Brevity is the soul of wit: Emmy nominees for Best Comedy may average fewer than 10 episodes for the 1st time

According to our combined Emmy odds for Best Comedy Series, the likely seven nominees are front-runner “Veep” along with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Barry.” “The Kominsky Method,” “The Good Place,” “GLOW” and “Russian Doll.” Those shows couldn’t be more different from each other, but they have one thing in common: they’re short — real short. If those are indeed the nominees that are announced on July 16, it will be the shortest field in the history of the category.

“Veep’s” first six seasons consisted of 10 episodes each, but season seven had just seven episodes. That makes it the shortest show among our predicted nominees. The next shortest are “Barry,” “Kominsky” and “Russian Doll” with eight episodes each. Then “Maisel” and “GLOW” had 10 episodes apiece this past season. And “The Good Place” is comparatively epic with 13 episodes. That means the average number of episodes for a nominee in the category would be 9.14. And that average could be even lower if “Fleabag” makes the cut; it ranks eighth in our odds, and its season was only six episodes long.

That would be the shortest season average for any Best Comedy lineup in Emmy history. It coincides with the rise of cable and streaming shows, which have gradually been pushing out network sitcoms that typically air more than 20 episodes per year. But there has usually been at least one holdout representing longer network shows. Last year “Black-ish” was the sole network nominee with its 23 installments. Before that “Modern Family” carried the torch for conventional fall-to-spring sitcoms.

“Black-ish” may yet hold on for another nomination this year with its 23-episode fifth season; 5 out of 24 Expert journalists we’ve surveyed think it will stick around. But the television academy has never fully embraced “Black-ish.” Even during the three years when the show was nominated for Best Comedy Series, only three actors ever contended for the show (leads Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, recurring guest Wanda Sykes), and it never contended for writing or directing, even for its most acclaimed episodes. Has its window of opportunity closed?

Even though “The Good Place” is also a network show, it’s more in the spirit of cable and streaming shows with its compact episode counts, so there may also be TV academy members who want to stick up for shows that produce two dozen episodes per season. If that’s the case, voters may be more inclined to mark “Black-ish” on their ballots, not less. Or perhaps “Modern Family” could make a comeback, or the final season of “The Big Bang Theory.” But maybe there really is no going back. In this era of peak TV with too many viewing options for anyone to possibly keep up with, bigger may not be better anymore.

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominations are announced on July 16. And join in the fun debate over the 2019 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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