Newbies expand comedy category

'Family Guy' reps animation slate

It’s not a joke. Emmy, often maligned for being staid and predictable, shook up the comedy proceedings this year.

First, Fox’s twice-canceled “Family Guy” was invited to the grown-ups table. The ribald toon became the first animated skein to be nominated for the top comedy prize since “The Flintstones” in 1961 — practically the medium’s Stone Age.

Then the golden gal embraced quirky with two more first-time nods — one for HBO’s musical whimsy “Flight of the Conchords” and the other for Showtime’s drug comedy “Weeds.”

And when Emmy went shopping for a multicamera sitcom, it put CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother” in the cart, leaving “Two and a Half Men,” the season’s highest-rated comedy, and “The Big Bang Theory” behind on the shelf.

Back-to-back winner “30 Rock,” perennial nominee “The Office” — both from NBC — and HBO vet “Entourage” round out the field.

New Orleans Times-Picayune TV columnist Dave Walker likes the look. “This is a great list,” he says “Any one of these shows represents the category really well.”

Emmy pedigree: Two wins
Highlight: During her high school reunion, Liz (Tina Fey) discovers her classmates had plenty of good reasons to call her the “White Haven Witch,” while Jack (Alec Baldwin) is mistaken for the cool guy in school and decides to go along with the mix-up to see where it leads.
Why it might win: The show’s upward trajectory continues. Consider last year’s Emmy haul, this season’s audience bump and now 22 nominations — a record for a laffer.
Maybe not: There’s no quieting the rumblings of a “30 Rock” backlash.

Emmy pedigree: Two noms
Highlight: The cameo parade continued in every episode, with turns by Martin Scorsese and Gus Van Sant in “Return to Queens Boulevard” and Stellan Skarsgard in “Play’n with Fire” especially noteworthy.
Why it might win: With the Peabodys and President Obama already in the show’s corner, it’s time for a golden endorsement from Emmy.
Maybe not: If voters want to go inside baseball, there’s another avenue.

Emmy pedigree: None
Highlight: A medical experiment earns Peter some extra cash, but it comes with a high pricetag. For the test, a doctor injects him with a series of genes, one of which threatens his relationship with Lois and turns him on to a new friend.
Why it might win: Emmy voters have been making some bold picks lately, and they may want to turn the kudocast into a “Family” affair to put accusations of stodginess to rest.
Maybe not: The nom may already be considered a win, especially since “The Simpsons” and “South Park” never got this far.

Highlight: The weird and offbeat continues to be the norm as native New Zealanders Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie keep getting tripped up by the littlest of things — such as Bret’s purchase of a $3 mug, which forces him into prostitution to pay it off.
Why it might win: This is the only laffer besides “30 Rock” that managed to land noms for both directing and writing.
Maybe not: While “Flight” has a loyal following, viewership may not be high enough for it to soar.

Emmy pedigree: None
Highlight: Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) realizes he has fallen for Robin (Cobie Smulders), but it takes him 24 episodes to profess that love; en route, he never gives up his womanizing ways.
Why it might win: The laffer has been a reliable performer for the past four seasons, and voters may want to recognize that consistency — which often came under the ratings shadow cast by “Two and a Half Men.”
Maybe not: Barney, who celebrated his 200th conquest near the end of the season, might be off-putting to some voters.

Emmy pedigree: One win plus two other noms
Highlight: After a fire safety seminar goes wrong, Michael (Steve Carell) hopes to alleviate the stress with a roast so the employees can relax and tell a few jokes about the boss. Andy (Ed Helms) takes full advantage and performs a song that he wrote, “What I Hate About You.”
Why it might win: During another creatively strong season, “The Office” once again stood out for more than just its laughs. Besides being savagely funny, it also was sweet and warm.
Maybe not: The “30 Rock” buzz has taken some attention away.

Emmy pedigree: None
Highlight: After Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) and her family land in their new hometown, her first courier job in the “Lady’s a Charm” episode is a run across the Mexican border. But when she returns to the States, she attracts the attention of border police.
Why it might win: The fourth-season twists helped it score six nominations, including its first in this category, and the changes might even be enough to put the series over the top.
Maybe not: Voters thus far haven’t wanted to light up. The show is 0 for its last 13 nominations.

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