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Emmy Nomination Predictions, Comedy: New Kids (and Jean Smart!) Will Rule

Smart’s ”Hacks“ and Jason Sudeikis’ ”Ted Lasso“ have all the heat going into a year short on returning contenders and long on first-year shows

AWARDS BEAT

There’s been a real upheaval in the comedy categories at this year’s Emmy Awards. The defending champion, “Schitt’s Creek,” is no longer on the air, and neither is 2020 nominee “The Good Place.” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Dead to Me,” “Insecure,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “What We Do in the Shadows,” all of which were nominated last year, had their productions delayed by the pandemic and didn’t return to the air in time to qualify for this year’s awards.

That leaves one of last year’s nominees, Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method,” to hold the fort for the Class of 2020, and a whole lot of new shows hoping to crash the party. This year’s comedy nominations won’t equal the record set in 1971, when 100% of the Outstanding Comedy Series nominees, five-for-five, were first-year shows. But it’ll definitely be a very good year for new shows.

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Number of nominees: 8

The three top shows in this category are all first-year series: Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso,” the clear front-runner; HBO Max’s “Hacks,” which has come on very strong in recent week; and HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant,” which spent most of the past year as the second-hottest new show until “Hacks” stole some of its thunder. The question isn’t whether those three will be nominated; it’s what they’ll be competing against at the Emmy telecast on Sept. 19.

“The Kominsky Method” figures to be the one 2020 nominee to go back-to-back, while another show that has been here before, three-time ABC nominee “black-ish,” seems likely to get back in the mix. The third season of Netflix’s “Master of None” could do that, too, although it’s been four years since Season 2, and the show has been completely refocused this time around. Competitive shows that have missed out in prior years include Hulu’s “Pen15,” which may well have connected with viewers (and younger voters) during the pandemic; Netflix’s “Cobra Kai,” which has nostalgia on its side; Apple’s “Mythic Quest,” which picked up some momentum during its second season; and “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” whose recent cancellation by NBC might hurt its chances but also might gain it some sympathy votes.

And then there are the other first-year shows that could appeal to voters, foremost among them the Peacock musical ensemble comedy “Girls5eva.” HBO Max’s “Made for Love,” NBC’s “Mr. Mayor,” Apple TV+’s “Dickinson” and Peacock’s “Rutherford Falls” all have a shot, though it’ll be hard for many of them to crack a category that’s very competitive even if it’s missing almost all of last year’s nominees.

Predicted nominees:
“Ted Lasso”
“Hacks”
“The Flight Attendant”
“The Kominsky Method”
“black-ish”
“Pen15”
“Girls5eva”
“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”

Watch out for: “Master of None,” “Mythic Quest,” “Cobra Kai,” “Made for Love,” “Dickinson”

Jason Sudeikis in "Ted Lasso"
Jason Sudeikis in “Ted Lasso” (Apple TV+)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Number of nominees: 5

This is a category where the 2020 Emmy rule linking the number of nominees to the number of entries will have a significant impact on the race — because with only 56 competing actors, it’ll be the first time since 2008 that the category will have only five nominees. There’s no question that Jason Sudeikis will be one of those nominees, and little doubt that Michael Douglas will extend his nomination streak for “The Kominsky Method” to three years, or that Anthony Anderson will stretch his streak for “black-ish” to seven years.

Showtime’s “Shameless” star William H. Macy is a longtime Emmy favorite with his 12 nominations, although he may have to fend off  “Mr. Mayor” star Ted Danson, an  even bigger Emmy favorite with his 18 noms. And while Rob McElheney (“Mythic Quest”), Ralph Macchio and William Zabka (“Cobra Kai”), Lamorne Morris (“Woke”) and Alan Tudyk (“Resident Alien”) are all competitive, four-time nominee Kenan Thompson could well receive his first nomination that’s not for “Saturday Night Live” (though he’ll probably get one for that show, too) for his self-titled NBC sitcom.    

Predicted nominees:
Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso”
Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”
Anthony Anderson, “black-ish”
Ted Danson, “Mr. Mayor”
Kenan Thompson, “Kenan”

Watch out for: Rob McElheney, “Mythic Quest”; William H. Macy, “Shameless”; Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, “Cobra Kai”; Lamorne Morris, “Woke”

Jean Smart in Hacks
Jean Smart in “Hacks” (HBO Max)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Number of nominees: 5

Is this Jean Smart’s time, or what? A year after being nominated for “Watchmen,” she’s in line for more Emmy recognition this year — one nomination for her supporting role in the limited series “Mare of Easttown” and one for her uproarious performance in “Hacks,” which has made her the de facto front-runner in this category.

