2016 Emmys Part 1: The Comedy Categories

Last year was a wild year for the Emmys. Veep won Outstanding Comedy Series and Game of Thrones won for Outstanding Dramatic Series. It was the final hurrah for Mad Men and Jon Hamm and we saw our first African American to win Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama in Viola Davis. Plus, the Emmys acknowledge television’s embarrassment of riches with the amount of quality televisions shows as they increased nominations in Outstanding Series from 6 to 7 and came up with a convoluted rule to differentiate the dramas and comedies (Apparently if it is an hour long a televisions series is considered a drama and if it is half an hour long it is a comedy unless shows wanted to petition it).

Well this year’s nominations have come out and the Emmys showed up the Oscars in its diversity of nominations and distinct voices (as can be read in a longer piece on last week’s Buzz). Also there were a lot of surprising nominations and of course (like any award shows) there are your snubs. Man of the Hour is going to do a special three-part series discussing the nominees in the important categories and discussing who should win, who will win and who got shafted by the Television Academy.

The first part is going to focus on the comedy categories. This year’s nominees showed Hollywood that people are interested in diverse characters and voices. Lots of new series were nominated and familiar powerhouses returned. But, the Academy showed that their members are a little more hip than their filmic counterparts.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson as Andre “Dre” Johnson on Black-ish (ABC) (Episode: “Hope”)

Aziz Ansari as Dev Shah on Master of None (Netflix) (Episode: “Parents”)

Will Forte as Phil “Tandy” Miller on The Last Man on Earth (Fox) (Episode: “30 Years of Science Down the Tubes”)

William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher on Shameless (Showtime) (Episode: “TBA”)

Thomas Middleditch as Richard Hendricks on Silicon Valley (HBO) (Episode: “The Empty Chair”)

Jeffrey Tambor as Maura Pfefferman on Transparent (Amazon) (Episode: “TBA”)

The Emmys have done a wonderful job this year of compiling a good crop of actors to nominate. Last year saw the reign of Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper winning 4 Emmys in 5 years. Now he is not even nominated. The end of Episodes and House of Lies also meant that the Emmys usual nominating the bigger household name (Matt LeBlanc and Don Cheadle) meant that two spots opened up as well. There are two new well deserved nominees this year. Thomas Middleditch as the twitchy, socially awkward, computer programming genius, Richard Hendricks, finally gets a well-deserved nomination for Silicon Valley after three seasons. Then there is Aziz Ansari as Dev Shah essentially playing a version of himself but that does not make his performance any less impressive. Master of None is a personality driven show as reality is perceived through Ansari’s eyes like how Seinfeld was through Jerry’s eyes. Technical performance does not matter as much for that show. Anthony Anderson with his second nomination for the increasingly excellent Black-ish is doing the most traditional sitcom on the list where exaggerated performances are celebrated. But, this is comedy that is hard to do so it is good that it is recognized as such. Will Forte on the other-hand is doing some great character work in The Last Man on Earth warranting a nomination for him.

But, this award is Jeffrey Tambor’s to lose as the transgender woman Maura Pfefferman. It is almost unfair for Tambor to even be in this category despite how great and nuanced his performance is, as Transparent fits in the conversation of prestige television than the rest. Transparent can easily be a half an hour drama as it is outright comedy. But, that is also the case for William H. Macy’s Shameless which is this year’s check off of an actor being nominated for being more well-known than for actual performance. He is not bad per se as the self-destructive patriarch of the Gallaghers. But, after a few years, the show treading on water and there is no new aspect Macy is bringing to the series. But, the Emmys love legacy nominations. Look at how long Jon Cryer was continuously nominated for Two and Half Man.

Instead let’s look at two actors who could have easily taken that spot from two shows which was overlooked. Chris Geere of You’re the Worst is integral to the series as someone who should be so unlikable yet Geere is able to make him sympathetic. Then there is Gael Garcia Bernal on Mozart in the Jungle which won The Golden Globes (which has always made weird choices with their TV awards as can be seen by the insane amount of love for Mozart in the Jungle) for Best Actor and Best Series. And yes I am a defender of that series which can be debated if it is actually a comedy. But, Bernal is great as the eccentric composer.

Most Likely to Win: Jeffrey Tambor for Transparent

Who Should Win: Thomas Middleditch for Silicon Valley   

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix) (Episode: “Kimmy Goes to a Hotel!”)

Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as Selina Meyer on Veep (HBO) (Episode: “TBA”)

Laurie Metcalf as Dr. Jenna James on Getting On (HBO) (Episode: “TBA”)

Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow “Bow” Johnson on Black-ish (ABC) (Episode: “Sink or Swim”)

Amy Schumer as Amy on Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central) (Episode: “Welcome to the Gun Show”)

Lily Tomlin as Frankie Bergstein on Grace and Frankie (Netflix) (Episode: “The Test”)

The Outstanding Leading Actress category is an embarrassment of riches as all these actresses has a worthy case of why they are there and there are a lot of people who can just as easily replace them. That just goes to show how rich television has been for actresses and women being funny. Gone are Edie Falco and Amy Poehler who have held firm hold on nominations. Yet none of them have been able to take down the queen of the category, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss who has won the award for the last four years (coincidentally the length of a presidential election) for being the foul-mouthed, caustic President Selina Meyer. And truthfully there is no one that should topple her from her throne. There is no better character and commentary on the political system than Louis-Dreyfuss as Selina Meyer, someone who cares more about winning than the wellbeing of her own daughter.

But, I must congratulate the Emmys for recognizing the amazing Tracee Ellis Ross as Bow Johnson on Black-ish. It is amazing how well composed she can be in one moment and instantaneously turn crazy. Normally with a sitcom like Black-ish, it is the male figure who gets to be the crazy, anxious one and it was the female character who has to reign them in. Look at Everybody Loves Raymond or King of Queens for this well-worn model. Here the two get to be equally as self-conscious and needy and it Ross absolutely pulls it off. Ellie Kemper’s unending cheeriness as Kimmy Schmidt is still the best part of the subpar sophomore season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Laurie Metcalf proves to be an Emmys darling with three nominations for three different series. Here she is nominated for Getting On, an HBO show that I honestly know nothing about but I hear she is good.

Amy Schumer who has been previously nominated is coming probably the weakest season of her sketch show and Lily Tomlin is this year’s nominee for being nominated for being a big name for a show that is fine but has no cultural cache. Instead of those two the Emmys should really stop overlooking the CW series. Gina Rodriguez and Rachel Bloom are the stars of Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend which are both hindered by the rule that a show that is an hour long is automatically considered a drama unless petitioned. Both are the amazing anchors to their show and have won the always unpredictable Golden Globes for Best Actress. Bloom even won the Critics’ Choice Award. More importantly nominations could get these shows to be watched more. Also, once again with love for You’re the Worst, Aya Cash is the second half of the duo with Geere. This season was especially heavy with the main character dealing with clinical depression. In a similar vein, Gillian Jacobs does similar things in Love playing a wholly self-destructive character who struggles to find reasons to be in aa healthy relationship. Just the sheer amount of great actresses delivering amazing performances shows how great television comedies have been for actresses to play diverse and multi-faceted roles.

Who Will Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfuss for Veep

Who Should Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfuss for Veep   

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets on Baskets (FX) (Episode: “TBA”)

Andre Braugher as Captain Ray Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox) (Episode: “TBA”)

Titus Burgess as Titus Andromedon on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix) (Episode: “Kimmy Gives Up!”)

Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy on Modern Family (ABC) (Episode: “TBA”)

Tony Hale as Gary Walsh on Veep (HBO) (Episode: “TBA”)

Keegan-Michael Key as Various Characters on Key and Peele (Comedy Central) (Episode: “Y’all Ready for This?”)

Matt Walsh as Mike McLintock on Veep (HBO) (Episode: “TBA”)

The biggest surprise of this year’s Outstanding Supporting Actor category is the recognition of Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets, not because he did not deserve it but because you would not expect Emmy voters even have watched it. But, Anderson as the mother of Zach Galifinakis in Baskets is a quietly touching performance and is the best part of an uneven series.

Other than the inclusion of Anderson, there is little change in the rest of the nominees as the category remains largely the same from last year with the unfortunately exclusion of Adam Driver. Brooklyn Nin-Nine’s Andre Braugher once again got nominated but as the series sole nomination, the show has become incredibly underrated in the eyes of award shows at being consistently good throughout its run.

In the last three years Ty Burrell and Tony Hale have been trading wins in this category. Because I love streaks I cannot help but to think Burrell would win this year. But, while Hale has the flashier supporting role on Veep, I love the energy of Matt Walsh as the beleaguered Matt McClintock, the unfortunate Press Secretary for Selina Meyer. Burrell with the declining quality of Modern Family is the legacy pick for this year as if the Emmys would suddenly disintegrate if they did not include a little a nomination for Burrell.

The biggest surprise is the lack of nomination for Adam Driver. He fits all the categories that the Emmys love and he was the main component of the reinvigorated last season of Girls. TJ Miller once again is snubbed for his performance on Silicon Valley. If comedy was boxing, TJ Miller is pound for pound one of the funniest people on television today.

Who Will Win: Ty Burrell for Modern Family

Who Should Win: Matt Walsh for Veep

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Anna Chlumsky as Amy Brookheimer on Veep (HBO) (Episode: “C**tgate”)

Gaby Hoffman as Alexandria “Ali” Pfefferman on Transparent (Amazon) (Episode: “TBA”)

Allison Janney as Bonnie Plunkett on Mom (CBS) (Episode: “Terrorists and Gingerbread”)

Judith Light as Shelly Pfefferman on Transparent (Amazon) (Episode: “TBA”)
Kate McKinnon as Various Characters on Saturday Night Live (NBC) (Episode: “Host: Ariana Grande”)

Niecy Nash as Denise “Didi” Ortley on Getting On (HBO) (Episode: “Don’t Let It Get In You or On You”)

There is no one that the Emmys love more than Allison Janney and for good reason. Whether it is in a drama or a comedy she excels. She has been nominated for ten Emmys and has won seven. This includes winning Outstanding Supporting Actress in the less two years for her performance on Mom. So as a betting man and a general Allison Janney lover, there is no reason why she would not win again.

Her biggest competition comes in two forms. Judith Light, who was overlooked last year for her performance in Transparent and the great Anna Chlumsky on Veep. As the ex-wife of Jeffrey Tambor, Judith Light skirts being a stereotypical Jewish mom but really adds a touching undertone to her role as the matriarch of the dysfunctional family. Chlumsky on the other hand is great as the underappreciated assistant of Selina Meyer. Her manic approach to just wanting approval is brought out by her bug eyed stare and her ability to be so funny. Shout outs also o the continuing nomination for Kate McKinnon in this year’s obligatory nod for a Saturday Night Live member. She is a stand out in a very strong cast.

Once again, I know nothing about Getting On but I am sure Niecy Nash is great. That said, I would love to see nods soon for Constance Wu on Fresh Off the Boat. She is the best part of a racially problematic show.

Most Likely to Win: Allison Janney for Mom

Who Should Win: Anna Chlumsky for Veep

Outstanding Comedy Series

Black-ish (ABC)

Master of None (Netflix)

Modern Family (ABC)

Silicon Valley (HBO)

Transparent (Amazon)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

Veep (HBO)

This is the most prestigious award of the night and generally the Academy has got it right. The inclusion of Modern Family offers insight to how old the Academy is. But, then Master of None counters that notion. Some would think that the show would be too out of the box and unconventional for an Outstanding Series Nomination. It took Louie, a similarly unconventional show, until its third season before it was able to get a nomination. Black-ish is indeed the best conventional sitcom on television right now fixing what the Cosby Show was never able to do. It questions black identity while also providing racial uplift. It is the best of The Jeffersons and The Cosby Show put together and it is great that it is being continuously recognized.

But, in the end, it is Veep’s Emmy to lose. Especially in an election year, the show has been especially prescient in the egomaniacal nature of the politicians. It has everything the Emmys want and I want. It has prestige, smart and continuously one of the highest joke densities of any shows without deluding the plot of the show. Transparent is probably the biggest contender in the race as it is balancing on the comedy and drama side of things. Luckily, it deserves every award consideration it gets.

Obviously, Modern Family is my pick for the legacy pick that does not deserve its nominations. I would also make the case for the weak sophomore season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Instead I offer up the extremely overlooked Broad City. If there are any show that represents the zeitgeist of the current age, look no further than Broad City. If Modern Family is a clean look for older people of what divesity is, then Broad City is the gritty world portrayal of urban life.

Who Will Win: Veep

Who Should Win: Veep    

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series

Aziz Ansari for Masters of None (Netflix) (Episode: “Parents”)

Alec Berg for Silicon Valley (HBO) (Episode: “Daily Active Users”)

Mike Judge for Silicon Valley (HBO) (Episode: “Founder Friendly”)

Jill Soloway for Transparent (Amazon) (Episode: “Man on Land”)

Chris Addison for Veep (HBO) (Episode: “Morning After”)

Dave Stern for Veep (HBO) (Episode: “Mother”)

 

Veep may have all the nominations for the category but that dilution maybe its downfall. Expect Jill Soloway to take home another Emmy for her direction on Transparent. Her direction is tender and direct. She has been making films for years and is a good example of a filmmaker who has turned to television due to the opportunities that film does not offer her. Her stiffest competition is Aziz Ansari who also takes an independent filmmaker approach to Master of None although he was nominated for the wrong episode. Rather than “Parents,” I think “Nashville” was a better directed episode. His sweet direction really hammers in the romantic comedy elements.

Broad City is the biggest snub in this category as well especially for the episode “2016.” The show throughout the season pays homage to many different filmic styles and genres. It would just be nice to see Broad City get more recognition from the Academy.

Who Will Win: Jill Soloway for Transparent

Who Should Win: Jill Soloway for Transparent

 Outstanding Animated Program

Archer (FX) (Episode: “The Figgis Agency”)

Bob’s Burger (Fox) (Episode: “The Horse Rider-er”)

Phineas and Ferb (Disney XD) (Episode: “Last Day of Summer”)

The Simpsons (Fox) (Episode: “Halloween of Horror)

South Park (Comedy Central) (Episode: “You’re Not Yelping”)

This is an award that is unfortunately relegated to the Creative Arts portion of the show. The Emmys in total gives over 150 awards out. Over the years the Outstanding Animated Program has been dominated by The Simpsons and South Park. It is hard to believe this year will be any different although the mix of children and adult orientated animated programs are always good to see. Archer really deserves the win here of being a creative achievement in art filmmaking and being a great show.

It is unfortunate that the Academy has not nominated BoJack Horseman yet. It is one of the funniest, most depressing shows on television (or Netflix I guess). It can often times also be very formally creative, taking risks. As I am writing this, I am watching the newest season fo BoJack Horseman which is completely in silent because the entire episode takes place under water. What other shows would even attempt that?

Most Likely to Win: South Park

What Should Win: Archer

 Outstanding Short Form Animated Program

Adventure Time (Cartoon Network) (Episode: “Hall of Egress”)

The Powerpuff Girls (Cartoon Network) (Episode: “Once Upon a Townsville”)

Robot Chicken (Cartoon Network) (Episode: “Robot Chicken Christmas Special: X-Mas United”)

SpongeBob SquarePants (Nickelodean) (Episode: “Company Picnic”)

Steven Universe (Cartoon Network) (Episode: “The Answer”)

Outstanding Short Form Animated Program is one of the new awards on the list. This is delegated to animated shows that run for less than fifteen minutes. The main competition here is between Adventure Time and Steven Universe. I suspect Steven Universe will win due to its appeal and fandom and because I am rooting for the shows that have not won yet.

Who Will Win: Adventure Time

Who Should Win: Steven Universe