HBO’s Westworld, FX’s Atlanta, Netflix’s Stranger Things and NBC’s This Is Us lead the pack of new WGA Award nominees. All four have been breakout hits for their networks, and all four landed multiple writing nominations today, including for best new series. The praised Atlanta, pop culture phenom Stranger Things and Westworld, which just wrapped its freshman season last night to series high ratings, also made the top drama/comedy series categories, which were completely dominated by cable/streaming shows, with no broadcast series making the cut.
Making both the best comedy/drama series and new series lists in most cases bodes well for a show’s WGA Award prospects. Two of the three programs that accomplished the feat last year, AMC’s Better Call Saul and Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, are becoming forces to be reckoned with as the most nominated drama and comedy series this year, respectively. Better Call Saul, which won the episodic drama category last year with the pilot episode, earned four noms, including best drama series, and holds three of the six episodic drama spots. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has three noms, best comedy series and two episodic comedy series.
For both series, the showing is not a surprise as it extends the legacy of co-creators Vince Gilligan (Better Call Saul) and Tina Fey (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), whose previous series, Breaking Bad and 30 Rock both were perennial WGA Award nomination favorites, regularly landing multiple episodic nominations in addition to best drama/series ones. Both shows finished their runs with a slew of wins.
The third series last year to score both best drama/comedy series and best new series noms last year, USA’s breakout drama Mr. Robot, did not score as well this time. Following a second season, which was met with mixed reaction by critics and fans, the hacker drama, which won for best new series last year, was completely shut out.
Also left off the list for the first time since its launch was long-running ABC comedy series, multiple Emmy and WGA Award winner Modern Family. No other surprise omissions of awards heavyweights, with Emmy winners Game of Thrones and Veep as well as Transparent and The Americans all returning for more WGA nominations.
Among newcomers, Donald Glover’s Atlanta has the strongest showing with nominations in all categories it was eligible for — best comedy series, best new series and best episodic comedy.
While the episodic drama category was dominated by returning series, with NBC’s This Is Us as the only new freshman, the episodic comedy field was very welcoming to newbies, with sophomore Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as the only returning series in the group. A far larger number of new comedies than dramas are recognized by the WGA this year, indicating that comedy may be coming out of the down cycle of the past few years. In addition to Atlanta, the list includes fellow FX rookie Better Things, nominated for best new series, as well as Amazon’s One Mississippi, ABC’s Speechless and even Fox’s live-action/animated hybrid Son of Zorn, all nominated in the episodic comedy category.