Ray Richmond is an AwardsLine contributor
This year’s crop of Emmy nominees in writing for drama series, comedy series, and movie/miniseries/special include a good mix of first-time nominees, including Lena Dunham for HBO’s Girls and Amy Poehler for NBC’s Parks and Recreation. But the real question is, which of the three writing noms that AMC’s Mad Men earned will turn into a statuette at this year’s ceremony? What follows is our handicap of everyone’s chances:
Chris McKenna Community, “Remedial Chaos Theory” (NBC)
Lena Dunham Girls, “Pilot” (HBO)
Louis C.K. Louie, “Pregnant” (FX)
Amy Poehler Parks and Recreation, “The Debate” (NBC)
Michael Schur Parks and Recreation, “Win, Lose or Draw” (NBC)
What really distinguishes the category this time is the rare presence of two women here: indie film prodigy Dunham for the Girls pilot and Poehler for the Parks and Recreation episode “The Debate.” It’s exceedingly rare to have two females in the comedy writing lineup in the same Emmy year. In fact, the last time it happened was 2002, when Jennifer Crittenden landed a nom for Everybody Loves Raymond and Julie Rottenberg and Elisa Zuritsky were honored for Sex and the City
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Having a woman win is an even rarer phenomenon here. Since the comedy writing category was established in 1955, it’s happened only three times: Treva Silverman in 1974 for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Diane English for the Murphy Brown pilot in 1989, and Tina Fey for 30 Rock in 2008. The fact that Girls turned into something of a phenomenon in its first season will help Dunham’s chances, though the well-liked Poehler–in her first writing honor–is probably the better bet. That is, if either of them is going to take the prize, which is hardly a guarantee.
C.K., a seven-time nominee this year (no, that’s not a misprint), lost all four of his noms a year ago, and it’s possible, if not probable, that voters will want to honor him as a scribe for a series that’s considered a small gem. He’s also nommed for actor and director on Louie, along with four nominations for his FX standup special Louis C.K.: Live at the Beacon Theatre.
While NBC’s Community has a dedicated cult following, its much-publicized production issues and recent ouster of showrunner Dan Harmon figures to work against McKenna in his first nomination. A mitigating factor, however, might be the fact that the title of the episode he’s nominated for, “Remedial Chaos Theory,” nicely sums up the creative essence of the series itself.
As for Schur, he’s the only nominee in the category with a significant Emmy pedigree aside from C.K. This is his 11th overall nomination and his third in this category. He’s won two Emmys–in 2002 as a writer on Saturday Night Live and 2006 as coexecutive producer on The Office. He lost in his previous nom for comedy series writing on that show in 2007, and could well again with Parks. On the other hand, this is a tough category to call, so you never know.
Prediction: Poehler pulls off an upset. Unless it goes C.K.’s way.
Julian Fellowes Downton Abbey, “Episode 7” (PBS)
Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, and Gideon Raff Homeland, “Pilot” (Showtime)
Matthew Weiner and Semi Chellas Mad Men, “The Other Woman” (AMC)
Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton Mad Men, “Commissions and Fees” (AMC)
Matthew Weiner and Semi Chellas Mad Men, “Far Away Places” (AMC)
Let’s just come right out and say it: You never want to bet against Weiner, whose only serious competition lately in the writing category is himself. This is the fourth time since Mad Men hit the air that he has earned more than one writing nomination for the show. In 2009 alone, he landed four. With two more this time, he now has 11 writing nods for Mad Men alone, winning three. He also has nine Emmy wins to date and 21 nominations, though he lost in the category in 2011.
This, of course, brings up the question of which Weiner episode he cowrote with Semi Chellas is more likely to resonate with voters. Is it “The Other Woman” or “Far Away Places”? For Chellas, both episodes mark her first two Emmy noms. But just to add another element to the mix, married couple Andre and Maria Jacquemetton also are nominated here, making it three in total for Mad Men. The Jacquemettons have won three times for the show as producers (in 2008, ’09, and ’11) but never for their writing in two previous nominations. If you’re them, do you even want to beat Weiner? Doesn’t seem like it would necessarily be the smartest career move.
This is also not to say that the non-Mad Men nominees here have no chance. Fellowes is only a previous Oscar winner (for his Gosford Park screenplay in 2002) and won a pair of Emmys last year for Downton Abbey (albeit in the movie/mini category). Fellowes is nominated twice again (for writing and producing), and he has to be seen as a solid longshot pick. So, too, are Gansa, Gordon, and Raff for the acclaimed Homeland pilot. Gordon also has nine prior Emmy nominations to his credit. The series already won the drama series prize this year at the Golden Globes and could catch fire at the Emmys, too. If it does, a writing win isn’t so far-fetched.
Prediction: It will be Weiner again–an easy pick to make considering he has a 40% shot and everyone else only 20%. If there is going to be an upset, go with the Homeland trio.
Danny Strong Game Change (HBO)
Ted Mann, Ronald Parker, and Bill Kerby Hatfields & McCoys: Part 2 (History)
Abi Morgan The Hour (BBC America)
Neil Cross Luther (BBC America)
Steven Moffat Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia (PBS)
In a very British-heavy category, Strong could well emerge as the strongest. The actor-turned-scribe (who also continues to act) was nominated for a writing Emmy in the category in 2008 for the similarly election-themed HBO docudrama Recount, for which he won a 2009 WGA honor. With the 2012 residential race ticking toward its conclusion this summer during the voting period, the timing figures to help Strong’s chances on Game Change, based on the book of the same name about the 2008 election campaign and starring Woody Harrelson and Julianne Moore.
There’s also the trio of Mann, Parker, and Kerby up for their teleplay for Part 2 of the hit History Channel mini Hatfields & McCoys. Mann has five previous nominations, winning once (in 1995 as a producer on NYPD Blue), while his partners are both first-time nominees.
The other three contenders are all U.K. natives who have never won Emmys before. Of the three, only Moffat even has a nomination (last year for Sherlock). Moffat has also won a Peabody Award for Sherlock along with a total of four BAFTA honors, including in 2008 for Doctor Who. Morgan is a two-time BAFTA winner (in 2005 and 2009) and earned two BAFTA noms this year for her screenplays The Iron Lady and Shame. But this is all a long-winded way of saying that none of the three are likely to break through here with a win.
Prediction: In an election year, it looks to be Strong’s race to lose, short of a politically-motivated backlash.