TV fans rejoice! And, get out your caffeine: It’s nearly time for the biggest - and sometimes dullest - night in television: The 66th annual Primetime Emmy Awards are on tonight! And sure, other publications have filled your ears for weeks about likely shows and actors who’ll take home prizes, but here at Between the Lines we’re doing you and your office pool a service: Helping you game the system by getting inside scoop on lesser-known categories.
This is no easy task, choosing winning writers. While sophisticated audiences have demanded and gotten better-written shows, many audiences don’t realize that it’s the writing - not the actors - which they’ve fallen for. Don’t believe it? Think of “American Horror Story,” “True Detective,” and “Fargo.” All nominated, all awesome. And all will change up their casts (largely) and locations for their next season, and the season after that. The main consistent element? The writing. Of course.
So let’s dive right in:
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Moira Walley-Beckett, Breaking Bad, “Ozymandias”
Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad, “Felina”
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Game of Thrones, “The Children”
Beau Willimon, House of Cards, “Chapter 14”
Nic Pizzolatto, True Detective, “The Secret Fate of All of Life”
Analysis: “Ozymandias” is considered the best episode of the entire Breaking Bad canon, but it has to go up against the series’ finale. Voters may end up divided over love for the series, a risk the show had to know it was taking. But it’s hard on the ego - and other reasons - not to submit an entry penned by a show creator (Walley-Beckett is the only woman nominated in this category and the only non-show creator). “Children” sent Game off on a powerful note (Ayra’s sailing away from Westeros) but the show’s ensemble nature subtracted from that power, with nothing else in that final episode matching Ayra’s emotional freight. “Chapter 14” stunned fans by having Frank get hands-on with his murderous abilities but it happened early in the season and didn’t in the end tell us much about the future POTUS we didn’t already know. “Secret Fate” marked a huge shift for the Detective saga, but was also a mid-season episode, and accusations of plagiarism have tarnished golden boy Pizzolatto in recent weeks.
Predicted Winner: “Ozymandias”
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, Episodes, “Episode Five”
Louis C.K., Louie, “So Did the Fat Lady”
Liz Friedman and Jenji Kohan, Orange is the New Black, “I Wasn’t Ready”
Alec Berg, Silicon Valley, “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency”
Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche, Veep, “Special Relationship”
Analysis: Irritatingly, Episodes names each of its episodes, each season, by the name of the episode. So the fact is there has been multiple “Episode Five”s in the run. But that’s not why it won’t win: It won’t win because it’s startling that this show is still on the air. Who watches, other than former Friends fanatics? Meanwhile, Louis C.K. is truly the comedian’s comedian, and “Fat Lady” got some press for a terrific cri de coeur from guest star Sarah Baker - but the increasingly dark season 3 did Louie, which can be a terrific show, no good. As the it show of the moment, Orange has a strong head of steam going in - but submitting your pilot episode feels bush-league, especially for a vet like Kohan. “Tip-to-Tip” goes the other direction, with its first season finale up for a possible win, but the most epic thing about the episode is its incredibly elaborate penis joke. Not that shows haven’t won for less. As for “Special Relationship,” taking ambitious Veep Selena out of her comfort zone and into London, the continuing guest appearance of Chris Meloni and the sacking of Dan as campaign manager made this episode satisfying and hilarious at the same time - even if it didn’t go viral or feature a dick joke.
Predicted Winner: “Special Relationship”
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, American Horror Story, “Bitchcraft”
Noah Hawley, Fargo, “The Crocodile’s Dilemma”
Neil Cross, Luther
Larry Kramer, The Normal Heart
Steven Moffat, Sherlock: His Last Vow
David Simon and Eric Overmyer, Treme, “… To Miss New Orleans”
Analysis: Murphy and Falchuk’s rotating freakshow got even freakier with “Bitchcraft,” but it’s hard to imagine the older-skewing Academy voters getting through enough of the gory episode to decide whether the writing was solid or not. Hawley used his pilot episode for a nomination (he gets a pass Kohan doesn’t because his show is a different animal than Orange) and quickly and efficiently established a seriously dark humor, a memorable villain (Lorne Malvo) and allowed us to wink at the 1996 film it was based on. Luther and Sherlock are personal faves and worthy entries but just don’t have much power outside their loyal cadre of fans in the U.S. Also, Sherlock shares a star with Fargo’s Martin Freeman. Treme went out on a quiet note with its series finale “New Orleans,” and simply will go unacknowledged this year - as it was for most of its run. That leaves Kramer’s beloved Normal Heart, the only entry with a pre-history - it earned multiple Tonys on Broadway - and got a noble, well-received recreation as an HBO film.
Predicted Winner: “The Normal Heart”
So, how did we do? Tune in tonight and let us know: The Emmys air on NBC at 8p.m. ET and you can rant and rave right back at me here.