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Forget Bachelor Pad – the Emmy nods showcase great TV

A Monday in late July. And what's going on? Not much, as it happens. It seems we are pausing to brace ourselves for all the pride, passion and patriotism of the Olympics. Any. Day. Now. Mind you, all that pride, passion and patriotism sounds a tad exhausting at the moment. Maybe that's just me.

Tonight, if you look around the schedule, as I have, you'll find that Bachelor Pad (ABC, CITY-TV, 8 p.m.) returns. If I remember correctly , this abomination features young men and women who were eliminated from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette and now live together and compete for a $250,000 prize by doing dating-style activities. What. Ever.

Are we going to sit around whining that there's nothing new tonight that is of sterling quality? Are we going to harrumph that the lack of such material on a Monday in July is a conspicuous manifestation of the vacuous nature of contemporary popular culture? No, we are not.

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The Emmy nominations that came out the other day afford us an opportunity to assess the TV season that ended in early summer.

In the best drama category it's Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland and Mad Men. Now there's a list of excellence. Oh, Downton Abbey's second season was terrible tosh but a terrific time-waster. And in the lead actress in drama category there's Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary Crawley and is the only reason for watching the tosh. Of course, note you that Claire Danes is in the same category and should win because she was majestic and Homeland is a work of genius.

Over in the best comedy genre, the list is The Big Bang Theory, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Girls, Modern Family, 30 Rock and Veep. Some people might say that HBO's Girls isn't comedy, but a heartbreaking insight into the ennui of today's young bourgeois women in Manhattan, but even the Emmy noms can teach you something. Never mind. Girls is great TV.

One of the pleasure-inducing revelations of the Emmy nominations was, first, a nomination for Zooey Deschanel as lead actress in a comedy, for New Girl. It is a well-known fact that Zooey Deschanel is the most charming and kookiest young woman in the whole world. Ask anyone. What was even better about the Emmy announcement was a nomination for Max Greenfield, who plays the slightly insane but loveable and utterly hilarious Schmidt on New Girl.

Obviously the Emmy list is dominated by cable shows. All the prestige dramas are on cable. But there is a batch of network comedies that are truly excellent and New Girl is one. Take note that on Thursday you can watch two consecutive New Girl episodes (Fox, 9 p.m., 9:30 p.m.) and see for yourself, just in case you're all snooty about anything on commercial TV.

Now, one of the striking aspects of the Emmy announcement was the total of 17 nominations for American Horror Story. That actually ties American Horror Story with Mad Men for the most Emmy noms this year. The show began as messy, weirdly funny and a bit discombobulating. Then it kind of went off the rails for a while. But it was always inventive, visually and in its twisted narrative structure. Its sheer inventiveness is being given recognition. That and Jessica Lange ostentatiously acting everyone else out of the room on a weekly basis.

So look at it this way – there has been a ton of great TV in the last year. Boss, Breaking Bad, Homeland and Boardwalk Empire are superior story telling and TV at its finest. On a Monday in July, it really doesn't matter if there's only Bachelor Pad tonight (okay, there's the return of the so-so sci-fi series Alphas on Space, 10 p.m.). A lot of good series can be found in repeats or on-demand. Television is great. Long live television.

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In a few days as you'll be inundated with info and images about boxing, taekwondo, beach volleyball, synchronized swimming and sports you've never heard of. Perhaps you'll harrumph about professional athletes competing in Olympic soccer and basketball. Probably you'll wonder if the Olympics isn't some giant reality-TV series and possibly you'll long for the return of shows featuring trained actors, written by smart writers.

You'll think that Downton Abbey isn't tosh at all and you'd rather watch Lady Mary's heartbreak than all the athletes in the world striving and strutting around. Or maybe that's just me.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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