You’re stranded on a desert island with a laptop, every streaming service known to man, and a high-speed broadband internet connection. What do you watch? Or, put another way, it’s your seventh week of quarantine and you’re looking for TV content to pierce the malaise of your day-to-day life. What should you watch?
Luckily for you, there’s a robust field of television comedies right now, all angling for a spot in the Outstanding Comedy Series category for this year’s Emmy Awards thanks in part to a shocking amount of turnover from the previous year’s nominees.
Both HBO’s “Veep” and Amazon Prime’s “Fleabag” are (theoretically) gone forever and both HBO’s “Barry” and Netflix’s “Russian Doll” were due to miss this year’s eligibility window long before the industry shutdown began, leaving a wide open field for old favorites and fresh meat to battle for the comedy crown.
Even when you’re the reigning champion, it’s hard to compete with a cultural juggernaut. That was the position that “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” found itself in last year, when it was steamrolled by the zeitgeist that was “Fleabag.” But the series returns this year with its frontrunner status intact, the odds-on favorite to win the comedy series trophy and to bring the honor home for Amazon for the third consecutive year. The third season of the streamer’s crown jewel was favorably received by critics and has logged eight Emmy wins in each of two consecutive years, and it’s a sure bet for those looking to be informed on the comedy category to come.
With so much open real estate, Netflix has not one, but two separate comedies it would love to sneak in at the Emmys; both have their fans within the industry. Chuck Lorre’s “The Kominsky Method” nabbed nominations for both its actors last year (Michael Douglas in lead and Alan Arkin in supporting, respectively) but would be more than happy to see the show as a whole make the leap into series contention for Season 2. Also on the sidelines but anxious to get into the big game is the sophomore season of “Dead to Me,” the Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini vehicle about an unlikely friendship born out of a killer secret. Viewers anxious to dig into the black comedy can start now with Season 1 but will have to wait until May 8 for new episodes when the second season premieres.
Also, keep an eye on “Space Force,” Netflix’s brand new comedy that reunites Greg Daniels with Steve Carell, the star of “The Office,” which could conjure up some awards catnip when it drops on May 29.
Netflix also has one of the best comedies on television in “GLOW,” a show which had an absolutely dynamite third season but seems forever destined not to leave its mark on the TV Academy’s radar.
While HBO is always the place to be for drama, its comedy offerings of late have been a bit hit or miss. Lacking “Veep” as its heavy, the premium cable provider is most likely looking at three possible options for nabbing nominations in comedy series. Perhaps the longest shot is a return to prominence for the final season of “Silicon Valley”, which ended its run quietly in December. It’s a far cry from the glory days of the series, which nabbed 40 Emmy nominations for its first five seasons but now seems a bit like a relic from a bygone era. More likely to return to the fold are the ever-cantankerous adventures of Larry David on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” now airing its tenth season; it’s a show that since being overlooked for its first season hasn’t again missed being nominated for comedy series.
Also currently airing — thus also available to stream on HBOGo — is “Run,” the new series from Phoebe Waller-Bridge collaborator Vicky Jones, which stars the ever-charismatic duo of Domhnall Gleeson and Merritt Wever in a rom-com thriller, a tantalizing series that might scratch that “Fleabag” cum “Killing Eve” itch for TV Academy voters.
But when it comes to under-the-radar contenders, don’t sleep on Hulu. The streamer is quickly making a niche for itself crafting comedies that blend feelings of nostalgia with modern sensibilities, last year with the delightful “PEN15,” which was Emmy-nominated for its efforts, and now with its Zoe Kravitz-starring adaptation of “High Fidelity,” which examines the Nick Hornby novel through new eyes while arriving at the same essential truths.
Plus, riding high off of star Ramy Youssef’s win for TV comedy actor at the Golden Globes, Hulu’s “Ramy” returns for its second season on May 29. An intimate show dedicated to exploring the life of its eponymous lead as he struggles to navigate the expectations of his community, his faith, and himself as a first-generation American Muslim, the series has big “Fleabag” energy. That is: A show wrongfully overlooked for its first season, but fully embraced by the TV Academy on its second go-round.
Even beyond its Hulu originals, however, the streamer is the place to be if you want to see comedy contenders. Even more than with drama, Hulu reaps the benefits of streaming other platforms content, including serving as the streaming destination for multiple potential nominees including the best comedy on television, FX’s “Better Things,” the swan songs of both NBC’s “The Good Place” and ABC’s “Modern Family,” ABC’s consistently quality “Black-ish,” and the now-airing second season of FX’s delightful “What We Do in the Shadows.”
One of the biggest contenders and, in honestly, a potential upset winner is Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek.” The cult comedy broke out thanks to Netflix streaming, but for its final season, it appeared that fans were watching live, and if not live, then they streamed the show via Pop TV’s native app Pop Now. For those who want to be in the know, “Schitt’s Creek” is the new face of comedy. (But obviously just for this year since, you know, it ended.)
Other Emmy hopefuls are scattered throughout the landscape, with Apple TV+ offering two such options in Hailee Steinfeld-vehicle “Dickinson,” an anachronistic — if delightful —reinterpretation of the life of Emily Dickinson, and “Little America” from Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon, and Lee Eisenberg, an anthology series that serves as the platform’s best show to date and offers up hopeful and insightful narratives in every episode.