Emmy battle for Best Animated Program: ‘Futurama’ vs. ‘South Park’

The Best Animated Program category, which had become slightly predictable as many of the same shows were nominated and won, got a bit of a shakeup this year. Missing is ten-time winner “The Simpsons,” which had been nominated every year since its first season in 1990 with the exceptions of 1993 and 1994 when it submitted unsuccessfully in the Comedy Series category.

Instead, this year’s race pits two past champs against a perennial also-ran and two rookie contenders. Let’s take a closer look at each of this year’s nominees.

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“Archer”: “Archer Vice: The Rules of Extraction” (FX)
After four critically acclaimed seasons and a growing legion of fans, one of the hippest shows on TV finally reaped its first bid.

The submitted episode is well-written, funny and boasts impressive animation. However, it is part of a serialized storyline and that may alienate voters not familiar with the show. Even so, Emmy voters may want to reward it for a loyal fanbase and strong production values.

“Bob’s Burgers”: “Mazel-Tina” (Fox)
Fox programming has won 13 of its 43 nominations. Indeed, the net owned this award for seven years beginning in 1997 with five wins for “The Simpsons” (1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003) and one apiece for  “King of the Hill” (1999) and “Futurama” (2002). This year, it contends with “Bob Burgers,” which earned its third consecutive nomination.

This episode concerns Tina, the oldest of the main character’s children, and her attempts at becoming popular, even if it means abandoning her meek attitude and taking control of a Bat Mitzvah (not her own, of course). While the episode is funny, it doesn’t compare to some of the previous winners, which broke new ground. However, it could still prevail given the goodwill towards the show and the network.

“Futurama”: “Meanwhile” (Comedy Central)
This two-time champ (2002, 2011), up for the eighth and final time, submitted the series finale.

Emmy voters are suckers for sentimentality. The main characters Fry and Leela finally get married and are seen growing old together. It is a sweet and effective end for the brilliant show. I think it has everything it needs to win: comedy, touching moments and the fact that it is the last chance for Emmy voters to honor it.

“South Park”: “Black Friday” (Comedy Central)
The reigning champ has four Emmys to show for its 11 nominations.

This year’s entry is the first of a three-episode arc. The children of South Park are preparing for the Black Friday sale and divide into two groups – those who desire the Xbox One and those who want the Playstation 4.

While it is the edgiest animated show, with bad language and crude humor, it is also smart and satirical. This episode includes an incredibly clever homage to another Emmy favorite, “Game of Thrones.” and razor-sharp critiques of our consumerist society. It is a great episode and definitely Emmy-worthy.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”: “The Manhattan Project” (Nickelodeon)
This was the surprise amng the nominees. Only one Nickelodeon entry — “The Penguins of Madagascar” — has ever won this award, prevailing for its only bid in 2011.
The most inventive of the nominees, it showcases two animation styles (traditional and CGI) in its submisson. While not the strongest story among the nominees, it still packs an emotional impact and could pull off an upset.

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Prediction: While all the nominees have a chance, I am calling this for “Futurama” as voters will have trouble not giving the beloved show one final hug. It will be hard to beat “Futurama,” but if any show can, it will be “South Park” for the best episode of one of their most critically acclaimed seasons. 

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