Emmy Circuit: Will HBO or Amazon Dominate the Comedy Writing Category?

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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).

OPENING STATEMENTS

With “Atlanta” and “Silicon Valley” out of contention this awards season, the Comedy Writing category looks due for a shakeup. Only The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Barry” are able to return from last year’s nominees. “Maisel” submits two episodes this year, while “Barry” only has one in contention. Assuming that these three slots are secure, this leaves three more up for grabs.

“Veep” looks confident in their series finale (also titled “Veep”). It’s the only episode of its final season that HBO is submitting, despite being a multiple nominee in this category for past seasons. Of the final two spots, the Emmys could go a variety of ways. They can reward new shows with promising pilots or standout episodes. Returning shows that have made jumps in quality could be added into the lineup. Everyone has a shot, which makes this an exciting race.

PILOT ENTRIES

Pilots are very popular with the Emmys. Since 2010, there have been as many as two pilots nominated in a category (including last year). Based on the open slots, it’s possible two more pilots earn nominations this year.

Some shows submitted more than just their pilot, hoping they can get multiple episodes in like “Barry” did last year. “Russian Doll” sports the most buzz of any of the new series. The show’s submissions includes the pilot (“Nothing In This World Is Easy”), a mid-season episode (“A Warm Body”) and the finale (“Ariadne”). It could maybe get multiple episodes in, or none at all if vote-splitting happens. Two Showtime series – “Black Monday” and “Kidding” – also submitted three episodes. However, neither have the level of buzz as “Russian Doll” to make it worthwhile. Meanwhile, Netflix only entered two episodes for “Dead to Me” (the Pilot and “I Can’t Go Back”). If that show picks up other nominations, it could be a dark horse in writing.

A few other new series are opting to submit episodes other than the pilot episode. “The Kominski Method,” which has done well in precursors, entered the second, more star-studded, episode of the show (“Chapter 2: An Agent Grieves”). Though creator Chuck Lorre has eight Emmy nominations for producing, he has never been nominated for writing. For “Forever,” Amazon chose “Andre and Sarah,” a bottle episode and the highlight of the show’s first season. Both “PEN15” and “What We Do In The Shadows” went with episodes later in their seasons (“Anna Ishii-Peters” and “Ancestry,” respectively). While all have pockets of fans, it might be hard for them to break into the category.

Other pilot submissions include “Abby’s,” “After Life,” “Bless This Mess,” “The Conners,” “Now Apocalypse” and “Shrill.”

SERIES FINALES

Beloved shows have seen success getting their series finales nominations, even wins, in the writing category. Just look at the 2013 Comedy Writing category, where “30 Rock” won for its series finale and “The Office” returned to the category for its series finale. It seems inevitable that “Veep” will contend for the prize for its well received series finale. The show has earned nominations the past four consecutive seasons, winning in 2015 for its fifth season. Since then, it has only lost to “Master of None,” which isn’t eligible this year. This means “Veep” stands a good shot at going toe to toe against last year’s winner, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

While it wasn’t a Comedy nominee last year, Netflix’s “American Vandal” did earn a Writing nomination in the Miniseries/TV Movie field. This year, the Emmys ruled “American Vandal” would have to compete in the Comedy Series categories because season two features characters from the first season. Netflix cancelled the show following the second season, so they may have low investment in pursuing another Emmy nomination.

A few other former writing nominees are hoping to return to the category, much like “The Office” did for its series finale. “Catastrophe” surprised many when it received a nomination in the 2016 Comedy Writing field. With its series finale this year, the Amazon Prime comedy could find itself back in the category. Though it once was a hot commodity in its original run, “Arrested Development” has seen its Emmy love dwindle. It hasn’t been officially announced that this past season is its last, but no renewal word has been given either.

Another Emmy favorite that ended this year was “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Netflix’s zany comedy has been nominated for Comedy Series for all four years that it was eligible. Unfortunately, the show has never received a Comedy Writing nomination. Additionally, it has seen a decrease in Emmy nominations year after year. The show submitted both the finale (“Kimmy Says Bye!”) and a “Sliding Doors” spoof bottle episode (“Sliding Van Doors”). Voters may be nostalgic for the show as it ends, or it may see its 2 previous nominations drop to one or zero. Strangely, “The Big Bang Theory” stands a better shot of making their first appearance here. Though its Comedy Series days are long gone, Sheldon’s wedding from last year surprised in the directing category. If fans feel similarly nostalgic around the series finale, they may nominate it for writing.

Since 2000, no show has received a nomination for their series finale without showing up in other major Emmy categories. This doesn’t bode well for certain shows that ended this year without Emmy love, such as “Broad City,” “Casual,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” or “You’re the Worst.”

