This year hopefuls in the Best Series categories (comedy and drama) for the 65th annual Primetime Emmy Awards are not required to submit a six-episode package for nomination consideration ahead of today’s 5 PM PT nomination ballot deadline. (Only those that make the cut as series nominees, announced July 18, will submit their Top 6.) But most shows with a good shot at nominations are already culling their best episodes for Academy mailers. Deadline TV contributor Diane Haithman asked producers of 10 top comedies to talk about one special episode they are highlighting for consideration.
Related: EMMYS: 10 Dramas Pick Best Episodes
In no particular order:
MODERN FAMILY (ABC)
Episode title: “Party Crasher”
Story Line: The very pregnant Gloria and husband Jay are worried that a new sibling might make Manny feel less wanted, so they throw a surprise 14th birthday party for Manny. Despite best intentions, this disastrous celebration ruins Manny’s chances for a first kiss. Meanwhile, Haley is hanging out with a sleazy older guy and Cam and Mitchell clash over which Dad is the most bonded with daughter Lily. In the middle of it all, Gloria gives birth to baby boy Fulgencio Joseph Pritchett.
Says Christopher Lloyd, executive producer with Steven Levitan of the three-time Emmy winner for Best Comedy Series: “The hard part was, how do you make the arrival of a baby funny or surprising? We really decided to make this story about the other kids. It’s two-thirds into the show that Gloria goes into labor. And labor scenes always seem to be about the complications; for Gloria, it was a snap. We ended with Jay doing a voice-over which we think is just him commenting on being a father, but we find out he’s talking to his newborn son in his arms. The best episodes seem to be heading off in one direction, swerve this way and that way and end up a completely different episode. I think we succeeded”.
THE MINDY PROJECT (Fox)
Episode title: Pilot
Story Line: The audience is introduced to Mindy Kaling’s Dr. Mindy Lahiri at her ex-boyfriend’s wedding. A Fox synopsis describes the character as “drunk and disorderly after an epic toast”. The incident becomes Mindy’s wake-up call to get her personal and professional life in order.
Kaling calls the pilot “a fun personal assignment. I ignored any logistical production considerations while writing it, because, well, why not? I really just tried to write a version of my favorite kind of movie, and pack it with as much incident and comedy as I could, and call it the first episode of my TV series. I knew Charles [director Charles McDougal] would be up to the challenge of all the visual elements, so I put in things like running through a crowded New York City street, large-scale outdoor weddings, medical montages set to MIA. But I also wanted hard jokes like in The Office. Vilmos Zsigmond was our cinematographer and he shot it incredibly beautifully. Here’s this flawed character who is drunkenly accusing her ex-boyfriend’s new wife of being a war criminal, while twinkling wedding lights light up the night sky. Romantic mixed with horribly inappropriate. It’s a mix of all things I love to watch”.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (Netflix)
Episode title: “Blockheads”
Story Line: Canceled in 2006, a new “season” of 15 Arrested Development episodes became available on Netflix on May 26 — just in time for 2013 Emmy consideration. In the final episode, George Michael Bluth (Michael Cera) tries to reconnect with his father Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman). SPOILER ALERT! for those haven’t binge-watched the episodes yet: Aside from feeling overwhelmed by running his business, father and son discover they are dating the same woman (guest star Isla Fisher). Other guests include Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Liza Minnelli and Jeff Garlin.
Because all 15 episodes were designed to release at once, show creator Mitchell Hurwitz said the producing team tried “to create kind of an 8-hour saga of the family” making it hard to choose just one. And he jokes: “The Jews, of which I am a member, have something called Kina Hora (“no evil eye”). It’s built into us to not start talking about things we imagine could be successful. It’s much easier to talk about our worst episodes”. But when pressed to choose Hurwitz said he’d choose “Blockheads,” the final episode. “It sort of encapsulates the whole season”, he says. “Most of the cast is in that final episode. It was so delightful. One did feel that they have become mature comedic, iconic actors since the days when the were just people making a pilot. It was really thrilling, particularly with Michael Cera, who is like a son to me. He has grown from a boy to a man on this show”.
