Only three of last year’s Emmy nominees are missing from the comedy ballots this year (and it’s because all three — “Orange Is the New Black’s” Taylor Schilling and Kate Mulgrew and “Derek’s” Ricky Gervais — are now competing in different categories). Combine that high volume of returning favorites with an influx of buzzy new series, and odds are high there will be a lot of disappointed contenders come Thursday morning. Here’s who we’re predicting will make the very competitive cut. Click to see our picks for those in the running for the drama series categories.
With six consecutive nominations and a record-tying four wins under his belt, “The Big Bang Theory” star Jim Parsons is this category’s undisputed favorite. But he’ll face heavy competition this year from Jeffrey Tambor, whose transcendent performance in Amazon’s “Transparent” has been the talk of the town since the show’s September debut. Despite six previous nominations (for “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Arrested Development”), Tambor has never won an Emmy. This could be his year. The TV Acad loves Louis CK, who seems like a sure thing to land a fifth consecutive nom in five seasons of his FX comedy. William H. Macy, who successfully transferred from drama to comedy contention last year for Showtime’s “Shameless,” is another safe bet. Fellow Showtime leading man Matt LeBlanc has three previous nominations for “Episodes” and could have the slight edge to return over another of last year’s Showtime nominees, Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”).
Among the contenders looking to lock up the sixth slot are two beloved veterans in shows that received muted receptions — Billy Crystal in FX’s “The Comedians” and Steve Coogan in Showtime’s “Happyish” — and two headliners of network TV risk-takers — Anthony Anderson of ABC’s “Black-ish” and Will Forte of Fox’s “The Last Man on Earth.” But look out for “Silicon Valley” star Thomas Middleditch, whose hilarious work anchored the HBO show’s even-better-than-the-first second season.
There may be no surer lock in any category than “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus here. She already has three consecutive wins in three seasons of the HBO heavyweight, and many pundits consider season four to be the show’s best yet. Every bit her equal, at least in terms of performance, Amy Poehler should land a farewell nom for playing indomitible politico Leslie Knope on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” (Her recent vocal work in the Pixar smash “Inside Out” only reinforces Poehler’s status as a comedy icon.) The rest of the field is tougher to call, with an overwhelming number of newcomers vying to knock out established contenders. Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez may be the best bet, for ensuring the flights of fancy in CW’s “Jane the Virgin” are always so relatable. There’s no doubt she deserves it; the only question is if enough voters actually watch her show (aka Tatiana Maslany syndrome). Don’t count out Edie Falco, who has never failed to receive a nom for Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie,” even if the series barely even tried for laughs in its final season. And while comedy legend Lily Tomlin has never been eligible in this category before, her sterling work on Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie” should bring her a 22nd career nom.
Tomlin’s equally legendary co-star Jane Fonda stands a decent shot at a nom, as does fellow Netflix lead Ellie Kemper for “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” And we haven’t even mentioned previous nominees Lena Dunham (HBO’s “Girls”), Lisa Kudrow (HBO’s “The Comeback”) and Melissa McCarthy (CBS’ “Mike & Molly”) or CBS’ “Mom” star Anna Faris. Despite excellent work, Constance Wu (ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat”), Tracee Ellis Ross (ABC’s “Black-ish”) and Sutton Foster (TV Land’s “Younger”) will likely find it hard to make it into the category amid the star-studded competition. With so many great options, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this category expand to seven nominees. But if there are indeed only six, watch out for “it girl” Amy Schumer, finally eligible as a lead actress for Comedy Central’s critically adored sketch show “Inside Amy Schumer.”
Last year’s winner, Ty Burrell, has been nominated for every season of ABC’s “Modern Family,” and there’s no reason to see that streak ending now. Another previous champ, Tony Hale, looks just as safe for another standout season on HBO’s “Veep.” But, just as in lead actress, this is where things get murkier. Can Emmy favorite Andre Braugher land a repeat nom for season two of Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”? Probably. Ditto Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who — like co-star Burrell — has yet to miss out on a nom for ABC’s comedy.
Two other “Modern” men — Ed O’Neill and Eric Stonestreet — were left out last year, while Adam Driver (HBO’s “Girls”) and Fred Armisen (IFC’s “Portlandia”) made the cut. But to either return or repeat this year they’ll need to fend off a slew of former Emmy nominees and winners including Martin Sheen (Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie”), Hugh Laurie (HBO’s “Veep”), Laurence Fishburne (ABC’s “Black-ish”) and Tony Shalhoub (Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie”), and buzzy newcomers Tituss Burgess (Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) and Jaime Camil (CW’s “Jane the Virgin”), plus the final year of eligibility for never-nominated-but-consistently-great “Parks and Recreation” co-stars Chris Pratt and Nick Offerman.
Possibly separating themselves from that mess of worthy contenders? T.J. Miller, who steals every scene as the slovenly start-up investor on HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” and eight-time nominee Sam Waterston, who proved to be just as adept at comedy as he is with drama in Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie.”
Maybe this category isn’t as straightforward as it appears, but the list of near-certain nominees begins with last year’s winner, Allison Janney, who dug even deeper into her hot mess of a character in the second season of CBS’ “Mom.” Two-time champ Julie Bowen should bag her annual nom for ABC’s “Modern Family,” while repeat noms seem assured for Anna Chlumsky, enjoying her finest season yet on HBO’s “Veep,” and Kate McKinnon, who added killer impressions of Hillary Clinton and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to her repertoire as the most consistent cast member of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” With more intense competition, Mayim Bialik could be out for CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” but probably not this year. Expect the sixth slot to go to “Transparent” standout Judith Light, whose work opposite Jeffrey Tambor represents the heart and soul of the Amazon series.
Surveying the broader field, “Transparent” also offers nuanced turns from Amy Landecker and Gaby Hoffmann as Tambor and Light’s daughters, and Netflix newcomer “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” boasts both a previous Emmy nominee (Jane Krakowski) and winner (Carol Kane). Speaking of thesps with Emmy history, Sofia Vergara (ABC’s “Modern Family”) could return to the fold after falling out last year, while Merritt Wever (Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie”), Jane Lynch (Fox’s “Glee”) and Betty White (TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland”) are eligible for their series’ final seasons.