News

Cobra Kai Deserves an Emmy, and So Do These 8 Other Shows

From feel-good family fare that tackles serious issues (Jane the Virgin) to super-smart legal dramas (The Good Fight) and everything in between, here are eight top-notch TV shows that deserve recognition from the Television Academy.

by | June 21, 2018 | Comments

(Photo by CBS All Access/Netflix/The CW)

The long of it: In 2017 alone, 487 scripted original series aired on television or streaming services.That’s a 69% increase from 2012 to 2017, according to tracking done by FX Networks Research. At the rate new TV is being made, 2018 should out-pace every other year with more than 500 original series airing.

The short of it: There’s a lot of TV. And though some of it is clutter, there is also more outstanding television being made than ever before.

As the Television Academy gears up to name the nominees for the 2018 Emmy Awards, recognizing excellence in an ever-more-populated field, there’s a heck of a lot more excellence out there than there ever was.

That’s why it seems like your Netflix queue is ever-growing, and it’s also why, come July 12, you should not be surprised if your favorite TV show doesn’t get a nod. There’s simply too much good TV out there to recognize it all. There are plenty of TV staples that will get recognized when the nominations are revealed (ahem, Game of Thrones), but Rotten Tomatoes’ TV team humbly suggests voters (and non-voters alike) also take a look at these exceptional, new, and heretofore overlooked-by-the-Emmys titles. And while some of the actors in these series may get a nod for their work, the series themselves probably won’t get nominated, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less deserving.


American Vandal 98% | Netflix

Who Stars In It: Tyler Alvarez, Griffin Gluck, Jimmy Tatro

What’s It’s About: A mockumentary in the style of docuseries like Making a Murderer, the show sees Peter Maldonado (Alvarez) trying to solve a case of vandalism in the teacher’s parking lot. The school expelled Dylan Maxwell (Tatro) for drawing penises on the cars, but Peter thinks Dylan’s been framed.

Why It Deserves an Emmy: First of all, just making a mockumentary with the gravitas of Making a Murderer over such an immature act is hilarious. But just like Dylan’s alleged crime, there’s more under the surface of American Vandal. Creators Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda have crafted a genuine mystery that keeps you guessing in each of its eight episodes. By the end, you’re truly invested in who drew the dirty pictures and feel emotionally attached to the characters involved. Now that’s some Emmy-worthy dramedy. – Fred Topel


BoJack Horseman 93% | Netflix

Who Stars In It: Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Alison Brie, Amy Sedaris, Paul F. Tompkins

What It’s About: Bojack Horseman (Arnett) was a washed-up sitcom star in Hollywoo, a world of humans and anthropomorphized animals mixed together. He’s managed to get taken seriously as an actor by playing Secretariat in a movie. His agent, the cat Princess Caroline (Sedaris), is trying to start a family while she manages Bojack’s crises. His rival, the dog Mr. Peanutbutter (Tompkins), is in a relationship with his biographer, the human Diane (Brie), and Bojack’s former roommate Todd (Paul) is is exploring his asexuality.

Why It Deserves an Emmy: If it were only a brilliant animated spoof of Hollywood, Bojack Horseman would already be up there with The Simpsons and South Park; however, there’s real drama in the animated series — and using animation, Bojack can tackle stories that live-action never could. The best example is its season 3 episode, “Fish out of Water,” which takes place entirely underwater with no dialogue. Season 4 had a strong contender in “Time’s Arrow,” which delves into the dementia-addled memory of Bojack’s mother (Wendie Malick), who is searching for her beloved Henrietta (whose face is scratched out of all the animation). It’s profound, heartbreaking stuff.

Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg believes making the characters animals made some of the more somber material palatable. “I think if we were a live-action show, people might feel like this is a little too much, this is a little saccharine or a little too oppressive,” Bob-Waksberg told Rotten Tomatoes. “Because it’s this goofy horse face saying these words, it claws a new way in.” – Fred Topel


Cobra Kai 94% | YouTube Premium

Who Stars In It: Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Mary Mouser, Xolo Mariduena, Nichole Brown

What It’s About: This show revisits the main characters of The Karate Kid 30 years later, but from the perspective of high school bully Johnny Lawrence (Zabka). Losing the All Valley Karate tournament sent his life on a downward spiral, so he believes re-opening the old Cobra Kai dojo will give him purpose again. Daniel LaRusso (Macchio) is his nemesis, since karate’s been so good to him, Danielsan still trades off of his karate victory as a local hero and auto-sales tycoon.

Why It Deserves an Emmy: The idea of a Karate Kid reunion seemed at best like nostalgia and at worst like a joke. The fact that Cobra Kai is a genuinely good drama despite those expectations is a victory worthy of Daniel’s crane kick. Zabka and Macchio both get to play heavy drama about falling back into childish patterns. The younger characters tell a powerful Karate Kid story for teens of the social media generation. The bullied can so easily become bullies themselves, and women still have a lot of fight ahead of them in the worlds of sports, school, and love. Daniel’s daughter Samantha (Mouser) and Johnny’s students Miguel (Mariduena) and Aisha (Brown) could easily carry this series once the original Karate Kids retire. – Fred Topel


Counterpart 100% | Starz

Who Stars In It: J.K. Simmons, Nazanin Boniadi, Harry Lloyd, Olivia Williams

What It’s About: The best of espionage and science fiction converge in this complicated and well thought-out freshman drama in which Howard Silk, a lowly cog in a quasi-governmental bureaucratic spy machine, discovers his organization guards the gateway to a parallel world.

Why It Deserves an Emmy: The premise of creator Justin Marks’ Starz drama is so complex it’s actually quite simple: J.K. Simmons is Patty Duking it as the mild-mannered government desk warmer Howard Silk and his considerably more Alpha “counterpart” who has recently crossed over from the unknown-to-Howard other dimension to warn that there’s a mole in the operation. A heavy rotation of scenery-chewing supporting cast members (some of whom are also, naturally, playing dual parts) add to this paranoid universe of cover-ups, germ warfare, spy chases, and double agents, which would be all the makings for a must-watch prestige drama if Counterpart were on a broadcast or basic cable channel. – Whitney Friedlander


The Good Fight 97% | CBS All Access

Who Stars In It: Christine Baranski, Cush Jumbo, Rose Leslie, Delroy Lindo, Sarah Steele, Audra McDonald, Justin Bartha

What It’s About: A continuation of The Good Wife featuring Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart, the series follows an on-the-verge-of-retirement Diane as she loses her life savings and goes back to work at a new, all-black law firm.

Why It Deserves an Emmy: The Good Fight feels a lot like The Good Wife in all the best ways. It’s an eclectic ensemble with Baranski at the center and a rotating lineup of delightful guest stars. Season 2 has tackled liberal frustration with the Trump Administration (episodes are named after how many days the Celebrity Apprentice star has been in office) in a funny yet all-too-real way, along with everything from the serious (racially motivated police violence) to the silly (microdosing on mushrooms) with some smartly deployed F-bombs, too. This is streaming, after all. — Jean Bentley


Jane the Virgin 100% | The CW

Who Stars In It: Gina Rodriguez, Andrea Navedo, Yael Grobglas, Justin Baldoni, Jaime Camil, Ivonne Coll

What It’s About: A rom-com about an accidentally artificially inseminated millennial that’s both feminist and funny.

