What can you say about a Primetime Emmy Awards category that has been completely dominated by one series for the last five years? When it comes to comedy, Television Academy members like familiarity—and family. Modern Family, that is. Last year the show made Emmy history by tying Frasier for winning five consecutive Outstanding Comedy Series Emmys for its first five seasons. Even though there is a bit of ennui settling around the show, can it truly break all records and take a sixth statuette here? That’s the big question in this category, which, like Drama Series, has been expanded to seven nominees this year. Surprisingly, perennial nominee The Big Bang Theory was NOT one of them this time, and the exiting Parks And Recreation was, despite being ignored here for most of it seven-year run (with the exception being one previous nom in 2011). Veep, Louie, and Silicon Valley will be trying to break through with a win, as will two streaming newcomers, Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Amazon’s timely Transparent.
Although star Louis C.K.—with 34 previous Emmy noms and six wins over various categories—is an Emmy magnet, his sitcom doesn’t have the same awards mojo. Previously nominated the last two seasons, Louie’s problem could be that it pushes the envelope but just doesn’t seem funny enough to be proclaimed best comedy. It’s a conundrum for shows that cross the line between comedy and drama, but until the TV Academy creates a dramedy category, Louie will land here and come up short.
Modern Family (ABC)
Clearly this family comedy hit the zeitgeist when it debuted in the 2009-2010 season, and it has left all contenders in its wake ever since, almost singlehandedly carrying the flag for the broadcast networks when it comes to Emmy victories that really count. With five wins in five tries, Modern Family is a modern miracle for ABC. But even though it seems like it is a bit on the wane, it cannot ever be counted out. A sixth win simply would be historic. But c’mon guys, can’t somebody else get a chance?
Parks And Recreation (NBC)
With only three nominations this year, but one in this major category, one only can assume there is the finale factor working in Parks And Rec’s favor. Despite acclaim for most of its seven seasons, it was only nominated once before here, in 2011. Can the show carry that delayed love all the way to the Emmy stage for a big wet thank-you kiss from the industry for consistently delivering—and consistently being overlooked? Not likely. Emmy doesn’t have a huge history of finally giving it up right at the end.
Silicon Valley (HBO)
HBO has a terrific entry in this one—a reliably smart, funny and relevant show that delivers over and over. Now with its second consecutive Emmy nomination in two seasons, I would say Silicon Valley might be the perfect successor here to Modern Family as it represents a different kind of “modern” TV family and carries forth the workplace comedy tradition with style and panache. The biggest problem for it could be stable mate Veep, which has been standing in line for this prize a bit longer.
Talk about hitting the zeitgeist! Rarely in TV history has a comedy so reflected a huge societal change as this one, about transgender Maura Pfefferman trying to bring a dysfunctional family into her new life. It’s not just about Maura’s journey, but the transitions we all have to make in this life. Can it be rewarded here for just its first 10 episodes on a new streaming service? That sounds almost as radical as the show’s premise. With 11 noms, and a previous Golden Globe comedy series win, this is one to watch.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Like Transparent, this streaming series has revolutionized TV viewing and the comedy category as we know it. Coming from Emmy fave Tina Fey, UKS immediately connected with audiences and voters, who showered it with seven noms in its first season, but curiously not for lead Ellie Kemper. I’m wondering whether it would have gotten this much traction this fast if Fey wasn’t connected. But UKS is smart, funny and probably a category staple for years to come.
Sure, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won the comedy lead actress Emmy every single year Veep has been on the air—since 2012—and she’s a favorite to take a fourth straight acting trophy for her Selina Meyer role. But isn’t it also time to recognize the comedy vet’s show, a riotously funny one that skewers the political world? You bet. It seems every year I wind up predicting a win for this show, only to see the tried-and-true Modern Family prevail. So what’s different this time? Nothing. I am going to do it again.
The Winner: Veep