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 group prize that year, with “Frasier” and “Murphy Brown” having been respectively centered on the radio and news media subsectors. Over the last quarter century, the casts of many other comedies about show business have competed and sometimes won here, and now the stars of “Hacks” are hoping to make good on their second try.
Like “Seinfeld,” “Hacks” is centered on the stand-up comedy profession, but the similarities end there. The HBO Max show’s main character is septuagenarian female comic Deborah Vance (Jean Smart), who is entirely fictional and primarily performs in the American West, as opposed to New York. Most other characters on the show are not her friends and neighbors but rather her employees, with the two most prominent ones being her writing partner, Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder), and her chief operating officer, Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins).
Less than one year ago, the “Hacks” cast were collectively recognized by the Screen Actors Guild for their work on the show’s first season, and Smart took home the award for Best TV Comedy Actress. She, Einbinder, and Clemons-Hopkins shared the group nomination with recurring actors Rose Abdoo, Paul W. Downs, Mark Indelicato, Poppy Liu, Christopher McDonald, and Megan Stalter. Though they lost on this initial outing to the team from “Ted Lasso,” they are in a solid position to succeed at the next ceremony.
Their 2022 ensemble bid made the “Hacks” cast one of 21 groups whose performances on comedies about show business have caught the attention of their SAG peers. In 1996, the “Seinfeld” actors were bested on their second try 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 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 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 cast of “Schitt’s Creek,” who won in 2021, also fit into this group, as main character Moira Rose (Catherine O’Hara) was an actress by trade.
According to Gold Derby’s SAG Awards odds, the “Hacks” ensemble are in second place in this race behind only the cast of “Abbott Elementary.” Rounding out our current top eight are the actors from “Only Murders in the Building,” “Barry,” “Ted Lasso,” “The Bear,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and “Dead to Me.” Normally, “Ted Lasso” would be more of a shoo-in for at least a bid, but the show is teetering on the edge of eligibility since its third season has yet to premiere. If the reigning champs do clear out, the “Hacks” team will be almost unstoppable.
Nominations for the 29th annual SAG Awards will be announced on Wednesday, January 11, ahead of the ceremony on Sunday, February 26.
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