Martin Scorsese, Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Why He Was Nominated: What, are you kidding? Had Martin Scorsese not been nominated for having directed the pilot of HBO’s Prohibition-themed mob epic Boardwalk Empire, the embarrassment would have been never-ending. The legendary director has eight Oscar nominations (and a lone win in 2007 for The Departed) to his credit along with three Emmy noms (including three this year). Most important, he’s Martin Scorsese. That’s really all you need to know.
Why He Has To Win: For so many reasons. Start with the fact that, of Scorsese’s five previous Emmy noms, he won none. There’s an oversight that the TV Academy seemingly needs to correct. He’s coming off of a DGA Award triumph for Boardwalk. He’s a universally revered filmmaker and human being. And the competition, while it includes a fellow Oscar winner, isn’t overwhelming. Of course, even if it were, it wouldn’t matter. As one series director told me, “There are a lot of things I can imagine, but Martin Scorsese losing here isn’t one of them.”
Why He Can’t Possibly Win: This would only be possible had Scorsese’s name inadvertently been omitted from the voting ballot. There is a slight possibility that the Boardwalk vote could be split given the fact there are a pair of nominees, but probably not. The fact the series premiere happened a year ago also could lose him a few votes. But not many.
Jeremy Podeswa, Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Why He Was Nominated: The Canadian-born Podeswa is a respected veteran whose directorial career stretched back to the mid-1980s. Just since 2005, he has directed episodes of Six Feet Under, Nip/Tuck, Dexter, Weeds, The Tudors, The Borgias, True Blood, Rubicon and an installment of HBO’s World War II mini The Pacific that last year earned him a movie/mini nomination. The mixed blessing part for him this year is having to compete against Scorsese.
Why He Has To Win: Under different circumstances, maybe. But this time around, the honor is in Podeswa’s landing his second nomination in as many years.
Why He Can’t Possibly Win: Two words: Martin Scorsese. Perhaps a more pertinent question is why all nominees directed drama series on cable, the first time that’s ever happened. Evidently, not a single series episode on broadcast was deemed worthy.
Patty Jenkins, The Killing (AMC)
Why She Was Nominated: Jenkins is one of three directors nominated in the category who have either directed Oscar-winning films or won the Oscar outright. In Jenkins’ case, she wrote and directed the 2003 indie hit Monster that earned Charlize Theron an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2004. Here, she guided the exceptional two-hour pilot of the moody AMC thriller that also generated a writing nom for showrunner Veena Sud.
Why She Has To Win: Were Scorsese not in the running, this would be a lot more possible. The Killing grew during its rookie season to become a whodunit phenomenon, and the superbly-constructed pilot is credited as a major reason for its taking off. “Everyone I know was blown away by that two-hour opener,” a voting writer tells me. “It was engrossing and unsettling in a way few TV dramas ever are.”
Why She Can’t Possibly Win: No woman has won the drama series directing Emmy since Mimi Leder landed it for NBC’s ER in 1995. If it hasn’t happened in the 16 years since, it’s unlikely that it’ll happen this time, either.
Neil Jordan, The Borgias (Showtime)
“The Poisoned Chalice/The Assassin”
Why He Was Nominated: One more time: In a normal year — aka one minus Scorsese — an Academy Award winner like Neil Jordan would carry the kind of heavyweight credentials to make him the prohibitive favorite. He snapped up the 1993 original screenplay Oscar for The Crying Game (also earning a nomination for his direction). Jordan received wide critical praise for his writing and direction of the first two parts of the Showtime historical drama that was rewarded with a second-season renewal.
Why He Has To Win: The Irish filmmaker remains a respected brand as both scribe and director, and Jordan brought his usual dramatic flair to The Borgias and its Sopranos-in-Italy-circa-1492 vibe. What boosts his chances are the project’s cinematic production values and stellar cast headed by Jeremy Irons.
Why He Can’t Possibly Win: While a Showtime series (Dexter) won in this category last year, the academy has generally favored HBO. A series producer told me, “It was tough for me to mark my ballot for someone other than Neil Jordan, but I did.”
Tim Van Patten, Game Of Thrones (HBO)
“Winter Is Coming (Pilot)”
Why He Was Nominated: Getting nominated is something that Van Patten does well, and often. This is in fact his fifth drama series directing honor, the previous four coming for The Sopranos (in 2001, ’03, ’04 and ’06) and all resulting in losses. He has eight Emmy noms in all, with his lone victory coming last year as a supervising producer on HBO’s The Pacific. Van Patten is recognized here for a very different kind of project in HBO’s fantasy drama Game of Thrones, helming the acclaimed pilot.
Why He Has To Win: Yes, there’s no doubt that Van Patten is overdue to actually come out of this category a winner. Interestingly, he could just as easily have been nominated for Boardwalk Empire, having served as one of its exec producers and directing multiple episodes of that series as well. “Tim is also really just a well-liked, stand-up guy,” notes a fellow director. “That’s one reason I’m kind of surprised he hasn’t won an Emmy already for his directing. You just never know how these votes will go.”
Why He Can’t Possibly Win: Actually, in this case, we do sort of know how the vote will go. And it means Van Patten is sadly destined to stretch his winless record in the category to five.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.