EMMYS: 10 Comedies Pick Best Episodes

Deadline TV contributor Diane Haithman files this report:

While some comedy series producers are still finalizing their selection of episodes to submit for Emmy nomination consideration, most have already chosen their best. Each series may submit 6 episodes for the Outstanding Comedy Series, as well as the same or other episodes in multiple different categories. So we asked series producers and/or studio executives to pick one of their submitted episodes and give Deadline readers insight into why this one might impress Emmy voters. In no particular order:

MODERN FAMILY (ABC): Episode title: “Someone To Watch Over Lily”

Story Line: Mitchell and Cameron are deciding who should be named legal guardian for their daughter Lily if something should happen to them — and, observing family members as they interact with th kids, aren’t too impressed with what they see. The “Lily” episode features multiple stories: Jay forms an unexpected bond with chubby stepson Manny in a sporting goods store while shopping to equip Manny for a school trip that Manny is reluctant to take. Meanwhile, Claire secretly takes son Luke to a child psychiatrist, fearing that Luke has a diagnosable problem.

Christopher Lloyd, co-executive producer and co-showrunner with Steven Levitan of last year’s winner for Outstanding Comedy Series, checks off his episode selection criteria: “A show that’s really funny, that showcases the actors’ best skills, but has an element of surprising emotion and heart to it.” This particular episode “had some surprising emotion to it,” Lloyd says. “We found out that Manny was concerned about being seen in the shower by other boys. Jay says: ‘I’m proud of you no matter what — you are way braver than I ever was at your age.’ Just hearing all that became enough for Manny to gather up the courage to go. But we weren’t telegraphing that moment at all; it came out of left field.”  The same thing happened when the story of Claire taking Luke to a psychiatrist became a comment on Claire’s marriage as Claire blurts out she’s worried that Luke is becoming too much like his nerdy and obsessive Dad who reassures Claire: “Somewhere out there is a little girl making lists and labeling bins who will find him just like I found you.” Says Lloyd: “It’s one of those true emotional moments that just sneaks up on you. We have the craziness in the psychiatrist’s office: Phil is being distracted by a dinosaur, which is ridiculous, and Cameron being pulled up a rock climbing wall [in the sporting goods store] and ultimately being dropped, which is a big outrageous sight gag. But there are also these resonant and true moments.”

THE BIG BANG THEORY (CBS): Episode title: “The Justice League Recombination”

Story line: The brainiac guys ask Penny’s none-too-bright boyfriend Zack to dress up and be part of their team when they enter a costume contest as The Justice League. The guys make fun of Zack, until they’re made to realize they’re bullying him just like they were/are bullied.

Says Big Bang showrunner Bill Prady: “There are a lot of voices when it comes to picking episodes to submit. In the case of this episode, fan reaction played a big part. Fans let us know that they thought this episode was “classic Big Bang.” It’s interesting to note that other episodes were chosen because they were atypical, while this one was chosen because it’s “highly typical” of the series.

THE BIG C (Showtime): Episode title: “Taking the Plunge” (season finale)

Story line: Cathy reconsiders a risky cancer treatment and decides to go for it. Cathy’s son Adam, usually withdrawn and diffident about his mother’s grim prognosis, steals a storage locker key from her purse and finds the locker filled with wrapped gifts from his mom for his birthdays and holidays far into the future. Adam’s hard veneer cracks and he dissolves into tears. 

Says Big C showrunner Jenny Bicks: “It was important that people see the highly comedic nature of the show, but also what we consider to be our most successful dramatic moments. Our finale really touched people. It is a bit of a game, because you want to pick the thing that people already remember, that will remind them that they liked the series. Does it have the highest comedy in it? Not necessarily. That was hard, because I do understand that we are asking people to vote for a comedy.” To that end, The Big C creative team also included in their package the more comic episode “Playing the Cancer Car” – in which Cathy, faced with death, drains her 401K and buys herself a red convertible. This is based on cancer survivor Bicks’ own decision to buy herself a Porsche when she learned she had the Big C.

GLEE (FOX): Episode title: “The Substitute”

Story line: Gwyneth Paltrow guest stars as a substitute teacher who takes over Mr. Schuester’s Spanish class as well as the Glee Club.

Says a 20th TV studio spokesman: “Academy award winner Gwyneth Paltrow turned in a triple threat scene-stealing performance as substitute teacher Holly Holliday in this classic episode which features Paltrow’s take on Cee Lo’s Forget You, a brilliant tour de force rendition of Make ‘Em Laugh by stars Matthew Morrison and Harry Shum Jr, and a fanciful mash-up of Singin’ In The Rain with Rihanna’s Umbrella that had the cast singing, dancing, and splashing their way across a rain-soaked auditorium stage.”

