The stakes are massive for this year’s freshman class of Emmy contenders, especially the new comedies hoping to break into a race dominated for years by “Veep” and other veterans. That’s because a nomination for a show’s first season has major impact on its future awards chances.
“With comedies, it’s important to set the bar from the beginning, because once you break in and people start thinking of you a certain way, you can move forward with that momentum,” says awards strategist Michele Robertson.
The key, of course, is getting out the word, a task to which Sarah Schneider of “The Other Two,” has committed fully. “We weren’t in the writers’ room saying, ‘OK what storyline would win us an Emmy?’” says the co-creator of the Comedy Central showbiz-set series. “But once it felt like it could be beneficial to be doing the circuit and putting it out there, we were all for it. We want to do everything we can to get the show out there.”
“The Other Two” is one of many true newcomers to the race, as its first season debuted in January. It was quickly followed by series such as Netflix’s addiction metaphor “Russian Doll,” FX’s vampire mockumentary “What We Do in the Shadows,” Ramy Youssef’s self-titled “Ramy,” Hulu’s Aidy Bryant-starrer “Shrill” and Netflix’s grief-deception dark comedy “Dead to Me.”
Youssef, whose career leapt from standup to his own Hulu show, is conscious of “Ramy’s” major hurdle: “The show is called ‘Ramy’ and no one knows who I am, so the only real merit we have is the subject matter and the tone and the heart.”
This means, he says, “the only positioning has been for me to be myself and for the work to speak for itself.”
First-time campaigner Leslye Headland (“Russian Doll”) has also embraced her role of spokesperson for the series she created with Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler. Headland loves promoting the eclectic high-concept comedy because she is proud of the work they put out. “I want to advocate for my team because I do believe that they should be singled out for their efforts,” she says.
Headland also acknowledges that with such a high volume of content, there may be “no way to compare” series that take on such wildly different subject matters and tones, even while falling into the same half-hour format and award category.
In addition to the rookies, there are also quite a few others that have been around longer but are still trying to break in. These include Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Fleabag” for Amazon, as well as ABC’s “The Conners,” which has a new title, but is a rebrand of “Roseanne.”
“The Conners” showrunner Bruce Helford hopes voters consider his show on its own merits, though. “The point of view has really changed, in that now we’re an ensemble through the eyes of the family and not the matriarch,” he says. He’s also proud of the chances that the multicam sitcom took in its first season, including plot twists featuring the working-class family’s struggles that he considers so dramatic the show “could fall into the dramedy category.”
On the flip side, executive producer Paul Simms notes his “What We Do in the Shadows” strives to be “silly and stupid and funny” rather than have “social and political relevance, which is one of the things we like about it, but that makes it a little bit harder when it comes to awards time.”