Good news, ‘Hacks’: SAG Awards love shows about showbiz

At the first Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony in 1995, the cast of “Seinfeld” took the stage as the inaugural Best TV Comedy Ensemble recipients. The series, which starred stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld as a fictionalized version of himself, was one of several shows about the entertainment industry nominated for the top prize that year. Seinfeld and his castmates defeated actors from programs centered on a range of show business sub-sectors, from radio (“Frasier”) to news media (“Murphy Brown”). In the quarter century since, the casts of many other comedies about show business have competed and sometimes won here, and now the stars of “Hacks” are hoping to be next on the list.

Like “Seinfeld,” “Hacks” is centered on the profession of stand-up comedy, but the similarities end there. The HBO Max show’s main character is female comic Deborah Vance (Jean Smart), who is entirely fictional, decades older than the Seinfeld character was, and based in Las Vegas rather than New York City. The characters with whom she interacts are not her friends and neighbors, but people who work with and for her, such as Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder), her new writing partner, and Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins), her chief operating officer. All three principal actors recently had their work recognized by Emmy voters (Smart won Best Comedy Actress) and are now individually and collectively vying for the attention of their SAG peers.

The “Hacks” cast are set to follow the lead of 20 ensembles whose performances on shows about show business put them in contention for this award. In 1996, the “Seinfeld” actors were bested on their second outing by those from “Friends,” one of whom was Matt LeBlanc, who played soap opera star Joey Tribbiani. Also in the running were the cast of “Cybill,” led by Cybill Shepherd as struggling actress Cybill Sheridan. The next year, the cast of “Remember WENN,” a period sitcom about a radio variety show, lost their only bid to the “Seinfeld” bunch, who went on to prevail a third time in 1998.

“Sports Night,” which primarily took place in a sports news studio, joined the club in 2000, the year the “Frasier” ensemble scored their only win. The next two shows on the list, “Will & Grace” and “Arrested Development,” each featured an ensemble member who played an aspiring thespian (Sean Hayes as Jack McFarland and David Cross as Tobias Funke, respectively). The cast of the former show won in 2001, while the cast of the latter lost both of their bids to the “Desperate Housewives” ensemble. 

Next came nominations for “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” a fictionalized look at “Seinfeld” creator Larry David’s daily life, in 2006 and “Entourage,” which followed the escapades of a young movie star and his friends, in 2007. Those races were won by the casts of “Desperate Housewives” and “The Office,” respectively. The “Entourage” actors were also defeated in 2008 by the cast of “30 Rock,” which creator and star Tina Fey devised as a parody of her time spent working on “Saturday Night Live.”

The cast of “Glee,” most of whom played teenage show choir members, won in 2010 on their first of four bids. One year later, the all-female ensemble of “Hot in Cleveland” were nominated for their portrayals of jaded industry veterans looking for a new start in the titular city. They ultimately lost to the cast of “Modern Family.” In 2019, history was made as the category’s entire lineup consisted of casts from series about the entertainment sector: “Atlanta,” “Barry,” “GLOW,” “The Kominsky Method,” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” The lattermost show, about a female comedian’s rise to prominence in the 1960s, emerged victorious, and its cast went on to triumph again in 2020. The most recent winners, the cast of “Schitt’s Creek,” also fit into this group, as major character Moira Rose (Catherine O’Hara) was an actress by trade.

According to our SAG odds, the “Hacks” ensemble are in second place in this race behind only the cast of “Ted Lasso.” Rounding out the current top eight are the actors from “Only Murders in the Building,” “The Great,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “The Kominsky Method,” “Cobra Kai,” and “Insecure.”

Nominations for the 28th annual SAG Awards will be announced on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 ahead of the ceremony on Sunday, February 27.

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