Emmys 2023: Answers to all your burning questions about the comedy races

Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri stand on the street looking intensely at a building in "The Bear."
Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri in “The Bear.”
(Chuck Hodes)
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Final round Emmy voting begins next week, uncorking an array of intriguing questions that probably won’t be answered until ... January? February? How about a double-header with the Oscars in March? Or will the Academy Awards be postponed too?

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, and they might still be playing football when we learn the results.

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 (“Taxi” was the shortest-lived, fighting for its life — and changing networks — to eke out five), “Ted Lasso” might be ending its run after three seasons. Co-creator and star Jason Sudeikis says “maybe there’s more there, but it has to come from the stories and the characters,” which, translated, means, “yes, we’ll be back — just give us some time and pay us accordingly.” In the meantime, it’s safe to say that voters could be giving it some nice parting gifts, even if the leave might only be temporary.

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 — and that glorious last image of a beaming, validated Edebiri — 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. More friends & family!


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. Unless ... maybe voters are ready to skip the appetizer and dive straight into the main course and reward it now. Thirteen nominations signal widespread approval. (By comparison, “Succession” earned just five for its first season.) I mean, why wait? Let’s break out the chocolate bananas right now.

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 (the series finale is titled “Four Minutes”) that is so good that it could be enough to erase decades of Emmy voting predictability.

Will James Marsden win an Emmy for playing “James Marsden” in “Jury Duty”?

An actor playing a heightened, jackass version of himself and flexing improv muscles we never knew he had? How can industry voters resist? Now, let’s grab Ronald and head to Margaritaville and celebrate!


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” (don’t get her started on human eyes, a.k.a. “face eggs”) 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.