EMMY NOMINEES

Last year’s nominees “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Barry” are set up perfectly for return visits. “Maisel,” which won last year for its pilot, contends with two episodes this year. “Midnight at the Concord” looks to have the edge since it’s part of the Catskills segment, which viewers loved. Yet, “Vote for Kennedy, Vote for Kennedy” features a particularly great telethon sequence that should also secure its nomination. “Barry” went only with “ronny/lily,” a particularly powerful episode that feels more like a directing showcase than a writing showcase. Still, many loved the second season, so it should have no problem earning a nomination.

Two past Comedy Series nominees are looking for their first writing nomination. It seems strange that “Black-ish” has never received a writing nomination, despite many standout episodes. The main reason is because the show often flooded the ballot with tons of submissions, splitting the vote. This year, they finally only submitted one episode, “Black Like Us,” which deals with colorism within the African American community. This strategy could pay off with their first writing nomination. Meanwhile, “GLOW” earned series, directing and acting nominations last year, but not writing. The show hopes to remedy that with their two submissions – “Nothing Shattered” and “Perverts are People, Too.” The latter episode feels most timely and stands the better shot at landing a nomination.

Other shows that have done well in the acting categories hope to receive their first writing nominations. Of them, “The Good Place” stands the best shot. It increased its nomination tally last year, and while some liked season two better than season three, the episode “Janet(s)” was such a standout that voters should take notice. The series also submitted “Pandemonium” as well. Other shows trying to move into the writing category include “Grace and Frankie,” “Better Things” and “Insecure.” “Better Things” is the only one to submit one episode, but “Insecure” is on the rise in terms of nominations. On all fronts, these shows might need another year to curry Emmy’s favor.

Other past nominees from long age have submitted multiple episodes to get back in. This includes “Modern Family” (submissions include “Can’t Elope,” “A Year of Birthdays,” and “Yes-Women”) and “Will & Grace” (submissions include “Grace’s Secret” and “Who’s Sorry Now”).

WILD CARDS

Every once in a while, the Emmys throws us a curveball in the Comedy Writing category. There weren’t any clues to predict “Community’s” nomination in 2012 or “Catastrophe” in 2016. A few shows are hoping for a similar Hail Mary nomination this year.

One of the hottest shows right now is “Fleabag” on Amazon Prime. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s comedy roared back with an exquisite second season that has earned rapturous reviews. While “Fleabag” was an unknown quantity in season 1, since then Waller-Bridge took a break and created “Killing Eve,” which received an Emmy nomination for her last year in Writing. The submitted episode also features a dinner from hell that serves as a great entry point for those not familiar with season one.

Another show with a similarly raised profile is “Schitt’s Creek,” Pop’s sleeper hit comedy. Now in its fifth season, the Eugene Levy/Catherine O’Hara led show has seen a huge influx in viewers since past seasons hit Netflix. This year the show entered “The Hike” for consideration. If enough fans of the show rally around it, this will be the category the show is most likely to pop up in.

Animated programs such as “Bojack Horseman” and “Big Mouth” have earned some of the best nominations of any program this past year. Both have episodes submissions in the Comedy Writing field this year (“Free Churro” and “My Furry Valentine,” respectively). Unfortunately, no animated programs have ever been nominated in this category.

MULTIPLE SUBMISSION MISSTEPS

One of the biggest missteps that a show can make is overwhelming voters with choices. Two or three episodes can be fine if a show is a known quantity (like “Veep”). For those first timers or looking to make an impression, multiple submissions can be more confusing than helpful. Voters may split their affections between different episodes, making it so that none of the show’s episodes receive nominations. “This Is Us” and “black-ish” have been chief offenders in this regard. Despite consistent series nominations, both shows have never received writing or directing nominations. While they’ve learned their lessons this year, other shows may have flooded the ballot.

The worst offenders include “Bob’s Burgers” (11 submissions), “Camping” (5 submissions), “The Kids Are Alright” (13 submissions), “Murphy Brown” (8 submissions), “Shameless” (5 submissions), “SMILF” (5 submissions) and “Younger” (5 submissions).

Even shows we’ve discussed prior might have been wrong to submit three episodes this year. Both “Russian Doll” and “Kidding” are promising new series that should’ve just submitted their pilots. By submitting three episodes, no matter how terrific, they might be jeopardizing their chances of receiving a nomination. Should they be nominated this year, they could have tried their luck for multiple nominations next year. Likewise, “One Day at a Time” would’ve had a great narrative to earn a writing nomination for its final season. Yet, with three submissions (none being the “series finale”), it makes it difficult to predict that it would surprise here. Less is more, unless the show is a category frontrunner.

CURRENT OUTSTANDING WRITING (COMEDY) PREDICTIONS

  1. “Veep” – “Veep” (HBO)
  2. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” – “Midnight At The Concord” (Amazon Prime)
  3. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” – “Vote For Kennedy, Vote For Kennedy” (Amazon Prime)
  4. “Barry” – “ronny/lily” (HBO)
  5. “Russian Doll” – “Nothing In This World Is Easy” (Netflix)
  6. “Fleabag” – “Episode 1” (Bravo)

What do you think the Comedy Writing lineup will be at the Emmys? Share with us in the comments below.

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