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Emmys 2024: Comedy series predictions start with ‘The Bear’

A collage showing “Abbott Elementary,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “The Bear,” “Only Murders,” “Reservation Dogs”
Potential comedy series nominees include, clockwise from top left, “Abbott Elementary,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “The Bear,” “Only Murders in the Building” and “Reservation Dogs.”
(Photo Illustration by Erica Bonkowski)
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“Abbott Elementary” threw one hell of a party to wrap up its strike-shortened third season, with Janine (Quinta Brunson) inviting her colleagues over for a micromanaged bash (hey, it’s Janine) that showcased why this delightful sitcom won the Emmy for casting a couple of years ago.

Putting all these people in the same room and watching their characters unleash their own brands of nerdy chaos — Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) enjoying some brown liquor, turning the former into Sea Barbara (“I am the captain!”) — was to appreciate that “Abbott Elementary” now belongs alongside such great workplace comedies as “The Office” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” It’s even in conversation with them. You may remember that Mary Richards threw a (disastrous) party or two. And Janine and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) finally giving in to their feelings echoed the whole will-they-or-won’t-they Jim and Pam thing. And it was lovely!

“Abbott” won four Emmys for its first two seasons. In addition to that casting prize, Brunson won for writing and lead comedy actress, while Ralph took supporting actress for the show’s debut year. Not bad. But it still feels a little light. We’ll see how it fares this year against “The Bear,” the category’s overwhelming favorite, even with all the drama surrounding its comedy.

COMEDY SERIES

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“Abbott Elementary,” “Only Murders in the Building” and “The Bear” are the only holdovers from the eight series nominated last year. But most of the open slots will be filled by series that have been nominated in the past, including two shows — “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Hacks” — that weren’t eligible in 2023. It’s also likely that twice-nominated “What We Do in the Shadows” returns after being crowded out last year, as the writing was as sharp and nutty as ever.

That leaves a couple of spots, one of which should go to “Reservation Dogs,” a gem that has been repeatedly feted by the American Film Institute and the Peabody Awards but not at the Emmys. It’s a special show, vitally important for Indigenous storytellers, and I can only hope that Lily Gladstone’s presence and promotion of the series during her “Killers of the Flower Moon” awards-season run raised its profile among Emmy voters. It’d be nice — and fitting — for it to go out with a few overdue nominations.

Among the newcomers, the broad, cartoonish “Palm Royale” has its fans, and I can only wish I was among them. It wasn’t for lack of effort. Guy Ritchie‘s “The Gentlemen” possessed the mayhem and visual flair you’d expect from its creator. It was good frothy fun. Boots Riley’s “I’m a Virgo” premiered almost a year ago, but I don’t think anyone who saw this coming-of-age story about a 13-foot-tall teen will ever forget it.

And since sometimes a show can come out of seemingly nowhere, let’s throw in “Ghosts,” the CBS remake of a beloved British sitcom that has found a devoted following over the course of its three seasons. Times television critic Robert Lloyd loves it, and he was boosting “Schitt’s Creek” before anyone else knew about it.

COMEDY ACTRESS

After winning the supporting actress Emmy for “The Bear,” Ayo Edebiri now graduates to the lead category. Sydney and Carmy were partners in Season 2, after all. She’ll join reigning winner Quinta Brunson (“Abbott Elementary”) and Jean Smart, who won the category for the first two seasons of “Hacks.” You could make a case for any one of these women and you would not be wrong.

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Kristen Wiig has piled up nine Emmy nominations over the years and, again, “Palm Royale” has its supporters. Whatever you think of the show, you can’t say Wiig didn’t invest herself fully in the role of the series’ shameless social climber. Her “Saturday Night Live” former castmate Maya Rudolph could be nominated for “Loot,” another Apple TV+ series that you wish was better than it is.

Selena Gomez has yet to snag a nomination for “Only Murders in the Building,” with voters discounting her essential presence in the show’s central trio alongside Steve Martin and Martin Short. With the category thinner thanks to the strikes, this could be her year. Same for Devery Jacobs for her tough, tender portrayal of Elora in “Reservation Dogs.” The episode with Ethan Hawke playing her father, which Jacobs wrote, was sublime.

COMEDY ACTOR

Remember how weird it was when Martin Short was nominated for the second season of “Only Murders in the Building” but Steve Martin wasn’t? That’s not going to happen again. They’ll join last year’s winner (and, let’s face it, this year’s too), Jeremy Allen White from “The Bear.” Larry David has been nominated six times in this category for “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and it’s hard to imagine he doesn’t receive a parting gift for its final go-round.

You know who else has a lot of Emmy nominations? Kelsey Grammer. He won four times playing Dr. Frasier Crane and is up for consideration again for “Frasier’s” revival, which many people liked and some found anticlimactic. Chances are he’ll be snubbed (and, yes, here this usage is correct) by more than a few voters for his politics.

Two newcomers worth mentioning: Theo James, the star (and mostly straight man) of “The Gentlemen,” and the impossible-to-ignore Jharrel Jerome, who plays the sheltered, 13-foot-tall hero of “I’m a Virgo.” Jerome won an Emmy three years ago for Ava DuVernay‘s “When They See Us,” and he deserves to find himself back at the ceremony again for his heartfelt work on the show.

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COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Sheryl Lee Ralph and Janelle James have been nominated twice for “Abbott Elementary,” with Ralph winning for the first season. Where’s Lisa Ann Walter? Winning “Celebrity Jeopardy!” is nice and all, but she deserves some recognition here too.

Hannah Einbinder earned nominations for the first two seasons of “Hacks,” and the show’s third season has focused primarily on the friendship and often fraught working partnership between Einbinder’s Ava and Jean Smart’s Deborah. The dynamic has changed, and the equal footing has given Einbinder more leeway to display her range. She has truly impressed.

Of course, “The Bear” will have a presence here too with a couple of likely first-time nominees — Abby Elliott and Liza Colón-Zayas. And we can’t forget Meryl Streep, who, on “Only Murders in the Building,” managed to convincingly play an actor relishing her big break after decades of frustration. Talk about an imaginative leap.

COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTOR

With the departures of “Ted Lasso” and “Barry,” there’s plenty of room in this category. Last year’s winner, “The Bear’s” Ebon Moss-Bachrach, will be back, of course, and probably will win again for the powerful episode detailing Richie’s transformation, “Forks.” He’ll likely be joined by three of his castmates — the great Oliver Platt, who has earned a nod (and a chocolate-covered banana) as lovable tough guy Uncle Jimmy, Lionel Boyce for playing the beloved pastry chef Marcus and, yes, Matty Matheson, the Canadian chef and acting novice who has become an essential member of the show’s ensemble.

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That’s half the category. Tyler James Williams definitely will return a third time for “Abbott Elementary.” And though their roles were reduced this season, it’s possible Carl Clemons-Hopkins or Paul W. Downs make it in for “Hacks” or Bowen Yang gets nominated again for “Saturday Night Live.” It does feel like Chris Perfetti is due some love for “Abbott.” He brings such a delightful theater-kid energy to his socially awkward history teacher, and his rapport with Williams was a highlight of this season.

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