Emmys: A Deep Comedy Series Lineup Will Result in Surprises

Unlike the Outstanding Drama Series race, the comedy series contenders seems to be much deeper. There are maybe 15 contenders that have a real shot to get into the race. Of those, only a pair seem like sure things. Let’s jump on in and explore the race for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Tier 1: The No-Doubt About It Contenders

“Atlanta” (FX)

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

This feels like a sprint to see who can take home the big prize. Both “Atlanta” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” are the clear frontrunners in the race for Outstanding Comedy Series. Each has plenty of pedigree, and each features breakout performers. Yet each is drastically different in how it approaches television. This may feel like a battle between classic TV and new prestige TV. Ultimately, each has its merits, and each deserves the crown for different reasons.

“Atlanta” as a huge benefit of having been here before, with last year’s winner “Veep” not eligible this Emmy cycle. Many thought that “Atlanta” could have taken the crown last year, and now its biggest competition is out of the way. The second season was far more narratively driven than the first, even as it continued to play with what a television show could be in 2018. “Teddy Perkins” also might be the best episode of television period this Emmy cycle. With its cast going supernova, including Donald Glover‘s ascent to superstardom, Brian Tyree Henry grabbing a Tony nomination, and Zazie Beetz becoming a superhero, this show will hit more voters radars this time around.

Meanwhile, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is extraordinary in its own right. Debuting after the Me Too movement, it has taken on an extra life and meaning that further pushed the series into the public consciousness. To say that the show stops there would be disingenuous, as it is packed full of strong performances from top to bottom. The breakout, of course, is Rachel Brosnahan, who already grabbed wins with the BFCA and Golden Globes. She’s supplied excellent moments through rat-a-tat scripts from Amy Sherman-Palladino. The cast is also excellent, including multiple Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub and surprising performances from Alex Borstein and Marin Hinkle. Both shows are poised to do battle and will make for a thrilling Emmy race.

Tier 2: The Very Strong Fight for Top 7

“black-ish” (ABC)

“GLOW” (Netflix)

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO)

“Will and Grace” (NBC)

“Barry” (HBO)

“Silicon Valley” (HBO)

A few shows continue to rise to the top and feel like strong contenders. ABC has officially shifted its full weight behind “black-ish,” even going so far as to let 5 episodes contend for a director’s spot, while “Modern Family” only has 2. There’s also the social relevance angle that “black-ish” has that other shows simply don’t. It’s a show that aims to educate, including its own characters. There are also drastically different performances being given by its leads, Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis-Ross. The show is likely #3, even if it does not have a chance to win it all.

While most of the attention has been paid to “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” as the freshman show to beat, watch out for “GLOW,” perhaps the most surprising comedy of the season. The show is headlined by veteran TV actress Alison Brie and surprised many with several nominations from both the BFCA and SAG voters. Marc Maron got a huge boost as an actor, and Betty Gilpin is one of the breakout stars of the year. It’s a show that features amazing ensemble and simply shines from beginning to end.

There’s something strange about how much better revivals do in comedy than in drama. This is especially true for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Will and Grace” who both look to jump back into a race they’ve been missing from for some time. Each of these shows would earn a spot in most Emmy years, yet the influx of new shows may have dampened their across-the-board appeal. TV has changed in the last 10 years, and while “Curb” continues to feel like a peak TV show, “Will and Grace” does not. Yet “Will and Grace” is more likely to have an Emmy winner than the former. Both are likely to get into the race because each is extraordinarily strong regardless of the television era. 

This leaves us with a question about “Silicon Valley” and the emergence of “Barry” into the race. There is reason to be skeptical about “Barry” and whether or not it should be the push. In my personal opinion, it’s not close. “Barry” is the superior show in terms of storytelling, performances, and direction. Yet “Silicon Valley” has years on the ballot and years of goodwill. We’ve seen that Emmy voters remain reluctant to drop a show from the big prize, even as it ages out. “Silicon Valley” was at its weakest this season, despite some strong turns from the supporting cast. Yet that familiarity will keep a top contender.

