Emmy Category Analysis: Comedy Writing & Directing – Blog


By Christopher James

Does “Only Murders in the Building” have what it takes to overthrow reigning champion “Hacks” in directing and writing?The writing and directing categories will be a strong bellwether for what will win Outstanding Comedy Series. The directing category overlaps with Comedy Series 58% of the time and the writing category overlaps 50% of the time. Many worthy competitors face off in the stacked comedy fields. The overarching theme of both categories will be Incumbents vs newcomers vs comebacks.

on one end, Ted Lasso and hacks face off again for their second seasons. while Ted Lasso won last time, hacks won both directing and writing. Both will have a doozy of a time competing with two hot new shows – Only Murders in the Building and Abbott Elementary – which both earned Comedy Series nominations. Finally, shows like Barry and Atlanta re-emerged in these categories after being off the air for a few years. Will they be able to come back and take the prize from these newer shows they have never had to face off against?

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series

Nominees:

  • Hiro Murai – Atlanta – Episode: “New Jazz” (Season 3, Episode 8)

  • Bill Hader – Barry – Episode: “710N” (Season 3, Episode 6)

    • Description: The Taylors leave Fuches for dead, and he is given a second chance at happiness. The Taylors attack Barry. Sally accepts a job on the show that replaced Joplin. Cousineau uses his newfound success to give Annie the career he took from her. In Bolivia, Hank is captured.

  • Lucia Aniello – hacks – Episode: “There Will Be Blood” (Season 2, Episode 1)

  • Mary Lou Belli – The Ms. Pat Show – Episode: “Baby Daddy Groundhog Day” (Season 1, Episode 5)

  • Cherien Dabis – Only Murders in the Building – Episode: “The Boy From 6B” (Season 1, Episode 7)

    • Description: With the investigation scratching at a web of old crimes originating inside the building, a mysterious young man turns the tables to spy on Charles, Oliver & Mabel.

  • Jamie Babbit – Only Murders in the Building – Episode: “True Crime” (Season 1, Episode 1)

    • Description: Upper West Side neighbors Charles, Oliver & Mabel bond over a shared love of true crime. When a fellow resident dies in their building, the trio becomes determined to solve the mystery and record an accompanying podcast.

  • MJ Delaney – Ted Lasso – Episode: “No Weddings and a Funeral” (Season 2, Episode 10)

Analysis:

Pilots often do well in the comedy directing nominations. But, since 2010, only three pilots have won (Hacks, The Marvelous Mrs. maizel and Glee). However, there was a four year streak before that where a different pilot won the directing prize (2004-2007). This helps Only Murders in the Building, which had an impressive showing for its first season with 17 nominations. However, voters may be split between the pilot, which set the tone for the season, and “The Boy From 6B,” which is the most impressive episode. The entire episode is told visually through the perspective of Teddy Dimas, a deaf tenet of the Arconia with secrets of his own to hide. No show with multiple nominations in the directing category has won the award since Modern Family in 2012, when it had nominated two episodes.

Ted Lasso seems to have taken that stat to heart this year. Apple TV+’s crowd pleasing comedy dominated the Emmys last year, but lost both writing and directing to hacks. This was likely due to having multiple episodes nominated in the same category, splitting its vote without a clear frontrunner. while hacks could win a second year in a row, only having one episode could be a winning strategy for Ted Lasso. “No Weddings and a Funeral” was also a terrific submission, filled with laughs and emotional fireworks.

Working against hacks is the fact that it is a repeat winner. There are fewer repeat winners here than in writing (only transparent and Modern Family repeated since 2010). The season two finale is triumphant, but it’s less showy than some of the other nominees. similarly, Atlanta won this category previously for its first season back in 2017. While “New Jazz” has a strong visual style that leans into absurdism meets After Hours, the show didn’t get into the Outstanding Comedy Series race as it had in the past. Enthusiasm for the show among voters may have waned.

In terms of audaciousness, Barry is the flashiest of the nominees. The “710N” episode features a prolonged motorcycle chase that is technically impressive, while also matching the offbeat, dark humor of the show. Season three of Barry has its fans and detractors (I’m in the latter camp). Yet, the Emmys seemed to have embraced the show’s tonal shift. With Hader in the director chair, this may be the perfect place to reward both him and the show.

