With More Enthusiasm Than I Thought, I Try To Predict This Year’s Emmy Winners
Week 1, Part 1: Outstanding Comedy Series
Last month when the Emmy nominations were announced, I reacted with a great deal of dismay and unhappiness, saying that I was not particularly pleased with the choices and not looking forward to trying to predict the winners this year.
What a difference a month makes. In that time, I’ve actually managed to see a many of the episodes of this year’s preeminent nominees and while I’m not willing to completely forgive the Emmys transgressions (which I won’t repeat here) I’m willing to acknowledge that some of their choices were not as bad as I thought. I’m still not thrilled with a lot of the choices for Best Drama, but I have to admit that at least two of the major nominees are far better than I was willing to give them credit for being. (Those of you who have read my blog this month know which ones.) And having seen The Dropout I’m willing give the Emmys a lot more credit for nominated it. (My position on Pam and Tommy and Inventing Anna haven’t changed, especially considering that almost every other critics group since then has shut it out. Seriously Academy, you saw Maid and you still thought Inventing Anna was the better Netflix series? Deep breaths.)
That being said, this year I intend to start with Best Comedy Series because, by and large, I think the nominees in this category are by far the best group of the bunch.
As has been the case for the last three years, I shall give my predictions, listing all the nominees in each category along with the odds according to the website Gold Derby. I shall then give the arguments for an against each series or actor winning.
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Abbott Elementary: 13–2.
For: The biggest sensation of the year to date, Abbott Elementary is — like both its lead character and the creative force behind it — exactly the series that both broadcast television — and the world — needed right now. Filled with sparkling energy in an atmosphere and system that beats down everybody in it, this wonderfully funny and heartfelt series revitalized the workplace comedy in an era that is starting to become post-workplace. This is one of the best casts assembled in years, led by the most explosive talent to appear anywhere in all of Peak TV. The fact that Quinta Brunson and the show itself dominated the HCA awards, won a Peabody and was the most nominated series by the TCA demonstrates that it has momentum on its side. Against: It’s on a broadcast network. The last comedy series to win an Emmy for Best Comedy was Modern Family and though there have been more than a fair amount of great network comedies even in Peak TV, there is a general consensus that the network comedy’s era has passed.
For: By far the best comedy series of 2022 so far. Bill Hader’s incredibly dark show returned after a nearly three year hiatus and didn’t miss a beat. Writing and directing almost every episode, Hader has done some of the greatest work of his career and some of the most mesmerizing material for any series this year. There’s something for everybody in Season 3; the incredibly dark work by Hader; the tragic romance of Noho Hank that went to every bad place possible; the incredibly stupid but successful revenge scheme by Fuchs; Sally finally getting the success she deserved in the industry — and losing it literally the next day. And the towering work of Henry Winkler as Gene, who learned the truth about Barry and has covered the gamut of every possibility emotion in it. Of all the series in this category, Barry deserves to win on sheer variety. It’s a work of art in every sense of the term. Against: Barry took three major wins in the HCA this — but not Best Comedy. No one would argue it’s one of the greatest shows on TV today, but some people — and Emmy voters will be in their number — will question whether ‘comedy’ is truly the best term for it.
Curb Your Enthusiasm: 10–1.
For: The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble…but Larry is here to stay. Eleven season and nearly twenty years after he started Curb Larry David is still finding new and remarkable ways to piss as many people off as he possibly can. That’s kind of remarkable, not only considering the world he lives in, but that we seem to live a world where nothing should shock us any more. I guess Larry will keep on annoying everybody until he dies…which he already has come to think of it. Against: Let’s be honest; was Curb even the best comedy on HBO this year. Setting aside Barry, the final season of Insecure, the new series Somebody Somewhere and the return of The Righteous Gemstones all demonstrated radical and different ways to make us laugh. Larry and his crew are basically showing us the same old schtick. And this era, Curb’s continued success in this category is starting to make us, well, uncomfortable.
