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Emmys: Handicapping Outstanding Comedy Series

Outstanding Comedy Series

While drama presents an embarrassment of riches, comedy was somewhat stagnant this season.

The only new player in the pack is Showtime's The Big C. The show is well-written, clever and occasionally brilliantly acted, but like most of Showtime's comedies -- Nurse Jackie, United States of Tara and Weeds -- the comedy is often tough to tease out. Leading lady Laura Linney is sure to be nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy, which should help The Big C's overall chances. Showtime women have won the past two years in a row-Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) in 2010 and Toni Collette (United States of Tara) in 2009-demonstrating that the Academy is paying attention to what the premium channel has to offer.

Showtime is sure to push Jackie, which was recently renewed for season three. Falco's win last year upset the field and seemed to surprise even the star, who proclaiming from the podium, "I'm not funny!" With Showtime pulling the plug on Tara, a quirky but littlewatched series about a Midwestern mom managing multiple personalities, that show is likely out of the running.

Season two of ABC's Modern Family was arguably stronger than its first, putting the solid performer in good position to repeat. Fox's Glee remains just as fun as ever, but it's going for so many things in every episode- including show-stopping performances and heart-wrenching story lines-that it's hard to categorize it purely as a comedy.

"We forgive the inconsistency and cheesiness," says Ostrow. "It's still the rare show with music and fun characters the family can watch together. Also what we used to call ‘pro-social values....'"

NBC's 30 Rock used to be the show to beat in this category until Modern Family came along. Most critics do not expect 30 Rock to reclaim its crown, but the show is consistently hilarious, and that should bring it yet another nomination.

30 Rock's Thursday night companion, The Office, also is expected to win a nomination. The series has been nominated every year since 2006, when it won its first and only Best Comedy trophy. This season the show has sentiment behind it since it was the well-liked Steve Carell's last as bumbling but lovable office manager Michael Scott.

Sticking with NBC on Thursday night, critics adore both Parks and Recreation and Community. Of the latter, Ostrow says,

"The writing is exceptional, with its knowing, sharp, post-post-modern-or-whatever wit."

Finally, many think CBS' The Big Bang Theory- one of the highest-rated comedies on television-is long overdue for a win.

Other options include Showtime's Episodes, starring Matt Le Blanc, and ABC's dark horse, Cougar Town. "So mean, so funny!" says Ostrow.