Tuesday, August 19, 2014

2014 Emmy Preview - Writing and Directing

"Breaking Bad" snagged three nominations for writing and directing

It’s NBC’s year to host the Emmys, which means it’s time once against for the broadcast to air in August.  Additionally, thanks to the network’s Sunday Night Football contract – and the primetime preseason game that comes with it – the awards are also bound for a Monday night.  So with the ceremony less than a week away (airing Monday, August 25th), I figured that I would take a look at the nominees and lay out my hopes and predictions.  Granted, most of this won’t matter because the Emmys are usually a crapshoot (I mean, Jeff Daniels), but I like writing about the Emmys and I hope you like reading about them.  Previously we looked at the movie and miniseries awards.  Today we’ll discuss the writing and directing categories. 

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
Episodes (“Episode Five”) – David Crane & Jeffrey Klarik
Louie (“So Did the Fat Lady”) – Louis C.K.
Orange Is the New Black (“I Wasn’t Ready”) – Liz Friedman & Jenji Kohan
Silicon Valley (“Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency”) – Alec Berg
Veep (“Special Relationship”) – Simon Blackwell, Armand Iannucci & Tony Roche

Hope:  I have a confession.  I still haven’t seen Veep.  It’s on my list, but I just haven’t gotten there.  I really enjoyed “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency” even if it seems like I’m the only person in the world who understands that there was a punchline to the “world’s greatest dick joke” at the end of the episode.  Still, it wasn’t as strong overall as either Orange’s or Louie’s episodes.  Honestly, neither “So Did the Fat Lady” nor the Orange Is the New Black pilot were my favorite episodes of those particular shows, but the Louie submission was probably the better of the two.

Prediction:  I think the comedy category is wide open this year, with Modern Family apparently on a multi-year downward trend (more on that in the supporting acting post).  This category could be a bellwether for the night if Orange or Veep wins, indicating the possibility of either bringing home Outstanding Comedy.  A win for any of the others would likely foreshadow an unpredictable evening.  Orange Is the New Black had the flashier episode and had the advantage of debuting its second season in the middle of Emmy voting season, so I think it gets the win here.

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Breaking Bad (“Felina”) – Vince Gilligan
Breaking Bad (“Ozymandias”) – Moira Walley-Beckett
Game of Thrones (“The Children”) – David Benioff & DB Weiss
House of Cards (“Chapter 14”) – Beau Willimon
True Detective (“The Secret Fate of All Life”) – Nic Pizzolatto

Hope:  Even Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan admitted that “Ozymandias” was the series’ best episode, and it’s hard to argue.  With Game of Thrones (I still haven’t seen House of Cards), it’s hard not to feel like they didn’t submit their best episode, which was probably “The Mountain and the Viper.”  The only real competitor here is True Detective which submitted a spectacularly written episode.  But “Ozymandias” was an amazing piece of television, among the all-time greats, and deserves to be recognized.

Prediction:  This is going to come down to either True Detective or Breaking Bad.  A win for Bad should signal a big night for the show while a win for True Detective could mean bigger things later or it could merely mean that Breaking Bad split votes between its two episodes.  Ultimately, I think “Ozymandias” takes home the title, but really, no Bad or Detective win here would be surprising.

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
Episodes (“Episode Nine”) – Iain B. MacDonald
Glee (“100”) – Paris Barclay
Louis (“Elevator, pt. 6”) – Louis C.K.
Modern Family (“Las Vegas”) – Gail Mancuso
Orange Is the New Black (“Lesbian Request Denied”) – Jodie Foster
Silicon Valley (“Minimum Viable Product”) – Mike Judge

Hope:  Let’s make things quick here.  I haven’t seen Episodes and I have seen nothing that would distinguish “100,” “Las Vegas,” or “Minimum Viable Product” from the average episode of Glee, Modern Family, or Silicon Valley.  So, really, this comes down to Orange is the New Black and Louie.  “Lesbian Request Denied” was the best episode of OItNB’s first season and has a great deal going for it, most notably the performances of Uzo Aduba and Laverne Cox.  Meanwhile, “Elevator, pt. 6” is the concluding piece of what was essentially a two-hour movie in the middle of Louie’s season.  If this award were meant for the show that most steps outside of the norm for its series, Louie would win, if only for its fairly decent presentation of a hurricane in New York.  “Lesbian Request Denied,” while more typical for its show, is the better-directed episode, though, and should take home the trophy here.

Prediction:  Modern Family has won this award three years in a row and it’s going to be hard to change that.  I really think it’s going to come down “Las Vegas” or OItNB’s “Lesbian Request Denied.”  I wouldn’t count out Silicon Valley (prior to Modern Family’s recent reign, six of the previous seven winners were comedy pilots), but until I’m shown otherwise, I’m going to assume that Modern Family will keep winning this category.

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire (“Farewell Daddy Blues”) – Tim Van Patten
Breaking Bad (“Felina”) – Vince Gilligan
Downton Abbey (“Episode One”) – David Evans
Game of Thrones (“The Watchers on the Wall”) – Neil Marshall
House of Cards (“Chapter 14”) – Carl Franklin
True Detective (“Who Goes There”) – Cary Joji Fukunaga

Hope:  This is a tremendous category.  The Breaking Bad finale was phenomenal television and it probably wasn’t even the best-directed episode of the season.  “The Watchers on the Wall” brought film spectacle to the small screen even if it couldn’t quite match up storywise with the series’ previous pinnacles.  And True Detective had a six-minute tracking shot that ranks among the most audacious achievements in film history.  This might be most difficult decision of the entire night, but I have to go with “The Watchers on the Wall.”  Yes, it’s unfair that this episode, with a budget far exceeding any other on this list should win largely because of its visual spectacle.  But it was one of the finest pieces of cinema on television this past season.

Prediction:  Emmy voters likely won’t put as much stock in the spectacle as I do, so I expect this to come down to Breaking Bad and True Detective.  Cary Fukunaga has the benefit of the most stunning piece of directing while Gilligan’s is much more a summation of an amazing series.  I expect “Who Goes There” to win as the flashier piece, but don’t be surprised if “Felina” takes home the prize, or even Tim Van Patten for Boardwalk Empire, which has won for Outstanding Directing in two of its three eligible years.

Tyler Williams is a professional librarian and an amateur television critic.  You can reach him at TyTalksTV AT gmail DOT com or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

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