Sizing up the race for Best Comedy Series at the Emmys, "Modern Family" looks unbeatable. It never lost the category in the past, winning in 2010 and 2011, and now the experts overwhelmingly favor it to prevail again on Sept. 23.
Twelve of the 13 Emmy pundits polled by Gold Derby predict it will get the last laugh: Mo Ryan (HuffPost TV), Debra Birnbaum and Matt Roush (TV Guide Magazine), Maria Elena Fernandez (Newsweek Daily Beast), Elena Howe (L.A. Times), John Kubicek (Buddy TV), Daniel Manu (TelevisionWithoutPity), Rick Porter (Zap2It), Jill Serjeant (Reuters), Ken Tucker (Entertainment Weekly) and Paul Sheehan and myself (Gold Derby).
The one stubborn hold-out is Maggie Furlong (HuffPost TV), who's betting on "Girls."
Furlong may be right. While no one new TV series has emerged from the past season as the obvious alternative challenger to "Modern Family" -- a new program, that is, with universal critical acclaim, strong Nielsen ratings, snob appeal and zeitgeist cache – "Girls" came close. Most TV critics love it and everyone recognizes the genius of its whiz kid creator -- 26-year-old hyphenate Lena Dunham, who reaped Emmy noms for producing, acting, writing and directing. One of those bids is especially significant because, odd as it may seem, "Modern Family" wasn't nominated for best writing this year -- a category it won in 2010 and 2011. Can this mean that voter fatigue has set in and "Girls" can really stage an upset for the top Emmy?
"Girls" is the only nominee for Best Comedy that's in the writing category, but it's also a standout in another way: It's a clever update of "Sex and the City" (glam chicks still rule Manhattan, but they're seen through ugly duckling eyes), which won Best Comedy Series at the Emmys in 2001. However, let's recall that "Sex and the City" lost the first two times it was nominated. The reason perhaps: Most Emmy voters are men, and older chaps at that, who often take a while to warm up to female-focused TV fare.
If the Emmy geezers opt for female-focused TV this year, "Veep" may be more to their traditional tastes. Its demo skews older and it showcases Emmy icon Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who won for "Seinfeld" and "New Adventures of Old Christine." It helps that it's about presidential politics during an election year -- thus it feels especially urgent now -- and it's classy: like "The West Wing" (four-time winner of Best Drama Series) with laughs.
Having sufficient class is usually crucial to claiming a top series award. Emmy voters are shameless snobs. Reminder: the program that holds the record for winning the most Emmys in TV history was about two uppity brothers bickering over opera and vintage wine ("Frasier," 37 awards).
"Modern Family" has loads of elitist appeal. Its super-hip characters toss off snark with gusto while sashaying through stylish homes. TV viewership remains strong and TV critics have remained faithful too. Therefore, most award pundits feel that Emmy voters will probably remain loyal -- treating this category like a classic TV repeat. After all, "30 Rock" won three years in a row -- and "Frasier" bagged the prize five consecutive times.
A winner will be chosen by about 900 members of the TV academy who are divided into three teams that watch two sample episodes of each nominated show. Producers actually submit six episodes and distribute them randomly in three pairings to voters. Here's the list.