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, 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?
At least a few shows could mount a respectable case. First and foremost, there’s “Schitt’s Creek,” which broke into the Emmys last year and now hopes to land major wins for its final season. With 15 nominations, Pop TV’s cult favorite is the second most-nominated comedy — it only trails “Maisel” by five nods — and such widespread support among voters bodes well for its upset potential. Moreover, there should be a sense of urgency driving voters during the show’s last year of eligibility, as opposed to another win for the ongoing Amazon titan.
“Insecure” could also have a shot. Issa Rae’s HBO comedy had a banner year and was rewarded with its best Emmy haul to date. Casting, Cinematography, Editing, and acting nods show that multiple Academy branches like what they’ve seen; they could be eager to honor a show that’s been largely overlooked for three years already. (“Insecure” only had three nominations over its firth three seasons, with zero wins.) Also, artists are focused on elevating Black voices in 2020, and both “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Schitt’s Creek” consist of predominantly white casts and creators; “Insecure” is the only nominated comedy with a predominantly Black cast, made by Black producers (including Rae and showrunner Prentice Penny). If voters want to make a statement with their Best Comedy selection, “Insecure” would be the way to go — and just a great pick, regardless.
Meanwhile, “What We Do in the Shadows” also earned eight nominations in total and also had an excellent second season on FX. Jemaine Clement’s mockumentary on modern vampires tapped into the TV Acaemy’s funny bone with Season 2, landing nominations for Casting, Production Design, and Editing, plus three writing nominations in a category that tends to reward the power players. Seeing the “WWDITS” team take the stage to accept their Best Comedy trophy seems like quite the long shot, but many didn’t expect them to do so well with the nominations, either. Clement and producer/director Taika Waititi are well-liked (Waititi is a nominee this year, while Clement has eight previous nominations to his name), and even though the cast was shut out of the acting races, enough big name talent have thrown their weight behind “WWDITS” that there’s likely still plenty of support from the Emmy’s largest branch.
Much bigger surprises would be “The Good Place” and “Dead to Me,” both of which have their fair share of die-hard fans, but slightly underperformed in total nominations. NBC’s afterlife comedy pulled in six nominations, four which were for its cast, but was largely kept out of the Creative Arts categories. Netflix’s soapy mystery performed similarly, snagging four nominations overall with two for leads Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini. If either were going to make a run for the top prize, they likely would’ve seen more accolades in various categories — though, in terms of expanding its voter base, “The Good Place” getting first-time recognition for William Jackson Harper and D’Arcy Carden is encouraging.
That leaves “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Kominsky Method,” two comedies centered on popular veteran performers and buoyed by mostly solid reviews. Still, given their low nomination counts (four and three, respectively), it doesn’t feel like this is their year. Expect the TV Academy to look elsewhere, if it even bothers to look beyond “Maisel.”
Power Ranking the Nominees:
1. “Schitt’s Creek” (Pop TV)
2. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime)
3. “Insecure” (HBO)
4. “What We Do in the Shadows” (FX)
5. “Dead to Me” (Netflix)
6. “The Good Place” (NBC)
7. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO)
8. “The Kominsky Method” (Netflix)
Will Win: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Could Win: “Schitt’s Creek” or “Insecure”
Should Win: “What We Do in the Shadows”