30 ROCK (NBC)
Episode title: “Hogcock! Part Two: Last Lunch” (series finale)
Story Line: “Hogcock” is Jack’s new expletive (a combination of hogwash and poppycock). In the 60-minute finale, the TGS gang reunites to produce one last show-within-the-show. The episode is a glimpse into the future: Liz struggles with life as a stay-at-home mom, Jack takes stock of his life and Tracy has a hard time adjusting to former page Kenneth’s new role as president of NBC.
“I guess the short answer is because it’s the finale,” offers Robert Carlock, a 30 Rock executive producer/co-showrunner, on why this episode will make the Emmy consideration cut. “I think what we tried to do in that last hour was without tying everything in a neat bow deal with all the big themes for our characters that we’ve been dealing with for 7 years. Jack’s odyssey at GE and then at Cabletown; Liz’ age-old attempt to balance life and work; and the weird Tracy-Kenneth friendship and Kenneth’s potential immortality. And really the big question of why are these people friends, will they stay friends, and can these broken, damaged, weird people be happy? Yeah, we can create world where they do stay friends and do stay together, but in a way that makes sense in our vernacular. Which is to say a little bit off, a little bit perverse, but hopefully satisfying”.
HOUSE OF LIES (Showtime)
Episode title: “Damonschildren.org”
Story Line: Nice guy Matt Damon guest stars as an insufferable version of himself. He’s an obnoxious star trying to improve his image and hires the management consultants led by Marty (Don Cheadle) to create a “cause” for him to support. This client is not afraid to indulge any personal whim, including demanding sexual favors of Marty (er, let’s just say Damon finally settles for a handjob).
House Of Lies co-executive producer Jessika Borsiczky calls this guest-star vehicle “a little bit of a one-off. The story line does sort of take over the episode; it’s about everyone’s reaction to Matt Damon. It’s unique in that it gives us sort of a breather from the bigger serialized story lines”. She adds that it’s the first time a character has entered the picture who “really outshines Marty”. Borsiczky added her only regret was the show didn’t push the obliging Damon far enough. “We should have made it even more outrageous, because he would have done it,” Borsiczky says. The episode ends with a fake PSA for Damon’s invented cause, Damon’s Children. “It’s about how absurd it is to put forward a PSA that’s uniquely hinged on a movie star’s ego. It’s done beautifully. You have goosebumps you are so moved by this cause. And it’s actually not about anything”.
NEW GIRL (Fox)
Episode title: “Cooler”
Story Line: During a “bro’s night” at a bar, Nick and Schmidt become infatuated with the same beautiful woman (guest star Brooklyn Decker) who is weirdly attracted to men with sad stories to tell. Winston falls for a girl with no interest in him. On a dare during a game of True American, Jess and Nick mock-kiss. But before the episode ends, they finally kiss for real.
New Girl producers sent two episodes to Academy members: The other is titled “Quick Hardening Caulk”. “Caulk,” which aired four episodes later, is kiss No. 2. Executive producer Dave Finkel calls the choice of “Cooler” a no-brainer. “When we wrote the episode, it didn’t have the kiss in it,” he says. “Jess and Schmidt just kiss as a joke. But when we were shooting it, we thought, if we’re going to do it, now is the time. If we didn’t do it, I think we would have been pilloried for yet again pulling the rug out from under a potential real moment”. Finkel says New Girl needed to avoid the “Moonlighting Curse” by waiting too long to acknowledge the heat. “Moonlighting took place when you could slowly roll out story. We don’t live in that world any more,” the producer says. “As a writer-producer sitting onstage watching it, I was as excited as the audience at home. Oh my God, the whole template of the show just changed”.
