An aura of invincibility has hung over the Emmys’ outstanding comedy category this past decade. Only two series have won this decade, and you know their names. (How could you not?) Because the dominance of “Modern Family” and “Veep” must end one of these years, it’s reasonable to ask: Is 2017 the one?
ATLANTA (FX) A win for “Atlanta” — Donald Glover’s debut series, about a would-be rap impresario and his would-be rap star cousin, played by Brian Tyree Henry in another standout performance — would be historic for a few reasons. One of those: No basic-cable network has ever won this award, which has been dominated by the three original broadcast networks. It’s worth pointing out that FX’s “Louie,” despite three straight tries, couldn’t crack this nut either.
BLACK-ISH (ABC) The third season easily matched the second in quality, and doubled down on everything that made the show so special, especially its Emmy-nominated leads, Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross. The third season had episodes on God, therapy, baby-naming, the justice system, paternity leave, and the presidential election. “black-ish” stands the best chance of upsetting the Emmy comedy apple cart.
MASTER OF NONE (Netflix) As deeply enjoyable as this season was, you still have to wonder whether that “anybody-but-HBO” jinx could be overcome. But Netflix has two worthy entrants. It will be one of these years. Probably not this one, or at least for this show.
MODERN FAMILY (ABC) Still funny, still silly, still wise, still good. What’s not to love from an Emmy handicaps standpoint? Foremost, those five straight wins at the beginning of the decade. Voters know the 8th season of “Family” would have to be the greatest season in the history of TV comedy to get their vote again. And even then, they’ll still give it to someone else.
SILICON VALLEY (HBO) “Valley” is now a regular at these awards because it should be a regular. That doesn’t mean it will necessarily win either. “Veep” will always be the favored sibling as far as HBO’s promotional clout is concerned.
UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT (Netflix) “Unbreakable” is my surprise dark horse candidate. If anyone could shake up this stodgy award category Sunday night, then “Kimmy’s” the one. And if members bother to watch their tapes, they’ll know “UKS” contains more than a shadow of the comic glory of “30 Rock.”
VEEP (HBO) Yes, “Veep” is one of our invincibles, and has carted off a statue two years running. Logic, show quality, and that peculiar Emmy voter comedy habit best described as “hidebound” clearly suggests we’ll soon be talking about three years running.
SHOULD WIN: “Atlanta.” The Academy — like TV critics — should celebrate the new, the original, the daring, the interesting and the groundbreaking. “Atlanta” is all that and more. Funny? Not always (did you see the finale?) but funny enough. Critics have done their part, now it’s the Emmys’ turn.
WILL WIN: “Veep.” Even without Armando Iannucci at the helm, showrunners David Mandel, Lew Morton and others still managed to craft a brilliant season which we know now will be its penultimate one.