Why It Deserves an Emmy: For all the hoopla surrounding NBC’s This is Us – it’s multi-generational and sometimes super sad! – the thing people seem to be missing most about that show is that it’s frankly not that good once they get past their own empathetic crying. Instead, please consider CW’s Jane the Virgin. Creator Jennie Snyder Urman’s telenovela has all of the above, but it also doesn’t take itself that seriously when handling substantial topics like parental abandonment, moving on after loss, and career reinvention. Just here for the stunt casting and Twitter-friendly cliffhangers? Brooke Shields cameoed this season as a Hollywood A-lister named River Fields and guest star Rosario Dawson’s JR accidentally shot someone in the finale — prompting those of us at home to ponder #JRShotWho?, until next season.  – Whitney Friedlander


One Day at a Time 99% | Netflix

Who Stars In It: Justina Machado, Rita Moreno, Isabella Gomez, Marcel Ruiz, Todd Grinnell, Stephen Tobolowsky

What It’s About: Three generations of a Cuban-American family are living together in Los Angeles under one roof: recently divorced military vet single mom Penelope (Machado), Penelope’s old-school mother, Lydia (Moreno), and her tween son and teen daughter, Alex (Ruiz) and Elena (Gomez).

Why It Deserves an Emmy: Roseanne might have gotten the ax, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any more multi-camera sitcoms deftly tackling the plight of working-class Americans. The re-imagining of Norman Lear’s classic addresses plenty of hot-button political issues (with stellar performances by Moreno, Gomez, and Machado, in particular), but, more importantly, it’s a show about a family that truly loves each other. Isn’t heart what 2018 needs most of all? — Jean Bentley


Star Trek: Discovery 81% | CBS All Access

Who Stars In It: Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs, Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Shazad Latif, Michelle Yeoh

What It’s About: The Star Trek universe returns to TV in a prequel to the Original Series. Martin-Green plays disgraced Starfleet officer Michael Burnham, the adopted sister to franchise favorite character Spock.

Why It Deserves an Emmy: With outstanding performances by a talented ensemble cast, singling out any one of them with an Emmy nod may seem as daunting as facing down a Klingon Bird-of-Prey in an away shuttle. The series, however, takes its drama seriously, enveloping viewers in a believably treacherous world that pays homage to earlier Star Trek TV efforts, while surpassing them with film franchise–quality effects and standout performance by Isaacs as the troubled Captain Gabriel Lorca. — Debbie Day


The Terror 87% | AMC

Who Stars In It: Jared Harris, Ciarán Hinds, Tobias Menzies, Paul Ready, Adam Nagaitis, Ian Hart, Nive Nielsen

What It’s About: A fictionalized account of a Royal Navy voyage to the Arctic in the 1840s offers a supernatural explanation for the disappearance of Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to find the Northwest Passage.

Why It Deserves an Emmy: Performances by Harris, Hinds, Menzies, and supporting players Ready, Hart, Nagaitis, and more provide a solid dramatic base for a harrowing adventure tale that transforms into a haunting horror story. The lavish event series, from showrunners David Kajganich (screenwriter of buzzy fall horror film remake Suspiria) and Soo Hugh, delivers award-worthy chills. — Debbie Day

