With “Veep” out of the running as it takes an extended hiatus, the time is ripe for another HBO comedy, “Silicon Valley,” to finally win at this year’s Emmys. “Veep” has claimed the last three Best Comedy Series trophies while “Silicon Valley” has consistently played second fiddle. It has been nominated for Best Comedy Series, Writing and Directing for each of its first four seasons; it is the fourth show in Emmy history to achieve such consistency, following Best Comedy Series winners “30 Rock” (2007–2010), “Murphy Brown” (1989–1992) and “Cheers” (1983–1986).
Pundits continually underestimate “Silicon Valley” at the Emmys, perhaps because apples-to-apples comparisons to “Veep” are easy. Both are contemporary satires featuring actor Zach Woods that air in the spring on Sundays in HBO’s 10 o’clock hour under showrunners who previously wrote and produced both “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Seinfeld.”
With odds of 8/1, “Silicon Valley” currently ranks fourth in the race for Best Comedy Series. Conventional wisdom has been that if voters move on from “Veep” will want to embrace something radically different, but the Emmys are less adventurous than they get credit for; dramedies rarely win Best Comedy Series.
“Orange is the New Black” was thought to be a threat to ending the reign of “Modern Family” in 2014, “Transparent” seemed a strong alternative to “Veep” in 2015 and “Atlanta” was considered the primary challenger to “Veep” last year, but none of made it to the winner’s circle. The buzzed-about new contender this year is “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” yet another dramedy. But the safer and more sensible prediction is the contender that most resembles “Veep.”
“Silicon Valley” has widespread support across the branches of the academy, which no comedy other than “Veep” has been able to claim recently. The only difference between the two is that “Silicon Valley” has been less a favorite with the actors’ branch. “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” had a combined 12 submissions across the writing, directing and editing categories last year; all 12 were nominated, leaving just five slots for other comedies in the three categories; these were filled by “Atlanta” and “Master of None.” In addition to being nominated for their casting and sound mixing, the one-two punch of “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” has also demonstrated its prowess with nominations for their cinematography and production design; no other Best Comedy Series nominee was nominated for either last year.
Granted “Silicon Valley” has barely been a presence in the acting categories, reaping only a Best Actor nomination for Thomas Middleditch two years ago for the third season. But these races represent the sentiments of just one branch of the TV academy, which is not the largest (as it is at the Oscars).
“Silicon Valley” has had the support of more branches than any comedy other than “Veep” including the sound mixers, which is an especially predictive group, perhaps because their nominations are so conservative. The Best Half-Hour Sound Mixing category has been around for 11 years and has always counted the eventual Best Comedy Series winner among its nominees.
“Transparent” and “Orange is the New Black” have never been nominated by the academy’s sound mixers, nor was “Atlanta” last year, despite the tendency of sound mixing awards to be biased toward music-driven fare. “Atlanta” was also snubbed for its sound mixing by the Cinema Audio Society, which counts both TV and film sound mixers among its membership. That group awarded “Modern Family” five times; when they finally moved on this year, it was to “Silicon Valley.”
Even “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which paved the way for “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” and which returned to HBO this season after an extended hiatus, does not have the depth of support of “Silicon Valley.” It did not join “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” as a directing, production design or sound mixing nominee at the recent guild awards. Its backing is relatively top-heavy and does not extend as much to the so-called “steak-eaters” of the academy.
Yes, “Silicon Valley” is an aging show and reviews are not what they used to be, but it has been relatively immune at the Emmys to date, having dropped from 11 to 10 nominations from its third to fourth season, after having received only seven for its second.
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