Emmy Circuit: Is ‘Veep’ Vulnerable in the Comedy Series Emmys Race?

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Welcome to the 2019 Emmy Circuit series. We are now in the Emmy post-nomination phase, where we watch all the nominated Emmy episodes and predict their chances of winning. The Creative Arts Emmy winners will be revealed Saturday, Sept. 14, while the Primetime Emmy Awards airs on FOX Sunday, Sept. 22. Tune in week after week as we tackle all things Drama, Comedy, Limited Series and Variety.

OPENING STATEMENTS

What once seemed like an easy win for “Veep” continues to get harder each passing day. The three-time winning HBO series ended its seventh and final season on a high note. Yet, when Emmy nominations came out, it dropped down to nine overall nominations. This puts it behind “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Barry,” “Russian Doll,” and “Fleabag” in terms of overall nominations. Those four shows also won at least two Creative Arts Emmys a piece, while “Veep” went home empty-handed. However, if our former frontrunner seems vulnerable, which series comes from behind for the win? Let’s take a look at the Outstanding Comedy Series nominees.

AND THE NOMINEES ARE… 

  • “Barry”
  • “Fleabag”
  • “The Good Place”
  • “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
  • “Russian Doll”
  • “Schitt’s Creek”
  • “Veep”

Now to delve into each of the nominated episodes. Spoiler Alert: These analyses may contain spoilers of the nominated episodes.

NOMINEE #1 – “Barry”

Episodes: “The Show Must Go On,” “What?!,” “ronny/lily,” “The Truth Has a Ring to It,” “The Audition,” “berkman>block”

Creative Arts Emmy Wins (2): Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) And Animation, Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) And Animation

Season one of “Barry” took a fun premise (hitman tries out acting) and pushed it to surprising and dark places. Season two retains some of the initial comedy, but doubles down on its darker DNA. Just as Barry (Bill Hader) thought he was out of the game, his connections to the hitman world draws him back in as an unwilling participant. This comes through beautifully in “ronny/lily,” where Barry deals with the wrath of a pre-teen after seemingly murdering her father. While still biting and hilarious, Barry’s acting world also takes a dark turn, as Sally (Sarah Goldberg), dramatizes the abuse from her past relationship. Keeping the show’s oddball humor alive is Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank, who struggles with the pressures of running the Chechen mafia.

The show didn’t just grow creatively, it also grew in terms of nominations. The show now holds seventeen nominations, up from thirteen nominations for season one. Last year, the show won three awards – Best Actor (Bill Hader), Supporting Actor (Henry Winkler) and Sound Mixing. Already, the show has two Creative Arts Emmys. Hader could easily win two awards during the Primetime Emmy telecast (Actor and Director for “ronny/lily”). This momentum could easily propel “Barry” to a Comedy Series win.

NOMINEE #2 – “Fleabag”

Episodes: “Episode 2.1,” “Episode 2.2,” “Episode 2.3,” “Episode 2.4,” “Episode 2.5,” “Episode 2.6”

Creative Arts Emmy Wins (2): Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series, Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series

After a three year absence, “Fleabag” needed to do a lot to make it worth the wait. Luckily, the first episode immediately announces itself as the best show on television. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s idiosyncratic protagonist appears to be on the straight and narrow. Yet, minutes into a dinner with her Dad (Bill Paterson) and Godmother (Olivia Colman) drags her back into the family drama. Her obligation to bridge the divide between her and her sister, Claire (Sian Clifford), sets Fleabag up for failure at every turn. What takes the show from good to great, though, is her relationship with the Priest (Andrew Scott) tasked with marrying Dad and Godmother. Scott and Waller-Bridge have explosive chemistry. Even better, the two have scintillating conversation about everything from faith to love to the nature of existence. The last episode hits viewers like a punch to every emotion. Quite simply, “Fleabag” is can’t miss TV.

It speaks volumes that season two of “Fleabag” received eleven Emmy nominations, when season one got completely shut out. The time off seems to have allowed viewers to discover the show on Amazon Prime. Once the immaculate season two set the internet on fire in May, it must’ve been impossible to ignore. It will likely also pick up Comedy Writing for Waller-Bridge and Supporting Actress for Olivia Colman. If it can get this momentum going, this sort of fervor could set it up for a Comedy Series win. Yet, online chatter doesn’t necessarily equal awards wins.

