It's time to talk about writing as Dan and I make our picks for who should and will win Emmys on Sunday night. As always, I should warn you that my prognostication skills are terrible. This time, we're doing the comedy and drama writing categories.
On the comedy side of things, we have what I essentially view as the true best comedy vote, with nominations for my four favorite half-hour shows of the eligibility period (one of them nominated twice):
"Community," "Remedial Chaos Theory" - Chris McKenna
"Girls," "Pilot" - Lena Dunham
"Louie," "Pregnant" - Louis C.K.
"Parks and Recreation," "The Debate" - Amy Poehler
"Parks and Recreation," "Win, Lose or Draw" - Michael Schur
Alan's pick: I think both C.K. and Dunham could have picked better episodes from their respective series, though in Dunham's case, pilot episodes often have a good track record at the Emmys because they don't require any other knowledge of the series. But "Pregnant" only belongs here if you really, really, really like a well-executed fart joke. So for me, it comes down to two very emotional and yet funny "Parks and Rec"s versus the audacity and hilarity of the seven timelines of "Remedial Chaos Theory." I loved "Win, Lose or Or Draw" and definitely thought "Parks and Rec" had a better overall season than "Community," but if we're deciding based solely on these scripts, then I have to slap on my felt goatee and pick "Remedial Chaos Theory," an instant classic.
Dan's pick: First off, it's very nice that Emmy voters were able to separate their general disinterest in "Community" from the manifest awesomeness of Chris McKenna's "Remedial Chaos Theory" script. For me, though, this category comes down to the two "Parks and Recreation" episodes and I'm gonna salute Amy Poehler for "The Debate," which also should/could have landed her a directing nomination. Great episodes and great script, not that I'd quibble about "Win, Lose or Draw" or "Remedial Chaos Theory."
Alan's pick: What happens here depends on whether the voters themselves are picking based on the quality of the episode, or on some larger point they want to make. C.K. and Dunham are both hot at the moment, and though neither of these episodes represents their show at its absolute best, picking one of them would be a chance to honor the season as a whole and demonstrate respect for what they accomplished this year. But if the voters are picking just on the episode they screen, I have a feeling it'll come down to the two "Parks and Rec" episodes, which both poignant and very funny. If I have to pick one, I'll go with "The Debate," because lots of people like Amy Poehler, too.
Dan's pick: Wait. There isn't a single "Modern Family" episode in this category? In that case, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN! I think the lack of support for "Parks and Rec" in other categories hurts here, especially with the added possibility of vote-splitting. So I'm knocking those two out. I'm knocking "Louie" out because "Pregnant" wasn't one of the five best written installments of the show's second season. And I'm knocking "Remedial Chaos Theory" out because it's the show's only nomination and the episode just won't be accessible enough to non-fans. That leaves Lena Dunham and this would be a perfect opportunity to recognize her.
On the drama side, you've got the requisite multiple nods for "Mad Men," plus "Downton Abbey" shifting over from the miniseries category and "Homeland" announcing its presence with authority:
"Downton Abbey," "Episode 7" - Julian Fellowes
"Homeland," "Pilot" - Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon & Gideon Raff
"Mad Men," "The Other Woman" - Semi Chellas & Matthew Weiner
"Mad Men," "Commissions and Fees" - Andre & Maria Jacquemetton
"Mad Men," "Far Away Places" - Erin Levy & Matthew Weiner
Alan's pick: I didn't love season 2 of "Downton" (though the nominated episode was by far its highlight), and I liked other "Homeland" episodes more than the pilot (though it's excellent in its own right). My favorite hour in this category was "Far Away Places," whose triptych structure could have seemed like a gimmick but instead tied beautifully into the themes of the episode, and into Roger's LSD trip at mid-episode.
Dan's pick: Those are three great "Mad Men" episodes, while the "Homeland" pilot and "Downton Abbey" are also completely worthy candidates. No, I don't understand how "Breaking Bad" got shut out here, but... oh well. My vote's gonna go to one of the "Mad Men" episodes and it won't be "The Other Woman," which I think was a terrific example of acting and directing covering the flaws in an imperfect script. So it comes down to "Commissions and Fees," a marvelous and heartbreaking piece of straight-forward drama, and "Far Away Places," which was a bit of a structural gimmick. Emmy voters love structural gimmicks. I'll take the inexorable push into tragedy and vote for "Commissions and Fees."
Alan's pick: We'll talk more about this towards the end of the week, but I would say "Mad Men" is the frontrunner for the drama series category, followed by "Downton," then "Homeland." If I'm right, then a "Mad Men" win here (and I would guess "The Other Woman" would be the choice, even though I had issues with how it got from Point A to Point B) makes the later win more obvious. But if the voters just love them some "Downton," or are ready to crown "Homeland" as their new favorite, they should win here. But since I'm expecting "Mad Men" to go 5-for-5 for drama series, I'll pick "The Other Woman" here.
Dan's pick: Again, because of structure, I think "Far Away Places" is going to be the "Mad Men" standout as far as Emmy voters go. But I think that "Homeland" is heading for a lot of Emmy wins and the pilot, well and freely adapted from Israeli source material by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, is a darned well-written episode, even if it wouldn't have been my pick for the season's best. "Homeland" wins.