Last Year’s Winner: “Schitt’s Creek”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: It’s been a few years since we saw a repeat winner in the Best Comedy Series category, and that’s OK! “Veep” was the last to pull it off, winning three in a row from 2015 – 2017, which came right after “Modern Family’s” historic run of five consecutive wins. Both of those preceded “30 Rock’s” three years atop Comedy Mountain, so after 11 years of hot streaks, let’s enjoy the unpredictability while it lasts.
Fun Fact: Despite the rise of streaming and cable, broadcast retains a firm grip on the Best Comedy category. NBC leads with 26 all-time wins; CBS is second with 22; then comes ABC with 11, HBO at four, while Amazon Prime Video is the only streamer with any victories. (It’s got two.) Over the last decade, however, you can see how streaming and cable are disrupting things. The winners’ break down to: broadcast with four wins, cable with four, and streaming with two.
Notable Ineligible Series: “Schitt’s Creek” (ended), “The Good Place” (ended), “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (Season 11 was not eligible), “Dead to Me” (Season 3 was not eligible), “Insecure” (Season 5 was not eligible), “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Season 4 was not eligible), “What We Do in the Shadows” (Season 3 was not eligible)
At the bottom of this page are IndieWire Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers’ predictions for Best Comedy Series. This article will be updated throughout the season, along with all our predictions, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for the latest news from the 2020 race. Voting for the 2021 Emmys was held from June 17 through June 28 (with polls closing at 10 p.m. PT). Emmy nominations were announced Tuesday, July 13. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12. The 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place Sunday, September 19. CBS is broadcasting the ceremony, and Cedric the Entertainer will be this year’s host.
Well before the nominations were announced, pundits as well as the industry at large expected “Ted Lasso” to be the driving force in most Comedy categories, including this one. Goodwill for the warmhearted Apple TV+ series has long seemed like a rising, inescapable tide — one that most folks would be happy to let sweep them away. Now that Bill Lawrence and Jason Sudeikis’ series has set the record for the most nominations of any freshman comedy series (with 20), the waves of adoration are about to roll in — including, yes, a Best Comedy Series win for Apple, in only the streamer’s second eligible year.
Anything else would be a major upset, but at least one series is providing a little suspense: “Hacks” scored 15 nominations for its first season, just five short of “Ted Lasso” and enough to warrant a second look at its odds of winning. Working in its favor is clear support across most branches of the TV Academy; Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky’s comedy earned recognition from writers, directors, editors, craft teams, and actors. The actors turned out to the tune of four nominations, including nods for the two stars (Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder, the latter of whom was far from a sure thing) as well as two surprise slots for Carl Clemons-Hopkins and Jane Adams. Combine these key indicators of support with HBO Max releasing “Hacks” much closer to voting (in May, whereas “Ted Lasso” dropped last fall), and one could argue the comedians’ comedy could very well win the whole thing. The main arguments against it are that “Ted Lasso” earned even more nominations, there’s a new season airing throughout voting (which shouldn’t technically matter but absolutely influences things), and, well, it’s “Ted Lasso” — this just feels like its year.
The rest of the 2021 nominees certainly deserve further consideration from voters — namely, “Pen15” — but none have a clear path to victory. “The Flight Attendant” scored the third-most nominations, but nine nods in categories likely to be won by “Ted Lasso” or “Hacks” don’t add up to a Comedy Series trophy; “The Kominsky Method” is the only 2020 Best Comedy nominee to return in 2021, but Chuck Lorre’s final season earned its six nominations almost exclusively for its cast (Sound Mixing being the sole outlier), which doesn’t indicate a wealth of support; “Black-ish” landed five nods this year to total 24 across its seven seasons, but the ABC sitcom has only won once (last year for Hairstyling) and there’s nothing to indicate its fortunes are better this year; “Cobra Kai” and “Emily in Paris” should be satisfied with their nominations (breaking in, even in a year of massive turnover, is no small feat), but lack the prestige and popularity to compete for the top prize.
That leaves “Pen15.” A critical favorite that may have come out too early (or may simply be too weird for the TV Academy’s tastes), Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle’s endearing and hysterical ode to middle-school friendship deserved much more than three nods — but at least voters saw fit to deem it one of the year’s eight best comedies. With a new animated episode set to be released just as voting ends, Hulu is doing what it can to remind folks of the show’s creative highs. Can one new episode compare with an entire new season running before, during, and after voting? Can “Pen15” really compete with “Ted Lasso”? The answer to both questions is the same: It’s not likely. But there’s always next year.
Will Win: “Ted Lasso”
Could Win: “Hacks”
Should Win: “Pen15”