The Nerve Awards for Love & Sex on Television

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A look back at 2012's greatest DVR-bait.

One category neglected by the interminable Emmys is "matters of the heart/loins." Here at Nerve, we're determined to fix that oversight.


Jon Hamm and Christina Hendricks flirt, Mad Men

Mad Men featured a lot of sex this year, and much of it — Joan selling herself to land a big account, little Sally being traumatized by the sight of Roger getting a blowjob, poor Lane trying his best to leer — was the TV equivalent of a cold shower. The biggest turn-on the show served up was actually a scene in which everybody kept their clothes on: Don and Joan flirting affectionately in a bar. They banter and confide like the old hands they are; he cheers her up after she's been served with divorce papers, and postpones going home to the hot young wife he can only connect with through messed-up bouts of angry carpet sex. They don't get together, but if they ever did, the screen would probably explode.

Runners-up: Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder kiss, The Vampire Diaries; Jessica Pare's half-explosive, half-deeply-uncomfortable "Zou Bisou Bisou" routine, Mad Men



Damien Lewis makes his wife watch him masturbate, Homeland

Despite heavy competition from Mad Men (see above), we're giving this one to Homeland for Damien Lewis' use of his beautiful wife (Morena Baccarin) as a masturbation aid. If Lewis' character really wants to bring down the United States, his terrorist handlers should be working on technology to pump this image directly into our dreams; faced with such a threat to national well-being, the country would enact Sharia Law within a week.

Runners-up: Julia Ormond going down on John Slattery, Mad Men; Bryan Cranston creepily whispering to Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad; Lena Dunham being told to "play the quiet game," Girls; any scene in American Horror Story that intercut shots of Alexandra Breckenridge as the sexy young maid with shots of Frances Conroy as her older and deader self



Dreama Walker, Don't Trust the B—- in Apartment 23

Wide-eyed, wholesome-looking Dreama Walker seems to specialize in being debased. This is decidely unfun in the movie Compliance, but it's hilarious watching her learn the ropes from Krysten Ritter in the very smart, moronically titled Don't Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. She's delectable whenever she flirts with the idea of giving in to her own b—-iest impulses, but the true mark of her talent, and hotness, is her ability to make mild-mannered goodness look like a turn-on, especially when expressed in that endearingly bubbly gurgle of a voice.

Runner-up: Alexandra Breckenridge, American Horror Story; Valentina Cervi as True Blood's Salome — she claims the Bible got her all wrong, and maybe it did, but even so, damn, girl



Gabriel Mann, Revenge

Out of all the characters on ABC's delicious vengeance saga, you'd probably expect the Mark Zuckerberg analog to be the least likely to commit sexual espionage. But in the capable hands of Gabriel Mann — who looks about a decade younger than his forty years — it's not hard to see how his character, Nolan Ross, manages to bed the guys and gals alike. Sure, he's as arrogant and entitled as you'd imagine a young billionaire to be, but there's a charm to his smirk that stops you from outright hating him. And that foot in the door is all he needs. Nolan could have come off as oily, maybe even flat-out gross, but Mann — who's been kicking around in small roles for a little while now — imbues him with playfulness and wit, not to mention good bone structure.

Runners-up: Andrew Rannells, Girls; Adam Driver, Girls

NEXT: Alison Brie vs. Christina Hendricks


Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey

Even though the second season of the smash Downton Abbey moved the period piece more firmly into soap-opera territory — is that disfigured soldier a presumed-dead cousin, or a clever imposter? — the pull of the show's central relationship between Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Cousin Matthew (Dan Stevens) stayed as strong as ever. Sure, she's a snob and he's a drip, and they were both engaged to other people, and they're sort of related, but those are minor details in the face of true love. And realism isn't welcome here: in the world of the show, it's simply a fact that they're meant for each other. This doesn't feel forced, thanks to Dockery and Stevens, who had a sparkling rapport from the very start.

Runners-up: Amy Poehler and Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation; Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic, Castle; Katharine McPhee and Jack Davenport, Smash; Alexandra Breckenridge and Dylan McDermott, American Horror Story



Aziz Ansari and Rashida Jones, Parks and Recreation

It's not surprising that Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) has dated a good portion of the male cast of Parks and Recreation; she's capable, she's funny, and she's cute as a button. But while we bought the idea that she would go out on a date or two with swagger-obsessed Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), we were relieved to see her break it off. Again. And again. (Dear God, why won't it stick?) It's not that we don't like Tom, but as far as romance goes, this relationship felt dead from the start. Ann's deadpan normalcy in the face of Tom's aggressive baller personality feels more like the tolerance an older sister has for an annoying baby brother.

Runners-up: Vincent Kartheiser and Alexis Bledel, Mad Men; Carice van Houten and Stephen Dillane, Game of Thrones


Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters, American Horror Story

She, an angsty teen who dressed like the love child of Annie Hall and Stevie Nicks. He, the ghost of a school-shooter who put on a rubber S&M suit and raped her mother. It sounds like a romance that shouldn't work… and it didn't. But before its unhappy ending, the saga of Violet Harmon and Tate Langdon on American Horror Story worked far better than it had any right to. Before we found out the extent of Tate's crimes — and before we found out that Violet was actually dead for half of the season — these two were like any other classic teen couple: alienated from their peers and their parents, hoping they'd found one person who could really understand them. Together, they tried to work through Tate's issues, but in the end, his violent nature caught up with both of them. Too bad they're stuck in that house together for all eternity.

