Thursday, May 23, 2024

Top 10 Comedy Series To Keep An Eye On For The 2024 Emmy Awards Season

If this year’s Emmy race for Outstanding Drama Series is one hot mess (a wild race we cover in detail here), the contest on the Comedy Series side is only slightly tidier — but not by much. As with Drama, this year’s Comedy race has been hit hard by the absence of returning nominees from last year’s contest, whether by hiatus or by concluding their runs. Indeed, of the eight Comedy Series nominees from 2023, only three — “The Bear,” “Abbott Elementary,” and “Only Murders in the Building” — are eligible to compete this year, leaving five open slots.

Of those, two will likely be taken up by a pair of former Comedy Series nominees — Max’s “Hacks” and HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — which are returning from hiatus. The remaining three spots will likely come from among several familiar series, giving them another shot, as well as several promising newcomers who are anxious to break into the Emmy conversation.

So, with even some ace Emmy prognosticators flummoxed as to what titles will make the final eight, here’s your chance to jump ahead of the pack. I’ve selected these ten comedy series to put on your Emmy radar, along with a few comments on where their awards’ strengths (or weaknesses) may lie. Happy streaming!

The third season of classes at Willard R. Abbott Public School reveals new challenges for its teachers, particularly for Janine (series creator Quinta Brunson), who has left her classroom to accept a fellowship at the local school district where she hopes that she can make an even bigger impact on students’ lives. Taking its leading character out of the workplace where the other characters interact was a considerable risk. Still, many critics praised the move as providing more opportunities for Brunson’s character to grow, as well as giving a chance for the show’s rich supporting cast to develop their characters more fully. Despite nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series for its first two seasons, “Abbott Elementary” has yet to win that coveted Emmy and may have a challenge this year wresting it away from those “Bear” chefs from Chicago.

EMMY OUTLOOK: For all the praise the show has received, “Abbott Elementary” has never seen an Emmy juggernaut, receiving seven nominations for its first season and eight for its second (By contrast, comedy rival “Only Murders in the Building” earned 17 nominations for its first season alone). Still, the show is almost certain to receive a third straight series nod, with previous winners Brunson and Sheryl Lee Ralph and former nominees Janelle James and Tyler James Williams also likely to return.

THE BEAR – Season 2 (FX)
This scrappy FX series set in a Chicago sandwich shop went into Emmy season last year a decided underdog against powerhouse “Ted Lasso,” but it was “The Bear” that emerged triumphant, winning 10 Emmys from its 13 nominations, including the key one for Outstanding Comedy Series. If critical reviews for Season 1 were great, those for the show’s second season are even better, as the team comes together to transform their sandwich shop into a mecca for fine dining. Last year’s Supporting Emmy winner, Ayo Edebiri, moves up to Lead Actress this year, freeing up the category to give the show’s other women — Liza Colón-Zayas, Molly Gordon, and Abby Elliott — more running room to receive nominations as well. Clearly, the show’s upward trajectory shows no signs of stopping. This year’s big question is how high can “The Bear” go?

EMMY OUTLOOK: The sky’s the limit for “The Bear” this year. In acting categories alone, last year’s winners — Edebiri, Jeremy Allen White, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach — are all virtually sure to return, and among the cast’s supporting actors, Lionel Boyce, Oliver Platt, and Matty Matheson all have a shot for a nomination. If that wasn’t enough, nominees from “The Bear” could easily comprise half of all the Guest Acting nominees, with Jamie Lee Curtis and Jon Bernthal as their respective categories’ current front-runners (Plus, there could still be room for any combination of Bob Odenkirk, Olivia Colman, Will Poulter, Sarah Paulson, or John Mulaney to grab a nod). The current record for Emmy nominations for a comedy series in a single year is 22 (“30 Rock” in 2009). Prepare for that record to be smashed.

For nearly 24 years, Larry David has been annoying young and old alike with his selfish, ornery antics on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and audiences (and Emmy voters) have been loving every faux pas. In its first 11 seasons, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” has garnered a total of 51 Emmy nominations, including an impressive ten nods as Outstanding Comedy Series (Alas, it has only chalked up two wins — in 2003 for directing and 2012 for editing). Now that the series has just concluded its 12th and final season, Emmy voters have one last chance to honor America’s favorite curmudgeon, and with this season’s topical storyline — Larry’s arrest for daring to give a thirsty Georgia voter a bottle of water — the stars may be aligned for a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” comeback.

