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Emmys 2020: Who Has the Best Shot at Comedy Nominations?

With last year's top contenders gone, shows like Schitt's Creek and Mrs. Maisel will try to claw their way to the top of the heap.
  • Possible 2020 Emmy nominees Dan Levy (Schitt's Creek), Aidy Bryant (SNL, Shrill) and Ramy Youssef (Ramy). (CBC, NBC, Hulu)
    Possible 2020 Emmy nominees Dan Levy (Schitt's Creek), Aidy Bryant (SNL, Shrill) and Ramy Youssef (Ramy). (CBC, NBC, Hulu)

    Joe Reid isn't just Primetimer's managing editor. He's also an awards expert and one half of the popular podcast, This Had Oscar Buzz. This week Joe will be looking at the top contenders in each of the major categories at this year's 72nd Annual Emmy Awards. Yesterday he looked at the favorites in the Limited Series category. Today: Comedy Series. Who's poised to get a nod when the TV Academy announces its nominees on July 28th?

    Last year's Emmy Awards surprised prognosticators with voters bypassing longtime Emmy favorite Veep (then in its farewell run at eligibility) and instead swinging in a big way towards Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag, which took four major wins, including Outstanding Comedy series. That wasn't the year's only upset in the Comedy categories, with shows like Russian Doll, Schitt's Creek, and Dead to Me asserting themselves for the first time, while HBO's Barry stepped up to join The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel at the head of the pack.

    This past TV season wasn't nearly as packed with new Emmy-contending comedies, but with the Outstanding Comedy Series expanding to eight nominees, there's going to be room for either some first-time nominees or a few old Emmy faves to re-enter the scene.

    Outstanding Comedy Series

    Ineligible 2019 Nominees: Last year's champion Fleabag ended after two seasons, while Veep ended after seven seasons. Combined with the fact that Barry and Russian Doll hav yet to air new seasons, that puts a big hole in most of this year's major comedy categories.

    Returning 2019 Nominees: The two returning nominees expected to battle it out for this year's top comedy prize are Amazon Prime's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Pop's Schitt's Creek, whose final season coincided with the show's peak pop culture relevance. The show went out on such a high note that many are expecting it to make the jump from Emmy nominee to winner. Another show that aired its final episode this season, The Good Place, is also looking to make it back into the Emmy race.

    New Contenders: With the freshman class of comedies not exactly burning the house down, expect the rest of the Comedy Series category to dip back into some old faves. One pretty sure bet is HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, which has been nominated every year it's been eligible since 2002. Black-ish was nominated for three straight years before missing out last year, and GLOW was nominated for its first season in 2018 before getting squeezed out last year. Meanwhile, two series that ended this year after once being Emmy faves — Modern Family and Silicon Valley — are probably long shots for swan-song nominations.

    More likely is a show like Hulu's Ramy, which got a boost in attention from star Ramy Youssef's Golden Globe win in January; or Netflix's Dead to Me, whose second season premiered to further acclaim. This could also be the year that shows like HBO's Insecure or FX's Better Things finally get their first Comedy Series nods.

    While Greg Daniels and Phoebe Waller-Bridge have historically been Emmy darlings, Space Force debuted on Netflix to disappointing reviews and Run (ahem) ran out of steam by season's end, with even HBO giving up th ghost when it cancelled the series earlier this month.

    For Your Consideration: Netflix's Never Have I Ever, from producer Mindy Kaling, had one of the strongest debut seasons of the year, even if the Emmys rarely go for teen comedies. FX's What We Do in the Shadows continues to be one of the flat-out funniest shows on television. The same could be said for HBO's Los Espookys, a nomination for which would be a groundbreaker for Spanish-language television. And we can always hope that this is the year that Emmy voters get their act together when it comes to One Day at a Time.

    Predicted Nominees: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Schitt's Creek, The Good Place, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ramy, Dead to Me, Black-ish, GLOW

    Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy

    Ineligible 2019 Nominees: Among last year's nominees, only last year's winner, Barry's Bill Hader, is ineligible this time around.

    Returning 2019 Nominees: Anyone looking to break into this category will have to deal with formidable competition from Anthony Anderson (Black-ish), Don Cheadle (Black Monday), Ted Danson (The Good Place), Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method), and Eugene Levy (Schitt's Creek).

    New Contenders: Larry David hasn't been quite the automatic nominee that Curb Your Enthusiasm has in the Comedy Series category, but he's come close. If he makes the cut, this year, it will be his seventh nomination in ten seasons. Other top contenders include Globe winner Ramy Youssef (Ramy), Paul Rudd (Living with Yourself), and Emmy fave Steve Carell (Space Force), who never won for The Office but was nominated six times in total.

    For Your Consideration: Yes,i t was a bummer that the show decided to become Fargo in its last episodes, but Run featured a dynamite turn by Domhnall Gleeson, who managed to be sexy, charming, weak, slimy, and an altogether un-tidy romantic interest throughout.

    Predicted Nominees: Ted Danson, Michael Douglas, Eugene Levy, Larry David, Ramy Youssef, and Don Cheadle.

    Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy

    Ineligible 2019 Nominees: In addition to the excellent Natasha Lyonne not returning with another season of Russian Doll, the field will be short last year's two heaviest hitters, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

    Returning 2019 Nominees: Catherine O'Hara (Schitt's Creek), Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), and Christina Applegate (Dead to Me) are all eligible again and expected to be major contenders.