NOMINEE #3 – “The Good Place”

Episodes: “Everything Is Bonzer, Part 1,” “Everything Is Bonzer, Part 2,” “Jeremy Bearimy,” “Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By,” “Janet(s),” “Pandemonium”

Creative Arts Emmy Wins: None

Few current shows are as daring and inventive as “The Good Place,” much less on network TV. Initially, the show’s simple logline provided fun jokes, but little runway for longevity. Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) winds up in the Good Place, despite being a bad person on Earth. The season finale twist (we were in the Bad Place all along) led to an incredible second season. For season three, the show continues to come up with exciting new ideas. However, every episode begins to feel like a different show. Episode like “Janet(s)” (nominated for writing) are exhilarating from a writing and acting standpoint, but function more as a stunning bottle episode. Season three features many episodes that are at a strong level like that. It’s the connective tissue that starts to fray as the season goes on.

It’s been a long and winding road towards an Outstanding Comedy Series nomination. After zero nominations in season one, stars Ted Danson and Maya Rudolph reaped the first two nominations for the series last year. They repeated this feat in Lead Actor and Guest Actress this year. Additionally, the show popped up in Comedy Series and Comedy Writing. While this type of growth is positive, it likely isn’t a big enough jump to win the big prize. However, “The Good Place” enters its final season this year, which could spur the Emmys to reward the show next year.

NOMINEE #4 – “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Episodes: “Simone,” “We’re Going to the Catskills,” “Midnight at the Concord,” “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” “Vote for Kennedy, Vote for Kennedy,” “All Alone”

Creative Arts Emmy Wins (6): Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series (Luke Kirby), Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series (Jane Lynch), Outstanding Period Costumes, Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (One Hour), Outstanding Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series, Outstanding Music Supervision

Season two of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” doubled down on all aspects of season one. It was bigger, louder, faster and went on many more tangents. Changes of scenery, such as Paris in “Simone” and the Catskills in “We’re Going to the Catskills” and “Midnight and the Concord,” acted as highlights for the season. However, they often strayed away from the central conceit of Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) and her comedy pursuits. All that is still there. Yet, there’s a lot more going on to keep up with. Her parents, Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and Rose (Marin Hinkle), are the biggest beneficiaries in this shift of focus. Both get considerably more to do and nail every scene.

The show loops back around to Midge and Susie’s (Alex Borstein) quest for stardom for the excellent “Vote for Kennedy, Vote for Kennedy.” Yet, it’s back to a really fun romance triangle between ex-husband Joel (Michael Zegan) and hunky doctor, Benjamin (Zachary Levi). The show bites off more than it can chew, but it’s tremendous fun to watch.

Last year, the show took full advantage of “Veep’s” absence. It won half of its fourteen nominations, including Comedy Series, Actress (Brosnahan), Supporting Actress (Borstein), Directing and Writing. After six wins at the Creative Arts Emmys, “Maisel” finds itself only one win behind last year’s total. Brosnahan will face tough competition with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Yet, Tony Shalhoub could pull out an acting win for the show. The period setting also helps the show out in the Directing category. The show currently has the most nominations and most wins of the seven nominees. Let’s also not forget that it is the reigning champion in this category. Perhaps this frontrunner is further out than we are admitting.

NOMINEE #5 – “Russian Doll”

Episodes: “Nothing in This World is Easy,” “The Great Escape,” “A Warm Body,” “Alan’s Routine,” “The Way Out,” “Ariadne”

Creative Arts Emmy Wins (3): Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Program (Half-Hour), Outstanding Contemporary Costumes, Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour)

Leslye Headland, Amy Poehler and Natasha Lyonne created one of the year’s most unlikely major Emmy players. “Russian Doll’s” initial concept at first glance looks like “Groundhog Day” with a hipster filter. The first few episodes feature a unique, wry sense of humor. Unfortunately, one identifies with Nadia (Lyonne), because it feels like the audience experiences the same situation over and over. Once Nadia meets Alan (Charlie Barnett), who is also stuck in a time loop, the plot begins to move forward. I understand why the episode submissions feature more of the earlier episodes. Still, it might have been better if they got to the heart of the show in the later episodes rather than focus on the pipe laying that happens early on.

