Week 1, Part 1: OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Before we get started a mea culpa on my part. When the Emmy nominations were announced back in July I said with naivety the strikes in Hollywood would be resolved by September because the last thing Hollywood wants to do is mess with awards show season. Clearly I underestimated how much the creative forces desire to receive excessive payment for their work would overshadow their desire for self-gratification. (Forgive me, I’m still slightly bitter about how everything played out. This will be the first and last time I show it.)
But as I said before the sole silver lining was that I as a viewer was able to get caught up on quite a few of the major nominees in all of the categories I will be covering in this series. Therefore I can speak from a slightly more grounded perspective than I usually do. I did not, of course, get to see every nominated series or actor in every category but I think I’ve seen enough to acknowledge that the Emmys did make better choices than I thought (certainly in the acting categories) and that there are fewer bad choices (though to be clear, they’re nowhere near perfect)
Since it’s been quite a big longer than usual, a brief review as to how this will work. For every major category: Comedy, Drama and Limited Series as well as all the acting nominees therein, I will be listed the odds for all of them based on how they are listed at Gold Derby, along with how several other awards show have given out prizes in the leadup to the Emmys. I will also give the pros and cons for each nominee as well as what I want to win and what probably shall. I will start with Best Comedy Series, in part because I know more of the nominated shows and actors then the rest of them.
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Abbott Elementary (ABC) 13–2. Pro: For reasons I do not comprehend (perhaps because the predictions numbers are low across the board) the odds for what should absolutely be the odds on favorite for this series are ridiculously low. It swept the Golden Globes, SAG Awards and Critics Choice for Best Comedy Series and dominated the Image Awards as well as the Galeca Awards. The latter came in the aftermath of Season 2 in which every element of Abbott Elementary that had been brilliant before was emphasized (and I’ll be going into detail in the acting awards believe me). While there have been several brilliant comedies that have aired their seasons in the last several months, the idea that anything can stop Abbott is impossible for me to comprehend — and really should be for everyone else. And that is before you consider that everything that is going on in the world today Abbott Elementary is the show TV needs right now on so many levels — racially, gender specific, working class, educational — oh and its still hysterical. Con: Are we still on the hold up that because this is a network comedy, it is beneath the level of awards? The fact that it’s beaten almost all of the nominated series this past year should really put that to rest.
Barry (HBO) 17–2. Pro: I would think that this show, which along with Abbott Elementary will be among my ten best of the year, would be higher on the list. That said, I do understand why its not. In the final act Bill Hader began to move almost entirely away from comedy that had driven the series and took all of its characters into some truly dark and horrible places. With a move that even some of the dramas in this past year, Hader took us into the future and saw just how miserable the lives of everyone involved had become having been in the aura of Barry. The series went into darker surreal territory — and its series finale ended in a toral bloodbath that was expected. The punchline, in the last ten minutes, may have been the darkest joke Hader did in which we realize that everything the characters went through the last four seasons has been turned into pure Hollywood and that the legend has gone on. Barry in many ways was the most ambitious show of the 2023. Con: Ambitious doesn’t necessarily mean funniest. I think Hader (who wrote and directed so many of the episodes) deserves as many prizes as possible. But as loose as the definition is for comedy, this was pretty dark stuff in the final season.
The Bear (FX on Hulu) 5–1. Pro: I’m not going to lie. The first season of The Bear is as magnificent as everyone says it is. It is led by one of the best casts and crews I’ve seen in comedy in a very long time and the writing and directing right now is as good as Hader was at his peak (which to be clear began in Season 2.) Jeremy Allan White is one of the great talents I’ve seen and his entire cast, and guest cast are some of my favorite new characters. I can understand why the TCA ranked it Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding New Program of the year. And I think it will dominate the awards circuit for awhile to come. That said…Con: I think the reason it is ranked so high among so many viewers is the fact that Season 2 dropped this summer and the praise for that was overwhelming. Now I have little doubt if such is the case it will begin to dominate the awards shows that will come starting in the next month. But Emmy voters only judge the season in front of them. (And for the record, I think the final season of Barry was better than The Bear. Not necessarily funnier, but creatively superior.)
