EMMYS: Comedy Series Overview

This season was a successful one for freshman comedies, with a whopping seven broadcast half-hour series making it to a second season, led by breakouts 2 Broke Girls and New Girl, and joined by several cable newbies including HBO’s Veep and Girls and Showtime’s House Of Lies. They will likely make the Emmy race more interesting, but it will be hard for newcomers to challenge the reigning best series winner, ABC’s Modern Family. Coming off wins two years in a row and still delivering the goods, ABC’s comedy juggernaut, the highest-rated series on television, remains the one to beat. Boardwalk EmpireIts competition includes three critically praised but ratings-challenged NBC series: 30 Rock, which is nearing the end of its run; Parks And Recreation; and Community.

Related: EMMYS: Drama Series Overview

Here’s our assessment of the chances for a baker’s dozen of this year’s comedy series (in alphabetical order) and their stars:

Having just wrapped what’s been called one of its strongest seasons (and that’s saying something), NBC’s critical darling — a three-time Emmy winner for comedy series — is a safe bet for another nod. So are its leads, five-time nominees Tina Fey (who took home the prize in 2008) and Alec Baldwin (who won in 2008 and ’09). The show’s only potential stumbling block, however surmountable it may be, is the possibility that the cast’s on-screen shenanigans might be overshadowed by their off-screen ones (Baldwin’s threats to depart the series as well as Tracy Morgan’s gay-slur-laden stand-up set).

Now that CBS’ comedy finally was nominated for the best series Emmy last year, it doesn’t take a genius like Sheldon Cooper to figure out it’s likely to be given a second turn at bat. With back-to-back lead actor wins under his belt, Jim Parsons is also a lock. Johnny Galecki, having bagged his first nod last year, is looking good to enter that race, too. The wildcards are the underrated Kaley Cuoco, who’s yet to receive her past-due lead actress nomination; and erstwhile Blossom, Mayim Bialik, who, thanks to the memorable impression she’s made as “the female Sheldon”, could break into the supporting actress derby.

For three seasons now, the industry consensus about NBC’s community college comedy has seemed to be that it’s smart, innovative, funny … and just too far out for its own good. But, after its fans campaigned for its return to the schedule, and creatively it scored over and over (first with a send-up of Ken Burns’ The Civil War and then with a Law & Order spoof), the tide may finally have turned. But the recent ouster of creator Dan Harmon and his publicized feud with co-star Chevy Chase may prove distracting for Academy voters, making it uncertain whether the show and its star, Joel McHale (aka the thinking man’s Ryan Seacrest), would finally be nominated.

After sitting out the last Emmys due to ineligibility, Larry David’s HBO mainstay came roaring (perhaps grumbling?) back this season with a move to Manhattan and a particularly well-received series of episodes. But, while both the show and its star are Emmy favorites — and at least the latter is a surefire nominee — the odds of either one taking home the gold aren’t all that great: To date, the series has won only a single statuette, and that was for directing, way back in 2003.

HBO’s new comedy about a screw-up’s spiritual awakening is an acquired taste that as yet not many viewers have acquired. (Given its low ratings, it was a shock that it was even renewed for a second season.) But Laura Dern’s Golden Globe victory (and the show’s best comedy series Golden Globe nomination) no doubt will at least pique voters’ curiosity, making her a dark-horse candidate for a lead actress Emmy nod. Co-star/real-life mom Diane Ladd — nominated for Emmys three times in the 1990s for various roles — could also sneak into the supporting actress race.

Lena Dunham’s freshman comedy initially took some heat for lack of diversity and allegations of nepotistic casting, but the focus of discussion has now returned to the fact that, at the end of the day, the show is drop-dead, deadpan funny. And, since the industry’s infatuation with the fresh-faced series (and, for that matter, its creator-star) never wavered, it probably stands an even better chance of returning HBO to the comedy race than the cable network’s last nominee, the aging Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Debate over whether the Fox musical has already peaked inevitably leads to talk that perhaps this year it won’t be given another Emmy nod (its third, should it manage to get the nomination). It still has moments of greatness, of course. But will voters deem them “momentous” enough? Acting-wise, the show’s best bets remain Jane Lynch (the supporting actress winner in 2010 and a contender the subsequent year as well) and two-time supporting actor nominee Chris Colfer.

Since creator-star Louis C.K. earned his surprise nomination for lead actor last year (not to mention one for writing), his “stand-up comedy’s” profile has only been raised. Better still for its prospects, its profile has been raised among the sort of industry types who are also Emmy voters. So expect to see him again in the running — and don’t be shocked if his show squeezes into the ultra-competitive comedy series category as well.

