×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Emmys 2018: Nominated Comedy Series Reveal a Category at a Crossroads

If there’s one category that’s benefited the most from the era of Peak TV, it’s comedy. With an unprecedented number of networks willing to take more substantial risks, comedies have had far more freedom to play with format and push their own boundaries than ever before. The Emmys have overall been slow to recognize that evolution, opting instead to nominate a rotation of the same handful of shows with a sprinkling of new blood year after year. But this year’s outstanding comedy series nominees — now expanded to eight nominees — gives a more accurate window into the overall picture of comedy today with a fascinating mix of old guard and new that shows the directions this category could take going forward.

On the repeat nominee side, there’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Blackish,” “Silicon Valley,” “Atlanta,” and in a somewhat surprising move, the long gestating tenth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” But the most shocking and telling move regarding a perennial favorite turns out to be an omission, as “Modern Family” got shut out for the first time since its 2010 premiere(!).

Between that and the fact that double winner “Veep” and back-to-back nominee “Master of None” were ineligible, there was room for three new and distinct comedies to muscle their way in. Netflix’s ’80s wrestling comedy “Glow,” HBO’s pitch-black assassin story “Barry,” and Amazon’s screwball study “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” couldn’t be more different from each other in tone and approach, not to mention far afield of what the comedy category used to look like. And each are not only deserving of the honor, but excellent examples of what can happen when comedies are given the room to follow their own voices.

It’s encouraging to see more specifically, purposefully offbeat shows like these recognized as shows like “Atlanta” and “Master of None” were before them. But it’s also a sign of just how strong comedy is right now that, unlike the more staid drama category, there are easily several more that would have been just as worthy of inclusion, ranging from multi-cam family comedies to dreamy single-cams to weirdo spitballing.

Take Netflix’s warm and funny “One Day at a Time,” which has updated Norman Lear’s original ’70s family sitcom to a more timely version that lets standouts like Justina Machado and the legendary Rita Moreno show off their incredible range. Or HBO’s “High Maintenance,” which climbed to new heights in season 2 with ambitious episodes on loneliness and finding unexpected joy in dark places. Or NBC’s “The Good Place,” which reinvented itself practically every week without breaking a sweat. Or HBO’s “Insecure,” which finally landed creator Issa Rae an acting nod but continues to get shut out elsewhere? Or The CW’s “Jane the Virgin,” which pulled out a fantastic fourth season and continues to be almost completely ignored by the Emmys? Or NBC’s “Superstore,” or FX’s “Better Things,” or ABC’s “Speechless,” or Netflix’s “Big Mouth,” or Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine Nine,” or, or….

You get the picture. I would put every one of those comedies in the same category as what was nominated — and in some cases, even far above. With more and more voices given the chance to show what they can do, it’s quickly become one of the most exciting times for comedy in TV history, and it’s great to see the Emmys start to recognize as much by letting more shows outside its usual purview in. It’s also very clear that an ever-expanding category still can’t hold all the riches TV currently has to offer, especially if some voters keep sticking to what they know.

See the full list of 2018 Emmy nominations here.

More TV

  • New England Patriots running back Sony

    CBS and Fox Cheer Big Turnout for NFL Conference Championships

    Sunday’s AFC and NFC championship games were nail-biters that went into overtime and sent viewership into overdrive. CBS harvested a whopping 53.9 million viewers as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady led his team to their third consecutive Super Bowl berth in a hard-fought primetime game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Viewership for the AFC [...]

  • RENT: Top L-R to Bottom L-R:

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Jan. 21, 2019: 'Rent,' 'Celebrity Big Brother'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “Rent: Live” airs on Fox and “Celebrity Big Brother” returns for a second [...]

  • Black Monday: How Showtime Dusted Off

    'Black Monday': How Showtime Dusted Off An Old '80s Logo For Its New Comedy

    Cocaine’s a hell of a drug, but you’re not seeing things: That, indeed is Showtime’s old 1980s-era logo pasted all over marketing materials and promos for “Black Monday,” a tongue-in-cheek tale of the excesses exhibited by Wall Street traders in the lead-up to the stock market crash of 1987. The logo, which hasn’t been in [...]

  • 'Russian Doll' Review

    TV Review: 'Russian Doll'

    This is a particularly tricky review to write, but not because the merits of “Russian Doll” are at all ambiguous. On the contrary, the show is so striking and smart that I made a note to include it on my favorite TV shows of 2019 immediately after blowing through the season — which is saying [...]

  • Black Earth Rising Review

    TV Review: 'Black Earth Rising'

    Bringing to bear a talented cast on a story of real geopolitical significance, “Black Earth Rising,” Netflix’s drama about the long-tail aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, would seem to have had the potential to be one of 2019’s early television successes. Which makes its falling short all the more painful and pronounced. The show, previously [...]

  • DIRTY JOHN -- "This Young Woman

    'Dirty John' Finale Hits New Ratings Highs in Live+3

    The Season 1 finale of “Dirty John” on Bravo continued the scripted show’s ratings hot streak in Live+3. The finale, which aired on Jan. 13, grew to 3.3 million viewers in delayed viewing with 1.3 million of those falling in the key adults 18-49 demographic. That is up 10% in total viewers and 15% in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content