Tracee Ellis Ross is the only 2020 nominee eligible to repeat, which she’ll probably do — but it’s a tough category, with Smart, Kaley Cuoco (“The Flight Attendant”) and Renee Elise Goldsberry (who has the juiciest role in “Girls5eva”) fighting for spots, Allison Janney looking to pick up her first nomination for “Mom” since 2018 and Jane Levy on the ballot for the last time for “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” Meanwhile, Maya Erskine (“Pen15”), Cristin Milioti (“Made for Love”) and Lena Waithe (“Master of None”) shine in bold shows, and love for “Girls5eva” could even make room for Sara Bareilles in addition to Goldsberry, although her chances would be better if the category wasn’t also limited to five nominees.

Predicted nominees:
Jean Smart, “Hacks”
Kaley Cuoco, “The Flight Attendant”
Tracee Ellis Ross, “black-ish”
Renee Elise Goldsberry, “Girls5eva”
Maya Erskine, “Pen15”

Watch out for: Jane Levy, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”; Allison Janney, “Mom”; Cristin Milioti, “Made for Love”; Lena Waithe, “Master of None”; Sara Bareilles, “Girls5eva”

Paul Reiser in "The Kominsky Method"
Paul Reiser in “The Kominsky Method” (Netflix)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Number of nominees: 7

Let’s face it, you could easily fill this category up with guys from only two shows: Kenan Thompson, Bowen Yang and Pete Davidson from “Saturday Night Live” and Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed and Jeremy Swift from “Ted Lasso.” And while a few other series will no doubt prevent that from happening, it’d be shocking if Thompson didn’t get “SNL” at least one nomination and if Goldstein and Hunt don’t give “Ted Lasso” a pair — and not at all shocking if Yang and Mohammed give each of those shows one additional nom.

Outside of those shows, the big contenders are Michiel Huisman from “The Flight Attendant,” Ray Romano from “Made for Love,” Alex Newell from “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” and Paul Reiser from “The Kominsky Method.” Romano and Reiser both have long histories with the Emmys, and history can help when it comes to Television Academy voters.

Predicted nominees:
Kenan Thompson, “Saturday Night Live”
Brett Goldstein, “Ted Lasso”
Brendan Hunt, “Ted Lasso”
Nick Mohammed, “Ted Lasso”
Bowen Yang, “Saturday Night Live”
Ray Romano, “Made for Love”
Paul Reiser, “The Kominsky Method”

Watch out for: Alex Newell, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”; Michiel Huisman, “The Flight Attendant”; Laurence Fishburne, “black-ish”; Pete Davidson, “Saturday Night Live”; Danny Pudi, “Mythic Quest”

Girls5Eva
“Girls5eva” (Peacock)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Number of nominees: 7

For the last five years, “Saturday Night Live” has averaged two nominees per year in this category, and one of the two has always been Kate McKinnon. (Twice she was the sole nominee; the other three times she shared the category with one or two castmates.) There’s no reason to think that McKinnon won’t be back; the question is whether she’ll have any of her “SNL” colleagues — who include Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, Chloe Fineman and/or Ego Nwodim — for company in a year that was extremely strong in comedy shows with deep female casts.

The two Hannahs, Hannah Waddingham for “Ted Lasso” and Hannah Einbinder for “Hacks,” have essential roles in hot shows, while others in contention include Juno Temple for “Ted Lasso,” Rosie Perez and Zosia Mamet for “The Flight Attendant” and Paula Pell and Busy Phillips for “Girls5eva.” And if you look beyond first-year shows, you’ll find Kathleen Turner for “The Kominsky Method,” Laurie Metcalf for “The Conners,” Mary Steenburgen for “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” and Naomi Ackie for the revived “Master of None.”

Predicted nominees:
Hannah Waddingham, “Ted Lasso”
Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”
Hannah Einbinder, “Hacks”
Paula Pell, “Girls5eva”
Juno Temple, “Ted Lasso”
Cecily Strong, “Saturday Night Live”
Rosie Perez, “The Flight Attendant”

Watch out for:  Zosia Mamet, “The Flight Attendant”; Naomi Ackie, “Master of None”; Kathleen Turner, “The Kominsky Method”; Busy Phillips, “Girls5eva”; Aidy Bryant, “Saturday Night Live”