Sunday, September 6, 2015

2015 Emmy Nominations: Comedy, Series and Behind-the-Scenes

You didn't actually think I wouldn't get around to talking about the Emmy nominations, did you? Granted, they are almost two months old now, and the ceremony is only a little over two weeks away on September 20. But that means it's the perfect time to go over them, now that the hot-takes have been spat out and the actual impact (or imaginary, given it's an awards show, but whatever) of the nominations can be analyzed. That's exactly what we're going to do here. Instead of one massive post like I've done in the past, we're going to break these down into a series of posts, giving everything a little more room to breathe and just making it easier on me to get this stuff done. We'll be looking at who got snubbed, who surprisingly made the cut, the favorites to win, and more. And today, we'll get it off with the categories for Best Comedy Series, Best Directing of a Comedy Series, and Best Writing of a Comedy Series.

On a related note, September's going to be a sort-of informal television month here at the blog. In addition to the Emmys, I'm also working on reviews of the most recent seasons of Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Louie, Marvel's Daredevil, Hannibal, Orange is the New Black, Girls, Veep, and possibly a few more. There will be some non-television-related material as well, including the first edition of way-too-early Oscar predictions in toward the end of the month, but television will likely dominate the output for the next few weeks.


BEST COMEDY SERIES

Louie
Modern Family
Parks & Recreation
Silicon Valley
Transparent
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Veep

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Overview: With the addition of a seventh nominee to this category and a redefinition of "comedy", the race was a little more wide-open than years past. Parks & Recreation enjoys a second nomination in this category for its stellar final season, and Netflix breakout Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt makes the cut as well (the involvement of creator Tina Fey certainly helped in that regard). And Amazon Studios earned its first major nomination with Transparent, which, despite fitting the new half-hour requirement for the category, has still ruffled some feathers for not being "funny enough." Out of the holdovers, Modern Family is the only one over five seasons old, proving that it's still a force to be reckoned with in this category (though its iron-grip may be fading). Speaking of which...

Biggest surprise: For the first time in four years, The Big Bang Theory is missing from the lineup. This is significant because not only does it hint that the show's position in the Television Academy's favor is waning (more on that later), but it's only the second time in the category's history in which no multi-camera ("traditional") sitcoms have been nominated. It could be read as definitive proof that current tastes have no room for the multi-cam format, but at the very least it highlights just how dominant the single-camera format has become.

Most notable exclusion: Aside from the aforementioned The Big Bang Theory, the biggest high-profile snub is probably The Last Man on Earth. The show is only in its first season, yet it sported a high-concept premise - Will Forte's Phil Miller believes he's the only person left alive after some cataclysmic event has wiped out the Earth's population - that seemed better suited for an action-oriented show or nihilistic drama than comedy. The show performed very well with critics and audiences, and even won over Emmy voters, as it has earned four nominations. It probably finished just outside the final seven. Also of note: Jane the Virgin, which was cleared to compete in this category despite being an hour long and was perhaps the most critically-beloved new show of the season.

Who's likely to win? It looks like the consensus is gravitating towards Veep, which wrapped a stellar fourth season with Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Selina Meyer navigating the even-more-thankless role of President of the United States. And, in all honesty, it will likely come down to it and Modern Family, which is looking for an unprecedented sixth win in this category.

But watch out for... Transparent and Parks & Recreation. In the case of the former, it's one of the best-reviewed shows of the year, and given the visibility of transgender identity thanks to Caitlyn Jenner, it would be a very timely selection as well. As for the latter, it's not typical of the Emmys to hand out series prizes for final seasons, but if they wanted to recognize the series' seven years of excellence, it's now or never.

Best Direction of a Comedy Series and Best Writing of a Comedy Series after the jump.


BEST DIRECTION OF A COMEDY SERIES

The Last Man on Earth, "Alive in Tucson (Pilot);" directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Louie, "Sleepover;" directed by Louis C.K.
Silicon Valley, "Sand Hill Shuffle;" directed by Mike Judge
Transparent, "Best New Girl;" directed by Jill Soloway
Veep, "Testimony;" directed by Armando Ianucci

Louie

Overview: This year's contest is wide-open, as a case could be made for any of these directors. In every single case, the nominated directors are also involved in the show's production in some other faculty, as either executive producers (Lord & Miller) or creators (everyone else). What's exciting about this group of directors is that, unlike a lot of the directing categories at the Emmys lately, none of these filmmakers are known mainly for their work in film rather than television. Sure, Lord and Miller have found significant success with 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie, but they began with the offbeat animated series Clone High. Similar, though C.K. and Judge have dabbled in film, they're still best known for their television creations. Also of note: as in Comedy Series, all of these are single-camera format shows.

Biggest surprise: Honestly, none of these are too surprising. I suppose Ianucci's nomination might be a bit unexpected, since Veep has never garnered any nominations in this category before. But even his nomination is worthy and makes sense.

Most notable exclusion: After four consecutive victories in this category (and for the first time in the show's run), no director from Modern Family was nominated this year.

Who's likely to win? As I noted above, this category is wide-open. C.K. has yet to honored in this category, and given the reception that the show has received in terms of his direction, it may finally be his time to win here.

But watch out for... Soloway and Lord and Miller. There's a good chance that the Academy could go all-in on Transparent, but even if they don't, there's still a pretty solid chance that they could recognize Soloway for her efforts to bring this story to the screen. As for Lord and Miller, they helped craft one of the strangest, most unique pilots in recent memory, and that alone could land them the statuette.

BEST WRITING OF A COMEDY SERIES

Episodes, "Episode 409;" written by David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik
The Last Man on Earth, "Alive in Tucson (Pilot);" written by Will Forte
Louie, "Bobby's House;" written by Louis C.K.
Silicon Valley, "Two Days of the Condor;" written by Alec Berg
Transparent, "Pilot;" written by Jill Soloway
Veep, "Election Night;" story by Armando Ianucci, story and teleplay by Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche

The Last Man on Earth

Overview: The category is a little more stuffed than usual with six nominees, indicating that there was a tie somewhere in the balloting. With the exception of first-year programs The Last Man on Earth and Transparent, these are all shows that have been nominated in this category before, with Louie being the incumbent winner. That includes Episodes, which I'm convinced the Academy has a bizarre fixation with purely on residual admiration for Crane and Klarik's (and star Matt LeBlanc's) previous sitcom, Friends.

Biggest surprise: Aside from the aforementioned Episodes fetish, it's pleasantly surprising that Forte was nominated for his inventive script for The Last Man on Earth pilot. It's not often that a script this original comes along, and it's a nice vote of confidence in his post-Saturday Night Live career.

Most notable exclusion: Given that pilots and finales tend to do well in the writing categories, it is surprising that Jane the Virgin and Parks & Recreation failed to be nominated for those, respectively. The former came out of the gates with a fully-formed voice, while the latter perfectly wrapped up the series in a way that felt right for every character.

Who's likely to win? Aside from Best Actor in a Comedy Series, this feels like the most likely place that Transparent will be rewarded. Pilots tend to do very well in this category in terms of wins, and given the show's cultural relevance at the moment, it feels like a shoo-in for the win.

But watch out for... C.K. Louie already has two wins in this category, so it's clear that the writers love his work. He's a perennial threat here, and he could walk away with win number-three this year.

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