Someone has to say it: the comedy categories are no laughing matter this year. Last year, Schitt’s Creek‘s final season dominated and swept every single category (Series, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Directing and Writing), leaving room for new winners in every category this year since the show has ended and is no longer eligible. Out of the eight series nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series at last year’s Emmys, only one of them is eligible for this year’s awards (Netflix’s The Kominsky Method). With only one person remaining eligible from the leading actress category (Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish) and only two from leading actor (Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method and Anthony Anderson, black-ish), lead acting categories have plenty of room for new talent to infiltrate the nominations.
There are plenty of new and returning shows that have a star leading performance that this will benefit, including shows like Ted Lasso and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. The directing and writing categories from last year are now vacant, all the shows that were nominated last year either being finished or ineligible for this year’s ceremony, allowing for seven new nominees in both categories. Some of the notable ineligibilities this year include The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Insecure, Dead to Me and What We Do in the Shadows. All of these shows (plus more!) not being eligible this year will really open up the nominees to be a new crop of nominees, hopefully allowing for some of the most diverse nominations ever.
The voting for Emmy nominations begins on June 17 and goes through June 28. Emmy nominations will be announced on Tuesday, July 13.
Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
The first show to talk about is the Apple TV+ hit comedy Ted Lasso, starring Jason Sudeikis in the leading role as a man who moves across the Atlantic to coach football (a sport he knows nothing about) in a country that doesn’t respect him. This series took Apple+ to the next level in their comedy realm and has already won several awards, including a Golden Globe, Critics Choice and SAG award for Jason Sudeikis in the titular role. The show also won two Writers Guild of America awards at the 2021 ceremony for Comedy Series and New Series. On top of these wins, Hannah Waddingham won the Critics Choice for supporting actress in a comedy series and the entire ensemble was nominated at the 2021 SAG awards. Going into the Emmys, this series will be one to watch in several categories. Jason Sudeikis is already eyeing a win at the 2021 Emmys for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, as he’ll be the biggest competition to beat in the category. Hannah Waddingham looks to be big competition in the Supporting Actress in a Comedy category, and if the show exceeds expectations for acting nominations, also look for a nomination for Brett Goldstein in the supporting actor category. As mentioned, Goldstein being nominated would be if the Television Academy can’t get enough of the show and its cast members, as its likely to be nominated for more than just acting categories. Look for the series to be included in the writing and directing categories as well, especially for the pilot episode. New series tend to submit their pilot episodes (and possibly more) for consideration at the Emmys, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Ted Lasso took up more than one spot in the writing categories. The series will also be vying for the top prize for Outstanding Comedy Series and seems to be huge competition this year, if not the frontrunner thus far.
The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)
If you’ve been looking for a dark comedy, HBO Max has a series just for you. Following the titular flight attendant, played marvelously by Kaley Cuoco, who wakes up after a night of fun to find the man she’s been with is dead, the series follows Cuoco’s character as she begins to become unraveled after what’s happened. Cuoco has been nominated for a Golden Globe and a SAG award for her performance in the series, losing both times to Catherine O’Hara for her performance in Schitt’s Creek. There will be a difference at the Emmys though, as O’Hara is not eligible there as she already won for her performance for the final season of Schitt’s Creek at last year’s Emmy ceremony. This leaves the field wide open for a new winner in the category and it looks like Cuoco could be that winner if HBO Max campaigns her hard enough. Someone else on the show that could be nominated is Zosia Mamet for her supporting performance. The show is also likely to find itself competing in the comedy writing category (as it just was nominated for New Series at the WGA Awards) and the comedy directing categories (hot off a win at the recent DGA Awards for episodic comedy). Depending on how many episodes are submitted for each, the series could find itself with multiple nominations in the categories, as well as finding itself fighting for Outstanding Comedy Series.
Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle both give such assured performances on PEN15 that it’s easy to forget, for a brief moment, that they’re grown women playing seventh grade girls. The second season picks up right where the first leaves off, inviting the audience into some of the more mature parts of growing up (like dealing with embarrassment or a parent’s divorce) and allows the leading performances to flourish even more so than the first season. The two are hilarious on the show, also, and should both be looked at for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Comedy Series. The show might not have earned the two nominations for its first season, but this year’s comedy categories are wide open with space for new nominees, so there’s a good chance at least one of the two could get nominated. The series has already received one nomination from the Television Academy in the past for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy, so it will surely look to compete there again, especially after receiving a nomination at the WGA Awards this year for Comedy Series writing. The directing category is wide open as well, possibly making room for Sam Zvibleman, who directed all of season 2 of PEN15 (as well as the last four episodes of season 1). With so many opportunities for new nominees in Outstanding Comedy Series, the Hulu original looks to compete there, as well, as it just received a nomination from the Critics Choice for Best Comedy.
