Best New Comedy
Ben and Kate
Admittedly, the pickings were pretty slim for new sitcoms this fall (seriously, CBS, Partners?). But it's not damning with faint praise to say that Fox's Ben and Kate is the best of the bunch. Dakota Johnson and Nat Faxon are consistently funny as a brother and sister reconnecting as adults. Johnson is particularly good as the single-mom straight woman to Faxon's good-hearted bozo. She's the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, and seems a natural comedian — not surprising to anyone who has seen her dad's cameos on HBO's Eastbound & Down.
Best Cooking Show
Martha Stewart's Cooking Lessons
We love a little "food porn" as much as the next amateur chef, but lately cooking shows have gotten out of hand, no? It's hard not to feel a smidge unworthy when such uber-entertainers as Ina Garten or Giada De Laurentiis effortlessly whip up complex meals and try to tell us how easy it is — and that's before they welcome their fabulous guests over to their decorated-to-the-hilt mansions to eat it all up while we watch. Martha Stewart may not have been the obvious choice to bring cooking shows back to the basics, but that's what she does on her new PBS show. No frills, no pretentious dinner parties — just solid, basic cooking techniques.
Best Documentary Series
30 for 30
In sports, big games are what most people remember, but ESPN's fabulous documentary series focuses on what happens after the buzzers have sounded and the stadium lights are out. Originally planned as a celebration of the network's 30th anniversary in 2009, the series continues by popular demand. It's a straightforward conceit: Give noted filmmakers a camera and send them after a sports story close to their heart. Barry Levinson profiled the Baltimore Colts pep band; Wright Thompson looked back at the integration of the Ole Miss football team. Next up is You Don't Know Bo, Michael Bonfiglio's profile of two-sport sensation Bo Jackson, who, what do you know, turns 50 this month. It airs Dec. 8 on ESPN.
Best Reality Show
In the age of Honey Boo Boo and The Real Housewives of Fill-in-the-Blank, it's hard to find a reality show that doesn't require viewers to shower thoroughly after watching. Enter A&E's Duck Dynasty, which follows the Robertson family in Louisiana, a clan that has grown fabulously rich by selling — wait for it — duck calls, including its best seller, the "Duck Commander." The Robertsons are as filthy as they are filthy rich (you'd never guess the size of their bank account from the state of patriarch Phil Robertson's ramshackle abode), but they're kind of fascinating, and it's a nice change of pace to watch a reality TV family that actually likes one another.
Bonus: Best Online Series
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
The concept is absurdly simple. For each approximately 15-minute episode of Jerry Seinfeld's new online series (watch them at comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com), he hops into one of the sleekest or quirkiest models in his car collection, picks up a friend and drives to a nearby coffee shop. And then they talk. Just talk. About whatever comes up. Trust us, it's hilarious. Of course, when your friends include people like Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K. and Ricky Gervais, hilarity is kind of expected. "You have finally done the show about nothing," Larry David tells his old Seinfeld mate as they reach the bottom of their coffee cups.