Over the last couple of years, the race for Outstanding Comedy Series went through a lot of changes. Emmy voters were notorious for going into auto-pilot when it came down to voting in the comedy categories, celebrating the same shows and ensembles year after year.
Since then, voters have completely shaken up the race. They’ve embraced auteur comedies like Fleabag and Atlanta as well as genre-bending shows like Barry and Russian Doll. They welcome beloved cult favorites like Schitt’s Creek and The Good Place with open arms.
What complicates the 2020 conversation is that there aren’t a lot of clear awards contenders. Fleabag and Veep have finished their runs while Barry and Russian Doll took the year off. In a normal year this should leave room for a handful of new comedies to breakout in a major way, but so far, new and returning shows aren’t coming off as obvious contenders. Without traditional Emmy campaigning, it’s unclear what voters are responding to.
The silver lining is that we could be at the beginning of a completely bizarre and left-field Emmy race. What is going to happen if we don’t have a usual crop of contenders? What’s going to happen now that we don’t have months of traditional campaigning with voters being wined and dined? Will shows be nominated that no one saw coming? Or will voters instead resort back to former favorites? We could very well see an Outstanding Comedy Series lineup that no one saw coming and that’s a great thing. It means we’ll be seeing what voters have genuinely been responding to while they’ve been stuck at home without the influence of outside forces. It also means we’ll be given insight on what kind of comedies bring the most comfort in such terrifying times.
At first glance Outstanding Comedy Series is shaping up to be a two-way race between awards juggernaut The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and the underdog favorite Schitt’s Creek.
With Fleabag nearly sweeping last year it leaves open the possibility of a new underdog in the comedy race where passionate fans, committed critics, and an undeniable rooting factor can propel a comedy to frontrunner status. This year that contender is clearly Schitt’s Creek. For six years fans have championed the Rose family and all of their eccentricities. Last year Emmy voters paid attention in a big way nominating it for four awards, and this year the final season has capitalized on that. Dan Levy has been on the front of countless magazines and billboards while the final season has become an instant classic when it comes to beloved series finales.
Levy and the entire creative team didn’t waste a single episode wrapping up the impressive ensemble that called back to early seasons while also delivering its best season to date. The show has momentum on its side and it will reach an even bigger audience when the final season drops on Netflix right before voting begins.
But are we overestimating how popular Schitt’s Creek has become? The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is still the show that rakes in the most nominations uniting above the line and below the line support. Last year it took home eight Emmys out of 21 nominations and in all liklihood was very close to winning the top award for a second year in a row. This year it will surely be one of the top shows in terms of nominations probably outshining many of the drama and limited series contenders. The third season was even more extravagant taking Midge out of New York and into more exciting locales like Miami with an even bigger cast that included Sterling K. Brown. But how will the show do without the usual lavish campaign from Amazon? The streaming service is notorious for transforming the city into a retro wonderland and now that those tricks won’t work will voters still pay attention?
The Awards Daily team is essentially split. Clarence, Joey, and I are convinced that Schitt’s Creek is on its way to becoming the next major Emmy winner. The rest of the team (Megan, Shadan, David, Kevin, and Ben) are sticking with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. All of that could easily change once nominations are announced. Don’t forget this time last year we were still debating on whether or not Fleabag would even be nominated.
After taking a couple of years off Curb Your Enthusiasm has returned with one of its best seasons yet. Eventually Emmy voters always move on from former favorites, but Larry David’s auteur comedy has stood the test of time and this might be the year it has its most successful Emmy run yet. In its tenth season David tackled plenty of hot topics, most notably the Me Too movement and Harvey Weinstein.
It’s also safe to assume that the final season of The Good Place will return for its second and final nomination. Last year the afterlife comedy broke out at the Emmys in a major way earning nominations for series, lead actor, writing, and guest actress. Since then it was completely shut out by the guild awards (including the WGA) and the first half of the final season left fans wanting more. However as the season progressed it became clear that they were saving the show’s best moments for the final few episodes leading up to one of the most poignant finales a network sitcom has ever attempted to achieve. It’s the type of episode that will garner plenty of nominations including, just possibly, Bell’s first acting nomination of her career.
Then there is HBO’s newest comedy, Run. On paper it seems like the perfect Emmy contender. Produced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge the new comedy is a perfect blend of genres in a fresh way that could excite the Television Academy. It also stars two-time Emmy winner Merritt Wever as well as Domhnall Gleeson. But as the seven episode season has progressed, it’s produced very polarizing reactions from audiences. In the end though it might just be niche enough to excite a relevant number of voters and break into the Emmy conversation.