Episode title: “New Years Eve”
Story Line: The bleak life of Louis CK’s Louie can only get worse during the holidays. He breaks his daughter’s Christmas doll. He sees his kids go off for a happy holiday vacation with his ex-wife and her new boyfriend. And a chance reunion with and old girlfriend (guest star Parker Posey) comes to a shocking end when she collapses and dies. In a hilarious flash-forward, Louie sees his grown daughters worrying about poor, lonely Dad. The stricken Louie tries to accept his sister’s invitation to join a family trip, but at the airport, he instead hops a plane for China in search of the Yangtze River.
“We actually went to China to shoot,” says Blair Breard, an executive producer of this episode written by Louis CK “We have such a small budget. To attempt to do something like this was very ambitious. I think that the show itself is very poignant. In the episode he is feeling really alienated and alone. He watches the news and hears: ‘This is how many people commit suicide on New Years Eve.’ “ But in the end Louie forms an odd sort of family unite sharing a meal with a Chinese family. “He can’t speak Chinese, they can’t speak English, but there’s some camaraderie taking in this weird white guy wandering the country looking for the Yangtze River. I think you can really see the arc of Louie’s growth as an artist. In Season 1, I don’t think he would have been there creatively. It was the 39th episode of our work. It felt kind of special and sweet”.
THE OFFICE (NBC)
Episode title: Series finale
Story Line: It is one year after the PBS documentary on Dunder Mifflin paper company has aired. In this 75-minute wrap-up of the 9-season run, the gang is reunited for Dwight and Angela’s wedding. Former series star Steve Carell returns for the wedding. In the show, he only has one line, but we discover through voice-overs that he has become the father he always wanted to be. Pam takes a big risk and sells the house in Scranton so Jim can pursue his career dreams.
Office co-creator/showrunner Greg Daniels had sworn that Carell would not make an appearance in the finale but apparently changed his mind. Daniels said in an earlier interview with Deadline that a series finale is a great place for writers to create dramatic moments with nothing to lose. “Kill them all off!” he joked. He didn’t kill them all off, but said the finale was conceived as a “stand-alone, as if there was an Office movie”. Producers made the choice to set the penultimate episode, not the finale, on the day the Dunder Mifflin documentary finally airs (although the TV audience never actually sees it). The finale also provided a vehicle for the return of former writers-cast members Mindy Kaling, B.J. Novak and Mike Schur and featured long list of guest stars including Ed Begley Jr, Joan Cusack and Bobby Ray Shafer.
Episode title: “It’s a Shame About Ray”
Story Line: Hannah tries to host a sophisticated dinner party to celebrate a new writing gig, but all goes awry when her friends’ personal entanglements intrude of the festivities. Marnie and Audrey battle over Charlie. Shoshanna discovers that boyfriend Ray is actually homeless. Jessa meets Thomas-John’s parents for the first time and they are not impressed; the clash may break up her marriage. A tearful Jessa ends up climbing into the bathtub with Hannah, where the two end up laughing together over Jessa’s gross “snot bomb” into the tub.
Girls producers said they were too deep in production to select an episode to discuss with Deadline. But we have learned that the show sent out three episodes in their Emmy mailer: “Ray,” “One Man’s Trash” and “Together”. In “Together,” Hannah tries to write her book in one day or be sued by her publisher). In “One Man’s Trash,” Hannah finds herself attracted to a 42-year-old doctor and ends up involved in a game of naked ping pong.
Episode title: “Hostages”
Story Line: Vice president Selina Meyer’s ego gets in the way of the goal when she decides to resolve a American hostage crisis in Uzbekistan on the same day as Sue’s well-publicized Congressional hearing in order to draw attention to herself instead of Sue. But she also makes the error of scheduling the dramatic rescue on the same day as the senators’ swearing-in ceremony, which she rushes through in order to be a hero in the hostage mission. The episode, filled with hysteria over minutiae (and introducing the words “procrasturbate” and “shituation”) ends on a sobering note when the Veep discovers that a Marine lost a leg during the mission and feels responsible.
Show co-creator Armando Iannuci could not be reached for comment. HBO has mailed out this episode along with “Midterms” and “Signals”.
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