Freshman Emmy comedy contenders

'Modern Family' isn't the only new kid on the block

A host of new shows with major chops look to make a nom for themselves.

“Bored to Death”
Strengths: Original storytelling with a nice chemistry between the deadpan Jason Schwartzman and Zach Galifianakis and an outrageous Ted Danson.
Weaknesses: Moments when “Bored” could seem just a little too close to its title or, alternatively, a little too precious.
Best days ahead or behind?: The series seemed to play around with different approaches in its first year, so if it idenitifies what works, the second season could really be one worth watching.
— Jon Weisman

Strengths: Figured out what was working and what wasn’t rather quickly to become something likable and clever, topped by May’s paintball episode.
Weaknesses: Chevy Chase has never seemed like a great fit for the show, which has a kinder comic sensibility than he brings.
Best days ahead or behind?: Ahead. After evolving on the fly, the summer break should allow “Community” to come back firing on all cylinders for season two.
— Jon Weisman

“Cougar Town”
Strengths: Has shed its original “cougar” concept and become a quirky comedy about a group of boozy thirtysomething friends.
Weaknesses: May have gotten a bit too quirky for some viewers’ tastes.
Best days ahead or behind?: The producers have just now hit upon a formula that works, so expect them to take off with it next year.
— Michael Schneider

Strengths: The script. The musical numbers. The guest stars. The sassy, subversive humor. Not to mention the show’s diversity of characters and unabashedly edgy plotlines covering everything from deaf glee clubs to OCD.
Weaknesses: While there has never been a truly bad episode of “Glee,” not every show can measure up to the Madonna tribute.
Best days ahead or behind?: To paraphrase the Carpenters, the show has only just begun. Gleeks everywhere are sitting on the edge of the gymnasium bleachers waiting to see what high note the series hits next.
— Malina Saval

“How to Make It in America”
Strengths: The set-up was fresh, the characters seemed grounded and the rhythm was unforced. Quietly quirky.
Weaknesses: Much ado about nothing? The different elements didn’t add up to anything very meaty.
Best days ahead or behind?: In its second season on HBO, “Make It” needs to find a second gear to maintain audience interest.
— Jon Weisman

Strengths: Nuanced portrayal of a man facing hard times (no pun intended — well, maybe intended just a bit) in contemporary Detroit.
Weaknesses: Plenty of weirdness, but if you’re looking for laugh-out-loud moments, it’s gonna be a long search.
Best days ahead or behind?: The journey for these characters seems to have plenty of room to run.
— Jon Weisman

“The Middle”
Strengths: It’s the rare smart network comedy that features realistic dialogue and is relatable to working-class families. It’s also very well cast, including Patricia Heaton as an overwhelmed but optimistic mom and Neil Flynn as her loving (and surprisingly not doofish) husband.
Weaknesses: It can get a bit too manic and quirky. Also, the voiceover isn’t necessary all the time.
Best days ahead or behind?: With a good finish this spring, including a finale featuring new “it girl” Betty White, the show should continue to be a key component of ABC’s comedy lineup for years to come.
— Rick Kissell

“Modern Family”
Strengths: Perfectly weaves stories involving 10 series regulars, with one great laff line after another threading it all together.
Weaknesses: You could argue that the product integration is becoming intrusive, but all in all the episodes don’t suffer for it.
Best days ahead or behind?: Someday this show will hit the wall, but don’t expect that moment to come anytime soon.
— Jon Weisman

“Nurse Jackie”
Strengths: The wondrous Edie Falco, of course. With two seasons of “Nurse Jackie” on her resume, she’s already proven the “The Sopranos” will be only one of several highlights in an extraordinary career.
Weaknessees: Paul Schulze’s relationship with Falco’s Jackie goes beyond dysfunctional at this point. They both know it’s not going anywhere and her marriage is in jeopardy, yet they can’t seem to stop.
Best days ahead or behind?: Ahead. While the show has tackled topical hospital and personal issues, there should be plenty more good material to mine.
— Stuart Levine

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