Nothing screams peak TV more than having eight nominees in the comedy series Emmy race. The contenders run the gamut of broad physical comedy (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) to quirky period dramedies (“GLOW,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) to nerdy hipsters (“Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Silicon Valley”) to the earnest seekers found in “Barry” to the earthiness of “Atlanta” and “Black-ish.” With such a wide field, other award wins and industry buzz is crucial, which is why the heat is narrowing to FX’s “Atlanta” vs. Amazon’s “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
The Case for “Atlanta”
Donald Glover’s auteur vehicle grew bolder and more unconventional in its second season, starting with its formal title: “Atlanta: Robbin’ Season” (referring to the December holiday period when home burglaries spike). The show took a hard look at desperation even as the main characters — Glover’s Earn, Brian Tyree Henry’s Alfred and Lakeith Stanfield’s Darius — found themselves more successful in the music biz than in season one. But it’s the surreal touches that make “Atlanta” stand out. Where else but in this show would an episode revolve around a cantankerous Vietnam vet who keeps an alligator in his home? “Atlanta” was a favorite to win last year, but “Veep” pulled out a three-peat. Without the incumbent winner in the running, Glover has a strong shot at the trophy.
The Case for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Amazon’s period piece is just like a dinner table set by Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) before her life changes — every detail is just so and spot-on perfect. The show lovingly re-creates 1950s New York with a verve that makes it hard to believe creator Amy Sherman-Palladino didn’t actually live through the era. The contrast between Midge’s worlds as an Upper West Side housewife and budding comedy star in the Village makes for plenty of material. The supporting cast is uniformly strong, and “Maisel” also has undeniable momentum, having racked up Golden Globe and Peabody wins, among other accolades.
Barry — Bill Hader’s performance as a hitman who yearns to be an actor is a revelation. So is Henry Winkler’s performance as an ego-bound acting teacher. If there’s a dark horse to watch, it’s HBO’s “Barry.”
Black-ish — Kenya Barris’ ABC family comedy was consistently strong in its fourth season. If voting is split heavily between “Atlanta” and “Maisel,” the third consecutive nom for “Black-ish” could be the charm.
Curb Your Enthusiasm — Emmy voters were clearly glad to see Larry David back on HBO after a six-year absence, but after seven previous noms in the category, a win might just be too much good news for David.
GLOW — Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin and the rest of the large ensemble shine in Spandex on Netflix’s 1980s-set series about female wrestlers.
Silicon Valley — The HBO series once again expertly captured the mood in the epicenter of the tech world and its ensemble handily survived a shakeup with the departure of comedian T.J. Miller.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt –The show starring Ellie Kemper kept a lower profile in its fourth season amid the deluge of original series from Netflix. Emmy voters didn’t forget it during nomination-round voting, but it hasn’t made much of a splash since.