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.