Deadline Awards Columnist and Chief Film Critic Pete Hammond gives his take on contenders in the key categories for the 2018 Primetime Emmy Awards. Here, he breaks down the category of Outstanding Comedy Series.
The largest group of nominees in any program category this year proves that there’s likely some fluidity for Outstanding Comedy Series, especially considering that HBO’s Veep—the winner for the past three years in a row—is sitting this season out. Equally, the winner for the five years previous to that Veep streak, Modern Family, was not nominated for the first time ever, which means that we’re looking at a whole new ball game.
Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus told me at last year’s HBO Emmy party that the series would not be back in production in time to qualify for the 2018 Emmys, and this was even before she got the breast cancer diagnosis that further delayed its return to production (now set for October) and a likely return to the race in 2019 for its final season. That leaves a pile-on of past runners-up, three newcomers, and a returnee after several years’ absence to shake up one of Emmy’s most prestigious contests and give us a new champ other than the two that have dominated for eight years. So who will be laughing last? Here’s the rundown.
FX’s new favorite won Emmys in its first season for star Donald Glover in both the Lead Actor and Directing categories, which might bode well for the show to graduate to the top series win as well this year in its acclaimed sophomore turn. Bear in mind that it took Veep four seasons before it finally broke Modern Family’s chokehold on the category and started its own winning streak. With those two finally out of its way, can Atlanta prevail?
HBO may not have Veep in the running this year, but it does have a couple of possibilities, including this very dark comedy in which Bill Hader stars as a hitman who becomes an aspiring actor. Hader has five personal nominations this year—four for writing, directing, producing, and starring in Barry—which is very impressive, and suggests that it could be his time. But is the show just too dark for Emmy voters? Also, it may just be too new: voters may wish to reward it elsewhere before offering up their biggest prize.
With its third consecutive Comedy Series nomination in a four-year run, black-ish has found it difficult to cash in any of those nods and remains Emmy-less in all categories. Although its cast members have been consistently mentioned, the series also has yet to gain a single writing or directing nomination in any of its four seasons, which is not a good sign. Creator Kenya Barris’ announcement that he’s ditching ABC to get rich at Netflix probably won’t help its chances either.
HBO’s utility player has been a strong presence at the Emmys. It doesn’t appear every year, but when it does, it usually can count on a nomination in this category. This year it has nabbed its impressive eighth nod, proving that voters haven’t yet curbed their enthusiasm, even though it has never won. This is the first time the returning series has been in the race since 2012, so there may be a little rooting factor for Larry David and co.
This Netflix girls wrestling team series clearly made a splash in its debut season, grabbing an impressive 10 nominations first time out. The second season has already been streaming, so the series may be front of mind for voters as they cast their ballot. However with only an above-the-line nod for direction of the pilot and a supporting nom for Betty Gilpin, most of its strength seems to be in the crafts areas, where it may have its best shots at a win.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Another newcomer, the widely acclaimed and campaigned Amazon entry about a foul-mouthed housewife-turned-stand-up-comic in the 1950s is the outlier here as an hour-long, sometimes dramatic comedy series, but it may well be the one to beat. Its Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice and PGA wins only add to that drumbeat, along with a hefty 14 Emmy nods.
Having amassed 40 nominations in all, including seven this year, HBO’s third contender is always part of the conversation, but has managed only two wins in its five-season run. It now has its fifth consecutive comedy series nomination, plus significant nods for writing and directing. The biggest drawback has been in the acting categories (the branch with the largest number of voters) where it has had only one nomination in five years, and none this year.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Now in its fourth season, this Tina Fey/Robert Carlock creation for Netflix has consistently landed in this category but never won. More ominously, it looks like it might be on the decline, Emmy-wise. Having gathered 18 nominations over its entire run, it had its worst showing this year with only one other single nom other than Comedy Series (for supporting actor Tituss Burgess), thus making it the longest of long shots with by far the lowest number of nominations of any other contender.
PETE’S PICK: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel