I Try To Predict This Year’s Emmys
Week 2, Part 1: Outstanding Comedy Series
Just a little inside baseball before we get started. The Hollywood Critics Associations gave their first ever TV awards tonight. I don’t know if they’ll affect anything, but here are the Drama results that are relevant.
Best Actor and Actress in a Streaming Series went, as you’d expect, to Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin for The Crown. However, Best Actor and Actress in a Drama Series, Broadcast or Cable went two actors who are gaining momentum: Billy Porter and MJ Rodriguez for Pose. Will this change anything?
Michael K. Williams took the Best Supporting Actor Prize in a Broadcast Cable/Drama while Gillian Anderson continued her streak by taking Supporting Actress in a Streaming Drama. Since the winners in the opposing categories aren’t eligible, both performers more or less are cementing their position.
Neither Cable nor Broadcast winners are eligible. But the Streaming Winner was a shock, at least to me: The Mandalorian. Is the momentum for Best Drama going from 1980s England to a galaxy far, far away? Still can’t tell.
Now, on to the comedies. I will feed in any information from the HCA awards going forward, if I think it’s relevant (and it might be.)
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
black-ish (ABC): 9–1. Pro: There aren’t a lot of great network comedy series any more, let alone that many which inspire so many fascinating spin-offs. Now as the Johnson clan goes into their final season, they found themselves dealing with all the problems of the pandemic world (Dre’s reaction to not being an essential worker was priceless) how you protest in this world, the growth of the family and Dre’s final decision to take his biggest risk. This has been one of the most hysterical and incredible series in the past decade, led by one of TV’s best casts. It deserves to be here. Con: The Emmys just haven’t been fair to this incredible comedy. It’s always had bad timing — falling behind Veep, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and last year’s a brilliant series around another legendary family. The odds aren’t just with them.
Cobra Kai (Netflix): 19–2. Pro: It’s kind of impressive how far a series that started out on YouTube as a mostly satirical one about the world that the heroes of The Karate Kid inhabited more than thirty years later has come. But like the movie that inspired it, there is a lot of power and joy to be found for those watch this inspirational series. There is a reason that the HCA was willing to give the people behind Cobra Kai a Legacy award yesterday. There is a world of devotion. Con: It was basically shutout in almost every other major category. Somehow I don’t think this series can sweep the leg.
Emily in Paris (Netflix): 10–1. Pro: Darren Star’s most recent series was one of the most watched shows on Netflix in its history. Early on, it had momentum from awards shows and fans and there’s clearly a base for it. Con: I think everybody on the Internet knows about all the other problems this show has had. The backlash from the fans, the bribery from the creators to the Golden Globes (and given what happened this year, we can’t rule that out as another reason for its new problems), I think the more obvious question is why did the Emmys nominate in the first place? Seriously, they nominated this over Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and Superstore? The Emmys doesn’t like dealing with controversy, so why the hell did they give this show a nomination at all.
Hacks (HBO Max): 11–2. Pro: When I saw the pilot of Hacks on HBO in May, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why someone would watch this show, much less consider it an Emmy contender. Three months later, I have never been more delighted to be proven wrong. Jean Smart’s incredible performance as Deborah Vance, a legendary standup, who is more of a relic than anything else, was golden pretty much from the start. But it takes a while to appreciate the genius of the entire cast, especially Hannah Einbinder as a Gen-Z comic who starts out as a pretentious whiner you want to strangle and ends up becoming fully dimensional and a worthy partner in crime to Smart. I said in my first review that writing shows about the process of comedy are nearly impossible to do well. Hacks makes it look easy by showing us just how hard it is. One of the best shows of the year. Con: The same problem that every other nominee in this category has: They’re not Ted Lasso. I actually think that starting with the next major awards cycle Hacks will do very well — the HCA gave a real sign of it. But it’s not going to happen this year.
Pen15 (Hulu): 17–2. Pro: Came to this series a little late, but I can clearly see why it was recognized by the Emmys this year. Under the sure hands of Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle (who honestly keep making me forget they’re not actual seventh-graders), we watched as the fictional Maya and Anna world kept getting even worse than your middle school memories were. The girls think they’re sluts, the boys think they’re disgusting. Maya’s parents are divorcing. Anna’s brother hates her. Even their new bestie is clearly using them for seventh grade status (which is actually more pathetic than being hated). Is it any wonder they want to believe they can do magic? Not going to lie to you, the laughs in this series are painful. But it’s also very funny and real. Con: No acting nominations and its unlikely they’ll win their writing nod. Like the characters they play, it’s not Maya and Anna’s time yet. But trust me, it will come.
Ted Lasso (Apple TV): 39–10. Pro: Trying to make an argument why Ted Lasso the series shouldn’t win is much like trying to win an argument with Ted the man. You could do so, and knowing him you might even win, but why would you want to? When the series debuted last fall, it was seen as the kind of joy a world in lockdown needed. I would argue that it’s the kind of series Peak TV didn’t know it needed. After more than two decades of watching endlessly dark series populated by bad men doing bad things, here’s a show where the central character is about a good (but flawed) man who wants to make his world a better place, and gradually wins it over. And the fact that the title character is surrounded by some of the greatest supporting characters I’ve seen on a comedy in years and has some of the cleverest writing I’ve ever heard, makes this exactly what the entire viewing world needs. The series basically confirmed its win by taking the HCA prize for Streaming Comedy yesterday. Let’s face it, everybody wants Ted to win. Con: Especially since the second season premiered, there have been more than a few people saying the series has passed its peak. These people are obviously soulless aliens whose mission is to such the joy of life for Earthlings. Ted will win them over like he does everybody else.
The Flight Attendant (HBO MAX): 13–2. Pro: Arguably the most ambitious series here — you could also say it’s the least comedic. A dark and truly mesmerizing journey led by Kaley Cuoco — as you never thought you’d seen her — in the title role, where waking up after a drunken one-night stand with a dead body in her body bed is very quickly the least of her problems. You may have a harder time than Cuoco’s character figuring out exactly what happens that night and what’s going on all the time. (It doesn’t help that she was really traumatized before all this happened.) But there have been very few projects that swung for the fences so hard or connected as often. Con: Unlike the lion’s share of the nominees, this one peaked too early. Cuoco was the early favorite for the Emmys, she’s now unlikely to prevail and the rest of the series has fallen behind. Kind of a shame, but there’s always season 2.
The Kominsky Method: 8–1. Pro: Chuck Lorre’s story of Sandy Kominsky is one of the greatest projects that he — and frankly Netflix itself have ever done. What could have just as easily been the male equivalent of Grace & Frankie (not that would have been bad, mind you) has become a true jewel in the field of comedy period. Led by Michael Douglas’ in the title role — and knowing his body of work, I still say some of the greatest he’s ever done, anywhere — the series came to a far too soon conclusion with Sandy dealing with the loss of his closest friend, coming to détente with his aging ex-wife (Kathleen Turner, how we’ve missed you) finally getting the chance he never got and in the finale, realizing his greatest loss and his greatest joy. In a perfect world, The Kominsky Method would be taking home a shelf full of trophies. Con: But as Sandy knows too well, this world is not perfect. And a series that really is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen is likely too lose in its last chance to… well, one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen. Also, Kominsky is bittersweet where Ted Lasso is basically just sweet, and that will probably count against it.
Prediction: The Academy’s going to be like the crowds at Richmond: They’ll be chanting out Ted.