Runners-up: Jon Hamm and Jessica Pare’s love slowly dying, Mad Men, Michael Pitt and Aleksa Palladino, Boardwalk Empire


Entire cast, Glee

If there's one thing you can't fault Glee for — and there might be literally only one thing — it's picking an attractive cast. From the teachers to the twenty-something "high-school students," the actors who sang their way into our living rooms every week were certainly easy on the eyes. Even when many of us wanted to give up on the show, Naya Rivera or Darren Criss or Heather Morris or Chord Overstreet lured us back in with their pretty, pretty faces. But the third season of the Fox smash reached such levels of inanity that even beautiful people dancing around in tight clothes couldn't keep us watching. We hope the talented cast moves on to bigger and better things, but for now, their stock has plummeted.

Runner-up: Michael C. Hall, Dexter



Rutina Wesley, True Blood

In general, True Blood has lost most of its sex appeal; you can tell that things have gotten bad when the biggest player left in town is Sheriff Andy. But this past season, Rutina Wesley's Tara Thornton joined the ranks of the undead, and it turned out to be a great look for her. Tara had always been kind of a pain, the sort of long-suffering-sidekick character who whines incessantly about the stupid shit she puts up with in the name of friendship. But as soon as she became a vampire, her petulant streak vanished and was replaced by funny, out-and-out bitchiness. This improvement also came with a wardrobe upgrade.

Runners-up: Claire Danes, Homeland; Jessica Pare, Mad Men; Andrew Lincoln, The Walking Dead; James Van Der Beek for his depiction of himself as a depraved horndog on Don't Trust the B—- in Apartment 23

NEXT: What will Louis CK win?


Louis C.K., Louie

With Louie, Louis C. K. has the funniest, smartest, most honest show on the air, and aren't those qualities supposed to be sexy? He's not inexperienced either, ladies. He gets a lot of action on his show; it's just that it tends to be the kind of freaky action a middle-aged single dad who keeps odd work hours can only get from haphazardly selected fuck-buddies. Clearly there's something there that women respond to; this past season, the lucky bastard connected with Parker Posey, only to apparently lose her number, and any means of tracking her down, after they'd been on the weirdest first date in the history of prime time. It's Louis' show, so only he knows if he'll ever allow his alter ego to catch a break. But seeing him hook up with a real partner would be a lot more satisfying than seeing him land David Letterman's job.

Runners-up: Charlie Day, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia; poor long-suffering Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad; Jonathan Ames, Bored to Death; Olivia Munn on The Newsroom, who seems awfully smart to be hanging around those smug, gabby bores in the titular location when the entire population of Manhattan is dying to buy her a drink



Alison Brie, Community

On Mad Men, Pete Campbell's wife is played by Alison Brie, and the character's compulsive straying indicates that he doesn't think he's got it so great. Pete is an idiot, but in his defense, he's just not watching the right show. It's on Community where Brie's mousey-little-thing-who-wants-permission-to-be-bad routine is driving viewers so crazy that they have to watch the episodes twice just to notice the jokes. Brie is one of those actresses who turns into a smoldering seduction goddess (and then into an animated GIF) whenever she does comedy; also worth seeking out are her occasional appearances on G4's Attack of the Show and her recent guest spot on the Adult Swim spoof NTSF:SD:SUV, in which she tried to destroy the city of San Diego just to get Martin Starr to pay attention to her. Martin Starr: also, apparently, an idiot.

Runners-up: Sofia Vergara, Modern Family; Nina Dobrev, The Vampire Diaries; Emily VanCamp, Revenge; Aisha Tyler, Archer; Christina Hendricks, Mad Men, now and forever



Idris Elba, Luther

Idris Elba may have first grabbed our attention as Stringer Bell on The Wire, but it was only once he was able to use his natural accent on the British detective drama Luther that we realized just how sexy he could truly be. Elba's Luther is intense, brooding, aggressive — everything we like our troubled cop characters to be these days — while never letting us forget the brilliant mind behind the glowering façade. (It doesn't hurt that his blistering chemistry with admitted psychopath Alice Morgan held over from the first season.) Elba's career is taking off at the moment, but hopefully he'll find the time to give us more than four episodes in the third season. Anything less would be cruel.

Runners-up: Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad; Charlie Hunnam, Sons of Anarchy; Patrick J. Adams, Suits; Matt Bomer, White Collar; Jon Hamm, Mad Men, now and forever



Gretchen Mol, Boardwalk Empire

It's anyone's guess whether we'll be seeing much more of Gretchen Mol's Gillian Darmody on Boardwalk Empire now that both the men she was using to advance her agenda are dead. But you never know; this is a woman who knows how to play a long game, as she revealed when she mentioned to her daughter-in-law that she had begun twisting her son to her fit her needs when he was an infant. (And that she used to "kiss his little winkie," an admission that caused spilled bowls of popcorn in living rooms from coast to coast.)

Runners-up: Jon Bernthal, The Walking Dead; Andrew Scott, Sherlock; Joseph Morgan's Klaus on The Vampire Diaries, returning a touch of malevolent European class to the vampire archetype that's otherwise been thoroughly Americanized and teeny-boppered



Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones isn't known for subtlety when it comes to sex. (Is there a character explaining his motivations in a lengthy monologue? Just put some lesbian sex in the background!) But frankly, that's why we love it. Sure, the series definitely has the highest boobs-to-screen-time ratio on TV, but if it were only gratuitous naughty bits, we wouldn't care as much. (Case in point: Spartacus.) Thankfully, the show's actors bring all the flavors of sexy you could want to the screen: arrogant swagger (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), steely beauty (Emilia Clarke), tortured soulfulness (Kit Harrington), scheming seductiveness (Lena Headey). We could go on — seriously, this cast is both huge and gorgeous. And while there were certainly sex scenes in the second season that made us deeply uncomfortable — can we never see Joffrey's bedroom antics again, please? — there were also enough moments of actual passion and even tenderness to keep us glued to the screen.

Runners-up: Mad Men; The Vampire Diaries; Downton Abbey; Revenge