For: Nothing resembling a sophomore slump here. As Deb took her act on the road, we saw the revitalization of her career and one of the greatest female friendships in history beginning to form. We got a very close look at how little value Hollywood views the world of women of a certain age near the end, and then we saw a triumph despite of it. Hacks was a triumph in every sense this year — acting, writing, directing and every other angle. I was shocked that there was even doubt this show would return for a third season. Like Deb, it deserves a long run. Against: The series has been able to dominate so many of the major prizes — it took Best Directing and Writing last night at the HCA — but it couldn’t cross the finish line last night for Best Comedy. Is the fact that Plus is next to HBO stopping it from its inevitable glory? It’s the only explanation.
Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: 19–2.
For: As Midge continues to fight make it big, there have been few changes in the world of Midge herself…which just makes her series more marvelous. One can see Midge trying to make it big in comedy as the early stages of Deborah Vance in Hacks, only she has a much more fascinating family and support system. This has been one of the biggest awards winners in recent years, with one of the best casts ever assembled and one of the greatest writers at its head. It may not have its luster of old, but it’s still…well, you know. Against: When Maisel was skunked by the sweep of Schitt’s Creek the last year it was in competition, it may have been an omen of things to come. With so many superb series against it, the era of this show may well be over.
Only Murders in the Building: 13–2
For: The biggest comedy sensation of 2021 was this series that took on almost every single genre — action, mystery, true crime, farce, and the buddy comedy — and mastered every single one of them. Led by one of the most unlikely trios — comedy titans Steve Martin and Martin Short and recording legend Selena Gomez — this unlikely trio has become the greatest set of performers working together ever. (I seriously want them to lead every action movie for the next five years). And that’s before you add an incredible supporting cast of cameos — Nathan Lane, Amy Ryan, Jane Lynch and Tina Fey are just a sample — and some of the most dazzling variations of the medium ever. (The Boy from 6G is a masterpiece in every possible way). Any other year this show would be sweeping awards up left and right. Martin Short and Selena Gomez’s wins last night demonstrate it. Against: I honestly don’t know what. For reasons that boggle the mind in the early spate of awards Ted Lasso took every prize in sight from it. I hope that there is some momentum for it because it deserves to win.
Ted Lasso: 9–2.
For: After the backlash that I heard for Season 2, I thought that there had to be something seriously wrong with the series that the world fell in love with last year. Well, I’ve now seen most of Season 2, and frankly the only thing its comparing badly with is Season 1. Honestly, its still one of the most joyous rides I’ve seen on any platform. None of the changes have affected it badly. Hannah Waddingham’s character trying to be a good person? Love it. Keeley and Roy’s romance playing out with all its foibles? Love it. The new therapist proving a challenge to how Ted works? Didn’t like it at first. Really starting too. And that’s before I saw the wonderful Love Actually Christmas episode tribute complete with stop-motion opener. Am I thrilled that its winning every major award in sight over other worthy competition? Not always. Do I think it’s unworthy of those awards? Not really. Against: The momentum that Ted has had with every major awards show may be slowing in the past months — it did win Best Streaming Comedy, but Hannah Waddingham and Jason Sudeikis didn’t take prizes. Maybe Abbott Elementary is beginning to take that momentum away.
What We Do In The Shadows: 19–2
For: One of the most ingenious and exceptional comedies to air on any network, it was the surprise winner — including to the cast of the show — of the HCA prize for Best Cable Comedy. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t have a darker subtext like Barry or Atlanta — it’s just laugh a minute hysteria. And to be clear, this is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in years, the rare nominated comedy series that should have gotten more nominations from the Emmys, certainly for its extraordinary cast. (Slay on, Harvey.) I questioned its being nominated two years ago. I don’t question it being nominated now. Against: The Emmys don’t like giving prizes to supernatural series that take themselves seriously, much less shows that are blatant satires of everything we hold sacred about it. And they have a lot more trouble giving Emmys to anything connected with FX.
My Prediction: Ted Lasso might have enough momentum to keep going, but I think this year the Emmys are likely to say: “Hey, Abbott!”
Tomorrow, I tackle Best Actor in a Comedy.