Every year, one multi-cam sitcom makes the lineup. this year, The Ms. Pat Show on BET+ received the nomination. This is the show’s only nomination, so it is unlikely to win. However, it was a delightful submission that expertly, and hilariously, allowed each member of the cast to confront the family’s deadbeat patriarch who suddenly reaches back out. The best thing about covering the Emmys is watching a show you’ve never seen before. I’m really happy this category pushed me to watch The Ms. Pat Show.

Will Win: Bill Hader – Barry
Should Win: Cherien Dabis – Only Murders in the Building
Spoiler: MJ Delaney – Ted Lasso

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

Nominees:

  • Quinta Brunson – Abbott Elementary – Episode: “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

    • Description: While on Abbott’s annual zoo field trip, Tariq reveals that he has been offered a job in New York; Janine struggles with a big choice; Barbara starts questioning her future after finding out her favorite tuatara has been retired because of old age.

  • Duffy Boudreau – Barry – Episode: “710N” (Season 3, Episode 6)

    • Description: The Taylors leave Fuches for dead, and he is given a second chance at happiness. The Taylors attack Barry. Sally accepts a job on the show that replaced Joplin. Cousineau uses his newfound success to give Annie the career he took from her. In Bolivia, Hank is captured.

  • Alec Berg, Bill Hader – Barry – Episode: “starting now” (Season 3, Episode 8)

    • Description: Jim Moss interrogates Cousineau. After escaping Elena’s dungeon, Hank saves Cristobal. Sally kills the last Taylor, and Barry cleans it up for her. Fuches goes to prison believing he is the Raven. Albert forgives Barry, and Cousineau does what is right by helping Jim Moss bring Barry to justice.

  • Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, Jen Statsky – hacks – Episode: “The One, The Only” (Season 2, Episode 8)

  • Steve MartinJohn Hoffman- Only Murders in the Building – Episode: “True Crime” (Season 1, Episode 1)

    • Description: Upper West Side neighbors Charles, Oliver & Mabel bond over a shared love of true crime. When a fellow resident dies in their building, the trio becomes determined to solve the mystery and record an accompanying podcast.

  • Jane Becker – Ted Lasso – Episode: “No Weddings and a Funeral” (Season 2, Episode 10)

  • Sarah Naphtalis – What We Do in the Shadows – Episode: “The Casino” (Season 3, Episode 4)

  • Stefani Robinson – What We Do in the Shadows – Episode: “The Wellness Center” (Season 3, Episode 8)

Analysis:

It’s the battle of the pilots versus the season two defenders. both Only Murders in the Building and Abbott Elementary had strong showings for their first seasons, earning 17 nominations and 6 nominations respectively. Both pilots do fantastic work setting up the premise. Only Murders in the Building establishes the titular murder and has great fun bonding its three ragtag protagonists together over their shared love of a podcast. Even more impressive, Abbott Elementary builds out an entire world in just 22 minutes. Every teacher arrives fully formed from the moment they step on screen, and the comedy and conflict derive from the state of our world today. While I prefer Abbott Elementary in this category, the hefty nomination haul makes Only Murders in the Building the likely frontrunner between the pilots.

It has hefty competition from the reigning champion, hacks. The season two finale expertly closes Deborah’s (Jean Smart) arc as she finds success with her soul baring comedy set. However, the joy of the episode comes in the end as she pushes her trusted, yet conflicted, joke writer Ava (Hannah Einbender) out of the nest right as she achieves success. It’s a beautiful portrait of a flawed, yet loving, mentor/mentee relationship. Last year’s sensation Ted Lasso also contends for “No Weddings and a Funeral,” the best episode of its second season, which some loved and others hated. The episode is fairly dramatic, as Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) deals with her complicated emotions around her Father’s death and Ted (Jason Sudeikis) bares his soul about his emotional wounds of his Dad’s suicide. As good as it is, the mixed reaction of the season and the relative dramatic heft of the episode could keep it from a win.

Two shows have two nominations a piece, taking up half of the category. both Barry and What We Do In The Shadows hope having two nominations will help propel them to victory. However, since 2010, only two shows have won when they have had multiple nominations in the category. Both of them (30 Rock, Schitt’s Creek) had a clear standout, as both won for their series final. This means that both shows will likely fall short of the win. It’s a shame, as no show made me laugh more this past year than “The Casino” from What We Do in the Shadows.

Will Win: Steve MartinJohn Hoffman- Only Murders in the Building
Should Win: Sarah Naphtalis – What We Do in the Shadows
Spoiler: Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, Jen Statsky – hacks

See here for a list of all Emmy nominees this year.

Who do you think will win the Comedy Directing & Writing races? Who are you rooting for?

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