Throughout Emmy season, IndieWire will be evaluating the top contenders for TV’s most prestigious prize, and it all starts here. At the bottom of this page are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Best Comedy Series. This article will be updated throughout the coming months, along with all our predictions, to reflect an up-to-the-minute state of the race. Make sure to keep checking IndieWire for the latest coverage on the 2020 Emmys, including breaking news, analysis, interviews, podcasts, FYC event coverage, reviews of all the awards contenders, and more. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13. The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, September 20. (See our awards calendar for a more detailed breakdown of important dates.) ABC is broadcasting the ceremony.
Last Year’s Winner: “Fleabag”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: With “Fleabag” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Amazon Prime Video has won twice in a row for Best Comedy Series, marking the streaming giant’s two most notable Emmy wins to date.
Fun Fact: Streaming’s dominance is taking slow but steady effect in the Best Comedy race, as broadcast nominees dropped from a category sweep in 2011 (six nominations between all big four networks) to just one nominee in the last two years (ABC’s “Black-ish” in 2018 and NBC’s “The Good Place” in 2019). While broadcast comedies were able to stay in the fight vs. cable — much better than they did in the drama category — the one-two punch of cable and streaming has knocked the networks to all-time low totals.
Notable Ineligible Series: “Fleabag” (ended), Veep” (ended), “Barry” (Season 3 has not premiered), “Russian Doll” (Season 2 has not premiered), “Atlanta” (Season 3 has not premiered), “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” (ruled a drama by the Television Academy)
The State of the Race
With “Fleabag” out of the running and “Veep” over, the comedy race looks like it’s “Mrs. Maisel’s” to lose. Of course, the two-horse race many predicted early on in 2019 never panned out, and plenty of networks will be promising they’ve got the “Fleabag” of 2020 — a buzzy, out-of-nowhere hit that becomes an undeniable champion.
So… do they? Pop TV could certainly make the case that “Schitt’s Creek” has assumed a cult favorite status, as Dan and Eugene Levy’s family comedy emerged as a viable awards contender last year and looks to gain steam in its final season. “The Good Place” is also hoping for a pot of gold at the end of its rainbow, as the outgoing NBC comedy has its fair share of passionate fans backing the last batch of episodes.
But “Run” bears the closest resemblance to “Fleabag,” and not only because Phoebe Waller-Bridge guest stars. The upcoming HBO comedy starring Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson stems from creator Vicky Jones, who was a script editor on “Fleabag” and a writer on “Killing Eve.” If her latest gains traction with critics and audiences, “Run” is built to make a, well, run. Wever, a two-time Emmy winner, is especially well-liked within the TV Academy, and HBO will undoubtedly be giving its new series a big push (since “Barry” won’t qualify for this year’s race).
Of course, HBO also has one proven veteran left: “Curb Your Enthusiasm” snagged good reviews for its 10th season — higher marks, even, than its first revival season in 2018, which still snagged four nominations, including Best Comedy Series. Among other established series, Pamela Adlon has been pushing the fourth season of “Better Things” hard while earning some of the FX show’s best reviews yet; “Silicon Valley,” “Baskets,” and “Modern Family” are hoping to return to the race with their series finales under consideration; “GLOW” will be up for its excellent third season just before its fourth and final hits Netflix.
Then there are the second-tries: FX’s “What We Do in the Shadows” Season 2 has prime awards positioning with its April release date, and “Dead to Me” is looking for a similar rebound after fortuitous scheduling from Netflix in May. “Ramy” will debut just before the Emmy deadline (on May 29), and Season 2 is adding Mahershala Ali to its cast, so Hulu clearly thinks Ramy Youssef’s debut series has what it takes. Netflix released “The Kominsky Method” a while back, but a thinner field than it faced in Season 1 could open things up for the Chuck Lorre comedy. “Kidding” (which already wrapped its Showtime run) would need quite a surge to make some noise, but Season 2 is certainly worthy of a second look from Emmy voters.
As for the rest of the newcomers, Apple TV+ will be pushing “Little America,” though its anthology structure and early January release date may make it difficult to sustain momentum; the streaming newbie also has “Mythic Quest,” which debuted a little later to largely positive reviews (though Rob McElhenney’s previous series, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” has been a tough sell at the Emmys). Netflix has yet to share “Space Force,” but Greg Daniels’ reunion with Steve Carell, his star from “The Office,” has the giant feeling optimistic; Hulu has given “The Great” a prime Emmy release date, hoping “The Favourite’s” star Nicholas Hoult and writer Tony McNamara find similar success in TV as they did with that Oscar-winner. Finally, “Los Espookys” should get some love from the craft community, and it’s another overlooked gem among all these comedies.
1. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime)
2. “Schitt’s Creek” (Pop TV)
3. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO)
4. “The Good Place” (NBC)
5. “Dead to Me” (Netflix)
6. “Ramy” (Hulu)
7. “Better Things” (FX)
Spoilers: “Run,” “The Kominsky Method,” “Space Force,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “Little America,” “Silicon Valley,” “Modern Family,” “The Great,” “Mythic Quest”
In a Perfect World: “GLOW,” “Kidding,” “Baskets,” “Dear White People,” “Vida,” “Los Espookys,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”