Tier 3: Spoilers! 

“Modern Family” (ABC)

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)

“The Good Place” (NBC)

“Roseanne” (ABC)

This is a field littered with shows that should contend. For a variety of reasons, they might not. Let’s go ahead and get the elephant out of the room. What do we do about “Roseanne” after the series was dropped like a bad habit? The show was the highest rated show on television and a critical success. Will voters really turn away from it due to the controversy? I hope so. Despite John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf, this show should fail spectacularly. Yet there’s still a chance, still a corner of this voting block that could nominate it. So, until July 12th rolls around and it is not in the running, you have to consider the possibility.

Meanwhile, the other three shows here are excellent. “The Good Place” might be the most underrated Network show in some time. With an excellent cast, headlined by Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, the high concept show continues to shine. Yet that high concept makes it fairly inaccessible to some viewers. Meanwhile, “Modern Family” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” are reigning nominees. Will both get eliminated? “Modern Family” has been drying up nominations for the past few years, including only 3 nominations last year (one was for sound). Yet, it has never missed Outstanding Comedy Series, and won the category FIVE times.

“Kimmy Schmidt” can boast that it has never missed Comedy Series either. The show was as good as ever in Season 4 and looks to conclude in early 2019. Yet with a condensed season (only 6 episodes) that dropped at the deadline, the might have shot itself in the foot. The show has also never won an Emmy, so they clearly haven’t felt it special enough to reward. That could be a sign of things to come.

Tier 4: Everything Else Needs Some Passion

“One Day at a Time” (Netflix)

“Young Sheldon”/”Big Bang Theory” (CBS)

“Insecure” (HBO)

“Better Things”/”Baskets” (FX)

“SMILF” (Showtime)

“Mom” (CBS)

“Arrested Development” (Netflix)

“Jane the Virgin” (CW)

There are a lot of shows that need to break outside of their passion votes to get into the game. Some of them are long shots (“Jane the Virgin“) while others flopped due to controversy (“Arrested Development”). “Better Things” would likely have had a shot at a nomination, but its ties to Louis C.K. will inevitably hurt the series. Same for “Baskets” which also features great performances. For FX, running the individual performers is still a given, but the series nod will be tough to come by.

Netflix also has a potential contender in “One Day at a Time” that needs to get support outside those who lobbied for it’s renewal. It’s the same issue striking “Jane the Virgin” which had a stellar season. Yet both shows find themselves on the outside. “One Day at a Time” is the superior show, and actually stands a chance to get an actress nominated. It’ll also be interesting to see if “Insecure” or “SMILF” can crash the party. Both are good enough to make the lineup, but due to their premiere dates, have lost momentum. They also feel like afterthoughts for their network, which makes it a difficult climb for either.

Last but not least, CBS has a handful of comedies that can all make a push. It’s been a few years since “Big Bang Theory” made any waves. Yet the introduction of “Young Sheldon” has made for an interesting hour for the CBS audience. The rating are there as well. The question is how many voters will put one on the ballot without the other? It seems odd that they would, but will they want to vote for both? Again, this seems unlikely. CBS might want to put more of its focus behind “Mom,” and the career year that Allison Janney continues to bring. Janney jumped to lead actress last year, finally living up to the fact that she’s the title role of the show. However, it seems like voters like Janney, not the show. It looks like CBS has to really get support for one show, and it seems unlikely any of the three is strong enough.

What do you think? What are some of the shows you’d like to see enter the race? Let us know in the comments below! 

The official Emmy Predictions have been updated.  Check out the newest predictions and see where Each Comedy Series ranks!

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Written by Alan French

Alan French is a movie buff, a TV lover, and a sports fanatic. His favorite TV shows are 'Parks and Recreation,' 'Rick and Morty' and 'Game of Thrones.' He's also a Spielberg fanatic. You can find him on Twitter and Medium @TheAlanFrench.

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