The seven contenders for the comedy series trophy are a perfect illustration of how the peak TV phenomenon has transformed the business. The humor mined in the observational time-and-place storytelling of “Atlanta” and “Master of None” is quite different from the situational hijinks that drive “Modern Family” and “Silicon Valley.” “Black-ish” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” come with big dollops of heart, and in the case of “Black-ish,” occasionally a social message that is deftly communicated. And those pottymouths on “Veep” make us howl even as we struggle to keep up with the fusillade of filth.
The frontrunners are FX’s “Atlanta,” the only new series to land in the category this year, and the reigning champ, HBO’s “Veep.” Emmy voters have clearly become more attuned in recent years to recognizing breakthrough shows early, and by any measure “Atlanta” was heralded as a singular achievement in its debut last fall. Donald Glover’s vision for depicting the lives of young black men in the titular city was uncompromising in tackling uncomfortable issues as the nation continues to struggle mightily with race and class conflicts. But “Veep” can’t be counted out. The show could be boosted to a third consecutive win by our desperate need to laugh at Washington’s unique brand of egomania.
The Case for “Atlanta”
Emmy voters will want to reward Donald Glover for his auteur hat trick of writing, directing and starring in a show that made such an impact with his fellow creatives. How impressed were voters with Glover’s work? Enough to give him two noms for writing and a nom for directing on top of his lead comedy actor and series bids. The show’s unusual storytelling style and naturalistic performances make “Atlanta” the clear favorite among the worthy field of comedy series contenders.
The Case for “Veep”
Let’s face it: Nobody in this town thought it was possible for things in D.C. to be more absurd than the machinations that Selina Meyer has engaged in for the past six seasons. And then real life intervened. The much-decorated Julia Louis-Dreyfus leads one of the most dextrous ensembles in TV. “Veep” blends physical comedy with tongue-twisting dialogue that manages to introduce new insults to the Urban Dictionary ever year. The Emmy’s comedy series incumbent could still pull off another win come September.
“Black-ish”: The ABC comedy has proven its ability to tackle social issues in a non-preachy way and get people talking about TV’s power to change hearts and minds. That’s a big plus.
“Master of None”: Creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang dug even deeper into the emotional life of Dev (Ansari) in this loosely autobiographical Netflix vehicle.
“Modern Family”: Emmy voters just can’t quit this five-time comedy series champ. At its best, the ABC veteran still packs a punch(line).
“Silicon Valley”: If there’s a dark horse in the race, it’s this HBO ensemble. The show that skewers the geniuses and billionaires in its titular world hit a new stride in season four.
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”: Similar to the protagonist played by Ellie Kemper, “Schmidt” continued to surprise by hanging tough in the Emmy series race despite the low-buzz factor for season three.