Beth McCarthy-Miller, 30 Rock (NBC)
Why She Was Nominated: Because the trick that McCarthy-Miller turned here in handling a pair of live performances (one for the East Coast, one for the West Coast) was a huge one, recalling the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants trials from TV’s earliest days. It’s her seventh Emmy nomination and second for directing on 30 Rock (the other coming in 2009). Yet McCarthy-Miller still is seeking her first win despite being one of TV’s most respected directors.
Why She Has To Win: It’s safe to say that no one had a bigger series directing challenge during the past year than 30 Rock’s “Live Show.” As McCarthy-Miller told Deadline last month, “It’s fairly hard when you’re live to do that quick kind of dialogue and not fall flat on your face. … There were 108 camera shots before the first commercial break.” In case voters needed added incentive, no woman has won the Emmy for comedy directing in 18 years, or since Betty Thomas took it home for HBO’s Dream On in 1993. Talk about overdue.
Why She Can’t Possibly Win: See above about the last time a woman won in this category. Thomas’ win in ’93 also was the only time a woman earned the Emmy for directing, period. So the TV Academy may have issues giving this statuette to that gender. Too, Modern Family has three entries, and all are awfully strong. That mockumentary style is a director’s dream.
Steven Levitan, Modern Family (ABC)
“See You Next Fall”
Why He Was Nominated: Not only is showrunner Levitan co-running the hottest single-camera comedy on television, he’s also turned into an Emmy triple-threat, landing nominations this year for producing, writing and directing. Now all he needs to do it start acting and editing, too, and then he’d be Louis C.K. This is his first directing nom of his six overall nominations, and Levitan and his cohorts have kept their show quirky, surprising and uproariously funny in its sophomore campaign.
Why He Has To Win: The man is beloved in TV for being a rebel with a cause as a honcho who speaks truth to power with the network suits and has the clout to ignore their notes. There’s no reason Levitan shouldn’t add a directing statue to go with the writing one he landed a year ago. Clearly, Modern Family has mounds of support inside the TV Academy, as evidenced by its three noms in this category alone.
Why He Can’t Possibly Win: If Family ends up winning for comedy series and its writing, the vote could turn against it here in the interest of spreading the wealth around a bit. “Having three in the same category probably splits the vote and lets someone else slip in,” one category voter told me. That someone could well be McCarthy-Miller.
Michael Alan Spiller, Modern Family (ABC)
Why He Was Nominated: It’s Miller’s first Emmy nomination, but he already won the DGA Award for the very same “Halloween” episode of Family. So getting singled out here isn’t much of a surprise.
Why He Has To Win: It doesn’t always follow that the DGA winner snatches up the Emmy, too, but that may well turn out to be the case for Spiller. And it certainly can’t hurt. “Halloween” was a huge fan and industry favorite — an episode that allowed for far flashier directorial stylings than even your average Modern Family installment.
Why He Can’t Possibly Win: A live episode is such an anomaly that McCarthy-Miller’s 30 Rock entry could well have it over even the most energetic competition. There’s also that vote-splitting thing when you’ve got three contenders from the same comedy.
Pamela Fryman, How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
Why She Was Nominated: Few episodic directors carry the respect and support that Fryman does. “She’s an earth mother,” offers one writer. “Everyone just adores the hell out of Pam. And no one is better at her job.” Despite that and a track record dating to the early 1990s, this is her first Emmy directing nom, her first coming in 2009 as a How I Met Your Mother exec producer.
Why She Has To Win: It could happen. One reason: Fryman did a brilliant job directing the Mother episode “Subway Wars,” whose storyline surrounds a race to a downtown restaurant in New York where the first to arrive and glimpse Woody Allen is declared the winner. To be sure, a lot of people in the business will be rooting for Fryman to come out on top. That kind of popularity with one’s peers can’t hurt.
Why She Can’t Possibly Win: A couple of barriers stand in Fryman’s way, chiefly the fact that the CBS comedy has been on for six years and no longer carries much in the way of cache. Mother generated five nominations this time, but all save for Fryman’s are in technical categories. Plus, she has to beat a particularly high-profile edition of 30 Rock as well as all of those Modern Family candidates. No one ever said it was gonna be easy.
Gail Mancuso, Modern Family (ABC)
“Slow Down Your Neighbors”
Why She Was Nominated: Like Fryman, Mancuso has been directing episodic television going back nearly two decades, but this is her first Emmy nomination. The combination of being a veteran in the directing trenches and working on an awards magnet like Modern Family paved the way for this one. It may be the first time more women (3) than men (2) have been nominated in an Emmy directing category.
Why She Has To Win: Being around as long as Mancuso has without her being honored will generate plenty of sentiment.
Why She Can’t Possibly Win: They only choose one winner, and you get the feeling she would have a better shot were Mancuso the only entrant from Modern Family rather than one of three.