This year’s comedy lineups are essentially the battle of two networks on steroids. The main seven categories were always going to come down to Amazon and HBO battling it out for the most wins. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the new show that everyone can’t stop talking about. It’s swept countless groups and taken over Hollywood with citywide events transporting us back to the 1950s. After winning three seasons in a row HBO began the year hoping for one last hurrah for the final season of Veep.
Then the nominations came out proving that the past year has given us some of the best comedies in a long time. In fact many of this year’s nominees were nominated for more Emmys than most of the drama nominees, something that never happens. Amazon surprised everyone with a second major comedy contender with Fleabag winning over just about every major branch. Veep may have underperformed in nominations, but HBO made up for it with Barry becoming the second most nominated comedy of the year.
For a while the Emmy narrative has been a never-ending battle between Netflix and HBO, but the comedy categories have proven that Amazon Prime is the streaming giant to watch out for in just about every category. Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Rachel Brosnahan up against Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Tony Shaloub versus Tony Hale. Anna Chlumsky going up against Alex Borstein and Olivia Colman.
Outstanding Comedy Series
Of all the top three program awards Outstanding Comedy Series is turning out to be by far the most complicated. Earlier this year it seemed like it was a two-way race between an established favorite in its final season (Veep) and the new darling of the entire industry (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel).
Since then Fleabag has become one of the most talked about and nominated comedies of the year. In its second season Barry has only grown in popularity especially among actors. Then there are cult-comedies like The Good Place and Schitt’s Creek both of which have passionate fan bases. Even Russian Doll has proven to be in the conversation after picking up multiple awards at the Creative Arts ceremony.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is an awards juggernaut. After sweeping last year’s Emmys it has gone on to win top awards at the Golden Globes, SAG, WGA, and PGA Awards. It’s the new darling of just about every awards group in large part because it’s impeccably crafted, the culmination of years of work from Amy Sherman-Palladino, and accessible for fans of all ages. Heading into the season it could have been asked whether or not there was any fatigue for Maisel leading to voters taking a break in favor of one of the other nominees.
Then the Creative Arts Ceremony came, and the team behind the show took home six awards, twice as many as it won the year before. It beat technical marvels like Game of Thrones and Fosse/Verdon. It even swept the two guest acting categories. So clearly it isn’t slowing down any time soon.
Then there’s Fleabag. The second and final season of the British comedy won over the industry in a major way. It won two Creative Arts Emmys last weekend: casting and picture editing. It’s the comedy that everyone feels cool for watching, Phoebe Waller-Bridge has become one of the most sought after creatives, and in its second and final season this is the only chance voters have to award it. There’s a scenario where it picks up multiple big awards including two acting and a writing award and if it does that Outstanding Comedy Series seems like an obvious next choice.
Veep is a truly groundbreaking comedy. Throughout its first six seasons the political comedy took home 17 Emmys and it hasn’t lost the top award since 2014. After going on hiatus last year Veep is finally back in the race and there are plenty of voters who will happily vote for it one last time and it’s easy to see why. Anchored by Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s performance the comedy immediately influenced the way we interpreted politics and Emmy voters immediately gravitated towards it. Complicating its chances is the tepid reaction to the season as a whole and its dip in overall nominations. It was also the only comedy frontrunner to miss out on a directing nomination.
Looking through past winners voters have proven that they aren’t as sentimental for final seasons as we tend to think they are. In fact over the past 30 years only one comedy won for its final season, Everybody Loves Raymond. There’s a long list of iconic comedies that lost including Cheers, Frasier, and Friends.
After surprising everyone with 17 nominations it’s clear that Barry can’t be discounted either. Barry is a dark comedy that completely risks scaring voters away with cynical depictions of their own industry and violent insights into the world of a hitman. Instead voters can’t get enough of it and the second season is one of the best reviewed shows of the year. In a race with so many female driven shows it’s also the only one about a male lead. But it also under-performed at the Creative Arts Awards only taking home two awards for sound editing and sound mixing.
Ranking The Nominees
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The Good Place
Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Mirroring the comedy series lineup Outstanding Lead Actress has become a three way race between Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Rachel Brosnahan, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
We’re lucky to live in a time with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The comedy legend has been working in television for over three decades now and there’s no denying that if there were a Mt. Rushmore of television she would be front and center. So far she’s won for every season of Veep so why should we even think about predicting anyone else?
Rachel Brosnahan hasn’t lost a major award in two years. On top of winning last year’s Emmy she’s also won two Golden Globes, two Critics’ Choice Awards, and a SAG Award. In the show’s second season we watched as Midge travelled everywhere from Paris to the Catskills, toured across the country, and even made a major breakthrough on TV. If The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is going to continue to rake in Emmys it’s hard to imagine a scenario where she doesn’t win.
Over the course of a year Phoebe Waller-Bridge has become the most exciting voice in television. In between seasons of Fleabag she also helped create the first season of Killing Eve. Now Fleabag is the most acclaimed show of the year and with no third season planned this is the one and only chance voters have to celebrate her. Unlike the other nominees she also perfectly aligns with the Television Academy’s obsession with auteur comedy having also produced and written the entire series.