HOT IN CLEVELAND (TV Land): Episode: “Pilot”

Story line: The pilot introduces a group of middle-aged single Los Angeles gal pals who relocate to Cleveland to find love and a new life away from age and beauty-obsessed Los Angeles.

This first-season series picked this episode in the hope that red-hot cast member Betty White might be a contender for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, focusing some attention on this comedy. It was felt the pilot would introduce Emmy voters to a show they may not have seen. “We really wanted to showcase the writing,” says TV Land EVP of development Keith Cox. “I’d say the pilot sold the characters, but it also had a great premise: the starting of a new chapter for these women. They are fish out of water. It celebrated Cleveland. And it really set up Betty’s character.”

COMMUNITY (NBC): Episode title: “Cooperative Calligraphy” (also known as “The Bottle Episode”)

Story line:  The characters take a self-imposed lockdown in order to solve the mysterious disappearance of Annie’s pen. Meanwhile, Troy and Abed are, according to the official PR,  “itching to get out of the study room to make it to the Greendale Puppy Parade taking place on the quad”.

Showrunner Dan Harmon says the producers selected this episode to illustrate the serious side of this comedy in the sense that it’s got structured writing, realistic story, and believable character development to belie the show’s reputation for being “a little bit crazy” and intellectually off the grid.  “This was certainly a demonstration of the show’s range,” Harmon says. “I put myself in the shoes of an Emmy voter, popping  [a DVD] in having never seen the show. I want to see character, I want to see story, I want to see television taken seriously. It’s grounded in character. Nobody is wearing a weird costume; no one is acting like they’re in The Matrix.”

FAMILY GUY (Fox): Episode title: “Road to the North Pole”

Story line: When baby Stewie gets the brush-off from a mall Santa Claus, Stewie and Brian the family dog travel to the North Pole to teach Santa the meaning of Christmas.

Family Guy is known for its “Road to…’’ episodes, inspired by the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope movies. Says a 20th TV studio spokesman: “It’s a twisted take on the obligatory Christmas episode as only Family Guy could do it.” The episode also features musical numbers described as “both timeless and wickedly current”.

NURSE JACKIE (Showtime): Episode title: “Orchids and Salami”

Story line: Multiple stories include Jackie at odds with a new nurse and stealing drugs from the oncology ward. Then her husband finds her secret stash.

Showrunners Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem included this episode in part because of the nifty way it links Season One with Season Two and highlights Jackie’s dirty little secret – drug addiction. “In Season Two, you watched Jackie lose her pills in the car in a dental floss container. And in this Season Three episode, her husband finds them. So they come back to haunt her,” says Brixius.

RAISING HOPE (Fox): Episode title: “Don’t Vote for this Episode” (season finale)

Story line: The 20th TV PR describes how The Chances reminisce about the year Jimmy turned 18 — when Maw Maw kicked them out of the house, when a Goth Jimmy (aka “Drakkar Noir”) took up residence in the grocery store, and when Burt and Virginia finally figured out how to be adults.

Obviously the creative team had Emmy in mind when selecting the episode’s title. According to a studio spokesman, the season finale which uses “tender flashbacks” to tell the history of the Chance family from five years ago was selected because it embodies “the brassy humor mixed with heart that have become the show’s trademark”.

30 ROCK (NBC): Episode title: “100”

Story line: This much ballyhooed hour-long special episode — 45 minutes of actual running time – marked both the 100th episode of 30 Rock and its show-within-a-show, “GTS” which is threatened with cancellation. But the powers-that-be convince the network to give Liz  (Tina Fey) and company the chance to do their 100th episode,

The episode was loaded with guest stars including Rachel Dratch and Michael Keaton (although the New York Post reported that Fey’s request for a guest appearance by Bill Clinton was denied by his staff “without even asking him”). The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences allows an extended-length program to be entered for Emmy as one episode provided it does not exceed twice the show’s usual running time. 30 Rock usually runs 22 minutes, so 45 minutes hit the mark close enough.

  1. How about any episode of Parks & Recreation. (but if you must choose… The Harvest Festival)

      1. any NUMBER of them could… the mentioned above, of course, along with “Ron and Tammy: Part 2″ and “Media Blitz”. But the end of the season was just stellar… “Jerry’s Painting”, “Eagleton”, “Road Trip”, “The Bubble” and “L’il Sabastian” were all some of the best comedy episodes ever made.

      2. Either “Fancy Party” or “The Fight” would probably be my pick. But “Flu Season” is really strong too. Okay yeah, any episode of P&R should do the job.

  2. I can’t decide which episode of 30 Rock is the best. Probably because I’ve never been able to sit through a full episode.

