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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Dec. 7, 2023

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Emmys 2023: How will comedy races play out?


LOS ANGELES — Final round Emmy voting begins next week, uncorking an array of intriguing questions that probably won’t be answered until … January? February?

With the writers’ and actors’ strikes continuing and negotiations moving slowly, the only certainty is that Television Academy voters will be filling out their ballots this month.

Meanwhile, with a comedy class that includes “The Bear,” “Ted Lasso,” “Barry” and “Abbott Elementary” (and … what’s this … “Jury Duty”??), there’s a lot to like — and a lot to discuss — about how the comedy races will play out.

Will “Ted Lasso” win the series Emmy once again?

“Modern Family” and “Frasier” won the comedy series Emmy for each of their first five seasons. “All in the Family” broke out of the gate with three straight series Emmys, as did “30 Rock” and “Taxi.”

Does “Ted Lasso” belong in such esteemed company? Voters just gave it 21 nominations, the most of any comedy series, so it’s pretty clear what they think. And whereas the aforementioned shows carried on for several more seasons, “Ted Lasso” might be ending its run after three seasons

But what about “The Bear,” Chef? Couldn’t the workflow of this year’s Emmy calendar give it a boost?

The just-aired second season of this magnificent series balanced chaos and calm, boasted an array of A-list guest stars (Jamie Lee Curtis, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, John Mulaney, Olivia Colman) and provided me some proper perspective on the relative chaos of my own family holiday meals. It was perfect. It also won’t be eligible for the Emmys until 2024, having premiered in June, just past this year’s May 31 eligibility cutoff.

So, in theory, Television Academy members will be voting for the first season of “The Bear,” which they liked well enough to give it 13 nominations, including nods for writing, directing and cast regulars Jeremy Allen White, Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Ayo Edebiri. Except they’ll also have the superb second season lodged in their brains. And because the word-of-mouth has been so positive, it’s likely that even more voters started watching “The Bear” after voting for nominations ended. That momentum could propel “The Bear” to a win over “Ted Lasso,” but the likelier scenario is that it’ll wait a year and then clean up good at next year’s Emmys.

Could Rachel Brosnahan win an Emmy after a five-year break?

Emmy voters are a predictable lot. Once they’ve rewarded you, they might not stop (see: Julia Louis-Dreyfus), but once they stop, you’re probably not going to win again for the same show. Brosnahan took the Emmy for the debut season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” one of eight awards that Amy Sherman-Palladino’s series took in 2018. Brosnahan then picked up nominations for the second, third and fourth years of “Maisel” but faced formidable competition, losing to Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag”), Catherine O’Hara (“Schitt’s Creek”) and Jean Smart (“Hacks”).

So that should be that … except Sherman-Palladino wrote a beautiful ending to Midge’s story, giving Brosnahan one glorious final routine that is so good that it could be enough to erase decades of Emmy voting predictability.

Who wins mother of the year in the guest actress category?

All respect to Judith Light (it’s still hard to fathom that she’s the only “Poker Face” guest star to earn a nom), Quinta Brunson (“Saturday Night Live”) and Sarah Niles (her nomination for the briefest of appearances on “Ted Lasso” tells you much about that show’s strength), but the guest actress Emmy will probably go the maternal route this year.

Harriet Walter managed to repeat her feat of picking up guest nominations both for playing mother to the Roy family on “Succession” and Rebecca’s mother on “Ted Lasso,” a woman fond of psychics and “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Walter is up against co-star Becky Ann Baker, who played Ted’s mom, a woman who knows her way around Philip Larkin’s “This Be the Verse” and her son’s lingering emotional baggage. She made Ted — and, by extension, all of us watching — cry.

Finally there’s Taraji P. Henson, who blasted into “Abbott Elementary” as Janine’s mother, an appearance that can best be summed up by a single Janine line: “I love my mom … but, that’s my mom.” Henson was a force of nature, but the episode also came with some nice subtle moments too. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of her.

Who wins? Who knows? But I think it’s safe to say that another mother will take this category next year — Jamie Lee Curtis for her tumultuous, wine-swigging turn on “The Bear.” But if things go awry … please don’t ask her if she’s OK.

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