Emmys 2012: Handicapping the Outstanding Comedy Series Race - Plus: Our Pick to Win!

2012 emmys best comedyIf ABC were to go into Sunday’s Emmy ceremony confident that Modern Family was about to add its third comedy series statuette to the network’s trophy case, no one would be the slightest bit surprised. The odds are so in favor of a threepeat for the feel-good, laugh-hard smash that it’s almost no contest. So just imagine how shocked everybody would be if HBO’s Girls — arguably the most talked-about show of the season — managed to parlay all of its buzz into gold. Could the breakout hit, with its sheen of indie cool, really defeat the returning champ, in many ways the poster show for mainstream success?

While you draw your own conclusions, here’s our assessment of those series’ — and all the nominees’ — chances, followed by our final, fearless prediction:

RELATED | TVLine Readers’ (Emmy) Choice Results Are In 

30 Rock
A three-time Emmy winner, NBC’s critical darling is riding high following what was widely considered to be one of its strongest seasons (certainly one of its strongest in recent memory, at least). Yet this go-’round — contradictory as it may seem — lead actress nominee Tina Fey’s baby is nonetheless something of a longshot. The problem is twofold: On one hand, as the show approaches its seventh anniversary, it finds itself battling a vague perception that its heyday has come and gone. (This, in spite of its 13 nods — only one fewer than Modern Family.) On the other hand, its on-screen hijinks, brilliant though they were, have often run the risk of being overshadowed by certain cast members’ off-screen misadventures. Good show, great season, slim chance.

The Big Bang Theory
It isn’t merely a hypothesis that CBS’ brainiacs laffer has reached a new creative peak since fleshing out its supporting cast and making a regular of supporting actress nominee Mayim Bialik. On the contrary, it’s provable: In addition to the show now being television’s top-rated comedy, it’s also just received its second Emmy nod in this category. However, in spite of the series’ heightened ensemble status, it’s still largely regarded, whether rightly or wrongly, as The Jim Parsons Show.  (It doesn’t help that the two-time victor and his on-screen love interest are the only cast members who were nominated this year.) As such, he stands a much better chance of winning his third Emmy than the series does of winning its first.

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Left out of the 2011 Emmy derby due to ineligibility, lead actor nominee Larry David’s HBO comedy returned this year in fine form, with a new setting (Manhattan) and the same old attitude (curmudgeonly). But, though critics and voters alike may agree that the show has hit its stride, its schizophrenic scheduling (on one year, off the next) and relative elderliness (in its eighth season, it’s the oldest series nominated) rob it of the momentum it would need to win the award. (That momentum is especially important when, as Curb is, a show is up against programs with bigger ratings and/or louder buzz.) So, in spite of the “enthusiasm” with which the series’ comeback was greeted, its reward is probably the nod.

Ironically, the series with the best — and perhaps only — chance of stealing away the Emmy from Modern Family is the one with which it has the least in common. HBO’s freshman dramedy — as edgy and unpredictable as ABC’s juggernaut is polished and reassuring — isn’t just an overnight sensation, it’s a pop-culture phenomenon. Right out of the gate, it sparked water-cooler debates over everything from its lack of minority actors to its plentitude of colorful characters (“Is Adam a sociopath, or merely a jerk?”). About the one thing on which everyone — especially industry-ites — seemed to agree was that the show is genius. So, at very least, series creator-writer-director-star Lena Dunham is sure to go home with a statuette. The only questions there are, in which and in how many categories?

Modern Family
At the risk of stating the obvious, the Emmy is this ABC hit’s to lose. Not only is the show coming off back-to-back wins, it just scored its first Golden Globe victory, its ratings remain enviable, its quality is still sky-high, it received more Emmy nods than any other primetime comedy (14), and its entire adult cast is nominated in the supporting actor and actress categories. Then again, this summer’s ugly contract dispute — which ended with the cast scoring huge pay hikes — may not have endeared them to industry execs and potential voters. Still, were the show to lose — uh, good luck with that, Girls — it wouldn’t just be an upset, it would be an upset of monumental proportions.