    1. I understandy why they submitted this one but the “Live Show” was really funny — even if only for Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Liz Lemon.

    2. There’s a show I bet you’d like called Two and a Half Men. You can also probably rent the entire first season of Joey on Netflix.

      1. Always these ignorants. Don’t make assumptions on which show I like. The 2 shows you cited are horrible and so is 30 Rock’s latest season. My opinion, take it or leave it.

    3. That is the greatest comment I have ever seen on this site or any site for that matter!

      Killed me!

      1. I found Original Song ridiculous and beyond annoying…Glee at its worst. If anything they should have (and still can) go with Blame It on the Alcohol, one of their few purely comedic episodes this past season.

      2. Each show submits six episodes. These are just one episode from among each show’s picks. I have absolutely no doubt that Original Song is going to be one of Glee’s other picks.

        Also, keep in mind that there’s often some strategery in which six get submitted for consideration for best series nominations because they also submit multiple episodes for consideration in writing, directing and other categories. And coordinating submissions with actors, who submit their own choices for episodes for their categories. When they (unlike) remember to (Matthew) turn in (Perry for) the paperwork (Friends.)

      3. I’m kind of surprised, but then it was one of the more overtly comedic episodes of Glee this season, and for a show that is frequently criticised for not being enough of a comedy/enough of a drama for the Emmys, this episode was probably a safe choice.

    1. I swear, they had to have done it for the Paltrow factor. Duets, Original Song, Blame it on the Alcohol, and Silly Love Songs were fun episodes that had multiple cast members shine without stunt casting (and I liked Paltrow in two of her three episodes).

      Let me just say The Community pick is great (there were a few episodes to choose beyond the genre-riffing)and arguably the best of the shows listed that I watch. Hopefully people get that it is a love letter to the TV making process (I also hope if Allison Brie put herself up For Your Consideration, that it was with this episode).

    2. This episode had every scene laughing. When you’re up against comedies, you need a lot of comedic performances too, even though Glee is a musical. “Silly Love Songs” or “Blame It on the Alcohol” could also have been submitted because they’re really funny. “Silly Love Songs” (2×12) has way too many songs and “blame it on the alcohol” could be considered controversial or just another after school special episodes. So, I think they made a good choice. Besides, the “Singin’ In the Rain/Umbrella” mashup took over 7 days to shoot…it was that hard.

    3. Every show submits 6 episodes. They were just highlighting 1 of the selected 6 for each of these shows.

  3. parks and rec – fancy party needs to be submitted. nice choice for community, but they had a wide pick of great episodes from this season

    1. The choice for ‘Community’ was one of my favorite episodes but I think it’s one that appeals more to regular viewers of the show who understand the characters. Something like ‘Advanced Dungeons and Dragons’ or ‘Conspiracy Theories’ would have probably appealed more to voters unfamiliar with the show.

  4. That’s a showcase of how much of the Emmys is pure politics and strategy. From the shows I watch (all the ones from the big 4) the only one which had a good episode chosen was Community.

  5. I’ve learned that everything is not for everybody. These shows did not get my attention and I’ve never watched any of their episodes because the concept does not speak to me or for me.

  6. Although I stopped watching Glee during this season (it became way too pretentious for me), I really liked that episode mostly because Gwyneth Paltrow who surprised me in a very good way : she was effortlessly funny, pulled off the singing and dancing and was simply a breath of fresh air, something Glee desperately needs nowadays.

    The Modern Family-episode was excellent – as pretty much ALL the episodes – BUT I thought it will be a no-brainer and they will campaign with the Mother’s Day-themed ep, for me that was the perfect mixture of ‘hilariously funny and remarkably touching’.

    Same goes for The Big C, the finale ALMOST made me cry…and considering I haven’t cried since The Lion King, that would have been impressive.

    Anyway, I’m rooting for Modern Family and The Big C, in the comedy acting categories Laura Linney, Steve Carrell, Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vergara and Jane Lynch who has been always the best thing about Glee and lately, I’m afraid she was the “only” good thing about Glee. Hopefully I’m having an “off” season when it comes to the show, and it isn’t a universal problem there. Having said that, I REALLY don’t want Matthew Morrison to win anything for his performance. Nothing against the guy, I just consider his turn in the show incredible overrated.

    1. I personally think Colfer should have submitted for Best Actor in a Comedy and not just because his role got bigger and meatier but Morrison’s role decreased and actually felt shoe-horned into a lot of the stories. Some of his dialogue was painful but really no different than his fellow castmembers which saw actors like Colfer, Dianna Agron (talk about someone whose character got completely fumbled by the writers), Cory Monteith (who is either an acting genius or just as blissfully unaware of his character in a January Jones kind of way) and Naya Rivera turn whatever mediocre at times scripts they were given into gold. Lea Michele and Jane Lynch at least had their moments this year.