So how do you even attempt to predict a winner? Any three of these women can easily win on Sunday or they might even split the vote making room for a major upset. Even with Veep losing steam there’s no reason to discount Julia and plenty of her peers will probably check her name off without even thinking twice.
Ranking The Nominees
Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Veep
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll
Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek
Christina Applegate, Dead to Me
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
In a year with so many uncertainties the only comedy category with any sense of clarity is Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. He won the first acting Emmy of his career last year in a much more competitive lineup. This year he’s back as the frontrunner and Barry is incredibly popular among actors.
Hader also stands out as the only nominee in the lineup that also serves as an executive producer, director, and writer. His work on Barry is an overarching creative achievement and his peers will want to celebrate that.
If there’s a spoiler in the lineup Michael Douglass is the one to look out for. The Oscar winner has received plenty of praise for his performance as an aging actor turned acting coach and has already won a Golden Globe and SAG nomination. His first major television role since the 70s has certainly an awards friendly performance but overall The Kominsky Method isn’t as popular with voters compared to shows like Barry, The Good Place, or even Schitt’s Creek. Does that matter as the membership expands?
The rest of the nominees are all well-liked actors that don’t necessarily stand out and in some instances risk blending together. Anthony Anderson has been nominated for every season of Black-ish but in its fourth season voters weren’t as crazy for the sitcom as they have been in the past. With nine nominations Don Cheadle is back in the conversation for his new Showtime comedy Black Monday but as the show’s only nomination he probably doesn’t have the momentum.
Eugene Levy and Ted Danson are both iconic comedic actors with decades of work in the entertainment industry. This year both actors and their beloved comedies (Schitt’s Creek and The Good Place) are nominated. Neither actor is the favorite to win this year but as both comedies come to an end next cycle there’s a chance that one of them can become the frontrunner.
Ranking the Nominees
Bill Hader, Barry
Michael Douglass, The Kominsky Method
Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek
Don Cheadle, Black Monday
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
When it comes down to it this year has become a battle of the two Tony’s. On top of Hale and Shaloub both starring in comedy series frontrunners both actors are well-liked among their peers and both have won multiple Emmys throughout their careers.
After winning the SAG award earlier this year Tony Shaloub probably has the slight edge. After just missing out on the Emmy last year voters will probably make up for it now especially since Maisel has only become more popular among actors. Abe’s role in the second season also became more prevalent as he ran around in disarray discovering that he’s not as in control of his kid’s lives as he previously thought.
If it weren’t for the fact that there are three of them one of the nominees from Barry would be a bigger part of the conversation. Actors clearly loved the second season and Henry Winkler won the category last year. But with an ensemble filled with great performances it will be hard for one of them to stand out. Stephen Root has the perfect submission with “Ronny/Lily” while Anthony Carrigan has become a fan favorite and the most broadly comedic character on the show.
Someone like Alan Arkin is automatically in the conversation but voters don’t seem to be that enamored with The Kominsky Method overall. Still someone like Arkin should never be counted out entirely especially for a role written by Chuck Lorre.
Ranking The Nominees
Tony Shaloub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Tony Hale, Veep
Henry Winkler, Barry
Anthony Carrigan, Barry
Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method
Stephen Root, Barry
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
For whatever reason, the supporting actress lineup has repeatedly ended up with eight nominees. With so many nominees it means that any of these actresses could theoretically win with just over 12.5% of the vote.
After sweeping the two guest categories it’s clear that actors love The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Last year’s winner, Alex Borstein, is back in the lineup and still as beloved as ever. She could easily win over voters for the second year in a row especially after her dance number in the Catskills. But Marin Hinkle is certain to attract voters as well. Her escape to Paris was a fan favorite of the season and some voters will want to spread the wealth and celebrate her this year.
Maisel isn’t the only comedy with multiple nominees this year. In its second season Fleabag became a favorite of the actors branch with both Olivia Colman and Sian Clifford in the supporting actress race. After just winning the Oscar Colman is having one of the best years of her career between Fleabag and the upcoming season of The Crown. Voters have gone with the breakout movie star in the past (Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish) and that might be enough in such a crowded field.
The second season of Barry was clearly popular among actors. Basically the entire core cast was nominated this year including Sarah Goldberg. She may not be the biggest name among her costars and the other nominees but she does have the added benefit of portraying a struggling actor, something that many of the voters can directly relate to.
Every year the question is asked of whether or not it is finally the year that Anna Chlumsky wins an Emmy. Unfortunately that time never came and fans of Veep are hoping that the Television Academy rights that wrong this year. Amy’s arc began with an abortion plotline and ended with her going Kellyanne Conway level crazy. In the end the actors’ branch isn’t that sentimental for final seasons, ESPECIALLY in the comedy categories.
This year the nomination is the reward for both Betty Gilpin and Kate McKinnon. The nominations showed that voters are lukewarm on both GLOW and Saturday Night Live this year and neither are being talked about the way they have been in the past.
Ranking The Nominees
Olivia Colman, Fleabag
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Sian Clifford, Fleabag
Betty Gilpin, GLOW
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
What are your final predictions in the comedy categories? Will voters stick with “Maisel” or will they vote for something new?