This story first appeared in a stand-alone special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
While most series were wrapping for the year (or being axed for good), a slew of interesting entries quietly made their late-season debuts just in time for 2013 Emmy consideration. Their well-timed appearances not only saved us from (gasp!) watching reruns, but also make a few Emmy races decidedly less predictable. The comedy competition got a lot more crowded when IFC's Maron, HBO's Family Tree and Netflix's Arrested Development joined the cable-vs.-network smackdown. And speaking of broadcast, NBC's Hannibal could be the first new network drama to crash the premium-dominated party. Longmire, A&E's well-received series, might land its talent in a choice position. And one very dirty girl named Amy could have just enough momentum to crack the variety race's enduring glass ceiling.
1. Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)
Premiered April 30
If in some alternate reality Chelsea Handler and Lisa Lampanelli had offspring (stay with me here), and he or she was raised by Kathy Griffin, that child might resemble Comedy Central's latest entry into its canon of stand-ups in primetime. Amy Schumer, one of the network's first true female series-headliners, takes a page from the venerable book of the lauded Chappelle's Show, combining stand-up bits with filmed sketches -- but with an absurdist female bent (sample gags: bejeweled vibrators, comedian Tig Notaro playing the cancer card). The series' debut was one of the network's highest-rated ever, and it quickly was renewed for a second season May 27. Notes Schumer, "[I'm] ecstatic to work with these assholes again." Perhaps voters will feel the same about throwing her name into the male-dominated variety series race?
2. Longmire (A&E)
Second season premiered May 27
The network's latest original scripted series, Bates Motel, has been nabbing the lion's share of Emmy buzz, largely due to star Vera Farmiga's performance as Norma Bates. That series also had a late-ish run -- the finale aired May 20 -- but voters would be wise to give equal consideration to the second season of the network's moody Western Longmire, which saw a rise in ratings with a sophomore premiere that nabbed more than 4 million viewers. Created by John Coveny and Hunt Baldwin and based on the Walt Longmire novels by Craig Johnson, the series features an underrated cast -- namely its star, Aussie actor Robert Taylor. His tortured Wyoming widower sheriff harks back to the grand Westerns of the 1960s, when restraint and solitude were hallmarks of a great drama.
3. Maron (IFC)
Premiered May 3
Comedy podcast king Marc Maron has more than impressed with his stab at a Louie-ish spin on his reality as a depressed divorcé working out of his garage. The most surprising part? Maron actually can act (can you imagine fellow podcaster Adam Carolla achieving such things?) He's filled the single-camera series with cool friends (Denis Leary, Adam Scott, Dave Foley) and each scene with believable angst -- it's also nice to see that a cool dude can be more than obsessed with his cats without (too much) judgment.
4. Hannibal (NBC)
Premiered April 4
This series had everything going against it heading into Emmy season: Another attempt at a prequel in a franchise already exhausted by Hollywood? More gore in what's been the bloodiest season ever for dramas? And a Thursday slot that offered up only lackluster ratings? It turns out, the show is -- in the words of THR TV critic Tim Goodman -- so "shockingly good" that you have to remind yourself it's from the network that gave us the campy flop Deception. From creator Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies), Hannibal seizes on our seemingly endless appetite for horror and serial-killer storylines, but with such artistry and stunning performances by Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen, the drama easily could exist on premium cable -- the ultimate compliment for an Emmy contender in 2013.
5. Family Tree (HBO)
Premiered May 12
The Christopher Guest comedy was so quietly rolled out, many people weren't even aware it had debuted. But fans of the Best in Show director wouldn't want it any other way: His quirky series about a 30-year-old Irishman (Chris O'Dowd) digging into his roots is consummate Guest -- slow, subtle and filled with his beloved regulars (Michael McKean, Ed Begley Jr., Fred Willard). Guest's first TV series in years fits perfectly into HBO's edgier comedy fare (Girls, Enlightened) and should be given equal weight alongside them despite its quieter presence.
6. Arrested Development (Netflix)
Episodes made available May 26
The reboot of Fox's cult comedy hardly has lacked media attention since its buzzy late-May bow. But some insiders might not realize the fourth season's 15-episode blast (it hasn't been renewed yet, despite fans' and critics' overwhelming response) is eligible alongside such hot comedy series as Veep, The Big Bang Theory, Girls and Modern Family. If nothing else, the show's tight ensemble of actors -- headlined by Jason Bateman and including about 1,000 cool guest stars -- should be considered for individual acting awards, with each performing at arresting levels of comedic genius.
And Don't Forget …
THE EARLY-BIRD CONTENDERS
Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Like the series' most ubiquitous character -- Irish whiskey -- Terence Winter's Prohibition drama only has improved with age; unfortunately, so has the competition. Boardwalk's December finale might be months in the rearview mirror, but voters shouldn't let Game of Thrones' swell of attention dominate votes for HBO's flawless series.
Breaking Bad (AMC)
The acclaimed drama returns in August for its final eight episodes, but it's the first eight of the final season -- which aired last summer -- that are in contention.
Sons of Anarchy (Fox)
The long-snubbed biker drama hit new strides in season five (thanks largely to guest star Jimmy Smits). Its shock-after-shock season -- which ended in December -- was pure Sons glory and merits as much consideration as the network's latest contender, The Americans.