Michael Ausiello is Editor-in-Chief of TVLine.
The gap between Modern Family and the rest of the Emmy comedy field has been so wide that even an imperfect third season landed the ABC family comedy a third consecutive best series win last year. But Modern Family is wrapping another uneven season, and with its ratings slipping and challengers gaining on it, a fourth statuette is far from guaranteed. HBO’s Girls is coming off a Golden Globe win, there’s a growing sentiment that CBS’ Nielsen juggernaut The Big Bang Theory is past due to be recognized, and former best comedy series Emmy winner Arrested Development is back. Will Modern Family’s winning streak come to an end this year? Here’s our assessment of the show’s chances, as well as the rest of the contenders.
An air of “been there, awarded that” might surround Tina Fey’s NBC comedy—it has won three times, after all. But in its seventh and final season, it went out on a high note creatively. And, considering this is Emmy’s last chance to give it a back slap, it can’t—or shouldn’t—be counted out. So its series nomination is a relatively safe bet (as are nominations for one-time lead actress victor Fey and two-time lead actor winner Alec Baldwin).
In the same way that Netflix’s House Of Cards is shaking up the drama race, the subscriber service’s resurrected Fox favorite was initially poised to set the comedy derby on its ear. (HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm is ineligible to be nominated this year, so there’s even an open slot.) But reviews have been lukewarm at best, suggesting a best comedy nom is no longer a foregone conclusion. The show’s cast might stand a better chance. At one time or another during the show’s three-season network run, Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Jeffrey Tambor and the sublime Jessica Walter were all recognized with noms, but none of them ever took home the gold.
THE BIG BANG THEORY
If the CBS smash was only TV’s top-rated comedy or if it was only firing on all cylinders creatively, it would stand a good chance of taking the Emmy away from Modern Family. But its numbers are through the roof and it’s as funny (and touching) as ever, which means the two-time contender actually stands a great chance of coming out on top. Johnny Galecki might even manage to rejoin two-time lead actor winner Jim Parsons among the nominees. (If there’s any justice, so will the underrated Simon Helberg, if only for the sweet episode in which Wolowitz sorta learns the contents of a letter sent to him years earlier by his father.)
You could argue that this show belongs on our list of longshots, rather than on this list. But the HBO underperformer had a huge fan base among Hollywood types—exactly the sort who are Emmy voters. So, although even cocreators Laura Dern and Mike White weren’t recognized last year, they actually do stand a chance this year. After all, is anything better than a nomination to say, “We’re sorry you got canceled!”?
After its much-debated freshman season, Lena Dunham’s HBO series came close to claiming the comedy Emmy from Modern Family. Now, coming off a pair of Golden Globe wins and a second season that was just as controversial as the first, the show seems even better positioned to pull off an upset. Whether or not it does, another nom for both the series and its star-writer-director is assured. Of the supporting cast, Adam Driver, who plays sensitive Neanderthal Adam, seems likeliest to be nominated.
Emmy-wise, the Fox musical has sung its swan song: After being nominated in 2010 and 2011, the series didn’t make the cut last year (and didn’t earn a Golden Globe nom this year, either). Emmy voters seem to have moved on.
HOUSE OF LIES
Nominated for lead actor in 2012—and having just won the Golden Globe—Don Cheadle is a shoo-in for a nom. As for the show itself, the racy Showtime comedy has yet to land a major best series nomination.
HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
Solid as the CBS sleeper might be, the field is too crowded for it to break back into the race. (It was only nominated once, in 2009.) Even Mr. Popularity, Neil Patrick Harris, hasn’t been given a nom since 2010.
In the wake of Louis C.K.’s writing win last year—and his nominations for lead actor and director—his FX series stands a fair chance of getting a long overdue first best series nomination. If not, it will have to wait two years for another shot because C.K. is taking extra time between seasons. Nevertheless, the comedian himself is sure to be among the contenders (and probably in multiple categories).
MIKE & MOLLY
At best, CBS’ full-figured romcom has a slim chance of eking out a nod. But its movie-star leading lady, Melissa McCarthy—2011’s surprise lead actress winner and a nominee again last year—is assured another nom.
THE MINDY PROJECT
It’s probably too early for Fox’s freshman romcom to see any love from Emmy. Its creator, Mindy Kaling, however, is familiar enough—and sharp enough—that she could end up with a lead actress nod.
Though the ABC comedy’s numbers aren’t quite as strong as they once were—and buzz about the show has quieted to a faint murmur—it’s still a lock for a fourth consecutive nom. A fourth win, on the other hand, isn’t a sure thing—especially with The Big Bang Theory enjoying one of its most successful (in every way) seasons, Emmy darling 30 Rock taking a victory lap and Girls being on such a roll. Maybe two-time nominee Ed O’Neill will finally take home his well-deserved golden girl.
Having lost none of their sparkle in this Fox romcom’s second season, “adorkable” Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield are safe bets to be nominated again for lead actress and supporting actor, respectively. And, in addition to Jake Johnson—trying his luck in the lead actor category—the show itself could grab that open Curb Your Enthusiasm slot and slip a New face into the comedy race.
Pass the painkillers, because Edie Falco’s Showtime series has no shot at a nomination. (In fact, looking at its chart, it hasn’t been in the running since 2010.) If the show gets recognized at all, it’ll almost certainly be through a nom for its star.
The longrunning workplace comedy hasn’t received a single nomination since Steve Carell’s 2011 exit, so it would be an understatement to call the show a dark horse for its final season. If Emmy is ever again going to recognize its 2006 comedy winner, it’s now or never.
PARKS AND RECREATION
In spite of glowing reviews, Amy Poehler’s small-town political comedy will have to pull off an upset to get back into the comedy series race. (It’s only received a nom once, in 2011.) A more likely scenario is that this will finally be the year that the show’s thrice-nominated leading lady takes home a statuette. Maybe Nick Offerman will even sneak into the supporting contest by a (mustache) hair.
Given the mixed critical response to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ HBO comedy, it was a surprise that the show landed a nomination in 2012. It is questionable whether Veep will be able to pull that off again, but Louis-Dreyfus, whose performance has been universally praised, is fully expected to repeat as a nominee after snagging the Emmy (her third, having also won for Seinfeld and The New Adventures Of Old Christine) last year.
LONG SHOTS: Ben And Kate, Californication, Community, Cougar Town, Episodes, Happy Endings, The Middle, Raising Hope, Suburgatory, Two And A Half Men, Weeds.
Andy Patrick contributed to this report.