Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends – insanely passionate TV fans arguing over their favorites. And if TV shows are the new rock & roll, this is the ultimate battle of the bands: Hulu's fourth annual Best in Show competition, in partnership with Rolling Stone. Thirty-two shows enter, but only one emerges victorious – and the only deciding factor is your votes. Last year the fans voted for Community, but can the Greendale crew repeat? And if not, who will seize the crown? Game of Thrones? Breaking Bad? Mad Men? Once Upon a Time? Wait, what is Once Upon a Time even doing here?
The Best in Show contest rages on, week by week, bracket by bracket, until the final votes are counted and the victor is announced on April 4th. And after just one week, it's already clear that the fan hordes are out for blood – kind of like the Battle of the Blackwater on Game of Thrones, or at least the Sun Chamber on Community. ("Hope you brought your popsicles, because it's about to get scalding hot in the Sun Chamber!")
I'm making my picks for each round, in each bracket. Hulu, of course, chose the 32 contenders and the brackets, but it all comes down to the fan votes. The votes are in from the first week, and there are already some shocking upsets. In the first round, I was rooting for Louie over Modern Family and Girls over Boardwalk Empire, but despite the comic ingenuity of Louis C.K. and Lena Dunham, they both got knocked out. (Seriously? I am playing naked ping-pong all day in protest.) On the other hand, 30 Rock snuffed The Office, which was a slaughter-rule mercy killing, since this final season of The Office is a franchise-killer on par with the final season of Roseanne or those last few Who albums.
Another wild surprise: Downton Abbey got K.O.'d by Parks and Recreation in the first round? Amazing. Homeland went up against Archer, a clever bracket for sure – two very different approaches to the spy thriller. But Archer came out on top, maybe because it's more believable. I was rooting for Parks and Rec and Archer, even though I love Downton and Homeland. Those are controversial upsets, for sure, but that's the nature of the game, given this level of stiff competition. All 32 of these shows inspire passionate devotion and fierce loyalty from their admirably committed fans – that's why they're here.
Happy Endings and The Vampire Diaries got shot down, along with The Walking Dead. Less shockingly, so did American Horror Story, along with House of Lies, The Good Wife, Pretty Little Liars, Dr. Who and (sniff) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Where is Sons of Anarchy, you might ask? It had the unenviable slot of facing Breaking Bad in the first round and went down fighting. Goodnight, Jax.
So how does the competition shake out now? There are definitely some juicy match-ups this week. The toughest bracket to call is Scandal vs. Parks and Rec – I can't even guess which way that one is going to go. The easiest is Breaking Bad vs. Once Upon a Time. (I predict Walter White over Snow White.) Game of Thrones goes up against Boardwalk Empire, and my money's on Tyrion over Nucky. (Always bet on Imp!) Modern Family goes up against Parenthood, and I'm fine with either winning, as long as I don't have to watch. I'm voting for Mad Men over Archer, The New Girl over Revolution, the out-with-a-bang 30 Rock over Sherlock and Community over Glee.
But again, it all comes down to the fan votes. So it's up to you to decide who survives this round and fights again next week. As Tyrion Lanister likes to say before a big battle: "Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let's go kill them."