Emmys 2014

08.21.14

What's TV's Funniest Show? Our Emmy Awards Comedy Predictions

Is the reign of ‘Modern Family’ over? Is ‘Orange Is the New Black’ the new Emmy darling? Is this the year of ‘Veep’? We delve inside the comedy races ahead of Monday’s Emmy Awards.

Modern Family has always been a groundbreaking television show. Heck, its title alone tells you that. But come Monday night it could also be a record-breaking television show. Should it win the Emmy Award for Best Comedy Series, which it very well could, it would tie Frasier’s record with five consecutive victories in that category.

ABC’s tentpole sitcom, however, could also very well—for the first time—be completely shut out in the major comedy races, after having dominated the series and acting categories for its first five seasons. A sharper-than-ever season from Veep, an overdue Louie, a more popular than ever The Big Bang Theory, and freshman ringer Orange Is the New Black are bigger threats to Modern Family’s Emmy dominance than ever before, especially with the show’s favor with TV Academy voters seeming to wane as the series gets older.

So when the Emmys are presented on Monday night, who will win—and, more importantly, who will be cursing to the TV heavens about being snubbed because they should have won? Here’s our best guesses.

Comedy Series

The Big Bang Theory
Louie
Modern Family
Orange Is the New Black
Silicon Valley
Veep

For the better part of the last three decades, the Emmy Awards have, with the exception of a few fun surprises, been a bit of a broken record in this category: three consecutive wins for Taxi, four wins in nine years for Cheers, five straight victories for Frasier, three in a row for 30 Rock, Modern Family’s current reign. The TV Academy had a predilection for rubber stamping, and the safe bet is always to assume they’ll do the same this year, thus spelling triumph number five for Modern Family.

But this is the first year that nominators haven’t gone hog wild for the show’s actors—nominating only three Modern Family thesps this year to last year’s six—and critical consensus is that the sitcom’s best days are behind it. It’s tempting to say that hot new item on the (prison) block, Orange Is the New Black, is poised to take its crown. But if HBO’s Girls, which was considered just as hot and just as boundary-pushing and fresh two years ago, couldn’t nab the trophy from Modern Family in its first season, it’s even more unlikely that OITNB could pull off the feat, especially with how much the Emmys will embrace Netflix’s surge still a mystery.

The Big Bang Theory, of course, is the most-watched comedy on television—by nearly twice as many viewers—and that counts for more than you might think. But if Modern Family doesn’t win this year, it’s most likely that Veep, which managed to be TV’s sharpest, most intelligent comedy and its most riotous clown show at the same time, will.

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Louis C.K. – Louie
Don Cheadle – House of Lies
Ricky Gervais – Derek
Matt LeBlanc – Episodes
William H. Macy – Shameless
Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory

Anyone wondering how the increasingly blurred lines between comedy and drama complicate judging Emmy nominees need only look at this category, which features, really, only one purebred, laugh-out-loud comedy performer. That could be part of why Jim Parsons has won this category three of the last four years and is a frontrunner to win his fourth trophy Monday night (though Parsons’ delightful comedic timing certainly is the bigger factor in his wins).

It would be optimistic to say that Louis C.K. will win this year because he’s overdue, after reliably delivery the category’s most nuanced and interesting acting performance each year—and then losing each year. But recent Emmy history—particularly in this category—tells us that being overdue is irrelevant. Just ask Steve Carell.

Lena Dunham could win this year for her most impressive acting scenes yet during Girls’ highly charged, highly uncomfortable friends fights in “Beach House.”

That makes William H. Macy Parsons’ biggest competition, nominated for the first time here after Shameless shrewdly (and shamelessly) made a jump from the drama races, where it belongs, to the comedy races, where it has a better chance of competing. There’s a wiliness to Macy’s depraved and pathetic Frank Gallagher that comically offsets those more dramatic and depressing traits, which could help him score laugh points with voters who find it hard to chuckle at Louis C.K.’s frequent bleakness in Louie. But though Louis C.K. should win and William H. Macy very well could, it’s hard to imagine Jim Parsons not prevailing again. 

