EmmyWatch: End of a ‘Modern Family’ Reign?

Is this going to be the year that ABC’s awards juggernaut loses Best Comedy Series? In case you live under a rock, Modern Family has won the last 5 consecutive years (the only other show to pull this off is Frasier from 94-98). If it wins again this year, it will be the most honored comedy in Emmy history. What other shows are cracking their knuckles to take it down?

The question of whether the Dunphys and Pritchetts will be nominated again is a no brainer. The Family clan will be back to defend their title (whether they win or not is very much up for debate), but are they one of the very few major network comedies that will get in? It seems that the majority of the Family opponents come from HBO and other carriers. At this point in the game, we have to look at shows that might be able to win the category, but I’m not sure what is making a big enough impact to do so.


The Big Bang Theory has been a recurring show for the last four year in this category, but the show has yet to win. Even though it remains the top-rated comedy in America, it’s not entirely impossible for it to fall out this year. It does feel like the kind of comedy that would win in its final year, and maybe the Emmys are content with giving star Jim Parsons the trophy year after year. While Big Bang is around, Mom (the other Chuck Lorre show) doesn’t seem like it will ever get a nomination—no matter how many surprise Critics’ Choice Television Award nominations it receives.

Parks & Recreation feels like a distant memory for me (I admit that I am someone who hasn’t watched it yet), so will a nomination be too difficult to pull out? It seems that fans would be more satisfied if star Amy Poehler finally walked away with an Emmy and that getting in for Comedy Series is an afterthought. Those fans are D-E-V-O-U-T, though. Never say never. Of the other major networks, the only candidates are freshman sitcoms. Like Modern Family, Fresh Off the Boat plays with the familial dynamic, but are enough people watching the show and loving it? Most of the preliminary awards attention has been going towards the star-making turn from Constance Wu and rightfully so. I’ve said it many times that she is the best thing about Fresh, so I don’t think the show will stand a chance in this year’s race. It has the opportunity to become a beloved show later, but it doesn’t seem to have made a lasting impression.


The other “family” show that debuted this year is ABC’s Black-ish, and it deserves to be in the race. It’s smart and better than a lot of other comedies out there right now, but it feels as if no one has been talking about it. It hasn’t managed a Critics’ Choice or TCA nomination, and both stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross are mysteriously absent when it comes to nomination time so far this year. If Modern Family gets a nomination, Black-ish deserves to be there right alongside it. Speaking of shows that no one is talking about, Fox’s Last Man on Earth seemed like a big topic of conversation when it debuted in back in March (Megan is definitely a fan), but good reviews haven’t propelled it anywhere near the awards stratosphere.

On the cable networks, Veep is almost guaranteed to return to the Comedy Series race. The third season was the best received so far, and it (along with star Julia Louis-Dreyfus) should be rather joyous on nomination morning. HBO has another surging comedy in Silicon Valley. It was nominated last year in this category (to a lot of scratching heads), and it just won the Critics’ Choice. Remember: Critics’ Choice does not translate to Emmy glory. It’s simply the only awards body that has announced winners so far this year, and Family wasn’t even nominated at that ceremony. But the question lingers: could this show be the one to steal the crown from the Dunphys and Pritchetts? I bet a lot of Veep fans would be pissed if Silicon snatched the title away from them. The show on HBO that might fall out is Lena Dunham’s Girls. It managed nominations for the first two seasons, but missed out last year. Is it done? I think so.


The freshman contenders come from different networks. Even though Orange is the New Black got relegated to Drama Series this year (a better place for it this year since the dark tone of the second season looms like a dark cloud), Netflix has two female-driven hopefuls. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt recalls the Emmy-beloved 30 Rock era with its zany tone and Tina Fey rhythms. The show really gets into its groove around 3 or four episodes in, presumably the time when NBC dropped it and Netflix picked it up. Fans love the show, but, as we all know, fandom doesn’t always translate to nominations. The other is the delightful Grace and Frankie. Like Unbreakable, it took a few episodes to get into its own headspace, but it settles around episode 5. Some people might object to the alternating tone of the show (does it want to be a touching drama-comedy or character-driven comedy?), but the lead actresses make it so thoroughly enjoyable that you only want to spend more time with them. Of the two, I think Unbreakable has a better shot at getting into this major race, but voters might respond to the more traditional sitcom style of Grace and Frankie.

Grace and Frankie

Over at FX, The Comedians is the new show on the block. The show stars Billy Crystal and Josh Gad, and it’s received mixed reviews from critics. Can the love of Crystal propel the show to the Comedy Series? Nah, Louie is going to take that spot! The Louis CK series has been nominated for the last two years, and he will more than likely be nominated in the writing and acting categories. Consider that slot taken.

Jane the Virgin’s huge breakout this entire year means it has a shot at being nominated. Can The CW finally break into the Emmy game? Will it just be for Gina Rodriguez’s huge starring turn? I don’t think you can count it out, but it might just be right under the top 6 slots. It might be resting at number  8 or 9. It would certainly be a nice surprise when the nominations come out if this small show breaks into the big race. The other comedy that you might not be able to deny is Inside Amy Schumer. I am holding onto my prediction that she will be nominated in Leading Actress, and, like Louie CK, she will probably be nominated in the writing category. She’s a huge fan favorite, and she might be getting too big to ignore.

The freshman comedy that has the most assured chance at a nomination is Amazon’s Transparent. Amid the outcries that this belongs in the Drama Series category, the show has earned raves everywhere it goes. Jeffrey Tambor is the favorite in the Comedy Actor category, but, and most importantly, it’s a touching show that allows its characters walk a very fine line between comedy and drama. The comedy can hurt, and you laugh sometimes because you have too in the most dramatic moments. It has a real chance to dethrone Modern Family.

So who gets in?

The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Right Behind Them:
Grace and Frankie
Inside Amy Schumer
Jane the Virgin
Parks & Recreation

Other Possibilities:
The Comedians

Last Man on Earth


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