Hollywood is a week into Emmy voting, and ballots are being cast every day. But with 728 eligible programs in 2018 (18 more than last year) and 2,372 performances (92 more than 2017), there’s quite a few options to consider.
So IndieWire is here to help. After carefully examining the ballot, these are the shows and performances that stand out in the comedy category. Every one is on the ballot (no write-ins necessary) and each is more than worthy of your vote, dearest TV Academy members. If you haven’t seen these series, there’s still time — the screeners are out there, and voting doesn’t close until June 25 at 10 p.m. PT.
For those of you not voting, it’s still important to share your enthusiasm. Now is the time to be loud and proud about your favorite TV shows, so head to Twitter, Facebook, the comments section, or the streets with your support. Who knows who might hear you.
Best Comedy Series
- “Better Things”
- “Dear White People”
- “The Good Place”
“Atlanta” did, if not the impossible, then the highly unlikely; its impeccable second season was even better than its outstanding debut. That makes it a worthy frontrunner, but its relatively low ratings (compared to, say, “Roseanne”) means voters can’t afford to assume it will get nominated. So mark that down on the ballot and then take a close look at four other follow-up seasons that did the same thing: “Insecure” also improved in its second season, while “Dear White People” held up the high standard set in its freshman year. Meanwhile, Pamela Adlon took the reigns of “Better Things” — writing, directing, producing, and starring in every episode — and made it not only one of the best comedies on TV, but one of the best shows overall. “The Good Place” streamlined its inventive storytelling and took full advantage of its excellent cast, so don’t forget about broadcast’s best half-hour entry. Finally, two debut series deserve recognition for their first go-round: “Barry” and “GLOW” are inventive, important comedies that aren’t light on laughs. Get started on those two, and catch up on the others.
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Best Actress in a Comedy Series
- Pamela Adlon, “Better Things”
- Alison Brie, “GLOW”
- Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
- Logan Browning, “Dear White People”
- DeWanda Wise, “She’s Gotta Have It”
- Constance Wu, “Fresh Off the Boat”
For everything Pamela Adlon deserves credit for in “Better Things,” her performance is near the top of the list. The various energies she brings to each scene sets the tone for a show with delicate emotional shifts; Adlon conveys so much with just a look. Alison Brie is given ample opportunity to show off her range in “GLOW” and makes the most of it every time. Rachel Brosnahan immediately grasped Amy Sherman-Palladino’s challenging prose and ran with it. What Logan Browning does in “Dear White People” is beyond a quick description, so invest the time and take in the layered turn that includes a two-hander episode that’s got more dialogue than most one-act plays. DeWanda Wise broke out in a big way with “She’s Gotta Have It,” owning each and every episode of Spike Lee’s TV debut. Meanwhile, Constance Wu continues to deepen the lead character of ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat”; Jessica Huang is an iconic TV mother, and Wu helps make her live.
Best Actor in a Comedy Series
- Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”
- Ted Danson, “The Good Place”
- Chris Geere, “You’re the Worst”
- Keir Gilchrist, “Atypical”
- Donald Glover, “Atlanta”
- Bill Hader, “Barry”
Ted Danson may have two Emmys already (both for “Cheers”), but it’s time to add a third to the shelf; his work on “The Good Place” is that good — and, frankly, it’s a crime he wasn’t nominated for “Bored to Death” or “Fargo.” Donald Glover is in a similar position, as his turn in “Teddy Perkins” is enough by itself to warrant an Emmy. Anthony Andreson hasn’t won yet, but the three-time nominee did career-best work in “Black-ish” Season 4, and Bill Hader can say the same thing for his “Barry” debut. (The “SNL” veteran is a 10-time nominee, with one win for producing “South Park” in 2009.) Then there are two would-be/should-be newcomers to the Emmys: Keir Gilchrist gives a moving portrayal of a teenager on the autism spectrum, and Chris Geere makes every stage of a guilty, confused, lovelorn author mighty funny (without losing one ounce of sincerity).
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
- Stephanie Beatriz, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
- Zazie Beetz, “Atlanta”
- D’Arcy Carden, “The Good Place”
- Betty Gilpin, “GLOW”
- Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”
- Rita Moreno, “One Day at a Time”
Long before “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” went through all the drama and excitement of being canceled and revived in less than 48 hours, Stephanie Beatriz delivered an affecting turn during Rosa’s coming out arc. She’s always been a key part of the cast, but she also keeps getting better. The same can be said for two-time Emmy winner and defending champion Kate McKinnon, as well as the legendary Rita Moreno in Netflix’s critically hailed “One Day at a Time.” Zazie Beetz has had one helluva summer between “Deadpool 2” and “Atlanta,” but it was the latter that saw her flex all her acting muscles. She went deep during “Helen” and had a lot of fun throughout Season 2. D’Arcy Carden added more joy to viewers’ lives than just about anyone on the planet, and she’s managed to turn an indefinable character into an indispensable part of “The Good Place.” Finally, last summer may have been Betty Gilpin’s big breakout, but this summer is when she should be officially recognized for it.