Every year usually sees a new show usher in a new guard at the Emmys. Last year, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” took the Television Academy by storm for its first season. “Modern Family,” “30 Rock” and “Arrested Development” all won Comedy Series in their first seasons. “Russian Doll” feels like the idiosyncratic outsider that “Arrested Development” and “30 Rock” once were, in different degrees. With thirteen nominations, it has more nominations than “30 Rock” and “Arrested Development,” but less than “Modern Family” and “Maisel” in their first seasons. If the show pulls off a surprise win, it would be Netflix’s first series win. First though, it will likely have to pull off a win in writing or actress to signal enough support.

NOMINEE #6 – “Schitt’s Creek”

Episodes: “The Crowening,” “Love Letters,” “Rock On!,” “Meet the Parents,” “The Hike,” “Cabaret”

Creative Arts Emmy Wins: None

Every episode of “Schitt’s Creek” feels like a warm hug. The show follows the exploits of the Rose family, former video store moguls who lose everything and are forced to move to the small town of Schitt’s Creek. Five seasons in and the show continues to get better with age. Few things were funnier this year than former soap star Moira Rose (Catherine O’Hara) delivering a monologue for “The Crows Have Eyes III: The Crowening.” “Schitt’s Creek” isn’t just funny, it’s also sweet. The relationship of local boy Patrick (Noah Reid) and fashionable city-boy David (Dan Levy) deepens with each episode. Patrick’s coming out in “Meet the Parents” and the couple’s engagement in “The Hike” all represent heartwarming highs for the season. Like all great shows, it builds to a showstopping finale that revolves around a community theater production of “Cabaret.” Quite simply, “Schitt’s Creek” has it all.

The Pop original series feels like what network television should be. It shares a sort of optimism and good-natured heart of something like “Parks and Recreation” from years ago. Like “Parks and Recreation,” “Schitt’s Creek” is doomed to lose the Comedy Series award. With four nominations, the show has the least amount of nominations in the bunch. Still, this is the first time the show received any Emmy nominations. For the show’s final season next year, it could very well increase in nominations and be a major threat in this category.

NOMINEE #6 – “Veep”

Episodes: “Iowa,” “Pledge,” “South Carolina,” “Super Tuesday,” “Oslo,” “Veep”

Creative Arts Emmy Wins: None

The final season of “Veep” pushed its characters to their breaking points in pursuit of the White House. The show was frequently uncomfortable, yet unrelentingly hilarious. Much of this comes from Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyers and her no holds barred descent into madness. The series finale pays off the character’s bad behavior in memorable fashion. Yet, most of the seven episode season does a great job building the blocks for the finale. In particular, “Pledge” details the absurd lengths and concessions candidates must go through to lobby for donations. Another highlight comes from Jonah Ryan’s (Timothy Simons) increasingly mean-spirited campaign that reaches satirical highs in “South Carolina” and “Super Tuesday.” Everything pays off in this final season.

Upon ending, many thought “Veep” was far and ahead in the Comedy Series race. The show won three consecutive Comedy Series prizes from 2015 – 2017 for seasons four through six. After taking a year off, it hopes to once again assume the throne as a Comedy Series winner. Unfortunately, the show went from seventeen to nine nominations this year. The show was able to win in 2015 with nine nominations. Yet, there are many other series that have gained ground trying to take down the frontrunner. The last final season to win Comedy Series was “Everybody Loves Raymond” in 2005. That show only took home Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress in addition to Comedy Series. If “Veep” can win Supporting Actress or Writing in addition to Lead Actress for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, it could very well win again.

CURRENT COMEDY SERIES PREDICTIONS

  1. “Barry”
  2. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
  3. “Russian Doll”
  4. “Veep”
  5. “Fleabag”
  6. “Schitt’s Creek”
  7. “The Good Place”

WILL WIN: “Barry”

SHOULD WIN: “Fleabag”

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: “The Other Two,” “Pen15”

What do you think will win Outstanding Comedy Series this year? Let us know in the comments below.

CHECK OUT ALL THE OFFICIAL PREDICTIONS ON THE CIRCUIT HUB AND MAKE YOUR OWN!