The 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented next Sunday night, Sept. 22, starting at 8 Eastern on CBS, with Neil Patrick Harris as host. From now until Sunday (sometimes multiple times a day), Dan Fienberg and I will be making our usual picks for the major categories – for both what should win and what will (and keep in mind that Dan is much better historically at predictions than I am).
Next up, we’re dealing with the comedy and drama directing categories. The former’s an eclectic list that includes a couple of single-camera broadcast sitcoms, two cable half-hours that are arguably more drama than comedy, and whatever you feel like calling “Glee” this week. The drama category, meanwhile, includes some of the year’s most intense hours, but doesn’t have room for anything from “Mad Men” or “Game of Thrones.”
Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series
“30 Rock” – “Hogcock!/Last Lunch” by Beth McCarthy-Miller
“Girls” – “On All Fours” by Lena Dunham
“Glee” – “Diva” by Paris Barclay
“Louie” – “New Year’s Eve” by Louis C.K.
“Modern Family” – “Arrested” by Gail Mancuso
Alan’s pick: I’d be happy to see McCarthy-Miller finally be recognized for her strong work for the life of “30 Rock,” and for what was a great series finale. And “On All Fours” is one of the strongest, most emotionally complicated “Girls” episodes to date. But “New Year’s Eve” was an incredible capper to “Louie” season 3, at times painfully funny (Louie trying to fix the doll) at times simply painful (Liz’s surprise reappearance and sudden exit) and beautiful all around. C.K. got a writing Emmy last year; let’s see if he can pick up at least one (if not two) more this time out.
Dan’s pick: “Arrested” was one of the funniest “Modern Family” episodes of the season, but there are at least a dozen “Louie,” “Girls” and “Parks and Recreation” episodes that I’d have nominated ahead of it, to say nothing of the finale for “The Office,” which is an egregious snub. In the race of departing NBC shows, “30 Rock” had the better closing season, but “The Office” had the better finale, for me at least. This category comes down to Louis C.K. and Lena Dunham for me. “On All Fours” was “Girls” at its darkest and saddest and Dunham nailed that odd balance of tones. But when it comes to nailing a balance of tones, nobody can top Louis C.K. The Christmas Eve opening of “New Year’s Eve” is a magnificent short film that’s just a bit funny, just a bit terrifying and totally relatable. Even if you don’t like the subsequent detour to China, I’m comfortable giving Louis the Emmy just for that opening.
Alan’s pick: C.K.’s momentum, could be building from last year and he’ll win more awards in more categories. And I also wouldn’t be surprised to see one-time Emmy favorite “30 Rock” get a big farewell, starting here, for what was a great last season. But when in doubt in comedy categories, I tend to assume “Modern Family” will win.
Dan’s pick: I think Louis probably wins seven or eight Emmys for other stuff, while Dunham’s episode is almost certain to be too polarizing. I think Beth McCarthy-Miller wins as part of a groundswell of “30 Rock” support. I could easily predict a “30 Rock” sweep, but a win here is an OK starting point if nothing else.
Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series
“Boardwalk Empire” – “Margate Sands” by Tim Van Patten
“Breaking Bad” – “Gliding Over All” by Michelle MacLaren
“Downton Abbey” – “Episode 4” by Jeremy Webb
“Homeland” – “Q&A” by Lesli Linka Glatter
“House of Cards” – “Chapter 1” by David Fincher
Alan’s pick: There are five gorgeous hours of television here, filled with beautiful compositions and memorable performances. It’s hard to make a wrong pick, but my preference goes to “Gliding Over All” for several reasons: MacLaren is the best director on one of the best-looking shows ever made, and yet one that does not yet have a directing Emmy, and amount of love and detail and thought put into every single frame of last summer’s “Breaking Bad” finale is incredible.
Dan’s pick: This is a tough category, because all five of the episodes are exceptional pieces of direction and yet I’m not sure that there isn’t a single one that I wouldn’t trade out for David Nutter’s work on “The Rains of Castamere” or Alex Graves’ work on “And Now His Watch is Ended” from “Game of Thrones,” while I can’t really accept that not a single “Mad Men” hour was able to make the cut. Van Patten won last year. Michelle MacLaren has directed at least a half-dozen superior episodes of “Breaking Bad.” I find “Q&A” to be somewhat marred by the various scenes that don’t involve the interrogation. And while I admire the heck out of the style and confidence that Fincher brought to “House of Cards,” it pales in comparison to the emotional heft or breathless suspense of other episodes in this category. But guess what? I’m picking a dark horse. If you watch the show, but are stymied by the lack of episode titles, “Episode 4” of “Downton Abbey” is exactly what you think it is and it was spectacular. Jeremy Webb got at least a dozen heartbreaking performances in an episode that is consummately crafted for both tension and tragedy. I’m not gonna sell that short just because it’s cooler to like the other shows in the category.
Alan’s pick: It feels like this could be the year where “Breaking Bad” brings in a big haul, but I tend to put my faith in historical Emmy voting patterns. The Academy tends to favor both pilots and movie directors working in TV, which could work out very well for Fincher and “Cards.” Though I wouldn’t be surprised by either a Van Patten repeat or Glatter winning for the great “Q&A,” I’ll guess Fincher emerges victorious, just like Martin Scorsese did for the “Boardwalk” pilot.
Dan’s pick: I don’t think Webb has a chance and I don’t expect Van Patten to repeat. I’m assuming that “Homeland” isn’t going to be as dominant as it was last year. So that leaves MacLaren or Fincher. I think “Breaking Bad” almost certainly has momentum, but I’d say that “House of Cards” has the more interesting narrative behind-the-scenes. I think it’s going to be boom or bust for “House of Cards” and if it’s “boom,” the Oscar nominated director who gave credibility to a whole wave of Netflix original programming will get the win. That’s what I’m predicting.
Previously: Outstanding Miniseries or Movie