Predicting the 2023 NAACP Image Awards – TV Comedy Awards

Logo Credit: NAACP Image Awards

The story of the last decade and a half in film and television for Black people has been about the ways in which Youtube and streaming created opportunities for us to tell our own stories in ways that we never had before. That’s been glorious and led to not just more stories, but a broader array of stories and styles that helped to complicate and deepen how Black art reflects, refracts, and celebrates our lives in the United States and abroad.

This story is shifting as the reality that there’s no way for rich conglomerates to make money if they give unlimited access to every single thing that’s ever been made sets in. The impending collapse of streaming feels like its happening at a pace both glacial and rapid and is leading to a contraction that is going to hurt artists of color and women artists most of all.

The NAACP in all its anachronistic contradictions has remained the only place for true celebration of Black artistry. Allowing fans to vote on who wins makes it fun and, in its own way, more representative of what we actually like (though there’s no way to know if only black people vote for these things or not so…take that with a grain of salt). Ultimately, the right people don’t always win (or get nominated), but the NAACP is – on balance – better than the all of the mainstream awards shows.

I’m here mostly to tell you who I think will win, who I believe should win, and who the NAACP made a huge mistake in not nominating. It’s a fun exercise that gives me the opportunity to mostly spend time celebrating all the greatness that Black people bring to film and TV in America (I ignore the music categories because I’m in my 40s and music is made for young people).

Outstanding Comedy Series

  • Abbott Elementary
  • Atlanta
  • black-ish
  • Rap Sh!t
  • The Wonder Years

Should Win: Abbott Elementary
Will Win: Abbott Elementary
Should Have Been Nominated: South Side and The Upshaws

The NAACP’s inclusion of black-ish notwithstanding, this is a very good category. I’d honestly be happy with any of these shows winning (except black-ish, which was brilliant for 4 seasons and respectably aged for the remainder of it’s run.). It’s a shame that South Side and The Upshaws, two underrated and low-profile comedy shows more people should be watching, weren’t nominated. But we all know this will go to Abbott Elementary, a bonafide sensation that is brilliant and hilarious. It will win and it should.

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Anthony Anderson – “black-ish”
  • Cedric the Entertainer – “The Neighborhood”
  • Donald Glover – “Atlanta”
  • Mike Epps – “The Upshaws”
  • Dule Hill– “The Wonder Years”

Should Win: Donald Glover
Will Win: Anthony Anderson
Should Have Been Nominated: n/a

It’s great that the NAACP finally nominated Dule Hill for being the best thing about the merely ok Wonder Years reimagining. And the inclusion of Mike Epps is also a nice touch. Anthony is going to win again – which is fucking insane since he’s been the weakest element of black-ish from Day One. But he’s beloved and it was the show’s final season. Personally – I’d give it to Donald Glover for his great monologue in “The Homeliest Little Horse.”

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Loretta Devine – “Family Reunion”
  • Tracee Ellis Ross – “black-ish”
  • Maya Rudolph – “Loot”
  • Quinta Brunson – “Abbott Elementary”
  • Tichina Arnold – “The Neighborhood”

Should Win: Quinta Brunson
Will Win: Quinta Brunson
Should Have Been Nominated: Kim Fields

Strong category of 5 of the best female comic actors in the game. But it’s criminal that Kim Fields is not nominated here – a legendary, boundary-breaker who has only ever been nominated by the Image Awards once before (in 1996 for Lead Actress on Living Single). She’s carrying The Upshaws in both the comedy and the drama – no small feat since she’s paired with two comedy legends. But the woman is a legend for a reason and, in my mind, could win this category if she were nominated. But this is all about Quinta. She deserves it and she’ll win.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Brian Tyree Henry – Atlanta
  • Deon Cole – “black-ish”
  • Tyler James Williams – “Abbott Elementary”
  • William Stanford Davis – “Abbott Elementary”
  • Kenan Thompson – “Saturday Night Live”

Should Win: Tyler James Williams
Will Win: Tyler James Williams
Should Have Been Nominated: n/a

This is yet another year of weak nominees, in part due to the relative dearth of great comedy roles for Black men on TV. Deon Cole has won the last three years in a row despite the fact that Marcus Scribner was far and away the funniest male actor on black-ish. This year, Tyler is going to win, but he should be in the Lead Actor category. He’s consistently the funniest man on TV and he deserves his inevitable win.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Jenifer Lewis – “black-ish” 
  • Marsai Martin – “black-ish” 
  • Janelle James – “Abbott Elementary” 
  • Sheryl Lee Ralph – “Abbott Elementary” 
  • Wanda Sykes – “The Upshaws” 

Should Win: Janelle James
Will Win: Sheryl Lee Ralph
Should Have Been Nominated: n/a

Marsai was forever and always the best thing about black-ish, and the NAACP Image Awards were the only award in the nation that seemed to understand this, giving her 8 awards over the life of the show. But this year – it’s a toss-up between Janelle James and Sheryl Lee Ralph, who are both superb on the show. I have a slight preference for the chaotic energy James brings to the show, but I think Ralph will actually win because she’s remarkable, a legend, and has been long overdue for massive stardom.

Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series

  • Angela Barnes – “The Homeliest Little Horse” (Atlanta)
  • Bridget Stokes – “Save My Edges, I’m a Donor!” (A Black Lady Sketch Show)
  • Dee Rees – “Hamoodi” (Upload)
  • Iona Morris Jackson – “If A Black Man Cries in the Woods” (black-ish)
  • Pete Chatmon – “Drowning Women” (The Flight Attendant)

Should Win: Angela Barnes
Will Win: Angela Barnes
Should Have Been Nominated: Matthew Cherry for Abbott Elementary’s “Ava vs. the Superintendent

The TV directing awards are relatively new, first being awarded in 2021 so there’s no real pattern just yet. Abbott Elementary is not here, but it’s directorial team is largely white (many of whom were pulled from The Office, which is the inspiration for the show’s mokumentary style). That said, Matthew Cherry directed one of the funniest season 1 episodes and should be here to represent this show, which derives much of its humor from its directorial choices. But I think this one goes to Angela Barnes for the therapy episode of Atlanta, which was brilliant.

Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series

  • Quinta Brunson – “Development Day” (Abbott Elementary)
  • Brittni Nichols – “Student Transfer” (Abbott Elementary)
  • Karen Joseph Adcock – “Episode 105” (The Bear)
  • Ayo Edebiri and Shana Gohd – “Episode 405” (What We Do in the Shadows)
  • Aisha Muharrar and Joe Mande – “Episode 206” (Hacks)

Should Win: Quinta Brunson
Will Win: Quinta Brunson
Should Have Been Nominated:

Like TV directing, this is a newish category. This is likely to go to Quinta for her season two premiere episode. And it’d be the right choice.

Other 2023 Image Awards Predictions:

About tlewisisdope

I write. I live in DC.
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