Tag Cloud

Emmy Nominations Mystery Sundance Now critics YouTube Red History Cannes spinoff Tumblr Amazon Studios Quiz game show X-Men The Walking Dead WGN TV what to watch diversity CMT teaser crime drama stoner Disney Channel ITV Reality Competition Black Mirror Calendar vampires elevated horror police drama 2016 anthology cancelled 007 Hulu VICE Set visit canceled Amazon Prime Video LGBTQ cartoon cults casting Marvel Studios AMC Masterpiece Winter TV Disney+ Disney Plus BET Awards robots IFC boxoffice Starz Universal Binge Guide period drama SXSW Creative Arts Emmys foreign Turner Awards hist Valentine's Day DirecTV children's TV Acorn TV Marvel El Rey dark Apple TV Plus Video Games Marathons Brie Larson Anna Paquin TBS Tomatazos Stephen King E! comedies Columbia Pictures Lifetime supernatural serial killer Certified Fresh GIFs versus Showtime Spike Avengers screenings CBS All Access Walt Disney Pictures comics Apple TV+ ABC FX Christmas cats Action facebook A&E VH1 Watching Series universal monsters Shondaland romance Toys Sneak Peek Heroines BBC One streaming Opinion social media Discovery Channel RT History HBO movies Photos Biopics TV Land Ovation cancelled TV series PlayStation 2020 TIFF Extras series unscripted Holidays christmas movies WarnerMedia Premiere Dates APB BBC Awards Tour Pixar Trophy Talk cops BET toy story Cartoon Network stand-up comedy Netflix Reality disaster child's play CNN Funimation YouTube Hear Us Out Esquire TCM Comics on TV National Geographic witnail historical drama ABC Family Writers Guild of America MSNBC Tubi Paramount Network Summer Sundance SDCC ESPN Winners comiccon 21st Century Fox Endgame Superheroes Podcast YouTube Premium Character Guide doctor who Vudu romantic comedy Freeform Pet Sematary dramedy Western New York Comic Con binge Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Academy Awards Trivia concert Tarantino Syfy batman blaxploitation NBC OWN revenge Schedule Rock reviews dceu adventure Sci-Fi RT21 theme song Pop Travel Channel animated Country DGA Epix HBO Go Spectrum Originals Nominations E3 nature Oscars war VOD joker Drama SundanceTV Britbox golden globes TCA scary movies 20th Century Fox YA ratings directors LGBT spanish language Black History Month Mary Poppins Returns slashers Animation The Witch Hallmark independent Mudbound book BBC America Polls and Games Amazon Prime Sony Pictures franchise Logo films Ghostbusters Disney Plus mutant Rom-Com Adult Swim Star Trek USA Network all-time 45 Spring TV Pride Month PaleyFest based on movie Disney TCA 2017 anime Arrowverse Kids & Family Horror Fantasy HBO Max sequel cancelled television crossover Television Academy Disney streaming service zombies Grammys dogs Peacock Red Carpet tv talk Netflix Christmas movies documentaries Dark Horse Comics FXX chucky docudrama 4/20 spider-man video on demand Countdown dragons Bravo OneApp cinemax rotten movies we love Cosplay indiana jones justice league 71st Emmy Awards Superheroe 2018 Chernobyl thriller Music festivals green book blockbuster GLAAD game of thrones DC streaming service Comic Book transformers die hard MTV Song of Ice and Fire DC Universe space Rocky Warner Bros. dc reboot The Purge twilight Family Lucasfilm See It Skip It psychological thriller television Film sag awards 2017 GoT Teen Captain marvel indie asian-american aliens Mary poppins cancelled TV shows MCU Thanksgiving Fox News Ellie Kemper politics movie crime TruTV documentary Star Wars Shudder Elton John TCA Winter 2020 TNT spain travel Women's History Month 2015 Box Office cars technology latino harry potter political drama DC Comics Turner Classic Movies Apple award winner Year in Review jamie lee curtis PBS zombie singing competition discovery First Look composers renewed TV shows Classic Film CBS psycho best zero dark thirty Martial Arts A24 quibi mission: impossible criterion CW Seed a nightmare on elm street Infographic Musicals USA Lifetime Christmas movies IFC Films Emmys Food Network Comedy hispanic halloween Pop TV south america video Holiday medical drama adaptation 24 frames Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt biography breaking bad Marvel Television The Arrangement richard e. Grant TLC news The CW Crunchyroll Amazon Paramount San Diego Comic-Con spy thriller Film Festival First Reviews President Mary Tyler Moore free movies Pirates Best and Worst parents Baby Yoda strong female leads Sundance TV satire Crackle Lionsgate Mindy Kaling natural history Nat Geo Comedy Central BAFTA canceled TV shows Election cooking mockumentary Musical 2019 Trailer Fall TV ghosts Super Bowl comic FX on Hulu talk show TV renewals NYCC finale sports Interview true crime screen actors guild miniseries crime thriller sitcom FOX Nickelodeon science fiction name the review Rocketman American Society of Cinematographers kids Hallmark Christmas movies werewolf