What if Lucille Ball competed with Julia Louis-Dreyfus for an Emmy? Or if Will Arnett was nominated alongside Henry Winkler? Here, they are: TV critic Verne Gay nominates the best actors, actresses and shows in all of television history, choosing just one winner in each major category. It's the Ultimate Emmys, in which he drills down to the very best of all time. See if you agree with his winners.
Best drama nominees: "The Wire," "The Sopranos," "Mad Men," "Game of Thrones," "Hill Street Blues" and "Breaking Bad." The winner: "Game of Thrones." Surprise! The Emmys are never gonna do it, so I will. Best. Drama. Ever.
Best comedy nominees: "Seinfeld," "The Simpsons," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Modern Family," "I Love Lucy" and "30 Rock." The winner: "The Simpsons." After 25 years, you'd better have a number of superlative episodes that are so funny, so smart, so well (umm) voiced that they could add up to dozens and dozens. For too long, the Emmys have relegated this to "animation," but it deserves its place among the giants -- as the biggest and best of them all.
BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Best actress in a drama nominees: Connie Britton, "Friday Night Lights"; Claire Danes, "My So-Called Life" and "Homeland"; Sonja Sohn, "The Wire"; Edie Falco, "The Sopranos"; Patricia Wettig, "thirtysomething"; and Glenn Close, "Damages." The winner: Edie Falco. The glorious Falco has two huge credits (the other one being "Nurse Jackie"), and in both she brings a living, breathing, utterly relatable human being right before our very eyes.
BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Best actor in a drama nominees: James Gandolfini, "The Sopranos"; Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"; Dennis Franz, "NYPD Blue"; Hugh Laurie, "House"; Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"; and Dominic West, "The Wire." The winner: Bryan Cranston. Spent nights struggling over this choice. But they were not wasted: Cranston wins.
BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Best actress in a comedy nominees: Lucille Ball, "I Love Lucy"; Mary Tyler Moore, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Seinfeld"; Jean Stapleton, "All in the Family"; Isabel Sanford, "The Jeffersons"; and Tina Fey, "30 Rock." The winner: Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Sure you thought Lucy. Why shouldn't you? She's a comic genius -- the most incandescently wonderful comedian in TV history. But I'm still going with JLD. She's starring in one of TV's best comedies in years right now ("Veep"), and we know the other show she was on. JLD is my choice for champ.
BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Best actor in a comedy nominees: Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"; Dick Van Dyke, "The Dick Van Dyke Show"; Bill Cosby, "The Cosby Show"; Carroll O'Connor, "All in the Family"; Bob Newhart, "The Bob Newhart Show"; and Kelsey Grammer, "Frasier." The winner: Larry David. No Larry, no "Seinfeld." No Larry, no "Curb." Comic genius must be rewarded. Step up, LD, to take your rightful place in the pantheon of TV greats.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Best supporting actress in a drama nominees: Ming Na, "ER"; Maura Tierney, "ER"; CCH Pounder, "The Shield"; Piper Laurie, "Twin Peaks"; Regina Taylor, "I'll Fly Away"; Alison Janney, "The West Wing"; and Melissa Leo, "Homicide." The winner: Pounder, not just for "Shield," but for everything else she's done over the decades, from "ER," "LA Law," and most recently "Sons of Anarchy." She's support of the very highest level.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Best supporting actor in a drama nominees: Leonard Nimoy, "Star Trek"; Jerry Orbach, "Law & Order"; Aaron Paul, "Breaking Bad"; Clarke Peters, "The Wire"; Brad Dourif, "Deadwood"; and William Shatner, "Boston Legal." The winner: Brad Dourif: Surprise! I love Dourif in everything he's ever been in. Great character actor who was perhaps at his greatest in "Deadwood."
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Best supporting actress in a comedy nominees: Julie Bowen, "Modern Family"; Phylicia Rashad, "The Cosby Show"; Audrey Meadows, "The Honeymooners"; Lisa Kudrow, "Friends"; Rhea Perlman, "Cheers"; and Imogene Coca, "Your Show of Shows." The winner: Julie Bowen. I wanted to make this a dead heat, but choices needed to be made. Bowen is it!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Best supporting actor in a comedy nominees: John Goodman, "Roseanne"; John McGinley, "Scrubs"; Ed Asner, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"; Ted Knight, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"; Michael Richards, "Seinfeld"; Henry Winkler, "Happy Days"; and Will Arnett, "Arrested Development." The winner: John Goodman. Again, so hard to think of him as simply Dan Conner, with everything else he's done over the years, but Dan will do. No Goodman, no "Roseanne." I think it's just about as simple as that.