Since Season 3 is regarded as highly as Seasons 1 and 2, ABC’s megahit is certain to be nominated again for comedy series — and all but certain to take home the Emmy for a third time in a row. More suspenseful is the situation in which the show’s actors find themselves. There was talk going into awards season that, although until now the whole cast enters in the supporting categories, Ed O’Neill — denied a nod for the entirety of his decade on Fox’s Married With Children — would enter in lead. In the end, though, he didn’t, meaning that once more, the supporting categories will be a Family affair dominated by Pritchetts and Dunphys.

As one of the season’s few new comedy breakouts, Fox’s freshman is all but automatically moved to the Emmy shortlist for a nod. Ditto its famously “adorkable” leading lady, Golden Globe-nominated pop-culture “It” girl Zooey Deschanel. Less obvious is which of her male co-stars will break into the supporting actor category. The smart money’s probably on Max Greenfield. Not only is his Schmidt the showiest of the men’s roles, the character’s something of a lothario — and, as Neil Patrick Harris learned playing How I Met Your Mother’s resident cad, Emmy loves a bad boy.

Response to the workplace laffer’s first season post-Steve Carell has been tepid at best. As a result, the show is faced with the very real possibility that it will not be nominated for the comedy series Emmy for the first time since its brief and underrated first season in 2005. Meanwhile, in the wake of Andy Bernard’s rise to the top position at the Scranton branch of Sabre, portrayer Ed Helms — perhaps emboldened by his big-screen successes — is taking a risk and bumping himself up from supporting to lead actor. If the gamble doesn’t pay off, the show’s great white hope in the acting categories is probably its somewhat polarizing newest recruit, Catherine Tate, for guest actress.

If any show really poses a threat to Modern Family, it’s this one. NBC’s local-government send-up is coming off not just its best season yet, but one that’s so superlative that some critics have taken to calling it the best comedy on television. So, obviously, a nomination is a given. And a win? A definite maybe. As for Amy Poehler, after the faux homecoming queen stunt she and her fellow lead actress nominees pulled last year, she’s guaranteed to be invited back to the party. Standout supporting players such as Nick Offerman and Aubrey Plaza might even get to join her.

Very different from just about anything on HBO, or on any other channel for that matter, this profane series — set in the unsettled office of the vice president to an unseen U.S. president — has been gaining momentum. Star Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a 12-time Emmy nominee (for Seinfeld and then The New Adventures Of Old Christine) who could be up for lucky 13th nomination, and possibly third win. Matt Walsh, as the sharp-witted press secretary Mike McLintock, Tony Hale, who plays hapless aide Gary, and Anna Chlumsky, who plays chief of staff Amy, all have had memorable moments too among a strong ensemble of supporting actors.

(TVLine.com contributor Andy Patrick contributed to this analysis.)

2 Broke Girls (CBS)
The Big C (Showtime)
Desperate Housewives (ABC)
Entourage (HBO)
Family Guy (Fox)
Happy Endings (ABC)
House Of Lies (Showtime)
How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
Life’s Too Short (HBO)
Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
Raising Hope (Fox)
Suburgatory (ABC)
Two And A Half Men (CBS)
Up All Night (NBC)
Weeds (Showtime)
Wilfred (FX)

  1. It would be strange that Glee would not be nominated for what has been it’s best season EVER since the first 13 episodes but I’m pretty sure Jane lynch will not get a nod because she has not been showcased much at all this season — it is Dot Marie Jones (coach) who MUST get a nod for guest actress, such an amazing actress with her domestic abuse storline.

    I think New Girl’s Jake Johnson should also get nominated as well as Max Greenfield. Next year should be interesting with the massive influx of new comedies.

    I almost feel like Family guy offended too many people to be considered with it’s print ads.

    Here’s my list
    Modern Family
    new girl
    parks and recreation
    30 rock
    happy endings.

    1. Glee’s actor nods shouldn’t go to Lynch and Colfer just because they have been nominated before. It really is time for the Emmy’s to acknowledge Cory Monteith (ridiculously still kept in the supporting role because the show continues the pretence that Matthew Morrison’s Mr.Shu is the central character). Monteith got far and away the best critics notices this season, firstly when the character finds out his father did not die as he supposed and then for the breathtaking finale which culminated in a very visceral break-up scene. His grasp of comedy as seen in the male strip club and when Mr.Shu confesses his blackmail plot was also in evidence.

