The Best Comedy Emmy Category is Full of Mysteries


In Anatomy of a Category, Awards Insider breaks down the top contenders in the Emmys’ biggest races, ahead of July 13’s nominations. In this entry, David Canfield and Katey Rich discuss the main players in the comedy-series categories, which will feature almost entirely new shows. But which have what it takes to make the cut?

Katey Rich: David, Ted Lasso is going to win the best comedy series Emmy. I think we can leave it there and call this piece complete, right? 

OK, fine, there really is a lot to talk about in the comedy Emmy category, starting with the fact that— as you have pointed out before— only one of last year’s nominees in the top category is even eligible this time around. That makes it extremely likely that Ted Lasso, the undisputed breakout comedy of the past year, will win the whole thing in a walk. But we should consider the field, and I’d actually love to start with that lone returning nominee. I somehow became a Kominsky Method true believer this year, having caught up on the entire series in a hurry the day after my second Moderna shot so that I could interview Kathleen Turner on Little Gold Men. I swear it’s not just the side effects talking— the show is delightful, deliberately unchallenging and, sure, targeted more toward Boomers than Film Twitter, but a rock solid acting showcase for Alan Arkin, Michael Douglas, and in this third and final season, Turner. 

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I’m not going to say that on the power of a single supporting actress performance that Kominsky Method deserves to win, or even that Turner is guaranteed for a nomination given the competition (though, come on people, she only has ONE Oscar nomination, she is outrageously overdue). But consider this: in a year when we have all prized our comfort viewing, Kominksy Method is a laid-back comedy about things like your body failing you and feeling isolated from others. Maybe this is actually the moment it’s been waiting for?


But, OK David, maybe tell me about a contender that’s even slightly, remotely hip? 

David Canfield: Wait, I want to talk about The Kominsky Method too! My affection for the show is similarly COVID-adjacent: My first post-March-2020 flight was a bumpy, anxiety-inducing, cross-country ride, so I finally gave the Chuck Lorre comedy a chance with a soothing midair binge—and genuinely enjoyed it! I will not repeat my cynically uninformed shrug when it inevitably shows up for the third year in a row.

Okay, onto the hip: Ted Lasso is indeed going to win, and as I laid out last week, HBO Max’s wonderfully charming freshmen The Flight Attendant and Hacks look well-positioned, too—we can get into why a bit later. But I’m starting with one contender circling the bubble: Hulu’s painfully funny Pen15, which had an all-around spectacular (if short) second season. The wind is slightly in its sails, as creators-stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle managed a writing nomination last year despite the show flying under the radar for its first season. This is still a weird, niche, particular show—Erskine and Konkle are earnestly playing tween versions of themselves, surrounded by actual middle-school actors, and it somehow works—but it hilariously, often beautifully captures the joys and agonies and terrors of that age in a way that I’d like to think can resonate for anyone. The central friendship, especially, feels indescribably real in the stars’ performances (which deserve individual recognition, too).

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But then, is everything on the bubble? Is nothing? With so many open slots, it’s hard to say who’s up and who’s down beyond those obvious frontrunners. Still, the category feels competitive—aided by some worthy late-breakers in Hacks and Peacock’s Girls5Eva. Katey, we’re both big fans of the latter, but while Ted Lasso’s sheer popularity seems likely to cut through any nascent-streamer worries, can the same be said for our new favorite washed-up girl group, born on a network that can feel like an elaborate 30 Rock joke? 

Rich: David, it’s “we Peacock comedy,” you say the Peacock! It is particularly strange to consider the position of Peacock, which is more or less the successor to the Must-See TV Comedy era of NBC that absolutely dominated the comedy Emmy categories for years. Girls5Eva, much as I love it, is not quite 30 Rock, but could be an interesting test case to see how much weight Tina Fey’s legacy still carries with Emmy voters. Same goes for Mike Schur, whose charming Rutherford Falls was heavily promoted by the streamer and has Ed Helms on hand to basically shout to voters, “Remember how much you loved The Office?!” Not for nothing, Rutherford Falls has a lot of Native actors in its cast, including newcomer Jana Schmieding, and could make all kinds of history for representation if it gets nominated. On the other hand, Helms— as the most famous person in the cast— could be the lone white guy and lone nominee. A real double-edged sword there!

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