The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
The only series from last year’s eight nominees in Outstanding Comedy Series that’s eligible this year is The Kominsky Method, which will premiere its final season on Netflix in late May, right before the Emmy eligibility date. The Golden Globe winning comedy series will have a notable absence of Alan Arkin, who was nominated for two Golden Globes, two Emmys, and two SAG awards for his supporting performance over the show’s first two season. This could leave more attention for Michael Douglas’s leading performance this season, a performance that has also earned him a Golden Globe so far. The door is also open for supporting actress contenders Sarah Baker and Kathleen Turner, in a War of the Roses/Romancing the Stone reunion with Douglas. This being the show’s final season will also carry some weight, as voters will be eager to reward it one final time while they can. Though being nominated for performances and the series itself so far, the show still has not been nominated for writing or directing. It hasn’t been nominated at WGA or DGA before either, so its chances in these categories might be slimmer than other series. The only thing that’s certain is that a series that has already been nominated before has a good chance of being nominated again for its final season, especially when there are so many available slots this year.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC)
While Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist season 1 was able to win an Emmy for its choreography (a category that is now split between scripted and non-scripted programming), it was also the show’s only nominations. The second season might be able to build substantially on that number. As mentioned previously, these categories are wide open since so many from last year are ineligible, so this is what could benefit Zoey in this year’s race. Jane Levy was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for her lead performance on the comedy-musical series, a performance that touches on the nuances of grief in season two and allows for a more emotionally resonant performance from the actress, which could be a good thing for her when it comes to Emmy voters. The show isn’t as sad as This Is Us, but it does have its occasional moment of emotional intensity, especially for its lead character, so look for Jane Levy on the ballot when nominations are revealed. The show also boasts strong supporting performances, and in a category with eight openings, there could be at least one slot for a Zoey’s supporting actor. Critics Choice nominee Alex Newell turns in a great performance (and provides excellent vocal work) on the show and should be worth noting for their supporting work as the first person to find out what’s going on in Zoey’s world after her accident in season one and blossoms into a meaningful friendship by the time season two premiered. The second season has been really focused and could earn some talk for Outstanding Comedy Series at this year’s ceremony.
Master of None (Netflix)
It has been recently announced that Master of None will give its audience a five-episode third season on May 23, but this time the series will be slightly different. The third season will follow Lena Waithe’s Denise, a character from the previous two seasons, and her partner (played by Naomi Ackie). The series will only very briefly include Aziz Ansari’s Dev, Ansari instead opting to be more behind the scenes, co-writing every episode with Waithe and directing every episode himself on film. It’s been four years since the last season came on so it’ll be revealed soon whether the quality of the show continues, but this is a show that has been nominated for its fair share of Emmys. Both seasons have been nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series, while Ansari has been nominated twice previously for his leading performance. That could switch over to love for Waithe’s performance since she’s already a fan-favorite character who will now be at the forefront of the series. Both of the previous seasons have won Emmys for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, Waithe and Ansari winning for co-writing season two’s standout episode, “Thanksgiving.” Will that translate to them being nominated again this year for co-writing any of this next season’s five episodes? There’s a good chance, especially since Ansari has won in this category twice now. The show will also be a chance to nominate Ansari for directing again, receiving one for the first season and missing out on one for season two. Ansari directed all five episodes of this season on film and based on the trailer, it looks like it will give it a more intimate feel to the show. On top of all of this, Netflix is sure to campaign very hard for this show, as it has before in the past, so look for it in Outstanding Comedy Series as well.
Dickinson (Apple TV+)
Dickinson is another series that had a first season that failed to receive any Emmy nominations, but with all the opportunities in the comedy categories this year, could earn nominations for its even better sophomore season. The Apple TV+ original follows Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson as a portrait of her younger years and the hardships of her personal life along with her looming depression as she attempts to prove to herself that she’s capable of being a poet. Steinfeld gives a great lead performance in the show, one to not be counted out of the conversation, but Apple TV+ needs to campaign hard to get her more into the conversation and get the show seen. If they do, the series could excel in a few categories, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy being one of them. The show also boasts an exceptional supporting turn from the hilarious Jane Krakowski, who once again proves that she can make anything funny in this show, so she could easily be one of the eight Emmy nominees for Supporting Actress in a Comedy (she’s been nominated five times before, with her most recent nomination being in 2015 for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). Depending on which episodes they submit for the writing category, they could pull a nomination there as well, as the series also has subtle but effective writing.
Mythic Quest (Apple TV+)
Another Apple TV+ comedy that wasn’t noticed by the Television Academy for its first season, but has better chances of not being overlooked for its second. Mythic Quest, a series that takes place at a video game production company, delivers a great ensemble of performances along with great writing. The second season picks up after Season 1 and the latest events of the two specials released over the past year (“Quarantine” and “Everlight”), following Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao) being promoted to co-creative director. Nicdao shouldn’t be overlooked as Poppy becomes more center focused as she’s thrust into holding herself more accountable for the mistakes she makes. Rob McElhenney continues to deliver as one of the best leading men in comedy right now for the series, and hopefully the Television Academy will take notice this time. The series hasn’t picked up any precursor awards this year due to its premiere date being in early May, so hopefully being close to the eligibility date will be a good thing for Mythic Quest. The series will be looking for its first nominations at the Emmys in all categories, but it will be interesting to see what all categories it can break into, if any. With two great lead performances and a stellar supporting cast, the show could easily find its way into Outstanding Comedy Series, being one of the best workplace comedies in recent memory.
Hacks (HBO Max) – Possible nominations:
- Outstanding Comedy Series
- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Jean Smart
- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Hannah Einbinder
- Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Kaitlin Olson
- Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
Made for Love (HBO Max) – Possible nominations:
- Outstanding Comedy Series
- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy: Cristin Milioti
Superstore (NBC) – Possible nominations:
- Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Lauren Ash
- Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Nico Santos
black-ish (ABC) – Possible nominations:
- Outstanding Comedy Series
- Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Anthony Anderson
- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Tracee Ellis Ross
Photos courtesy of Hulu/Apple TV+, Sergei Bachlakov/NBC/Lionsgate, HBO Max)