Road to the Emmys: Comedy - The Nominees

The Emmy comedy race offers support for the argument that good things come to those who wait.

Fourth-year laffer “The Big Bang Theory” and third-year “Parks and Recreation” each received their first Emmy nominations in 2011, long after critics had gotten on board with the shows. That could mean hope over the long haul for such shows as FX’s acclaimed, edgy freshman “Louie” and NBC’s “Community,” which developed a cult following in its lauded, meta-imaginative second season.

In the meantime, “Big Bang” and “Parks” will try to top each other as well as four Emmy vets. NBC has annual entries “30 Rock” and “The Office,” while Fox hit “Glee” seeks its first win after getting a look last year.

Also coming back is “Modern Family,” an Emmy winner in its first season, offering support for the argument that, um, good things come right away.

“30 Rock”
NBC
Emmy pedigree: Nommed in 2007 (win), 2008 (win), 2009 (win) and 2010.
Highlight: Cheerful Kenneth becomes Liz’s therapist in an episode that also saw Jenna’s relationship with cross-dressing Paul (Will Forte) take an unexpected turn — having to meet his parents.
Why it may win: Has that Emmy pedigree and a just-completed season full of choice moments and sparkling cameos.
Maybe not: Won three times already and, as with last year, some critics felt season five uneven. Both those things could be, as Liz Lemon would say, “a dealbreaker!”

“The Big Bang Theory”
CBS
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Highlight: “The Justice League Recombination” was one of show’s funniest episodes, in which the guys torment Penny’s not especially smart boyfriend in a comicbook store and a costume contest: nerd heaven. And the season finale ended with a bang of a cliffhanger — a love (or sex) triangle between Penny, Raj and Leonard — that was a bit shameless, but certainly had fans talking.
Why it may win: It’s a show that mixes in sharp satire with big laughs while drawing excellent ratings.
Maybe not: Show took a long time to reach Emmy status, so perhaps there isn’t as much love from the kudo community as there is from critics.

“Glee”
Fox
Emmy pedigree: Nommed in 2010.
Highlight: “Silly Love Songs” saw the blooming courtship between the svelte Puck and the zaftig Lauren (Mark Salling and Ashley Fink displaying good chemistry), including his rendition of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.” And “Duets” (directed by Eric Stoltz), which proved how “Glee” hits fewer false notes when working smaller, had Mercedes and Santana (Amber Riley and Naya Rivera) climbing the scales for “River Deep, Mountain High.”
Why it may win: The songful show gave its loyal fanbase many stellar moments and numbers and remains popular despite slight ratings dip.
Maybe not: An undeniably erratic sophomore season hit many false notes as well (the strained “Rocky Horror” homage ep was one nadir), as character development was sometimes lost in a sea of gimmicks. Emmy voters may want to see more consistency before officially joining the “Glee” club.

“Modern Family”
ABC
Emmy pedigree: Nommed in 2010 (win).
Highlight: The penultimate episode “See You Next Fall” felt more like the perfect wrap than the official finale, dealing with issues of aging, moving on and letting go but also heavy on the ace physical comedy the show does so well.
Why it may win: This defending champion is too young to be over the hill. The six nominations for thesp awards reflect the breadth of support for the show.
Maybe not: After a rookie win, expectations might have been higher for a second season some considered not quite on the same level — still strong but without taking any great leaps forward. Voters may not want to reward two years in a row.

“The Office”
NBC
Emmy pedigree: Nommed in 2006 (won), 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.
Highlight: An episode penned by Jon Vitti and directed by star Steve Carell saw Michael proposing to Amy Ryan’s Holly in suitably goofy fashion. Also memorable: Carell’s teary and funny farewell, followed by James Spader’s intriguing intro into the Dunder-Mifflin/Sabre world.
Why it may win: Could nab tribute votes for Michael’s final season, buoyed by quite a few meaningful moments. It’s been on a long losing streak after winning in its first season.
Maybe not: The perception is that the show has slipped a bit; last year had its share of letdowns, including not really knowing what to do with the temporary boss character played by the usually hilarious Will Ferrell.

“Parks and Recreation”
NBC
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Highlight: The “Harvest Festival,” which finally goes off without a hitch — except for a Native American curse and missing miniature horse; after many fits and starts, Leslie (Emmy-nommed Amy Poehler) and Ben (Adam Scott) finally get romantic after Leslie first neurotically tries online dating; deadpan Ron Swanson has another madness bender with his ex, which somehow managed to outdo the previous madness bender. (“It rubbed off … from friction.”)
Why it may win: A real up-and-comer this season, generating a mix of good reviews and publicity.
Maybe not: While ratings were better (especially in 18-49 bracket), the show is still not considered a hit; if that sways voters, a first Emmy here is no walk in the park.

ROAD TO THE EMMYS: COMEDY
Single-cam’s ascendancy continues | Old toon comedies remain Emmy-fresh
The nominees

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