Leading lady Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ nomination was a no-brainer. Even if the reviews hadn’t proclaimed her to be the best thing about her first-term HBO comedy (which she is), she’s still been up for Emmys a dozen times and won twice (once for Seinfeld, once for The New Adventures of Old Christine). In other words, she’s a ringer. But this nod that the show itself received was more of a head-scratcher. Perhaps it’s a vote of confidence that, while the series hasn’t yet found its footing, it will?

Who will win: Modern Family

The 64th annual Primetime Emmy ceremony airs this Sunday at 8/7c on ABC.  

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. sasha says:

    Modern Family is SO OVERRATED Like Glee which is not even a comedy!

  2. Patsy says:

    Reblogged this on I'm not lost, just undiscovered and commented:
    Emmy Weekend!

  3. S. from E. now says:

    considering neither parks and rec nor community are nominated i am not sure who i would want to win this year. i am watching all those shows apart from curb your enthusiasm and i enjoy them most of the time. but still i am dissapointed of this selection.

    • Michael says:

      I no longer expect any love for Parks and Rec. I find Leslie Knopp to be one of the most endearing characters on television and all those surrounding her, even Ann, make me smile and laugh every week. My favorite comedy but few people watch it or appreciate it. I’m just thrilled that the show is on NBC. It would have never lasted this long on any other network.

    • Ari says:

      Under every “Who should win/Who will win” article I’ve read for the upcoming Emmys. I’ve wanted one writer to have the stones to say that Parks SHOULD have won this. It was one of their best seasons by far, and it was far better than what Modern Family offered this year. The fact that they aren’t nominated still gets to me. I watch all of the other shows that were nominated and Parks & Rec is flawless and ignored.

  4. E. says:

    Parks and Rec really ought to be in this category, and it should be the winner as well. (Instead of Big Bang or Curb, in my opinion… I actually love Veep.)

  5. Doug says:

    As long as Girls doesn’t win I’d be fine with any of the other shows. Critic darling it might be, I found it to be boring and boorish. Besides, my pick would’ve been Parks & Rec or Community

    • Nichole says:

      Agree fully on Girls comments, didn’t even make it through three full episodes before ditching it. Have to say a big WTF though every time I hear Girls referred to as a Comedy, the only funny thing I can find about it is how many people seem to think it’s a fantastic show, now there’s definitely something funny going on there lol!!! Community should definitely have been in there too, love that show, Abed and Troy in the morning needs to make more appearences too lol!!

  6. Sam says:

    “How could she not show up to the lovely abortion you threw her?” Girls all the way!

  7. Ben says:

    Out of those nominated I would say Girls, but Parks & Rec deserves it and it’s a travesty it isn’t nominated.

  8. Superhero says:

    This category doesn’t matter, plain and simple. Parks and Recreation, Louie, and Community all should’ve been dominated, and something other than Modern Family should win. But that’s the Emmys for you.

  9. Stephanie says:

    It should be Big Bang Theory cause it’s so hilarious (Jim and Mayim should definitely win their categories in my opinion), but the comedy category in most awards shows these days seems to be more like “Modern Family vs. All Comers”

  10. JBS says:

    I say The Big Bang Theory should win (it’s t.v’s top-rated comedy for a reason), but I wouldn’t be upset if Modern Family or Veep won. Also, to all those who are saying that certain other “shows” should be nominated instead of the ones that are nominated, I can’t take your opinion here seriously. The shows that should be nominated this year are nominated & the ones that souldn’t be nominated this year aren’t. It’s as simple as that. If you can’t understand that, then you truly aren’t fans of good television.

    • Kara Blankenship says:

      Ratings do NOT equal Emmy-worthiness. On many cases, it’s quite the opposite, actually.

    • Michael says:

      And you expect us to take your comment seriously? I didn’t realize that you were the end-all-be-all of television critics. If you can’t comprehend the fact that not everyone enjoys the same type of humor and characters, I doubt that you can claim to be a fan of good television because you wouldn’t really know good television even if it sat on your face and had a batmizfah.

      • JBS says:

        I never even said that I was a t.v. critic & to be honest, my favourite comedy out there (HIMYM) isn’t nominated. The difference between me & all the lunatics out there is that I’m not bitching & moaning about some precieved notion that my show isn’t worthy of an Emmy.

    • idontwannaliveinthisworldanymore says:

      So from your own logic, you think a worthless piece of trash like ‘Two & A Half Men’ is actually praiseworthy and deserves an Emmy!