Second Time’s The Charm
It used to be difficult for shows to sneak into the Emmy conversation after being shutout for their debut season. However, recent successes from shows like Fleabag, Schitt’s Creek, and The Good Place open the door for a potentially interesting lineup.
Netflix has two second season dramedies hoping to break into the lineup for Outstanding Comedy Series with both Dead to Me and The Kominsky Method. Both shows have been acting showcases earning Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG nominations for their performances, and this year have the opportunity to standout in a wide-open field. Keep an eye on Dead to Me, the second season has become a massive success for Netflix peaking at the right time, topping their internal rankings and exciting audiences.
The upcoming show to keep an eye on will be the second season of Ramy. Last year Ramy Youssef’s Hulu show was criminally ignored until his breakthrough Golden Globe win. Now there’s a chance that the critical darling will become a major Emmy contender especially with new episodes premiering right in time on May 29th. The early word is that the second season is even better than the first, and it comes with a secret weapon – a supporting performance from Oscar favorite Mahershala Ali.
There is also a chance that two auteur style comedies that have seen their stars nominated for their performances finally break into the comedy series lineup. Pamela Adlon is beloved by Emmy voters and Better Things is the type of show that its fans love without ever feeling the urgency of nominating. Then there is Insecure – a comedy that seems to be garnering a lot of buzz in its fifth season. The question is whether HBO can catapult that buzz from Twitter noise to industry excitement.
Showtime is also hoping to come back into the comedy series race with their comedies Black Monday and Kidding. The premium network hasn’t had a comedy nominated since the first season of Nurse Jackie in 2010. We haven’t seen their current slate of black comedies win over any major awards group but their second seasons have sparked conversation online, especially Black Monday.
Past Nominees Hoping For a Comeback
With so many open slots this year there is a chance that past nominees that have since been forgotten could make an unlikely comeback.
With five consecutive wins Modern Family has already gone down in history as the biggest Outstanding Comedy Series winner alongside Frasier. Since then the iconic family sitcom has lost favor with Emmy voters and hasn’t even been nominated in several years. What makes this year different is that ABC sent the show off with a huge hour long finale that hit all of the right emotional moments and made up for years of forgettable storylines. In these uncertain times is there a chance that voters will feel nostalgic for simpler times?
ABC is also hoping that Black-ish will fall back into favor with Emmy voters. What was once the hot new family sitcom has since become diluted by unremarkable storylines and the show’s creator, Kenya Barris, unsuccessfully trying to recreate the same formula over and over.
Is there also a possibility that the third season of GLOW can breakthrough at the Emmys? In recent years no other comedy has had such a bizarre trajectory. The first season made it into the comedy lineup while missing out on two major acting nominations. The sophomore season only received one major nomination, a second supporting nod for Betty Gilpin.
The other big question is whether the sixth and final season of Silicon Valley will be honored at the 2020 ceremony. The first five seasons were all nominated for the top award but since then a lot of things have changed. The tech-bro comedy took a year off, received some bad press because of former costar TJ Miller, and was completely shut out of the most recent guild season.
It’s worth pointing out that there are a handful of new comedies hoping to break into the comedy series race that on first glance seem like unlikely contenders.
With the Television Academy changing their rules about what can compete as a TV movie, a lot of networks have to re-evaluate how they campaign episodic anthologies, a genre making a comeback that has yet to find a strong showing at the Emmys. Both Modern Love and Little America are competing as comedy series and they have the opportunity to really shakeup the comedy lineup. Unfortunately, these two shows, and all episodic anthologies as of late, have had a difficult time capturing the zeitgeist.
Then there are the comedies that have captured something unique while we’re all stuck at home looking for the next great thing. Mindy Kaling has created the next great teen comedy with Netflix’s Never Have I Ever. Capitalizing off of the success of The Favourite Hulu has teamed with co-writer Tony McNamara for The Great, a fresh take on Catherine the Great starring Elle Fanning.
Or what if voters go in a completely shocking direction? Sex Education on Netflix is now being campaigned as a comedy and features the single greatest ensemble of the year. Superstore is the most underappreciated workplace comedy and on top of it being a pitch-perfect comedy it also is able to touch on socio-economic issues like no other show on television.
Our Current Rankings
|Strong Contenders||In The Conversation|
|1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
2. Schitt’s Creek
3. Curb Your Enthusiasm
|4. Dead to Me
5. The Good Place
7. The Kominsky Method
10. Modern Family
11. Silicon Valley