EMMY OUTLOOK: Since 2008, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” has been averaging about 4 to 5 Emmy nominations each season; it’s usually some combination of series, casting, editing, sound mixing, and guest actor, with occasional nominations for David as Lead Actor. I’d expect the same number this year — or perhaps a slight uptick for sentiment’s sake — with David likely returning to the acting race and the guest actor shot possibly going to Jerry Seinfeld for the series finale. And wouldn’t it be nice if the late Richard Lewis could receive one as well?

GEN V – Season 1 (Prime Video)
Even though the superhero series “The Boys” earned a 2021 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Drama Series, its new spinoff, “Gen V,” is being submitted as a comedy, an appropriate category for the series given its lighter mixture of gore and humor. But the satiric bite of its progenitor is in force in its tale of aspiring “supes” in training at the Godolkin University of Crimefighting, where they hope to fulfill their dreams of becoming one of The Seven. With “The Boys‘” Craig Rosenberg, Evan Goldberg, and Eric Kripke developing the spinoff, “Gen V” smartly weaves in its commentary on social media, gender identity, and class privilege into its superhero story with a skill that has generated some of the best reviews of any freshman comedy this season.

EMMY OUTLOOK: With “Gen V” as a first-season show still finding its footing awards-wise, below-the-line nominations are probably its best shot, which is possible, given the high level of tech work here. Above-the-line recognition will be a tougher reach, but with “Gen V” boasting a 97% favorable Rotten Tomatoes rating among critics, Emmy voters looking for something new may give this series a second look.

THE GENTLEMEN – Season 1 (Netflix)
Guy Ritchie has come to television! Whether you see that statement as a joy or a threat, the British action director brings his rock-em-sock-em style of filmmaking to Netflix for this comedy based on his 2019 film. Here, Emmy nominee Theo James (“The White Lotus”) stars as aristocrat Eddie Horniman, who is delighted to learn that he has inherited both a title and a 15,000-acre estate from his late father. When he arrives, however, he learns that his land has been turned into a giant weed farm, and the gangsters running it have no intention of packing up anytime soon. Like Ritchie’s films, the humor is as dark as they come amidst the sudden outbursts of violence. In this race, there’s no other series quite like “The Gentlemen,” and that uniqueness may help it stand out from the rest of the freshman Emmy pack.

EMMY OUTLOOK: Though crafts categories (particularly production design) are the show’s best chance at a nomination, don’t count out James slipping through with a Lead Actor nomination or Ritchie nabbing a directing nomination as well. Stranger things have happened on nomination morning.

HACKS – Season 3 (Max)
After sitting out the 2023 Emmy race, this show biz comedy returns with a vengeance for a third season of codependence between stand-up comic Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) and her trusted writer Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder). As Season 2 ended, Deborah and Ava parted ways, each believing that they could live without the other. Still, as the new season starts, each woman comes to the brutal realization that she can’t, especially as Deborah is now gunning for the dream late-night host gig that has always eluded her. With 32 Emmy nominations (and six wins, including acting, writing, and directing victories), if any show can take down “The Bear” this year, it’s this one.

EMMY OUTLOOK: With its third season premiering just before Emmy campaigning begins in earnest, Season 3 will still be fresh when voters get around to their ballots, and with this season’s critical acclaim, expect “Hacks” to match or exceed the 17 nominations it received in 2022. Nominations for series, writing, and directing are pretty much assured, as are acting nominations for Smart and Einbinder. Supporting nominations are also quite possible for co-stars Megan Stalter, Paul W. Downs, and Carl Clemons-Hopkins as well.

This comic murder-mystery series has continuously operated around the fringes of show business, but for its third season, it goes all in, as Oliver (Martin Short) has landed his big Broadway comeback vehicle, directing “Death Rattle,” a whodunit with a cast led by movie star Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd), who is soon murdered (and not by the critics). Expanding the playing field to Broadway has provided the series with a new range of characters, led by Meryl Streep’s Loretta, an actress who auditions brilliantly but struggles onstage (Casting Streep as a terrible actress is but one of Season 3’s many inspired ideas). Stars Short, Steve Martin, and Selena Gomez each have a significant romance this season, adding more character-based moments to the mix and expanding the role of Michael Cyril Creighton’s Howard in the storyline provides a source of some of the season’s biggest laughs.

