Because it’s NBC’s turn to air the Primetime Emmy Awards this year, and because the Peacock would understandably rather air its lucrative Sunday night NFL package in September, the ceremony will take place in late August again. And as an added wrinkle, this year’s ceremony will actually happen on a Monday, August 25 at 8 p.m., with Seth Meyers hosting.
Between now and then, Dan and I will be making our picks for both who should and will win many of the major categories – if you’re wagering, keep in mind that Dan tends to be much better at predicting the winners than I am, but also that he was just as flummoxed as I by last year’s winners like Jeff Daniels, Merritt Wever and Bobby Cannavale – continuing with our look at the comedy and drama series writing categories.
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
“Episodes,” “Episode 305” – David Crane & Jeffrey Klarik
“Louie,” “So Did the Fat Lady” – Louis C.K.
“Orange Is the New Black,” “I Wasn’t Ready (Pilot)” – Liz Friedman & Jenji Kohan
“Silicon Valley,” “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency” – Alec Berg
“Veep,” “Special Relationship” – Simon Blackwell & Tony Roche & Armando Iannucci
Alan’s pick: As with comedy directing, you have several shows nominated for something other than their best eligible episodes. Still, you have to work with what’s available. Of these, “Silicon Valley” has the single funniest scene (the pornographic brainstorming session that provides the episode with its title) but has problems overall (the limp romance storyline), while “Veep” is probably more consistently funny. The “Orange” pilot does an impressive job of introducing us to Piper and the world of the prison, even if later episodes would be able to do even more on top of that foundation, and that “Louie” tells a satisfying and touching story about Louie having his horizons widened for him. (The “Episodes” nominee is, coincidentally, the one episode of the season I saw, and… I still do not like “Episodes.”) Again, I’d like to see some other episodes nominated here instead, but of these, “So Did The Fat Lady” is the only one I liked without reservations.
Dan’s pick: Like Alan, “305” was the only “Episodes” episode I watched this season — it was the TCA press tour episode — but it certainly doesn’t deserve to win. “So Did the Fat Lady” was yet another not-exactly-optimal episode selection for Louis C.K. While “I Wasn’t Ready” is a really good episode of TV-or-whatever-it-is, it’s decidedly Piper-centric to the point that I think it’s barely reflective of what would eventually make “Orange Is The New Black” so great. “Special Relationship” is a very fine episode of “Veep,” though it’s another episode that I probably wouldn’t have chosen as a season peak. The only episode in this category that is, to me, indisputably the season high for its respective show is “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency” and crediting it only with that one title scene is like saying that Andre the Giant was big. No. He was GIANT. The title scene in one of the most intricate and intelligently crafted dirty jokes ever told in any medium and it would be Emmy-worthy for the construction of that joke alone. But please. Let’s not forget about Jared walking the streets pitching possible pivoted uses for Pied Piper. I’m not sure that any escalating joke on TV made me laugh harder this year. And Richard’s presentation was a highlight as well. [Alan adds: Okay, fine. I went back and watched “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficency,” and it is more than just that one brilliant scene. “Which one? Which one? Which one?”]
Alan’s pick: Emmy voters tend to like pilot scripts, and “Orange” has the only one in the category, in addition to the other momentum the show brings into the night. It’s also possible that the comedy side of the Emmy telecast turns into a prolonged celebration of “Veep,” but otherwise, “I Wasn’t Ready” seems the obvious frontrunner.
Dan’s pick: This feels like a really easy place to recognize “Orange Is The New Black.” Yes, I suspect it’ll win a few other Emmys as well and it could theoretically win the whole enchilada, but this is a total no-pressure trophy to give as recognition of what Jenji Kohan and company have accomplished. But I think “Silicon Valley” feels like the spoiler. It obviously has support, as you can see from the Comedy Series nomination, but it isn’t going to win that. If voters figure that “Orange” will win other things, that Julia Louis-Dreyfus will be a representative winner for “Veep,” that “Louie” has already won plenty of things and that nobody will suffer if “Episodes” gets shot out, this could be the only place to recognize “Silicon Valley.” Still, my prediction would be “Orange.”
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
“Breaking Bad,” “Felina” – Vince Gilligan
“Breaking Bad,” “Ozymandias” – Moira Walley-Beckett
“Game of Thrones,” “The Children” – David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
“House of Cards,” “Chapter 14” -Beau Willimon
“True Detective,” “The Secret Fate of All Life” – Nic Pizzolatto
Alan’s pick: “Ozymandias.” That was easy.
What? You want more of an explanation about honoring not only the best “Breaking Bad” episode of all, but one of the great hours in the history of dramatic television? Look, “The Secret Fate of All Life” was probably the best-written “True Detective” episode, and… “The Children” is not the “Thrones” season 4 script I’d have submitted were I Benioff & Weiss, and… no, there’s really no thought required on this one, even though “Felina” has several exceptional moments of its own.
Dan’s pick: It’s really hard for me to look at that list and see “Chapter 14” there and ponder the absence of episodes from “Mad Men,” “The Americans,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “Good Wife” among several options. And, for me, I can’t see the logic of “The Children” taking that “Game of Thrones” slot instead of “The Lion and the Rose” or “The Laws of Gods and Men” or “The Mountain and the Viper.” The other three slots are probably a very good representation of the year’s best dramatic writing and I would not be unhappy with a win for any of them. Gilligan gets special degree-of-difficulty points for how smoothly he landed “Breaking Bad.” “Felina” isn’t a perfect finale, but it’s pretty much impossible to craft a perfect finale given audience expectations these days, so he delivered the best we had any right to expect. But yeah. “Ozymandias” was the year’s best single episode of television and it would be terrific to honor it in one of the many categories in which it deserves to be honored (especially since Rian Johnson won’t get a chance to win for directing the episode).
Alan’s pick: Here’s one where “Breaking Bad” might have been better off with the one nomination, as I can imagine some voters choosing “Ozymandias” for its obvious greatness, some choosing “Felina” to honor Gilligan (and because many people really did love how the series ended), and Pizzolatto slipping ahead due to vote-splitting. But I’ll guess that after the voters watch all five nominated episodes, they give Walley-Beckett a trip to the podium.
Dan’s pick: Will Nic Pizzolatto be hurt by his recent THR interview and by tempest-in-a-teapot scandals about plagiarism? My hunch? A *very* little. But I think this category will be a very tight race between Pizzolatto, Gilligan and Walley-Beckett and if a dozen people decide that Pizzolatto had grown too big for his britches and that they’d rather honor the consummately humble Gilligan? That might make a difference. Basically, this comes down to several tiers: Has the “True Detective” moment passed and is “Breaking Bad” going to dominate as we all expected it to last fall? If so, will there be a desire to spread the wealth among the “Breaking Bad” talent or will their be a desire to really, really, really reward Vince Gilligan? I don’t think voters are going to let Gilligan go home without an individual Emmy. The problem is, I already made a stupid prediction and said that Gilligan was going to lose the directing Emmy. So… “Felina” is your winner by a logic I only barely understand.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com