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A Deeper Look Into the 2018 Comedy Nominations

With Veep on hiatus a lot of shows were hoping to grow their number of nominations. Instead every returning show besides Atlanta and Black-ish lost nominations. Emmy voters were much more interested in new shows with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, GLOW, and Barry having strong first seasons as well as Emmy voters discovering Insecure and The Good Place in their sophomore seasons.

The most interesting aspect of the four top comedies this year is that in one way or the other they all deal with someone trying to get ahead in the entertainment industry. GLOW and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are both  period pieces about women trying to get ahead as performers whether as actors or comedians. Atlanta chronicles musicians in the south with Bryan Tyree Henry earning his first nomination for portraying Paper Boi. Barry is about a hit man turned aspiring actor in LA. These four comedies are all incredibly deserving contenders in the Emmy race but it is a little concerning that voters are only awarding a very specific type of story that is almost self-serving.

Atlanta was the most nominated comedy of the year with 16 nominations which is an astonishing increase from last year’s six. This was the winning threshold for past winners like Modern Family, Veep, and 30 Rock. In fact all signs point to the best reviewed show of 2018 having an insanely successful Emmy night except for the fact that it’s not particularly funny. This ‘dramedy’ element has really hindered shows in the past but because Atlanta is so innovative and because Donald Glover is one of the most respected artists in the industry right now it might just overcome that.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on the other hand is one of the most ambitious works that Amy Sherman-Palladino has ever brought to television in a career that has spanned close to 30 years. In just one season The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has become the most successful Amazon show at the Emmys with just about every branch celebrating the period comedy. The one nomination the frontrunner missed out on was any recognition in the sound categories, which is one of the most accurate predictors in the Emmy race.

One of the most confounding outcomes of this year’s nominees is the lack of acting nominations for GLOW. Both Alison Brie and Marc Maron were snubbed by the actors branch after years of hard work in the industry. Both actors seemed like locks for nominations after receiving individual SAG nominations. In fact the one actor that seemed the most vulnerable, Betty Gilpin, was the only actor to be nominated. Performers aside GLOW did well in terms of nominations with recognition for series, writing, directing, and multiple craft categories.

No new comedy exceeded expectations quite like Barry. The morbidly dark comedy earned 13 nominations more than any other first season HBO comedy in modern history. For whatever reason Barry was underestimated throughout the past couple months however it proved to be the perfect comedy to excite Emmy voters. Even though it was about a hitman the comedy was also about the absurdity and selfishness that dwells within this very industry. So of course it did well with actors, directors, and writers but the biggest surprise was how many nominations it earned in the below-the-line races for a modern LA based comedy.

The nominations also introduced one of the most unexpected “feuds” in recent awards history. Bill Hader and Donald Glover both earned five nominations this year both for their respected comedies as well as for hosting SNL. All five of their nominations are in direct competition with each other leading everyone to wonder if voters will spread the wealth or if one of them will go home empty handed. Bill Hader has never won an individual Emmy (although he won an Emmy 20+ years ago when South Park won) and he deserves to have a big night at the Emmys. Donald Glover won two Emmys last year and has had an amazing year as the standout of the Solo movie, his music as Childish Gambino, and the undeniable sensation that is Atlanta.

One of the more confusing trends in recent years with Emmy voters is their full embrace of the Saturday Night Live cast. This year the sketch comedy ensemble grew to five supporting nominations including past winners Kate McKinnon and Alec Baldwin, a second nomination for Leslie Jones, and first-time nominees Aidy Bryant and Kenan Thompson. There are so many new comedies on television to choose from and there is no clear reason on why they are filling up the supporting categories with the SNL cast. It started during the political season with viral impersonations of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump but in a lot of ways these nominations have moved on from politics. It will be curious to see how long these nominations last before voters move on.

2018 was supposed to be the year of the reboot with high hopes for new seasons of past favorites Will & Grace, Roseanne, and Arrested Development. Broadcast networks were hoping to make a major return to the comedy categories but in the end the reboots didn’t make a dent with voters besides a couple of supporting actress nominations. Whether because of disinterest or scandal voters wanted to celebrate the future of television as opposed to the past. It will be interesting to see if the lack of celebration for reboots will put a dent in any of the upcoming potential reboots or if the networks will start trying to support new talent.

Overall Emmy voters celebrated a long list of new names in the comedy categories when in the past they have been known for going into auto-pilot in these races. Some of the first time acting nominees include Betty Gilpin, Issa Rae, Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Katt Williams, Tiffany Hadddish, Bryan Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz, Aidy Bryant, and Keenan Thompson.

Nominations By The Numbers

Saturday Night Live – 21 Nominations (-1)

Atlanta – 16 Nominations (+10)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – 14 Nominations (New Show)

Barry – 13 Nominations (New Show)

GLOW – 10 Nominations (New Show)

Silicon Valley – 7 Nominations (-3)

Black-ish – 5 Nominations (+1)

Will & Grace – 5 Nominations (-5)

Curb Your Enthusiasm – 4 Nominations (-1)

Roseanne – 4 Nominations (-2)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – 2 Nominations (-3)

Modern Family – 1 Nomination (-2)