homeland set in the 80s has ended up being one of the most compelling new dramas of the season. This Cold War-era series centers around two undercover KGB agents (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) posing as an American family in suburban DC. The show has created a thrilling spy story, but its real feat has been its examination of marriage, family, and patriotism in a time of political unrest. Combine all that with excellent performances by both Russell and Rhys and you’ve got a hit on your hands. It’s no wonder it’s already been nominated for two Television Critics Association awards.

Photo Credit: http://www.loftcinema.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/rectify-webposter.jpgRectify (Sundance Channel): Critics have highly favored this deep south drama from the producers of Breaking Bad. The show moves at an almost glacial pace, with very little action occurring over its six episode run, but it works because of its subject matter and the nuanced performance from its lead. Aden Young stars as Daniel Holden, a man released from death row after 19 years when new DNA testing makes his murder and rape conviction inconclusive. Young brings a haunting quietness to Holden as he tries to reacclimate himself to his family and to society. It’s the sort of wonderfully understated acting that could very well result in a nomination.

Photo Credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/68/Happy_Endings_Season_3_Poster.jpegHappy Endings (ABC):  In a just world, this brilliantly zany comedy would never have been cancelled. The Chicago-set sitcom about six friends trying to make it work in the big city has often drawn comparisons to…well…that other show about six friends trying to make it work in the big city. Nevertheless, Endings managed to have its own uniquely funny cast like Casey Wilson’s forever-unlucky-in-love Penny and Adam Pally’s ridiculously aloof Max, who might be TV’s least stereotypical gay character. Will this show’s untimely end result in some Emmy love? One can only hope.

Photo Credit: http://vodly.to/content/thumbs/parenthood-25228.jpgParenthood (NBC): Speaking of things that are unjust, how has this charming drama from Friday Night Lights‘ head writer Jason Katims not been given any recognition? Delicately balancing the stories of three generations of family is not a simple endeavor, and yet Parenthood has given us four seasons of wonderfully structured storytelling. The show often deals with some heavy topics–autism, abusive relationships–but never in a way that feels like an after-school special. This year, Monica Potter’s Kristina underwent treatment for breast cancer and it was one of their most compelling plotlines yet. It’s high time this show came away with some gold.

Photo Credit: http://scandalmoments.tumblr.com/post/32017485651/new-scandal-season-2-poster-featuring-fitz-oliviaScandal (ABC): If you’re not watching this primetime hit, then you’re missing out on one of the most exhilarating TV experiences today. While hardly a realistic vision of Washington DC, this show about a political “fixer” and her team of associates truly delivers week after week. Scandal has amassed a rabid fanbase over the course of its two seasons thanks to its twisty plotlines and torrid romances. The show itself might be a bit soapy for the Emmy’s, but excellent performances from Kerry Washington, Bellamy Young, Jeff Perry, and fan-favorite  Guillermo Diaz are certainly worth some acknowledgement.

Photo Credit: http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMzk4OTU5NTE2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTIxMDIyOQ@@._V1_SY317_CR12,0,214,317_.jpgBates Motel (A&E): It’s a bit of a gamble to make a show based off one of the most honored horror movies of all time.  Yet, Bates Motel has turned out to be a fascinating look into the life of a young Norman Bates and his dearest mother. I’m still scratching my head as to why the writers felt the need to set things in present day, but it’s hard to deny that the series perfectly captures the darkly  complex relationship of its two central characters. If nothing else, the show serves as a fine showcase for Vera Farmiga and Freddy Highmore, who both will likely earn nominations for the excellent range they’ve shown over the first season.

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Orphan Black (BBC America): Chances are you’ve never even heard of this under-the-radar thriller about a girl who discovers she’s one in a series of human clones. Though the Emmy’s are notoriously unkind to sci-fi series, this could be the one that breaks the streak. This is thanks in no small part to its star Tatiana Maslany, who takes on the task of playing seven (!) different characters in the show’s first season. Her real feat, though, is in the unique attributes she’s able to give each of the clones she plays. Having snagged a win at the Critics’ Choice Awards and a nomination for the upcoming TCA awards, Maslany could very well be the one to beat come Emmy night.

Photo Credit: http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMTQwNjgwOTczOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDQzOTEzOA@@._V1_SX214_.jpgThe Mindy Project (Fox): NBC sitcoms and The Big Bang Theory usually have the comedy market cornered at the Emmy’s, but this bright debut from The Office‘s Mindy Kaling deserves some attention as well.  A Single-girl-in-the-city story isn’t anything new, but Kaling has breathed fresh life into the genre by turning rom-com clichés on their head in hilarious ways.  Featuring some great characters and plots about everything from the Manhattan club scene to a women’s prison, The Mindy Project is a newcomer worth routing for.  Besides, with New Girl getting some nominations last year, Fox is on its way to gaining a foothold in the comedy game.

Photo Credit: http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BNzY5Nzk4Njk1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjU0OTg0OA@@._V1_SY317_SX214_.jpgNashville (ABC): Nashville‘s first season wasn’t perfect, but it deserves a lot of credit for taking something that could have been overtly cheesy and making it feel very real. The show is a foil of sorts to the randomly-break-out-into-song world of shows like Glee and Smash, taking viewers inside the lives of people working in the music industry. Sure, sometimes it dips into soap opera territory, but the characters of Rayna James and Juliette Barnes are so wonderfully layered that those moments are easy to overlook. Of course, none of this would be possible without the top-notch Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere as the two leads. Their performances are really something to sing about.

Photo Credit: http://breathecast.christianpost.com/data/images/full/8327/house-of-cards.jpgHouse of Cards (Netflix): I’m a little hesitant to call this show a dark horse since the amount of critical praise its gotten has practically put it in the mainstream. Still, this stirring political drama about vengeful House Majority Whip Frank Underwood is definitely a game changer. Streaming on Netflix and playing out like an elongated film, this show is a huge part of the next wave of television. Emmy recognition would only further solidify the fact that TV is going in a very new direction. A nomination isn’t that much of a pipe dream either, considering the show’s incredible writing and marvelous turns from the likes of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.



So what do you think of our list?  Are you routing for any of these dark horses to usurp the usual nominations?  What other shows are you hoping will receive some recognition at this year’s Emmy Awards?  Sound off in the comments below.


By Mike Papirmeister

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