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What will win Outstanding Comedy Series at the Emmys?

by Abe Fried-Tanzer

There are many factors that go into the way Emmy voters choose the winner of their top awards. Since we already covered drama, today we’re taking a look today at where the Best Comedy Series contenders stand from a statistical and recent history perspective.

Barry (Season 2 – 17 nominations)
HBO’s black comedy about a hitman who becomes an actor saw its nomination total increase by four from last year. Bill Hader and Henry Winkler both won last year, and now they’re joined by three other cast members. The show earned the requisite directing and writing bids, only one of two shows in this race to do so, and it’s evidently beloved by many. Some might not love the violence and dark nature of its story, but even if this isn’t the frontrunner, it has a good shot at being the potential spoiler in a competitive category...

Fleabag (Season 2 – 11 nominations)
When its first season was released on Amazon in 2016, this show got zero nominations. Now, it made a huge splash, earning a whopping five acting accolades as well as citations for directing and writing. There are two examples in recent history of shows that were able to win on their first try for second seasons: Will & Grace in 2000 and The Office in 2006. This show certainly isn’t a typical sitcom like those, but creator-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge is immensely popular, also contending for producing drama nominee Killing Eve. This show has some real fans and could be the winning choice in the event of a vote-split.

The Good Place (Season 3 – 5 nominations)
The lone representative of broadcast network television finally secured a spot in this category for its third season after missing out previously despite critical praise and audience enthusiasm. While it did manage a writing nomination for the very clever “Janet(s)” installment, only star Ted Danson is nominated, suggesting that this show hasn’t sufficiently clicked with Emmy voters. It’s very different from the rest of the list, but, like creator Michael Schur’s previous series Parks & Recreation, its nomination should sadly be considered its victory.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Season 2 – 20 nominations)
Last year’s winner is back with six additional nominations this time, and boasting eight wins last year. Its overall haul is just two short of the record set by 30 Rock in 2009. Between 2007 and 2017, only three shows have won this award, which means that voters don’t quickly tire of their favorites. The only troubling factor is the lack of a writing nomination after this show won that category last year. It's also going up against a three-time winner that wasn’t in the running last year. Still, based on its overall presence and the fact that it’s still hot, this show remains out front in the competition.

Russian Doll (Season 1 – 13 nominations)
This sardonic Netflix comedy about a woman reliving her death on the day of her thirtieth birthday managed a very respectable showing when nominations were announced. It scored in a number of technical categories and even managed to earn two writing bids along with a nomination for star Natasha Lyonne. While it’s creative and very watchable, it certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Voters sampling submission episodes will also hit a snag here. Any single episode doesn’t do a great job of conveying the purpose of the show as a whole. Russian Doll has a devout fanbase, but likely not one strong enough to propel it to a win.

Schitt’s Creek (Season 5 – 4 nominations)
Here for the first time ever after appearing on many people’s wish lists over the years. Five seasons in, it scored its first-ever Emmy nominations in any race, including bids for stars Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. Devotees of the show are celebrating its inclusion after being ignored for so long, but the likelihood that this show can manage to win over enough voters when it has the fewest nominations is not good. It’s also very late in the show’s run for it to show up for the first time – comparable latecomers like Everybody Loves Raymond and Parks and Recreation managed to break into the race in their third seasons.


Veep (Season 7 – 9 nominations)
This show claimed this award three years in a row before taking the 2017-2018 season off due to star Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ cancer treatment. Now, it’s back for its final season…with half the nominations it had last time. For its past two eligible seasons, it managed three directing bids per year, but this time, it got just one writing mention, for its series finale. Three consecutive victories shouldn’t be counted out, but this show isn’t here in the same way it used to be. Louis-Dreyfus and even Tony Hale might hear their names called again, but a fourth Best Comedy Series trophy?


Where does this leave us?

While Gold Derby consensus says this is a three-way race, defending champion The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel feels primed to keep returning winner Veep from repeating for its swan song. That’s not what happened when Game of Thrones came back from a year off to defeat The Handmaid’s Tale, but in this case, it’s likelier that another show like Fleabag or Barry could swoop in to benefit from too many great options. 

Which of these shows do you think should win?


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Reader Comments (10)

Russian Doll is probably the most affecting show I watched over the last year. It's brilliant and I love it - but as you say, its format and its tone is not at all friendly to it winning this. If I was going for the most purely and constantly funny show, I'd go with the final season of Veep.

September 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

The Good Place should win, but it won't. This is a pretty good line-up, so I hope the Emmy doesn't go to Veep or Mrs. Maisel (just because they've both already won).

September 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Terrific line-up! My personal ranking:

1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
2. Barry
3. Fleabag
4. Veep
5. Russian Doll

Haven't seen: The Good Place, Schitt's Creek

September 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

1. Fleabag: Exhilarating, high wire stuff. Any episode is a masterclass of writing (that moment the Hot Priest catches Fleabag... full on chills).
1. The Good Place: Deserves to win at least once. I hope it nails the final season.
3. Russian Doll: Very entertaining.
4. Veep: Not the best season.
I haven't seen the rest, but I find Maisel really tough to get into (abandoned after three episodes in season 1), so I hope it doesn't repeat. I intend on trying it again, though.

September 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

One thing that I think could help Fleabag is that no one knows if there's going to be another season (Phoebe Waller-Bridge had stated she was done after this one), so there may be a push to reward it while they can (yes, Veep is in its final season, but it's already won three times). This is a very strong lineup in general (I've only seen a few episodes of Schitt's Creek, though I like what I've seen, and I've seen the full seasons of all the rest), so there will probably be a strong winner no matter what, though I do think it should be Fleabag...

September 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

Fleabag S2 is a masterpiece.

September 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I watch all of these regularly except for Maisle, which I gave up on after season 1. Fleabag was a revelation. I really enjoyed the first season but was ready for a letdown after all the hype leading up to season 2. How could anything live up to all the breathless reviews? Then I watched... and the show surpassed all those breathless reviews. Fleabag gave me an amazing, overwhelming feeling of EVERYTHING over and over and over again and it's been a while since anything has done that. After I watched it, I had no desire to watch anything else because HOW COULD ANYTHING ELSE COMPARE. Hands down my pick.

September 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

Fleabag would be my pick too, but even when I like the second season, am I alone in preferring the first one? The season two opener is a masterpiece, but season 1 felt to me more cohesive, although maybe smaller in scope.

Anyways, as others have said: this is a killer lineup. Not one single bad show among the nominees and most of them pretty great. If Veep wins I won’t complain. Really smart series that ended on a perfect note.

September 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLucky

I was all but set on Mrs. Maisel repeating but that casting award for Fleabag has definitely gotten my hopes up.

It's very strong bunch to be honest! Very glad voters actually compiled a sweet list and stepped outside their regular zone. All the nominees are terrific, but my heart absolutely belongs to Fleabag! Their last season was a masterwork, scene to scene, episode to episode. Heartfelt, heart wrenching and hi-la-rious!

September 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I don't know when I've seen the kind of perfection that "Fleabag" gave us on TV; it is the apotheosis of everything the golden age of TV can give us. Those 6 episodes were so perfect that, while I loved "Barry", "Veep", and "Russian Doll", if I were voting I'd go for "Fleabag." I think it gave us something so wonderful and specific in it's rendering of Fleabag's relationships with Clare, Priest, and Father, and I'll never forget that ending scene when she walks away from the audience and shakes her head gently at us following her. She's grown past us.

September 18, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

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