Writing Emmys Offer A Much Richer Portrait Of TV Comedy Than The Big Prize

For the last three years, the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series has gone to Veep. Before that, Modern Family went on a (record-tying) five-year run of dominance. And before that, 30 Rock won three years in a row. The last time the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy went to a non-repeat winner was in 2006, for season two of The Office. To put that into perspective: other nominees that year include Two and a Half Men, The Sopranos, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus… for The New Adventures of Old Christine. In the immortal words of Staind (who were still popular in 2006), it’s been awhile since anything other than Veep, Modern Family, or 30 Rock won.

This is not a complaint, at least not entirely. Veep turns curse words into poetry (also, Splett); 30 Rock is one of the funniest shows ever; and Modern Family, well, Modern Family was pretty good in season one. But their supremacy over Outstanding Comedy Series ironically robs the Emmys of drama. Veep was the odds on favorite, despite Atlanta‘s stellar debut season, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s rapid-fire punchlines, and Master of None‘s “Vengabus” episode.

Meanwhile, for the second year in a row, an episode of Master of None (in this case, “Thanksgiving”) won Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The Netflix show is the first back-to-back winner since Modern Family in 2010-2011, and no show since Frasier from 1994-1996 has won three years in a row. There’s a thrilling unpredictably to Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. It’s where the “just happy to be here” shows in the Outstanding Comedy Series category, like Kimmy Schmidt (which has been nominated three years in a row) and Louie (seasons 4-6), actually have a shot at winning.

Here’s everything that’s won since 2000:

2000-2001: Malcolm in the Middle
2002: The Bernie Mac Show
2003: Everybody Loves Raymond
2004-2005: Arrested Development
2006: My Name Is Earl
2007: The Office
2008-2009: 30 Rock
2010-2011: Modern Family
2012: Louie
2013: 30 Rock
2014: Louie
2015: Veep
2016-2017: Master of None

(You should really watch the “Bowling” episode of Malcolm.)

That’s 13 winners in 17 years, compared to nine for Outstanding Comedy Series. Even the list of “losers” is varied, with nominations for Freaks and Geeks, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Extras, Pushing Daisies, Community, The Last Man on Earth, and Catastrophe. These aren’t obligation nominees, like Two and a Half Men or The Big Bang Theory, either; they’re deserved.

It’s not that Veep shouldn’t win (it won’t next year, due to eligibility deadlines) — it’s that other shows should have a chance, too. It’s boring when, year in and year out, a category is a foregone conclusion before the nominations are even out. The Academy is loyal to a fault [cough House of Cards cough], but once JLD is finished stomping on her never-stood-a-chance fellow nominees like she’s Godzilla and they’re Scared Tokyo Residents #1-5, the Emmys should spread the love. With that mind, I have a proposal: a show can’t win Outstanding Comedy Series more than two years in a row. Let’s call it the Selina Meyer Rule (or, y’know, the 22nd Amendment — whichever). Award shows are silly, self-serving affairs, so why not come up with an arbitrary mandate to at least make the ceremonies more intriguing. Dynasties aren’t fun — just ask literally everyone who isn’t a New England Patriots fan.

Besides, if the 2017 Emmys taught us anything, it’s that diversity is essential.