EMMY OUTLOOK: Though it has yet to win the Comedy Series crown, “Only Murders In The Building” has been a magnet for Emmy nominations, earning 28 in its first two seasons (with four wins). A third nomination for Comedy Series is a given, as are nominations for both Short and Streep. Also possible are acting nominations for Martin (who missed here last year), Rudd, and this year’s Oscar winner, Da’Vine Joy Randolph. And, while you’re at it, Emmy voters, how about some love for Gomez, who has provided the ballast for three seasons to make the show’s chemistry work?

PALM ROYALE – Season 1 (Apple TV+)
Creating a period comedy based on the class differences between the rich and the super-rich is a tall order, but “Palm Royale” manages to pull it off with a blend of slapstick laughs and designer style. Our guide through the ins and out of the 1960s-era nouveau riche is social climber extraordinaire Maxine Dellacorte-Simmons (Kristin Wiig), whose dream it is to rub shoulders with the queen bees of Palm Beach society: Evelyn Rollins (Allison Janney) and the now-comatose Norma Dellacorte (Carol Burnett). The challenge that series creator Abe Sylvia faced was to make these over-the-top characters relatable and not cartoony, and thanks to a writing team that emphasized character over caricature, he has largely managed to do just that.

EMMY OUTLOOK: Of all of this year’s freshman comedies, “Palm Royale” appears to show the most Emmy promise. One of its most striking features is its look, and the period recreations of that Palm Beach aesthetic are likely to draw attention in the crafts, particularly in costumes, hairstyling, and production design. The series has also been cast with Emmy royalty, with former winners Burnett, Janney, and Laura Dern joining previous Emmy nominees Wiig, Ricky Martin, Mindy Cohn, and Julia Duffy as enticing nomination prospects. With all that, a nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series is looking good as well.

What do you do with a comedy series that is the recipient of the Peabody Award, three AFI Awards, two Indie Spirit Awards (not to mention nominations for five Critics Choice Awards, two WGA Awards and a Golden Globe), and whose Emmy nominations total exactly one? (Last year, for Sound Editing). If there’s a case for an overlooked comedy, it’s “Reservation Dogs,” the hilarious and touching saga of four Indigenous teenagers who want out from their rural Oklahoma reservation. At the end of Season 2, they achieve their dream of reaching California, and as Season 3 begins, they realize they have to find a way to get back home. The series achieves a unique balance between scenes of magical realism and fart jokes, but its most significant achievement is its look at Native American society today in all its complexities. With Indigenous People both in front of and behind the camera, “Reservation Dogs” is not only a TV landmark in representation, but it’s a damn fine (and Emmy-worthy) comedy as well.

EMMY OUTLOOK: Building a groundswell of support for a series with one nomination to its name is a challenge, but the third and final season has yet to achieve its highest level of buzz. Cast members D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Devery Jacobs, and Paulina Alexis have all received Critics Choice nominations this year, and recurring regular Lily Gladstone is looming in the Comedy Guest Actress race. Even Comedy Series looks to have one or two open spots, and a series with a 100% favorable Rotten Tomatoes rating would fit that need quite nicely.

For its first four seasons, this horror/comedy/mockumentary series has been an Emmy mainstay, receiving 21 nominations, including Outstanding Comedy Series nominations in 2020 and 2021. The series, created by Jemaine Clement (star of the original film version), centers on four vampire roommates who must cope with life in Staten Island. But the series, which also received multiple nominations for its writing over the years, failed to earn any above-the-line nods for Season 4, earning just four tech nominations. Yet the series’ fifth season has been met with enormous critical acclaim (95% favorable on Rotten Tomatoes), so there may be awards life in these old vampires yet.

EMMY OUTLOOK: While it’s true that Emmy voters rarely return to nominate a series that they had bypassed the year before, “What We Do in the Shadows” may be an exception. Several series are on the bubble for an Outstanding Comedy Series nomination, and with few standout shows from this year’s freshman class, Emmy voters may choose to fill that void with a much-loved old favorite.

What do you think are the biggest Emmy contenders for Outstanding Comedy Series this year? Which of these shows is your favorite so far? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s Twitter account. Be sure to also check out our Next Best Series Podcast throughout the Emmy season and our latest Emmy predictions here.

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Tom O'Brien
Tom O'Brien
Palm Springs Blogger and Awards lover. Editor at Exact Change & contributing writer for Gold Derby.

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