Dan and I are continuing our Emmy predictions in advance of the awards ceremony on September 23rd, and in order to get this done in time, we'll be doubling up genres for most of these posts. Next up: the comedy and drama directing awards.
On the comedy side, it's an eclectic group, with a couple of "Modern Family" episodes going up against indie darlings Lena Dunham and Louis C.K., plus one of the funniest "Curb Your Enthusiam"s ever and the funny pilot episode of a popular network sitcom.
"Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Palestinian Chicken" - Robert B. Weide
"Girls," "She Did" - Lena Dunham
"Louie," "Duckling" - Louis C.K.
"Modern Family," "Virgin Territory" - Jason Winer
"Modern Family," "Baby on Board" - Steven Levitan
"New Girl," "Pilot" - Jake Kasdan
Alan's pick: We'll talk more about this in the next Emmy post, but I think C.K. did a much better job picking a directing submission than a writing one. While no "Louie" episode is really representative of the series as a whole, "Duckling" illustrates many of the things that make it special, and the spare visual style is a large part of that. I'd also be happy with Dunham or Weide, but this category seems the best place (since "Louie" wasn't nominated for comedy series) to honor C.K.'s work on the second season.
Dan's pick: I think Lena Dunham did better directing work on several alternative "Girls" episodes [particularly "The Return"], I didn't find the "New Girl" pilot particularly notable and both of the "Modern Family" episodes were just OK. So for me, that makes this category a showdown between Robert B. Weide's work on the expertly crafted "Palestinian Chicken" episode of "Curb" and Louis C.K. doing his thing on the hour-long "Duckling." It comes down to this: "Palestinian Chicken" was a flawlessly executed episode within the established framework of an established series, while "Duckling" was a format-breaking episode on a format-breaking series. "Duckling" is about expanding the possibilities of the genre and, perhaps, the medium at large. "Duckling" gets my vote. Easy.
Alan's pick: In what will be a running theme of these predictions, Emmy voters love "Modern Family." Ordinarily, having two episodes in the same category might create a vote-splitting problem, but the show had two episodes last year and still won. Levitan lost to a colleague last time, but I suspect he gets it this year for the season finale, which had the emotional Mitch and Cam scene in the cornfield as well as the running gag of the telenovela coming to life in the hospital.
Dan's pick: It's easy to just assume that "Modern Family" wins everything that "Modern Family" is eligible and therefore you have to choose between those two episodes for your winner. Emmy voters can recognize outliers if they're good enough or different enough or special enough. I'd compare "Ducklings" to Margo Martindale in "Justified" last year. It may not seem like the populist choice, but I think it's clearly enough the right choice that Emmy voters won't be able to resist. This is a very high profile way to recognize Louis C.K. and I think this is a good year to recognize Louis C.K. in a high profile way.
No double nominees on the drama side of things, which features three emotional season finales, a riveting debut episode and a memorable installment from the drama Emmy voters love best.
"Boardwalk Empire," "To the Lost" - Tim Van Patten
"Breaking Bad," "Face Off" - Vince Gilligan
"Downton Abbey," "Episode 7" - Brian Percival
"Homeland," "Pilot" - Michael Cuesta
"Mad Men," "The Other Woman" - Phil Abraham
Alan's pick: This is a very tough one. "To the Lost" was the highlight of "Boardwalk" season 2, as was the Christmas episode for "Downton Abbey." The "Homeland" pilot announced we were seeing the next great drama, any issues I had with the riveting "The Other Woman" were on the writing end, and "Face Off" was simply the most insane, memorable hour of dramatic television of the year. So that last one would be my pick. Ding. Ding. DING.
Dan's pick: There isn't a bad choice here, at least not once you stop wondering where the "Blackwater" episode of "Game of Thrones" is. OK. Fine. Probably the "Downton Abbey" episode would be a "bad" choice, but only relatively. All four of the other nominees are tremendous examples of how to simultaneously build and develop suspense without ever sacrificing performances from every corner of an ensemble cast. For me, what sets "Face Off" is its giddy sense of pacing. The other candidates here start slow and build perfectly, but "Face Off" starts fast and only intensifies, which raises its degree of difficulty and gives Vince Gilligan my vote.
Alan's pick: This is the first of several categories where "Downton" (which won six Emmys last year when competing as a miniseries) goes up against traditional favorites like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," plus hot newcomer "Homeland" and this category's reigning winner in "Boardwalk." (Though Martin Scorsese's not the "Boardwalk" nominee this year, so I'd guess Van Patten's out.) I think this may come down to "Downton" versus "Homeland," and tense pilot episodes tend to do very well in this category, so I'll go with Showtime.
Dan's pick: I'm not interested in questioning or second-guessing this one. Michael Cuesta wins for "Homeland." Emmy voters like pilots. Emmy voters like "Homeland." And there isn't a Martin Scorsese in this category to steal the spotlight.
PREVIOUSLY: Outstanding Miniseries or Movie