For years -- well, two years, if you want to get specific -- "Modern Family" has ruled Academy hearts and minds, winning the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series twice in a row and cleaning up at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and even the Teen Choice Awards. However, 2012 might be a different story.
At this year's Primetime Emmy Awards, nominees for Outstanding Comedy Series include "The Big Bang Theory," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "30 Rock," "Veep," and "Girls," which could illustrate a shift in Academy values. While "The Big Bang Theory" follows "Modern Family's" lead in terms of situation comedy (a heartwarming premise usually tied up within 30 minutes), "Girls" and "Veep" break from the mould.
Unlike "Modern Family's," uh, family-friendly premise (sorry), "Girls" sees main character Hanna Horvath (Lena Dunham) and friends navigate the rocky seas of 20-something relationships. Often equal parts funny, heartbreaking, and hard to get through (if you could watch the pilot without face-palming, you've achieved greatness), its humour is less about one-liners than it is about real life's moments. Yes, Hanna comparing her friendships to Coldplay is funny ("When I look at you, a Coldplay song plays in my heart"), but it's the realistic dynamic between Hannah, Marnie (Allison Williams), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) that keeps "Girls" so entertaining.
"Veep," like "Modern Family," is smart and quippy, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Selina Meyer plays less into caricatures or stereotypes than "Modern Family's" Gloria (whose jokes rely on cultural differences). Selina's outbursts and frustrations garner laughs because they're more "real."
Max Greenfield and Bill Hader. (FOX, NBC)
And it might not only be the Outstanding Comedy Series category that gets shaken up. While Jesse Tyler, Ed O'Neill, Ty Burrell, and Eric Stonestreet dominate the Supporting Comedy Actor category, they're also up against new favourite Max Greenfield (Schmidt on "New Girl") and "Saturday Night Live's" Bill Hader, who consistently anchors the series thanks to his Clint Eastwood impressions and jack-of-all-trades-inspired diversity.
Kathryn Joosten and Kristen Wiig. (Beck Starr/WireImage, Mark Davis/Getty Images)
Meanwhile, actresses Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara must compete against Supporting Comedy Actresses like late legend Kathryn Joosten ("Desperate Housewives"), and former "Saturday Night Live" star Kristen Wiig, who not only earned an Oscar nomination for writing "Bridesmaids," but whose current Emmy nomination -- and potential win -- could be the perfect send-off after years at "SNL."
Comedy requires evolution. And while "Modern Family" is very funny, to honour the same type of comedy with consistent award wins will only spur copycat series that don't offer anything new. By honouring shows that challenge pre-existing sitcom conventions (like "Girls" or "Veep"), the Academy sends a message that change is welcome, and that new artists will be championed, not assimilated.
The 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards air Sunday, Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. ET on CTV and ABC.