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
- Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
- Anthony Carrigan, “Barry”
- Max Greenfield, “New Girl”
- Brian Tyree Henry, “Atlanta”
- DeRon Horton, “Dear White People”
- John Rothman, “One Mississippi”
NoHo Hank is a comic creation to be treasured, and so much of the character’s charm can be traced back to Anthony Carrigan’s inventions: the accent, the eyes, the sincerity. All of these factors and more have made him into “Barry’s” breakout performer (on a series with many excellent turns), and Emmy voters shouldn’t overlook his contributions. On the opposite side of a series’ run, Max Greenfield wrapped up an iconic seven-year turn on “New Girl” and viewers still couldn’t get enough of Schmidt. Andre Braugher is honing his own landmark sitcom character on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” while Brian Tyree Henry got a number of standalone moments to savor in the second season of “Atlanta.” But don’t forget about two performances that are unjustly under-the-radar: DeRon Horton has already done more with his “Dear White People” character in two seasons than many actors can muscle in an entire series, and John Rothman’s particular and particularly empathetic father figure on “One Mississippi” won’t be forgotten even though the show was struck down too soon. Honor them all with your votes.
Best Directing in a Comedy Series
- Pamela Adlon, “Better Things” (Episode 6, “Eulogy”)
- Marta Cunningham, “Room 104” (Episode 12, “My Love”)
- Abbi Jacobson, “Broad City” (Episode 6, “Witches”)
- Hiro Murai, “Atlanta” (Episode 6, “Teddy Perkins”)
- Frankie Shaw, “SMILF” (Episode 8, “Mark’s Lunch & Two Cups of Coffee”)
- Justin Simien, “Dear White People” (Episode 1, “Chapter I”)
Pamela Adlon helmed every episode of “Better Things,” but the emotions she’s able to conjure up in “Eulogy” are unparalleled; her framings and stagings are as on point as the performances she drew out from her actors. Marta Cunningham made the most of her time — and limited space — in “Room 104,” while Justin Simien kept things humming with a visually inventive episode of “Dear White People.” It’s not easy to direct yourself under any circumstances, but Frankie Shaw managed to bring out the best in herself while in front and behind the camera for “Mark’s Lunch & Two Cups of Coffee.” The same can be said for Abbi Jacobson in “Witches” — even the powerful spirit of the episode parallels what’s found in “SMILF.” Finally, HIro Murai had an elite year in television, making shows like “Barry” and “Atlanta” better (and he still had time for the breakout music video, “This Is America”).
Best Writing in a Comedy Series
- Joanna Calo, “BoJack Horseman” (Episode 9, “Ruthie”)
- Stephen Falk, “You’re the Worst” (Episode 7, “Not a Great Bet”)
- Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch, “GLOW” (Episode 1, “Pilot”)
- Donald Glover, “Atlanta” (Episode 1, “Alligator Man”)
- Elizabeth Sarnoff, “Barry” (Episode 7, “Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast, and Keep Going”)
- Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, “The Good Place” (Episode 6, “The Trolley Problem”)
Standalone episodes aren’t easy to write, especially when they still manage to build on an impressive season of television. Stephen Falk (“You’re the Worst”) and Joanna Calo (“BoJack Horseman”) did just that. Both of their episodes hit you like a ton of bricks and elevate the stories that surround them, yet neither skimps on the humor that drives both shows. Meanwhile, Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch’s “GLOW” pilot won over millions of viewers and kicked off one of the year’s best seasons, while the latter point can apply to what Donald Glover did for “Atlanta’s” “Robbin’ Season.” Elizabeth Sarnoff made the penultimate episode of “Barry” unforgettable — the powerful final scene only works because of how carefully she builds Barry’s arc up to that point. Finally, it’s not easy to make philosophical quandaries memorable, let alone hysterical, but “Good Place” scribes Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan did just that for “The Trolley Problem.” From the opening joke to the ending’s surprising revelation, the whole episode rolls as smoothly from start to finish as a trolley rolls through five construction workers.