  7. Modern Family picked THAT episode!???

    By far the funniest episode this season was when the kids walked in on Phil and Claire “doing it”.

  8. Glee has a good chance of winning if they pick Never been kissed — its heartwarming, got the first darren criss number, an actual storyline. Their best if only great episode of the season.

  9. “Community” is streets aheadier of (almost) everything else on this list. The sad thing is, people won’t realize it for years. Not really expecting Emmy love but a great reason Harmon gives for picking the incredibly bottle episode.

    1. First off, Pop-Pop. Second, I see that. It makes me sad. But have you visited the Community subreddit? The consumers of Community consume it voraciously for ALL the right reasons. And I love that. We’re a band of good-taste-havers leaving the BBT and Glee people (hah) streets behind.

  10. “30 Rock” has lost some cred, but this season was a little better than last. I cannot for the life of me reason why they would think “100” would be their best episode. That was the worst of the season, if not the series. “Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightening” and “It’s Never Too Late For Now” were WAY stronger episodes, among others.

    1. Yeah – I obviously like 30 Rock a lot more than many here. But for me “100” really highlighted and employed every trick and game in one episode that has seen rabid fans turn against it over the season (aside from those lost to what seems in town to be a sudden inclination to hate everything that becomes “too popular”). The 100th episode repeatedly annoyed me for being so self-indulgent and self-referential.

      Parks & Rec – It was a bubble show for me the first partial season, and then they absolutely hooked me. For a show/place with so many dumb people, it’s SUCH a smart show – I’ve come to love it. So they could pick virtually any episodes this year.

      Glee (perhaps unavoidably)has already become so formulaic that I don’t really regret missing episodes, and very little about it EVER strikes me as “comedy” any longer. Indeed, when Lady Gwyneth is on board (rarely do we see someone grow so completely, comprehensively and comfortably into the stereotype implied by their given name as we have with “Gwyneth,” no?) every moment of every episode she’s in just seems to scream “This is IMPORTANT! Watch this very IMPORTANT episode!!!”

      Modern Family seems to have chosen well (though it struck me as an uneven season). And “The Big C” also chose well.

      Choosing the “Nurse Jackie” episode highlighted puzzles me, but I’ll accept responsibility for perhaps not having paid enough attention.

      Sigh – “Family Guy.” Wish I had a legitimate gripe about the show, but I rarely “time shift” and so I rarely happen to catch the show, and when I do see it I keep wondering why I don’t watch it more than I do. They seem to have done just fine without me.

      “Raising Hope” has been my ‘bubble show’ for this year. I see things I like, a lot. I see things I hate. I’m waiting for them to commit to one and make up my mind for me.

    2. “Double-Edged Sword” or “College” should have been the episode. Maybe because the former had two major guest-star appearances but those were funny from beginning to end. I sort of checked out because of the time-change in the second-half and put more of my energy into Parks & Rec and Community but I felt like the first-half of the season was very strong and there were quite a few episodes to choose.

  11. How about “Archer”? I mean, despite the animation, it’s probably the funniest show on air besides “Parks and Rec”.

    1. That show’s a favorite of mine but it may be a little too subversive for the Emmy committee, especially this season.

  12. The Middle could use more love — such a good show, needs more attention to compete with Idol/Survivor and next year X Factor.

    Both eps on the Emmy screener are solid, but “Taking Back the House,” (parents reclaiming the house from the kids’ control) was especially clever & worthy.

  13. 100 was a decent episode of 30 Rock but there were several better choices. TGS Hates Women, Que Sorpresa, Double Edged Sword and Brooklyn Without Limits were all great episodes.

  14. Parks & Rec could submit just about any episode and have a good chance of winning. This is going to be their year at the Emmy’s. Id love you see Community get some love as well though.

  15. I hope Glee gets passed over this year. There are other deserving shows, like HIMYM and Parks and Rec, that actually have consistency and no need to sing covers of songs.

  16. Don’t vote for this episode
    was one of the best episodes of raising hope (and in this season commedies)
    so th emmy’s have to nominate this ep :)

  17. “The Substitute” for Glee, really? Okay, it was good, but not great. Modern Family is winning again (thank God).

  18. Hee hee, great for Raising Hope. I knew they were going to pick that one. It was the best of the season, and really showcased the cast.

    Glee – WTF? You pick your Paltrow showcase for your Emmy submission? Whatever.

    I really hope Raising Hope sneaks in somehow. Funniest and sweetest comedy I’ve seen in quite some time.

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