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Emmy Comedy Series Race: ‘Veep’ vs. ‘Silicon Valley’

Veep vs Silicon Valley Emmy Race
peter strain for Variety

HBO’s powerhouse comedy duo share the post-“Game of Thrones” timeslot on Sundays in the spring and have emerged as Emmy players nearly as formidable as the fantasy saga. While “Veep” is the reigning comedy series champ — having blocked “Modern Family” from a sixth consecutive win last year — “Silicon Valley” has nearly as much heat. This year, both shows hit double-digit nominations for the first time, and they dominate the writing and directing categories, claiming nine of the 13 slots. It’s tempting to see this as a two-show race, but don’t rule out the hot freshman “Master of None,” last year’s hot freshman (now a sophisticated sophomore) “Transparent,” socially relevant broadcast breakout “Black-ish,” quirky charmer “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” or even former winner “Modern Family.” If there’s one thing dedicated Emmy watchers know, it’s that there’s always the possibility of an upset.

THE ODDS
It’s easier for any series to win an Emmy again after they’ve already won, than to do so for the first time. That fact clearly favors “Veep,” as does the show’s dominant 16 noms among all comedy contenders (its previous high was last year’s nine noms). But “Silicon Valley” placed second in the nom race with 11 (up from seven last year), suggesting there are plenty of voters just as mad about tech satire as they are about political parody.

THE CASE FOR ‘VEEP’
After winning the Emmy last year, creator and showrunner Armando Iannucci stepped down to focus on other projects. So the big question heading into season five was, will the show still have the same verbal snap and precise plotting? In the hands of incoming showrunner Dave Mandel, the answer was a resounding yes. As Selina Meyer struggled to hang onto the presidency, “Veep” delivered what many feel was its strongest season yet.

THE CASE FOR ‘SILICON’
As the real Silicon Valley creeps into every part of our lives (including the Emmy race, thanks to Netflix and Amazon), the fictional “Silicon Valley” only grows stronger and more relevant. Boasting what may be the most entertaining ensemble cast in all of television, the show’s third season continued to chart the roller-coaster career developments of a mercurial band of tech geniuses who prove every bit as endearing as they are awkward.

THE COMPETITION
“Black-ish” (ABC)
Boasting the most topical subject matter of all the nominees, the sophomore family sitcom has emerged as broadcast television’s best hope for the future. If it keeps growing, it could become a serious player.

“Master of None” (Netflix)
The year’s freshman breakout scored important noms across acting, writing, and directing categories, just as the tonally similar “Louie” has done in the past. But “Louie” never claimed the top prize, and “Master” may suffer the same fate.

“Modern Family” (ABC)
The formerly unbeatable network smash has perhaps reached the twilight of its awards-baiting years. Season seven nabbed just four noms, and it’s the first time only one cast member is in the running.

“Transparent” (Amazon)
Last year’s freshman breakout avoided any charge of sophomore slump by almost equaling its impressive nomination tally (down just one with 10 noms overall), and had critics fiercely debating which of its two seasons is superior.

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)
Dropping from seven noms in season one to four noms in season two, the sunny farce isn’t quite following in the footsteps of the showrunners’ prior Emmy fave, “30 Rock.”