The 2011 Primetime Emmy Awards are on September 18th, and it's time once again for Fienberg and I to discuss whom we think should and will win(*) some of the major categories. Next up is yet another twofer: Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series and Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series.
(*) As always, we remind you we do not have impressive track records at prognostication. Place your wagers (or, preferably not) accordingly.
As mentioned earlier, I was not a big fan of the comedy directing field. The writing category is better, even if it somehow includes Showtime's grating "Episodes" while leaving out anything from "Parks and Rec" and/or "Community." The nominees:
"30 Rock" - "Reaganing," Matt Hubbard
"Episodes" - "Episode 7," David Crane & Jeffrey Klarik
"Louie" - "Poker/Divorce," Louis C.K.
"Modern Family" - "Caught in the Act," Steve Levitan and Jeffrey Richman
"The Office" - "Goodbye Michael," Greg Daniels
Alan's pick: The poker scene in that "Louie" episode may have been my favorite single scene from any comedy in the eligiblity period, even if it wasn't particularly funny. But in terms of a fully-satisfying experience, it's hard for any of these nominees (including funny episodes of "30 Rock" and "Modern Family") to beat Daniels' farewell to the Steve Carell era of "The Office," an episode that managed to reconcile the many different versions of Michael Scott that Carell had been asked to play over the years while being both funny and touching. It's unclear how the series will be without Carell, but his time on the show couldn't have ended any better.
Dan's pick: So the "Flu Season" episode of "Parks and Recreation" wasn't nominated for writing or directing? Sigh. And an episode of "Episodes" was nominated? [Yes, "Episode 7" *was* the best "Episodes" episode. Which would have made it the 17th best "Parks & Rec" episode of last season.] I liked "Goodbye Michael" a lot, but so much of it hinges on Carell's performance and Paul Feig's direction that I can't bring myself to single out just the script. The nominated "Louie" episode wasn't necessarily the season's best, but it's a good illustration of how boundary-breaking that FX comedy can be. That'd be my choice.
Alan's pick: This is a tricky one. Daniels is a respected industry veteran writing a prominent (and terrific) episode. On the other hand, there seems to be much more broad-based support in the Academy for "Modern Family," even if it only managed to score the one writing nomination. And given that voters are actually required to watch the nominated episodes (where the nominations themselves are done more or less blind), I wouldn't be shocked (though I'd probably be surprised) if the unique and impressive nature of the poker scene sends C.K. up to the stage. I'm going to predict "Modern Family" and hope that one of the other two gets it.
Dan's pick: I say Louis C.K. pulls a shocker in this category. Why do I say that? Because I want to, darnit. Sigh. I want to believe that. But I just don't. So much of the Emmy/Oscar voting process is based around recognizing and honoring shows and individuals for their respected place within the community. Louis C.K. is an outsider and this award will go to an insider. My guess? Just be be different from Sepinwall, I'm gonna go with "30 Rock." That was a pretty good episode.
The drama writing category, meanwhile, features a bunch of heavy hitters, one of which finally told us what the money was for. The nominees:
"Friday Night Lights" - "Always," Jason Katims
"Game of Thrones" - "Baelor," David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
"The Killing" - "Pilot," Veena Sud
"Mad Men" - "Blowing Smoke," Andre & Maria Jacquemetton
"Mad Men" - "The Suitcase," Matthew Weiner
Alan's pick: The only one in the category whose win would genuinely anger me would be "The Killing," and that would be as much about the idea of Sud getting Emmy approval given what she did later in that season as it is that "The Killing" pilot is easily the weakest in the category. (It's not bad, but most of what's effective about it comes from the directing, production design, etc.) "Always" was a fitting send-off to a great drama, "Baelor" was easily the highlight of a terrific debut season for "Thrones," and "Blowing Smoke" was a very strong episode of "Mad Men." All that being said, "The Suitcase" instantly shot onto the list not only of the best "Mad Men" episodes ever, but of the best hours of dramatic television this country has ever produced, taking three and a half seasons' worth of tension between the series' two main characters and letting them explode during a long, funny, angry, tragic night.
Dan's pick: This is such a good category. If "Always" wins? Awesome. If "Baelor" wins? Fantastic and the pilot also should have been nominated. If "Blowing Smoke" wins? Nifty and "Tomorrowland" and "Waldorf Stories" and "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" and (particularly) "The Beautiful Girls" all could have been nominated as well. But "The Suitcase" is a pantheon episode of "Mad Men" and therefore it's a pantheon episode of TV drama and therefore it's the episode that *most* deserves to win this award. But I agree with Alan that "The Killing" is the only show that doesn't belong here. Leaving aside the additional episodes of "Game of Thrones," "Mad Men" and "Friday Night Lights" that could have taken that extra slot, I'd have loved to see a little recognition for one of several "Justified" episodes. But "The Suitcase" is where it's at.
Alan's pick: On its merits, "The Suitcase" would seem to have this one locked up. On the other hand, there's been a definite backlash in the business against Weiner of late - you'll note that the "Mad Men" script that won the Writers Guild Award this year was one of the few episodes from the third season that didn't have Weiner's name on the script, and was, in fact, the only "Mad Men" episode nominated. So I could see a scenario where just enough people who like "Mad Men" but don't like Weiner could cast their votes for "Blowing Smoke" and allow something else to sneak in. I just hope it's not "The Killing."
Dan's pick: I don't buy Alan's worry about the Weiner backlash. Especially since he didn't predict which hypothetical alternative script could win this award. I'd bet on "Always" as the most plausible non-"Suitcase" winner, but I'm predicting that Emmy voters give Weiner his deserved win.
What do you think?