Welcome to the 2019 Emmy Circuit series, where we analyze and predict all your favorite TV series and their chances with the Television Academy (at least at this time of publishing). The series examines the shows and performances about their awards potential, most notably the Emmy Awards. Emmy nomination voting opens June 10 and closes on June 24. The official Emmy nominations will be announced on Tuesday, July 16 while the ceremony airs on FOX Sunday, Sept. 22. All Emmy pieces run with the following schedule: Mondays (Dramas), Tuesdays (Network Spotlight), Wednesdays (Comedies), Thursdays (Network Spotlight), Fridays (Limited Series, Variety Series, Below-the Lines).
Expect some shakeup in the comedy series category. Last year, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” performed a near sweep, taking home the Comedy Series trophy. However, the new Amazon Prime series had one advantage. It wasn’t going up against “Veep.” Now HBO’s Emmy-winning political satire is back for its final season. Even though it’s a past winner, the show couldn’t have a better narrative for a win this year.
This year’s race looks to be even more unpredictable on the nomination front. Of the eight nominees from last year, three will have new episodes airing this year. Feel free to count “Atlanta,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Silicon Valley” out of the race this year. One of those slots was a fluke tie (which, granted, happens more often than one thinks). This means there’s technically only two slots up for grabs. Considering “Veep” is the favorite to win this year, it should take up one of those spots. This leaves two questions to be answered. First, what will take that one guaranteed a free spot in the lineup? Second, will any of the five returning shows not make it back in this year?
The final season narrative seems most compelling around “Veep,” this year’s frontrunner. The show enters its seventh season this year and already has stellar reviews. So far, the show had made it into the comedy series race every year it is been eligible. On top of that, it has won the past three years it was eligible. When there’s a multiple-time winner in the mix, one thinks voter fatigue may set in. However, “Modern Family” won five consecutive years. Sometimes voters get stuck in patterns and vote along with that. This bodes well for “Veep.”
“Veep” isn’t the only past Comedy Series nominee that ends this year. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” also finished it’s four-season run (granted the fourth season was broken into two parts). The show has been nominated every single year it’s been eligible. However, critics and the public may have cooled on the show over the years, particularly with its final few episodes. Last year, the show only received two nominations – Best Comedy Series and Best Supporting Actor (Titus Burgess). This was the same nomination tally that “Modern Family” received in 2016 and 2017 before receiving no nominations in 2018. Over the past eight years, at least one eligible show from the previous year has been dropped for the lineup six times. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” fits that bill at first glance.
The only other former Comedy Series nominee in its final season is “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS. Sure, the comedy seems like a relic of sitcoms past. However, the comedy directing nomination last year proves that voters still watch the show. Over the past eleven seasons, the show has only contended in the top category four times. Yet, “Parks and Recreation” was able to return to the category for its last season. Count “The Big Bang Theory” out at your own risk.
Plenty of other well-reviewed shows have also aired their final episodes this season. This includes “One Day at a Time” (Netflix), “Broad City” (Comedy Central), “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (CW), “Jane the Virgin” (CW), “Catastrophe” (Amazon Prime), “Smilf” (Showtime) and “You’re the Worst” (FX). However, none of these shows ever made it into Comedy Series before. In fact, only “Catastrophe” has ever had nominations in any of the major categories. This makes them longshots. However, if their bases rally hard enough there could be a shot.
Network TV has been represented solely by “Black-ish” for the past three years. Each year, the show has increased its nomination tally steadily. Last season it received five nominations, including Series, Actor (Anthony Anderson) and Actress (Tracee Ellis Ross). In the past, “Black-ish” has had buzzed episodes around police brutality or the 2016 election to put it further in the conversation. This year seems a bit more muted in terms of buzz. However, it’s unlikely for a show to get dropped from the series category when it’s been steadily building nominations.
If voters want a different network show in the lineup, “The Good Place” looks to be the best place to find an upset. The well-reviewed show has amassed quite a following over its three years. In fact, it rebounded from being snubbed in its first season by netting two acting nominations last year. This recalls the performance of creator Michael Schur’s previous show, “Parks and Recreation,” which broke into the comedy series lineup in its third season. Could three times be the charm for “The Good Place” too?
Other past Emmy nominations looking to crash the party include “Will and Grace” (NBC) and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC). Even amidst controversy, “Roseanne” got Laurie Metcalf a nomination last year. Does this mean even “The Conners” (ABC) could contend here?
The Golden Globes are a funny group. Without fail, the tend to give their top prizes to new shows, particularly in comedy. This year, Netflix’s “The Kominski Method” surprised everyone to take home the top award. This thrusts it higher in the conversation than perennial acting nominee “Grace and Frankie,” another senior citizen comedy. However, not all Golden Globe winners go on to get nominated at the Emmys (just ask “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” or “Mozart in the Jungle”). Critics Choice and SAG nominations possibly point to “The Kominski Method” looking more like “Atlanta,” “Transparent” or “Girls.”