    New Contenders: As with the Comedy Series category, the newly opened-up slots could signal a return to old faves. 2018 nominees Pamela Adlon (Better Things), Issa Rae (Insecure), Tracee Ellis-Ross (Black-ish), Allison Janney (Mom), and Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie) are all strong possibilities. Meanwhile, it's the last chance for the Emmys to reward Kristen Bell for four years of great work on The Good Place.

    Among this year's new series, there are actually quite a few contenders who stand a decent chance. Zoe Kravitz (High Fidelity) and Awkwafina (Nora from Queens) are both movie stars, which could give them a leg up with voters. Meanwhile, Merritt Wever (Run) gave her show's best performance and is a huge Emmy fave, having won twice before (and is expected to contend in the Limited Series category, as well). Less likely but still worth mentioning as fringe possibilities are Rashida Jones (#BlackAF), Jane Levy (Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist), and Elle Fanning (The Great).

    For Your Consideration: It's great that Christina Applegate got recognized last year for her work on Dead to Me, but if any show was an inextricable two-hander it's that one. Linda Cardellini is putting in some of the best work of her entire career, and if you love the show that much to nominate one, you really ought to nominate both.

    Predicted Nominees: Catherine O'Hara, Rachel Brosnahan, Christina Applegate, Pamela Adlon, Issa Rae, and Kristen Bell

    Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

    Ineligible 2019 Nominees: Being without Barry this year really decimated this category, as it loses its trio of 2019 nominees Henry Winkler, Anthony Carrigan, and Stephen Root. Two-time winner Tony Hale (Veep) also isn't returning.

    Returning 2019 Nominees: Last year's winner Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) is eligible for a repeat win, and The Kominsky Method's Alan Arkin is back as well.

    New Contenders: With at least four open slots in the category, the possibilities are wide open. With Schitt's Creek expected to be a major contender, does Dan Levy finally get his due for playing David Rose to persnickety perfection? Is this finally the year that Kenan Thompson gets recognized for being the rock upon which the Saturday Night Live cast stands? Will a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel wave sweep in Michael Zegen? Will Emmy voters seize upon their last chance to nominate William Jackson Harper as The Good Place's dreamboat ethicist? All good and pertinent questions.

    Newcomers who could crack into the field include John Malkovich, delivering a typically Malkovich-ian supporting turn in Space Force, two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali for his critically acclaimed work in Ramy's second season, and Sterling K. Brown, who has already won Emmys in the Drama (This Is Us) and Limited Series (The People vs. O.J. Simpson) categories and now looks to nab a Comedy trophy for his work on the third season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

    Of course, Emmy voters could always fall back on old faves, such as Louie Anderson in Baskets or Andre Braugher in Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

    For Your Consideration: It's gonna be a bummer when Schitt's Creek gets a haul of Emmy nominations and none of them go to Noah Reid, whose performance as Patrick went from idealized boyfriend to a kaleidoscope of different ways to express bemusement at David's actions.

    Predicted Nominees: Tony Shalhoub, Alan Arkin, Kenan Thompson, Dan Levy, Mahershala Ali, Sterling K. Brown

    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy

    Ineligible 2019 Nominees: Fleabag's Sian Clifford and Olivia Colman drop out of the category this year, as does Barry's Sarah Goldberg. Also, sorry Emmy voters, you had your chance to award Anna Chlumsky for Veep, and you consistently blew it. Live with your shame.

    Returning 2019 Nominees: Two-time defending champ Alex Borstein is back, along with her Marvelous Mrs. Maisel co-star Marin Hinkle. GLOW's Betty Gilpin will try for a third straight nomination, while SNL's possibly departing Kate McKinnon hasn't missed out on a nomination since 2013.

    New Contenders: This category has steadfastly refused to nominate some incredibly worthy performers over the years, so let's take a deep breath as we wonder if this will finally be the year that voters wake up and recognize: D'Arcy Carden (The Good Place), Annie Murphy (Schitt's Creek), Rita Moreno (One Day at a Time), Jenifer Lewis (Black-ish), or Yvonne Orji (Insecure).

    Jane Lynch (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and Emily Hampshire (Schitt's Creek) will have to battle through internal competition from their own shows to make it into the field. Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live) and Laurie Metcalf (The Conners) are two nominees from 2018 looking to angle their way back into the field. Meanwhile, High Fidelity's Da'Vine Joy Randolph is probably the best bet at a nomination from a brand new show.

    For Your Consideration: In a just and perfect world, Never Have I Ever's Poorna Jagannathan would be raking in awards attention for her funny/sweet/sad role as a recently widowed mother. (Ready your outraged tweets if she misses out, everybody.) Meanwhile. although Betty Gilpin has rightly reaped praise and nominations for GLOW, Gayle Rankin delivered such a strong performance in Season 3 as Sheila, stepping out of her She-Wolf shell, it would be a real shame if she's passed over for it.

    Predicted Nominees: Alex Borstein, Marin Hinkle, Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Annie Murphy, D'Arcy Carden

    The 2020 Emmy nominations will be announced Tuesday, July 28 at 8:00 AM ET.

    Talk about the 2020 Emmy Awards in our forums.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, Black-ish, Black Monday, Curb Your Enthusiasm, GLOW, The Good Place, High Fidelity, Insecure, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Ramy, Run, Saturday Night Live, Schitt's Creek, Space Force, Anthony Anderson, Don Cheadle, Eugene Levy, Larry David, Michael Douglas, Paul Rudd, Ramy Youssef, Steve Carell, Ted Danson