It is a trend that slowly has been building momentum over the past decade — comedy creators/showrunners also taking over directing and excelling at it. Sex and the City showrunner Michael Patrick King was one of the first to win an Emmy for directing in 2002. Eight years later, Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy won an Emmy for directing the pilot, Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan won in 2012, and Transparent creator Jill Soloway won for her comedy series Transparent last year. Four of the five comedy series directing nominees last year were creators/ showrunners: Soloway, Silicon Valley‘s Mike Judge, Louie‘s Louis CK and Veep’s Armando Iannucci. This year, they represent five out of the 7 nominees, Soloway, Judge, Silicon Valley‘s Alec Berg, Master of None‘s Aziz Ansari and Veep‘s new showrunner Dave Mandel.
“I wanna thank me for hiring me as a director when no one else would,” Levitan quipped when accepting the directing prize in 2012.
The trend is not as prominent on the drama side, with professional directors still dominating the field, landing most of the nominations and almost all wins. J.J. Abrams and Alan Ball were rare exceptions, winning Emmys for directing the pilots of their series Lost and Six Feet Under, respectively. Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan nabbed two directing noms for his work on the AMC series. There are no showrunners in the drama series directing race this year.
Finales and pilots/opening episodes traditionally have fared well in the writing and directing categories, and this year is no exception. Three of the nominees for best directing in a drama series, Downton Abbey, The Knick and Ray Donovan, are being recognized for finales. On the comedy side, Veep and Silicon Valley‘s premiere episodes scored.
In writing, Catastrophe, Silicon Valley and Veep landed noms for premieres. In drama, Mr. Robot and UnReal were nominated for the pilots, The Good Wife for the series finale, The Americans for the finale and Downton Abbey for the last regular episode.
For a second consecutive year, Soloway and drama veteran Lesli Linka Glatter (Homeland) are the only female directors among the nominees. While women have won the comedy series directing award the last three years, the last time a female director won for drama was two decades ago, Mimi Leder in 1995.