    • Britta Unfiltered says:

      Yikes, and I thought I was the biggest pretentious d-bag on this website. Nope, you take the cake on that, JBS. Telling people they don’t appreciate good television just because they’re sad their shows aren’t nominated?? Let them express their opinion without judging them. Taste is subjective and snubs happen to very good shows, writers, directors, and actors all the time in these kinds of contests.

      • You’re far from the biggest, most pretentious D-bag here. I think I have the edge over you on that. I mean, I have the edge over you on that. I know because I’m better than everyone, went to an Ivy League school, am rich and am the International Pie-Eating Champion of 2009.

    • 5h412k says:

      i agree with u entirly, the level of scientific research that goes into making a single episode of that show is staggering to say the list. never have i seen a more enlightening yet entertaining tv show. though i can understand y some people might not find the show as funny as it is. The reason i guess lies in what one finds amusing and/or apprehensible, the sight of an equation alone can derail certain viewer’s interest much like a dirty joke does to a deeply religeous person..

  11. Alexis says:

    Would be pretty devastating if Modern Family won again. While the actors are still delightful, the writers have been phoning it in.

  12. Susie says:

    The Middle makes us laugh more than any other show on TV~ It has ,consistently, great scripts and a wonderful cast. I don’t know what politics are involved, but I hope to see this show nominated, next year.

  13. kaleidoscope world says:

    Kunal Nayyar (whom I love, and, along with Simon Helberg, is too underrated for words — as opposed to that overrated Mayim Bialik and her either-love-her-or-hate-her over-the-top “acting”) can “booo!” all he wants on Twitter about this article, but Big Bang has no business winning. At least not since Season 3. The show’s smart humor has taken a painful dive since then for the sake of the numbers, and although it’s working for the masses (#1 comedy replacing the horrendous sex humor-infested 2.5 Men, whaddaya expect?), it won’t (and shouldn’t) deserve a statuette from the Academy.

    • Lucifer says:

      Agree with everything! I find it hard to watch TBBT sometimes. Its heydays are definitely behind now. I think Kunal deserves to be nominated as well! He’s severely underrated!

  14. Ethan says:

    Girls is a “pop-culture phenomenon”? Since when?

  15. webuiltthepyramids says:

    You make it sound like Mayim Bialik is TBBT’s messiah. Unlike the show’s recent lazy humor, THAT’S hilarious. The show was excellent from seasons 1 through 3 – long before we got a eyeful of Amy’s off-putting pout and an earful of her annoying high rising terminal, it’ll go on swimmingly if she’s ever shipped to her Middle Eastern fiance Faisal. (Okay, whats-her-face-Sursonica and other loony Fowler fans, flame away!)

  16. Amlang says:

    The Emmys evidently don’t know funny; that has to be the reason why the best, and most consistent, comedy on tv, parks and recreation, isn’t even nominated. Talk about a head scratcher. We should get Burt macklin, FBI, to investigate. :-)

  17. Steven says:

    If Curb wins, then Larry David better make up his mind and ask HBO for ANOTHER GOT-DANG SEASON ALREADY! It’s been OVER A YEAR since the 8th season ended.

  18. Jill says:

    LOL. The ONLY place where Girls is buzzy is here. The writers of this site inexplicably love that piece of garbage. It is decidedly the worst cable comedy of the last decade. It could even claw its way onto a list of the worst TV shows of all time.

    • Britta Unfiltered says:

      I’ve actually seen a lot of critics and people who work in the industry rave about Girls in articles and on Twitter. It’s quite popular with a lot of people, including me. It’s not just here it gets talked about. I can respect that you don’t like it, the characters aren’t congenial, so therefore there will be a large population of people that won’t get it or like it. But insulting the TVLine writers and calling it one of the worst shows of all time is taking it a bit too far. You’re being extremely overdramatic. Why can’t you just say it’s not a show you can appreciate?

      • Ethan says:

        The fact that the writer said “About the one thing on which everyone — especially industry-ites — seemed to agree was that the show is genius.” already proves how biased he is. The show is as divisive as it can get. It is NOT loved by everyone. Pimping this show constantly isn’t helping.

  19. samaxe794 says:

    Girls is trash. But it goes in the long line of trash that the writers of this site love.