Jury Duty (Freevee) 15–2. For: I’m not lying; I had the most doubts about this series being in the comedy category at all when the Emmys recognized in this category. I had similar doubts when the HCA did. But now I’ve seen it, I do understand exactly what the creators were trying to do and I will admit that I’m frankly in awe of their achievement. Jury Duty straddles the line between reality show and comedy show, and in my opinion is far closer to the latter definition. All of the cast are trying to put on a performance to fool a single person — Ronald Gladden. All of them are superb in their work, and Gladden comes across as quite likable as everything twists turns around him — and for being such a good sport when it ended. I’m not sure if this trick can ever be pulled again but it was a hell of a ride and certainly one of the most original shows of 2023. Con: I have a feeling this may require too many hoops for the Emmys to jump through to recognize it with the grand prize. Considering that there are now categories for reality programming in the Emmys, it was probably a lot putting here in the first place. I don’t think they’ll go too far.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon) 17–2. Pro: The final curtain for Midge as she managed to make it all the way to the top was hysterical to watch. But the Palladino’s made it very clear just how lonely it was when you got there. We saw that her children were isolated from her as adults, we saw she’d had so many broken marriages, that her parents could never respect her, and perhaps saddest of all her bond with Suzie would end up broken because of a betrayal that put Joel in prison. The happiness she had was bittersweet as we finally got a series by the Palladino’s that came to a natural end. It was a hell of a ride, but you’ll wonder if its worth it. This was nearly as devastating as the final season of Barry, but far more humane and humorous for the viewer. Con: I think that the sun has finally passed from the Mrs. Maisel to so many brighter suns: the fact that it has been essentially ignored by awards shows since the pandemic when it comes to recognition tells you that they think they’ve given it enough.
Only Murders in the Building (Hulu) 9–1. Pro: Charles, Christopher and Mabel found themselves at the center of another investigation, this time trying to prove they did not commit the murder they had been accused of. They spent it exploring every secret door of the Arconia, the secrets within themselves, looking back and then forward. And always there were so many hysterical cameos, love affairs and great moments for all of us to enjoy. They need to get recognized. Con: Despite its brilliance, Only Murders did not get a fair amount of recognition compared to some of the other comedies in this category. It deserves to win, but it’s not happening this year.
Ted Lasso (Apple TV) 9–2. Pro: The Emmys loves to say goodbye to a series it loves and they are getting a chance to do so for Ted Lasso, which has made it three and gone. The struggles that made up most of Season 2, including that between Nate and Ted, got fixed. Roy and Keeley ended things (and broke our hearts). Rebecca found happiness and we got to learn some deep truths about everybody. Every show deserves a happy ending. Con: This is one of those occasions, however, where the Emmys are clearly exercising muscle memory rather than recognizing talent. The third season was given mediocre reviews from critics and even long time fans starting having problems with it before it was even halfway over. By the time the show was nearing its end, many had begun to question whether it was any good in the first place. The fact that it is somehow ranked by voters as the most likely to win this year is just another example of poor muscle memory. Ted may be nice but I think this may have been the rare occasion a nice guy should finish last — or at least not three-peat.
Wednesday (Netflix) 10–1. Pro: The Addams Family spinoff is the biggest pop culture phenomena in this category: since the beginning of last year, it has dominated both the nominations for Best Comedy and Best Actress for the title role. Having seen most of the first season I can understand why. Jenna Ortega is incredible and glorious in one of the greatest performances I’ve seen, and the series itself is far more ambitious and daring than I thought just from watching the pilot. If anything of the eight nominating shows, I think it deserved far more nominations then it ended up getting. Con: It’s kind of hard to define it is as a comedy series, for one. And given how much controversy Ortega brought upon herself when she said she wrote some of her own dialogue — something that was a picket sign for the WGA this summer — the Emmys probably won’t look highly on either.
My Prediction: The past might propel Ted Lasso. The future might propel The Bear. I think the present means that Abbott Elementary will complete the sweep it began last January.
Tomorrow I predict Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy.