Because it’s NBC’s turn to air the Primetime Emmy Awards this year, and because the Peacock would understandably rather air its lucrative Sunday night NFL package in September, the ceremony will take place in late August again. And as an added wrinkle, this year’s ceremony will actually happen on a Monday, August 25 at 8 p.m., with Seth Meyers hosting.
Between now and then, Dan and I will be making our picks for both who should and will win many of the major categories – if you’re wagering, keep in mind that Dan tends to be much better at predicting the winners than I am, but also that he was just as flummoxed as I by last year’s winners like Jeff Daniels, Merritt Wever and Bobby Cannavale – coming close to ending as we discuss the best comedy category.
Outstanding Comedy Series
“The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
“Modern Family” (ABC)
“Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix)
“Silicon Valley” (HBO)
Alan’s pick: There are some fine shows represented in this category, but the only reason I would even hesitate to crown the first season of “Orange Is the New Black” (season 2 is eligible at next year’s Emmys) would be if I felt it didn’t belong in the comedy categories. But this is where it’s been placed, and it is funny enough often enough to not feel like complete category fraud, and that first season was truly something special. It took us into a fascinating new world and populated it with the sorts of characters who hadn’t been seen on television before – or, at least, who hadn’t been portrayed with this much depth and empathy, and at this great length, before. It was comic when it wanted to be, tragic when it needed to be, and it was the first Netflix original to actually improve due to the service’s binge-watching model.
Dan’s pick: I’m genuinely SO bored with the “‘Orange Is The New Black’ isn’t a comedy” line, even when it comes from the very best of my friends and colleagues. Comedies do different things. Some make you laugh all the time. Some make you laugh some of the time. Some darkly observe life’s absurdities through a premise in extremis. “Garfield” is a comedy and “Catch 22” is a comedy and “The Master & Margarita” is a comedy AND THEY’RE ALL DIFFERENT. Lord. If you’d asked me which category “Orange” belonged in, I’d tell you “Orange Is The New Black” is absolutely a comedy and it’s easily the best show in the category, which is saying something since “Louie” and “Veep” will be contenders for my Year-End Top 10, “Silicon Valley” was one of the year’s best new shows and “Modern Family” and “The Big Bang Theory” are very popular shows that sometimes make me laugh. A social satire set in a uniquely stratified world, “Orange Is The New Black” is also sad and infuriating and powerful, but I refuse to blame a show for doing MORE things that I expect from the genre. Jiminy Christmas, I don’t hear people complaining that “Good Wife” is sometimes funny and therefore isn’t a drama. It’s also TV’s deepest ensemble.
Alan’s pick: This seems like the year when the “Modern Family” streak will finally come to the end. The question is what sort of show voters choose to anoint as TV’s new comedy standard-bearer. Will it be another – and even more popular, and more traditional – network comedy like “Big Bang”? A beautifully executed HBO comedy like “Veep”? A genre-bender like “Louie”? Other than “Silicon Valley” (a pleasant surprise in the category, but a “just happy to be here” nominee), I can see scenarios where any of the other shows wins. But the most likely one feels like a coronation of “Orange,” which did all the things I described above, which is one of the few shows that I hear working TV writers, directors and actors – all of whom spend very little time actually watching television – praising, and which would allow Academy members to feel a bit cutting-edge due to the Netflix of it. If the voters decide they aren’t comfortable with “Orange” being classified as a comedy, maybe this is the year “Veep” takes the big prize, but momentum – especially with many voters having recently watched the second season – seems on the side of “Orange.”
Dan’s pick: This is the first time since it premiered that given the choice between “Modern Family” and the field, I would take the field in this category, prediction-wise. In addition to a dilution of quality over the years, “Modern Family” has suffered from a dilution of hype and there’s a lot of value when it comes to hype. But that doesn’t mean that I’m certain that “Modern Family” is heading for its first loss in this category. Give me percentages and I’m probably saying “MF” and “OITNB” have 25 percent chances of winning, followed by “Veep,” with 20 percent, “Big Bang” with 15 percent, “Louie” with 10 and “Silicon Valley” with 5 percent? Maybe? I’ve waffled back and forth on this for weeks and I’m landing on “Orange” this week. It’s coming off of a solid performance at the Creative Arts Emmys last week, it has the chance to win a bunch of Emmys on Monday. It has the additional momentum and hype from a very strong second season, which also would have been my pick in this category. A “Modern Family” win is a triumph of complacency. A “Veep” win is a triumph of creative momentum and evolution. A “Big Bang Theory” win is a triumph for mainstream popularity (which isn’t the worst thing in the world). But an “Orange” win combines quality and hype, plus it demonstrates a forward-looking view on the medium. That’s a lot in its favor.
PREVIOUSLY: Outstanding Movie/Miniseries Outstanding Comedy & Drama Directing Outstanding Comedy & Drama Writing Outstanding Comedy & Drama Supporting Actress Outstanding Comedy & Drama Supporting Actor Outstanding Comedy & Drama Lead Actress Outstanding Comedy & Drama Lead Actor
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org