We have a winner – and as it so often goes on TV, the winner is a bunch of lovable misfit losers. Hulu's fourth annual Best in Show competition, in partnership with Rolling Stone, has been counting down the greatest shows on TV, as determined by fan votes. And what a bloody battle it has been. Best In Show started with thirty-two contenders, fighting it out week by week, bracket by bracket, shocker by shocker, until it came down to the last two left standing: Community vs. Game of Thrones. And now it's official – for the second year in a row, the fans have awarded Community the Best in Show crown. Congratulations,Greendale.
"I'm so happy we won," Community's Gillian Jacobs says. "That's the only time we win anything – when the fans vote. So it means a lot to us. When you're not winning Emmys, things like this really become meaningful. That's basically what we have going for us and the reason we're still on the air – the fans are enthusiastic and loud andpassionate. So I'll take it."
The whole Best in Show competition has been a tribute to hardcore TV fanatics, in all their demented fervor. Every week the voting has beenfull of surprises and upsets – I still can't believe Girls got knockedout by Boardwalk Empire in the first round. Some heavy hitters goteliminated early – Downtown Abbey, Louie, Homeland, The Walking Dead. Every week I offered my critic picks, but part of the fun was seeing the fan support for unlikely challengers. The always-underrated Archer put up a fight, and to be fair, so did Once Upon A Time. (Out of respect, I guess I might have to give that one another chance.) But it just goes to show that we're living through an uncommonly rich era for TV.
The tightest squeaker came when Parks & Recreation went up against Sherlock – that one went right down to the wire, with a handful of votesmaking the difference. Yet when the final ballots were counted, not even the mighty Cumberbatch factor could prevail against Ron Swanson. Mad Men got wiped out in a meth-vs.-martinis showdown with Breaking Bad. But nobody could quibble with the Final Four: Parks vs. Community, Breaking Bad vs. Thrones. All four of those shows have fierce fans, to say the least. All four have earned a permanent place in TV history, from Westeros to Pawnee to New Mexico. Any of them could have walked away with the title.
Why Community? It really all comes down to the heart. As Gillian Jacobs says, "I think that started with [creator] Dan Harmon, who's really at his core a humanist. I think his vision of humanity is that we are all flawed and selfish and damaged, but we all do love each other, and creating family with your friends is one of the best things about life. And I think in some way our show is a celebration of that. As you become an adult, and start to make your way in life, you realize how much your friends are your family – though you get to make fun of your friends too."
As a Community fan, I was rooting for the Greendale crew from the beginning. Hey, I never claimed to be neutral. "Screw neutrality," Jacobs says with a laugh. "I like passionate fandom." Well put, Gillian Jacobs. Spoken like a true fan. And that's what Best in Show is all about – the mad devotion and argumentative spirit of TV fans. Here's to next year.