      1. Monteith suffers for being a very real actor who brings a depth of emotion when given more testing storylines – but isn’t over the top. Like Ed O’Neill he will probably lose out because Emmy’s prefer ACTING. In both cases, the shows would be the poorer if they didn’t have these very real characters, even if they usually go unacknowledged. But to see the ‘Schmidty’ character on the list instead would be wrong, in my opinion.

      2. Cory probably deserves it more out of all the other males on glee this year because he got the best material and always brings it, he also got the most recognition from critics this year besides Lea Michele and Naya Rivera. Unfortunately they still have Matt Morrison as lead actor, which he really hasn’t been the lead since the first 13 episodes. If glee was still a comedy and they pushed him for lead instead of supporting, he might have had a shot at getting nominated.

    2. Cory Monteith should finally be recognised for some standout moments both in drama and comedy on Glee this season. Suggesting Lynch and Colfer simply because they have been nominated before seems wrong.

      1. Agreed. Reading this article makes it seem like Emmy nods are awarded on reputation rather that what the actor did during the current season. While no one can take away Chris Colfer’s talent, Cory Monteith had more powerful scenes and absolutely delivered this season. The real problem is the fact Matt Morrison continues to be submitted for the lead actor when he hasn’t been for quite some time. Cory should have been submitted in the lead category and Chris and Matt in the supporting category.

    3. I’m sorry, but this season was Glee’s worst. I’m sick of having every major social issue shoved down my throat week after week. And these are issues that are important, I know, but it’s a friggin show about a glee club. The musical performances were sub-par, the acting is getting sloppy, and I no longer care about any of the characters. They went too far with everything this season and now that it’s moved to Thursdays, it’s toast. And I know a ton of people who already stopped watching it or have decided to stop now that the season is over.

  2. Girls is very funny and dark. Sometimes people misunderstand Lena Dunhams writing. What she’s doing is making fun of the fact that these people are unlikable. For instance, Marnies fight with Hannah was so funny because what Hannah was saying about herself was so true. Lena Dunhams writing through Hannah was admitting that she has some flaws. That line about her just not seeing friends she’s had for a very long time was very funny.

  3. My votes would be for Veep, Modern Family, Parks and Rec, Louie, Raising Hope, and final nomination for Desperate Housewives. Win for Veep or Parks.

  4. Although I’m hoping for some nice surprises to come Happy Endings’ and The Middle’s ways come Emmy morning that just doesn’t seem likely. Two comedies on the opposite ends of the spectrum, but both full of great laugh-out-loud moments.

    Instead, we’ll be stuck with 30 Rock which, despite this article’s insistence, I feel is coming off its worst season ever and The Big Bang Theory which has yet to make me laugh once.

    1. Totally disagree with your 30 Rock comment…they keep getting stronger…I’d love to see Tina & Company walk home with a win and take out Modern Family. The only other show that I would be ok with winning would be Parks & Recreation.

  5. Casey Wilson should get a supporting actress nod for Happy Endings, it was after all the Amahzing Year of Penny! I would also love to see the cast of Suburgatory get a nod, and Kathryn Joosten and Marcia Cross both deserve nods for the amazing final season of Desperate Housewives.

  6. If anyone from The Office should be nominated, it should be Craig Robinson. His subplots with the character Val offered some of the show’s best romantic moments since Jim and Pam in Season 2.

  7. Although “Glee” is in the comedy category, the guest stars sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Dot Marie Jones most definitely deserves recognition, even though she had a very dramatic and heartbreaking story in a comedy. Also Kathryn Joosten for “Desperate Housewives, not because she has passed but because she was damn good in the finale. And I concur Kaley Cuoco & Mayim Bialik more than give the boys a run for their money on “The Big Bang Theory”.

  8. Happy Endings is a great show that deserves more recognition. It’s everything that 2 Broke Girls and New Girl wish they were — clever, witty, and funny without being crude (looking at you broke girls) or cloyingly cutesy (looking at you new girl).

  9. Ed O’Neil should finally be given his due in the Best Supporting Actor category. He is the heart and backbone of the cast of Modern Family. Everyone on the show is better cause of him.

  10. I couldn’t agree more on Parks & Rec! (I personally would love to award Paul Rudd & Kathryn Hahn with the guest actor/actress awards – although Fallon & Rudolph would be nice for their snl work!)

    Also, Eden Sher of The Middle, Casey Wilson of Happy Endings & Kristen Wiig better get supporting actress noms!

