Two things guarantee change in this year’s Emmy nominees for outstanding comedy series. For one, the TV Academy has added a seventh nomination slot to the category, up from six last year. For another, one of last year’s nominees, Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” has moved to drama contention under new Acad rules.
That still leaves five incumbent nominees, all in fighting form, and a strong line-up of newcomers that includes at least five freshman shows with enough industry heat to potentially crack the field. (Click to see predictions for the drama series contenders).
If there’s one contender no one will bet against, it’s ABC’s “Modern Family.” With five consecutive wins in five seasons of eligibility, the Emmy favorite is looking to set an all-time record for victories in the category (it’s currently tied with “Frasier”).
If there’s one newcomer all but assured to lock up the slot vacated by “Orange,” it’s another digital sensation: Amazon’s “Transparent.” The Golden Globe winner was a critical favorite ever since the online outlet previewed the pilot, and the subject matter of a father of three who is coming out as a trans woman late in life tapped into the zeitgeist in a way few comedies ever accomplish.
Also looking like safe bets: HBO’s Sunday night duo of “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” were both nominated last year and could be sleepers to watch for the win this year, thanks to crackerjack seasons showcasing exceptional writing and peerless ensemble acting.
The two remaining nominees from last year may be on shakier ground to return, but given voters’ tendency toward inertia, can’t be ruled out. FX’s “Louie” is especially worthy of a nom, despite generating less buzz than usual in its abbreviated fifth season. Louis CK’s idiosyncratic half-hour still took risks (the nightmare episode was a standout). CK also looks to be a contender in the Variety Special category for “Louis C.K. Live At the Comedy Store” and comedy guest star for his hosting turn on “Saturday Night Live,” which should help keep his profile high.
So if one of last year’s nominees fails to repeat, the most likely suspect is CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory.” Heading into its ninth season, the show still rules the ratings but as much as Emmy voters love to tick the same boxes over and over, they do have their limits. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is the most recent laffer to earn a nom for its eighth season, while both “Will & Grace” and “The Office” fell out of the mix as soon as they reached season eight. This will be the year that proves whether the TV Acad views “Big Bang” as another “Friends,” “Frasier” or “Everybody Loves Raymond” (all nommed in season eight), or … not.
If “Big Bang” or any other of last year’s nominees stumble, it’ll be good news for the wealth of freshmen favorites looking to break in. Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is a prediction favorite for many pundits due to both the heavyweight status of its outlet and the enviable Emmy track record of executive producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. Is the show a logical heir to the TV Acad’s love of “30 Rock”? Possibly.
Then again, voters may warm to another Netflix comedy, “Grace and Frankie,” which stars a quartet of beloved industry veterans and has an unprecedented (at least in the U.S.) focus on four main characters over the age of 70.
The CW’s “Jane the Virgin” would be a sure thing for its lively take on telenovela tropes, which is packed with laughs and grounded in authentic emotions. It’s right in the wheelhouse of previous hourlong nominees “Ally McBeal,” “Ugly Betty” and “Desperate Housewives,” but the biggest question is whether enough voters watch CW.
And ABC’s “Black-ish” took its creative inspiration from both Norman Lear and “The Wonder Years” and became the first true hit to follow “Modern Family,” a smart piece of scheduling that could pay off with an Emmy too.
But instead of recognizing a newcomer, perhaps the Academy will show a little love to an underappreciated veteran. NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” has only been nominated for comedy series once in its previous six years of eligibility, but the slam dunk final season was one of the show’s best. And with Amy Poehler (a lead actress nominee five years running) and Chris Pratt dominating the box office in “Inside Out” and “Jurassic World,” respectively, during the time of Emmy voting, the industry may well feel sentimental about the show that launched them to stardom.
A “Parks” nom would also be a coup for NBC, long a dominant force in the category, after the net fell out of contention last year for the first time since 1981. And if “Kimmy” slips in instead, well, NBC had its chance.
Predictions for outstanding comedy series nominees:
- “The Big Bang Theory”
- “Modern Family”
- “Parks and Recreation”
- “Silicon Valley”