Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
On September 18, Julia Louis-Dreyfus should further the record for the most consecutive Emmys for a single performance with her fifth Emmy for playing Veep‘s Selina Meyer. With 21 career nominations, she is one of the most beloved actors working in television today, and because of her popularity she’s probably the biggest acting lock of the night. She submitted “Mother” as her episode of the year, but it really doesn’t matter because almost any episode of the season would have shown off her incredible talent including “Congressional Ball” and “Inauguration.” The argument could be made that a lot of voters might think that JLD has enough Emmys and might want to spread the wealth, but with Veep growing in acting nominations as well as being on a path to a second series win that scenario grows increasingly unlikely.
Almost none of the other nominees seem to have the momentum to upset Louis-Dreyfus’s fifth consecutive win. Laurie Metcalf is clearly popular amongst her peers with three nominations this year alone, but Getting On is a little show that a lot of voters probably aren’t paying attention to. Lily Tomlin may be the only comedian in the group more revered than Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but as hard as Netflix pushed Grace and Frankie most Emmy voters don’t find the show to be award worthy. Amy Schumer probably doesn’t have the momentum to win when her show didn’t garner anywhere near the same amount of online coverage and support as compared to last year’s buzzy season. Leading up to the nominations, Ellie Kemper seemed to be rising in popularity because of her first SAG nomination, but after Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt severely underperformed in nominations this year the conversation around her dark horse status seemed to disappear.
To upset someone like JLD and her character Selena Meyer voters will probably be looking for the exact opposite type of performance: Tracee Ellis Ross in black-ish. Tracee Ellis Ross is infectiously likable, and Rainbow Johnson’s humor comes from being incredibly relatable, the exact opposite of Selena Meyer. On top of giving an award-worthy performance, Tracee Ellis Ross is a beloved TV actress receiving her first Emmy nomination after over 15 years in the industry. A lot of voters might see her on the ballot, reflect on all her work throughout the years, and decide to award someone new. It’s similar to how Regina King finally won her first Emmy after decades of work in front of and behind the camera.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
Lily Tomlin, Grace & Frankie
Laurie Metcalf, Getting On
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Like many of the other lead acting races this year, Lead Actor in a Comedy Series seems to be a shoo-in for last year’s winner, Jeffrey Tambor. He is the reigning winner not only at the Emmys but also the SAG awards, and the acting branch embraced the second season of Transparent even more so than the first. The Emmys haven’t always been accepting of dramedies in the comedy races, but Tambor’s iconic Maura Pfefferman easily stands out on a ballot compared to the other nominees.
The other contenders just don’t have the excitement behind them to rally the acting branch. Thomas Middleditch finally broke through the disconnect between the acting branch and Silicon Valley, but his introverted performance does not stand out next to a character like Maura Pfefferman. William H. Macy won over his peers before at the SAG awards, but Shameless never clicked with Emmy voters (besides a rogue guest win for Joan Cusack). Will Forte couldn’t win last year when critics and fans actually cared about The Last Man on Earth, and now that the show has forgotten its premise most voters aren’t going to turn to it now. Anthony Anderson is a likable presence that has been working in Hollywood for over 20 years, but voters will probably have a hard time justifying marking off their ballot for him when compared to iconic performances and auteur-like shows.
Aziz Ansari has been on Emmy voters’ radar since the beginning of Parks and Recreation, but his string of nominations this year is the first time voters have actually decided to recognize his work. As someone who co-wrote and directed his show as well as starring as a fictionalized version of himself, voters could find themselves in awe of a creative endeavor like Master of None. Even if some voters aren’t fans of Ansari, they could be swayed by “Parents,” one of the best episodes of television this past year from any program. Performances like these haven’t always done well in the past, but with a new popular vote system (and Louie on hiatus) Ansari probably has the best chance at standing out against someone like Jeffrey Tambor, even if his win would be one of most surprising (and most welcome) surprises of the night.
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
William H. Macy, Shameless
Anthony Anderson, black-ish
Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley
Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth
Outstanding Comedy Series
When the Television Academy opened up voting to more members last year, popular voters chose Veep across the board as their favorite comedy of the year. The fourth season won two acting races, a writing award, a casting award, on top of the biggest comedy race of the night, Oustanding Comedy Series. Veep became only the second non-broadcast comedy to win the award, and the show is more popular than ever (16 nominations, 17 if you count the disqualified MacNicol). Before Season 5 premiered, there were whispered apprehensions on whether the show would retain its quality after the showrunner switched from Armando Ianucci to David Mandel. All of those suspicions were put to rest once the season actually premiered.
To win a best program Emmy, a show needs to have deep support across multiple branches. Only two other shows demonstrate the potential to excite the entire Television Academy: Transparent (10 nominations) and Silicon Valley (11 nominations). The tech startup comedy might not seem like an obvious Emmy contender, but over three seasons the show has racked up support with a lot of below-the-line branches. This year, it even gained its first acting nominee. The show’s one detractor is that the third season wasn’t that entertaining, and even if it has its fans it likely won’t excite more voters than a show like Veep. Transparent has the advantage of being probably the most emotionally stirring of the seven nominees and even comes across as cutting edge for its subject matter and being a streaming show. The show was probably very close to winning last year and even had won more awards than Veep leading up to the final award but voters have been notoriously weary of dramedies competing as comedies.
The rest of the nominees have a fraction of the cross-branch support that the three frontrunners have. Modern Family, Master of None, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt all have four nominations this year while black-ish is only nominated three times. In fact Modern Family is the only nominee of the four that can boast any sort of craft support with a sole sound mixing nomination. Veep has more nominees than the four bottom shows combined, and that says a lot about the overall support behind HBO’s political satire and is the biggest signifier that the Television Academy will re-elect Veep.
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Master of None (Netflix)
Modern Family (HBO)