  11. I really think Big Bang Theory should have been nominated in its first two seasons, but not I don’t think it’s been worthy of a nom since then. It’s the same thing over and over.

    I hope Parks and Veep get noms.

  12. “Raising Hope” had a much funnier season then most of the other shows that have a lock in “Best Comedy” Slot. I have been a huge fans of most of those shows from the time they did debut. “Raising Hope” should get more respect. Its a great show. Emmy Voters watch those DVDS the season finale was great.

  13. Kaley Cuoco submitted in supporting this year where she should’ve campaigned since the first season. Still, Mayim Bialik is the deserving one.

    Catherine Tate is the first name credited in the “starring” credits after the opening sequence of The Office. She doesn’t get a guest star billing. I don’t know where she submitted herself but that alone should get her out of guest acting consideration.

    The nominees should be Parks, Community, Veep, Curb, Girls and Happy Endings.

  14. I will vote for Veep,although it can’t come up with the brits one.BBC’ Peter Capaldi is unreplaceable.

  15. Two Broke Girls has to be one of the worse shows on TV, I turned it on and barely got through 5 minutes. The joke were VERY set-up and the people can not act in my opinion. I have to say Happy Endings is very underrated. There are little things they throw in the show that just make me laugh. Such as when they reference Emily Thorne from Revenge LOL

  16. I really, really, really hope 30 Rock can sweep the Emmy’s like they used to. This season was amazing, the acting was great, and if Jane Krakowski doesn’t take home the Emmy this year something is crazy wrong.

    Also it would be nice to see Parks and Recreation get some Emmy gold too.

    Both shows deserve to take some Emmy’s home with them…..and I hope both do. They are the funniest things on tv.

    Also, side note, I always was rooting for Angela from the Office to get a nod in the Supporting Actress category, she always brings her A Game, and usually gets a few good episodes that showcase her a season.

  17. Best comedy show on television this season – HBO’s GIRLS…Lena Dunham has done a remarkable job writing and as an actor…so funny….I hope it goes into syndication someday and airs the reruns on CBS. Well edited and the photography is sensational… Smart move for HBO to pick this show up…can’t get enough of Lena’s writing…

  18. I hope Cory Monteith have a nomination, maybe he’s not win but he’s deserves a nomination

  19. After a rocky start, Glee had a strong season overall and is more than worthy of being nominated this year. Some of the best episodes of the season were “Michael”, “Heart”, “Saturday Night Gleever”, and “Goodbye”, and there were many others that showed Glee doing an excellent job. I think it’s likely to do well in several of the artistic categories, with some exceptional direction, filming, and editing in various episodes. For the most part the episodes they submitted for writing awards are not ones that I think are the strongest, but those casting the ballots may have a different opinion.

    As for the actors, there’s no doubt that Lynch and Colfer are excellent, but Season Three did not really give either strong individual stories that I feel would convince Emmy voters to put them up this year. If they do get nominated–and I love them both, and so would be happy if they are–I think it will be based more on their past body of work than on what we saw from them in Season 3.

    I think there was a strong roster of guest stars, led by Max Adler, Dot Marie Jones, and Lauren Potter. All three had outstanding spotlight stories in episodes this season, and all three are more than worthy of nominations.

    Naya Rivera turned in a strong performance this year, although possibly not as strong as in season 2; she’d be my pick for best supporting actress.

    Lea Michele was spectacular and strong the entire season long, playing every emotional range from high comic humor to incredible pathos and tragedy. As always, she excelled in every scene she was given. “The First Time” and Her performance in “Choke”, ranging from the hilarious voice-over opening and concluding with her emotional break-down in song at the end, is eminently Emmy-worthy even had she done nothing else all season long.

    And Cory Monteith had a brilliant season, particularly when the the writers gave him a chance to play his character in more serious moments–each time he was given one of those scenes he left critics praising the strength of his work, whether it was the break down after learning he’d been passed over for a football scholarship, the stunned disbelief when he learned the truth about his father, the extreme earnestness of his proposal to Rachel, or his self-contemplation and self-assessment when confront by Kurt about what he wanted to do with his future. He had many more stand-out moments this season, and he particularly shone in every minute of both “Saturday Night Glee-ver” and “Goodbye”, where his final ten minutes garnered the bulk of the praise for a very strong episode overall. It is more than confusing that he was placed in the supporting actor category when it is more than clear that he is the male lead actor on the show, but since that’s his category he should absolutely be one of the nominees considered by the Academy as a best supporting actor.

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