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Lena Dunham – Girls
Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep
Melissa McCarthy – Mike and Molly
Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation
Taylor Schilling – Orange Is the New Black

Acting Emmy nominees all submit one marquee episode that they think is their best showcase for voters to adjudicate, meaning that an actor could win an Emmy for one fantastic scene over other nominees who have had standout seasons. So in theory, Lena Dunham could win this year for her most impressive acting scenes yet during Girls’ highly charged, highly uncomfortable friends fights in “Beach House.” (Though those scenes may be too charged and too uncomfortable for comedy voters to sign off on.) Similarly, Taylor Schilling runs the full gamut from neurotic to terrified to desperate to loony in her Orange Is the New Black submission, “The Chickening.” (Though the show may, like Girls, be too dark and dramatic in the face of her lighter, more traditionally funny competition.)

That, then, makes this, for the third year running, duel between Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Amy Poehler. It would be ludicrous to gripe about Louis-Dreyfus winning again for her work in Veep. She is simply brilliant. But Poehler is, and has been throughout the run of her show, just as good: just as silly, just as madcap, just as witty. But she also, let’s face it, has the added challenge of playing a real human on Parks and Rec, and showing off more range than is required of Louis-Dreyfus, and it would be nice if at some point the Emmys would reward it. Still, Julia Louis-Dreyfus will win again, deservedly.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Fred Armisen – Portlandia
Andre Braugher – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Ty Burrell – Modern Family
Adam Driver – Girls
Jesse Tyler Ferguson – Modern Family
Tony Hale – Veep

Remember that thing from the previous blurb about actors submitting episodes that are their best acting showcase? Well, Tony Hale killed with his submission. The return champ from last year, who scored a surprise win for Veep, is instantly a frontrunner this year with his hilarious submission, “Crate,” an episode with more laughs packed into it than any of his competitors can boast.

Don’t count out Andre Braugher, who is an Emmys favorite in the drama races, making his debut in the comedy categories with the best deadpan delivery that comedy has seen in years. And this could be the year that Jesse Tyler Ferguson nabs a trophy for Modern Family, as his submission, “Message Received,” is that mix that Emmy voters can’t resist: consistent laughs punctuated by one, big emotional scene, as his character, Mitch, disinvites his father from his wedding because he’s offended by his lingering discomfort over his same-sex relationship.

But, again, with enthusiasm for Modern Family waning as the buzz for Veep continues to grow, Tony Hale should win again this year.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Mayim Bialik – The Big Bang Theory
Julie Bowen – Modern Family
Anna Chlumsky – Veep
Allison Janney – Mom
Kate McKinnon – Saturday Night Live
Kate Mulgrew – Orange Is the New Black

Is there any way that five-time Emmy winner Allison Janney (who picked up her fifth trophy just this past weekend for her guest work in Masters of Sex) doesn’t win this race? Pundits predicted she’d be this category’s frontrunner pretty much as soon as she was cast in Chuck Lorre’s CBS sitcom Mom as a former alcoholic sexpot who moves in with her grown daughter to help prepare for the arrival of her first great-granddaughter. It helps, of course, that Janney delivers every broad, yuk-yuk zinger with all the aplomb that critics fantasized about when she was cast on the show.

She’d have to trump the category’s other high-strung mom, Julie Bowen, to win, though, especially considering the Modern Family star, with her two previous wins in this category, is an Emmy favorite in her own right. If it’s not completely blasphemous to root against the divine Allison Janney, then we’d be pulling for Kate Mulgrew to score an upset for disappearing into her character with an eerie commitment that none of her fellow nominees can lay to claim to (unless, of course, you’re to count Kate McKinnon’s brilliant Angela Merkel impression). Conventional wisdom should always prevail in these cases, though, meaning that this is Allison Janney’s award to lose.