Below-the-line Emmy nods may foretell Best Comedy win for ‘Orange is the New Black’

To take full advantage of the Emmy nominations as a resource for predicting what will win Best Comedy Series, one must go beyond nominations totals to examine how nominations measured up to expectations, which varied from show to show, and how often each category foretells a win in the top race.

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First-time Best Comedy Series nominee “Orange is the New Black” led the comedy nominations with 12, including recognition for writing, directing, casting, editing, and for five of its actresses. Unlike “Modern Family” and “Veep,” “Orange is the New Black” was not nominated for its art direction or sound mixing; however, the awards given out by those branches are split into categories based on episode length. This means that “Orange is the New Black” was snubbed for the likes of “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones,” not “Modern Family,” so those omissions are not strikes against it.

The comedies did compete head-to-head in Best Editing, where “Veep” submitted four episodes for consideration, “Orange is the New Black” three, and “Modern Family” two. “Modern Family” had the easiest path to a nomination there since it was the least at risk of vote-splitting, but only one of its episodes made it in, while all three from “Orange is the New Black” did. “Veep” was not nominated at all, which might preclude it from winning the top prize, as no other category is so highly correlated with it.

There have only been two years since 2000 when the Best Comedy Series was not nominated for Best Editing (“Sex and the City” in 2001 and “30 Rock” in 2007). “Veep” also missed Best Directing, while “Modern Family” missed Best Writing; in the same time period, the Best Comedy winner missed those categories four times each. Both “Family” and “Veep” got nominations for art direction, casting, sound mixing, and four performances.

Louie” only has five nominations: Best Comedy Series, Writing, Directing, Casting, and Comedy Actor (Louis C.K.), but if any series can win the top prize with so few nominations, it’s “Louie.” That’s because of the circumstances of its missed categories. An incumbent nominee for Best Editing, it was not nominated this year because it wasn’t submitted for consideration at all. Best Sound Mixing is another surprisingly important nomination, since every Best Comedy Series since “Arrested Development” (2004) has had one, but “Louie” did not submit there either.

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“Louie” received a win last year for guest star Melissa Leo, but it was snubbed in the guest races this year. However, it is probable that this resulted from vote-splitting rather than lack of support, considering that the show received its first casting nomination this year and had submitted a whopping 17 guests — far more than the nomination slots available.

Silicon Valley” exceeded expectations with nominations for Best Comedy Series, Writing, Directing, Art Direction, and Main Title Design, but it missed acting and Best Casting. The latter is particularly disappointing for the show since the award typically favors new programs. The show was also snubbed in the aforementioned Editing and Sound Mixing races, so it has an uphill battle.

With nominations at the last two Directors Guild Awards, “The Big Bang Theory” was poised to finally break into Best Directing, important because the series has yet to earn a writing or directing nomination, and the last Best Comedy Series without either the year it won was “Friends” in 2002, although “Friends” had multiple prior nominations in both categories. “The Big Bang Theory” again missed both and is down one category from last year’s nominations haul (Best Hairstyling).

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Debate will continue until the ceremony next month about whether “Orange is the New Black” can overcome the fact that no dramedy has won Best Comedy Series since “Ally McBeal” in 1999, and so will the question of whether mere inertia can carry “Modern Family” to a record-tying fifth consecutive trophy, but based on its nominations haul in key categories, “Orange is the New Black” looks like the winner.

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