  20. Tom Charles says:

    Much as I love The Big Bang Theory Parks & Recreation is the only thing I could see that could have taken down the Office Clone that is Modern Family

    • tripoli says:

      Dude, just give it up on the whole modern family is a clone of the office, already. It’s not. Besides the documentary style filming, they are nothing alike.

      • nick1372 says:

        I agree. Modern Family is very different than the Office.
        Personally, I think Modern Family is the best show on TV right now, while the Office is one of the, if not THE WORST show on the air.

  21. murley says:

    i agree with most of the comments on here. i honestly just don’t understand why parks and rec wasn’t nominated. of the shows that were, and that i actually watch, veep is my favorite but i can’t see it toppling modern family.

  22. nick1372 says:

    TVLine wrote:
    In addition to the show now being television’s top-rated comedy

    What?? Modern Family is TV’s best-rated comedy.
    In the 2011-2012 broadcast TV season, Modern Family averaged 5.04 in adults 18-49, while The Big Bang Theory averaged 4.97. Maybe you were refering to meaningless total viewers?

  23. nick1372 says:

    I love Modern Family. It’s the best show on the air.

  24. Joe says:

    How is girls trash? Maybe you just don’t get the humor or are too conservative. The show has top notch writing. If it doesn’t win, I’d prefer Modern Family or Veep to win.

  25. Britta Unfiltered says:

    I agree with most people here that it sucks that Community and Parks and Rec didn’t get nominated. The list of nominees feels a bit empty without them. And I think this article summed up Girls really well. I’m sorry so many people who read this website seem to hate it so much. It’s kind of weird, because none of them are like, Oh, I just don’t care for it, they have to be really insulting and hateful about the show. The characters on Girls aren’t meant to be likeable, and they’re meant to be very much like what people are actually like in real life. And i think if you like shows that do that kind of thing, then it’s probably the show for you, but if you prefer shows that are about nice people who’ve lived wonderful lives and aren’t capable of making terrible mistakes, then CBS ought to have a slew of comedies you should like.
    Yeah, Modern Family is going to win. Not necessarily because it’s the best, but because it’s the most affable. It may not be most people’s favorite show, but most people like it. And I think that’s how a lot of Emmys are won. Not because the shows have been the best, but because they’ve appealed to the widest range of people possible.

    • nick1372 says:

      There are lots of Modern Family haters out there. Much more than The Big Bang Theory, Veep, or Curb Your Enthusiasm. So the Emmys aren’t necessarily about the broadest shows. If that was the case, Community or Parks and Recreation would win every time. I’ve never seen any hate for those shows.

      • I’ve read a lot more hate for Community than I have for Modern Family, which is so accessible to so many people that you have to be either a complete moron or a complete moron with nothing but an anti-gay agenda against the show to hate it. It’s the AFA’s least successful boycott, so thank whoever/whatever you believe in that not all Utah TV stations are owned by Mormons.

        Community, though, that’s definitely a show that isn’t for everyone and there have been so many jerkholes (on this website especially) who can’t stand it when us hipsters/people who hate hipsters/smart rapid fire comedy fans talk about our show. Because we’re very enthusiastic about it, it somehow clashes with their dislike or indifference of the show like they were fundamental religious beliefs.

        I would sadly agree with Parks & Rec getting no hate because it lacks the extreme buzz of Community and therefore it’s been significantly less sampled. Matt Roush dismissed its pilot as having an identical format to The Office with a less-appealing cast and a total waste of Amy Poehler. Those of us who have stuck around love the show that it has grown into since its debut. It would probably benefit greatly from syndicated reruns.

  26. A says:

    Once again I’ll say: Girls-haters obviously don’t understand the show, probably never will, and might not possess a sense of humor. Veep also deserves some Emmy recognition, at the very least for Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s performance. I also echo the sentiments above that Parks and Rec should have gotten a nod in this category.

  27. maggie says:

    I understand Modern Family, but I really don’t find it all that funny. I think there is just a swell that listens to something I don’t listen to. The Middle is a whole lot funnier.

  28. C'mon, that's right. says:

    People saying Girls is trash are plain stupid. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s trash, and it’s actually great and HILARIOUS if you don’t get the humor just don’t watch the show and shut up, watch some Jack Black comedy, I bet you would enjoy that.