A bevy of new shows has entered the race, particularly on the streaming networks. Netflix’s other strongest contender is likely “Russian Doll,” which won many fans back in January. The Natasha Lyonne show hasn’t been eligible for any precursors yet, so it’s a bit of a wild card. However, passionate pockets of voters could get it in. Other new Netflix shows with some level of fans include “Sex Education,” “Turn Up Charlie” and “After Life.”
Another streaming network to have plenty of new comedy entries to the race would be Hulu. “Shrill” and “Pen15” both seem like the strongest in their arsenal. Both have courted strong initial followings, though neither are widespread hits. Still, “Shrill” stands out, as being a refreshing look at the world through the POV of its plus-sized lead. This could set it apart from the competition. “Pen15” hilariously treads on nostalgia for the early millennium. However, that might not be as in vogue as 80s nostalgia was when “Stranger Things” made it into Drama. Hulu also has “Ramy,” which comes out later this month.
Looking outside of streaming, Comedy Central had a huge hit on their hand with “The Other Two.” The show follows a pair of late-20s siblings who try and make their dreams come true once their younger brother becomes a teen pop star sensation. The show has drawn rave reviews and been the critical breakout of all the new comedies. However, Comedy Central still has not landed a show in Best Comedy Series before. Could this be their first show to make it into the category?
Plenty of other new shows are vying for Emmy glory. These other contenders include “Black Monday” (Showtime), “Kidding” (Showtime), “What We Do In The Shadows” (FX), “Forever” (Amazon Prime), “Camping” (HBO) and “Lodge 49” (AMC).
Last year saw many new contenders enter the competition. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” won all the biggest awards, including Best Comedy Series, Best Actress (Rachel Brosnahan), Best Supporting Actress (Alex Borstein), Best Directing and Best Writing. Usually, a show has to earn its Emmy love. However, with “Veep” out of the running last year, the Emmys showered “Maisel” with everything they had. Who knows if it can do this again for season two. However, one assumes it at least has its spot locked up in the Comedy Series race.
Perhaps we should be concerned about a fellow HBO show that nearly stole Maisel’s thunder last year. “Barry” drastically over-performed in nominations for its first year and won Best Actor (Bill Hader) and Best Supporting Actor (Henry Winkler). The second season of the show continues to inspire raves. In fact, it has gotten significantly darker compared to the first season. This often doesn’t bode well for a win. However, even shows as dark as Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” have made it into the Comedy Series race.
Of the three sophomore series returning to the Emmy race, “GLOW” seems to be the one most on the fence. This is mostly because the show aired early last summer, so it may not be at the top of voters minds. Still, the second season of the show was really great and other summer shows have gotten in based on the strength of their material. Netflix will most likely be devoting a heavy campaign to remind Emmy voters why they loved the show.
It’s easy to believe that “Fleabag” will amaze when it airs on Amazon Prime in May. Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Olivia Colman have only become more famous since season one, which could help with visibility. However, the show received 0 nominations in season one. It’s very possible the show can break through in the second season. However, jumping to a comedy series nomination might be too big of a jump.
GUESS THEY’RE CONTENDERS?
Four of last year’s Best Actress nominees are looking to have their shows jump to the Best Comedy Series. “Better Things” (FX) got creator/star Pamela Adlon into the Comedy Actress field for two years. It could replicate the “Louie” trajectory and make into the main field. Comparatively, it took until season two for Issa Rae to reap her first nomination for “Insecure.” Still, the HBO pedigree makes it a dark horse for a nomination. Compared to both shows, “Grace and Frankie” looks like a juggernaut. Lily Tomlin received four nominations for each season and Jane Fonda earned one. However, the show hasn’t broken out of those categories, and likely won’t do so with its fifth season this year. Similarly, “Mom” consistently gets Allison Janney nominations and wins in both Supporting Actress and Actress. However, that show also hasn’t factored into other categories and likely won’t this year.
On the Best Actor front, William H. Macy continually gets nominated for “Shameless” once Showtime moved it to comedy. However, it doesn’t look like this is the year it will jump into Comedy Series. That’s not just because of the Felicity Huffman college admissions scandal.
In terms of past Comedy Series nominees, we can’t forget that “Modern Family” won five consecutive years. In fact, last year was the first year it missed the top category. It’s not often the Emmys backslide into shows they’ve broken up with. However, it happens every so often. Even more of a longshot is past winner “Arrested Development.” Critics, audiences and the Emmys all have not been kind to the show since its Netflix revival. This shouldn’t change this year.
CURRENT BEST TELEVISION SERIES (DRAMA) PREDICTIONS
- “Veep” (HBO)
- “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)
- “Barry” (HBO)
- “GLOW” (Netflix)
- “The Kominski Method” (Netflix)
- “Black-ish” (ABC)
- “The Good Place” (NBC)