Known for their passionate support for the underdog in the past, what shows are on the verge of a surprise writing nomination at this year’s Emmys®?
Over the past ten years, the writers branch proved that they are ahead of the rest of the industry when it comes to discovering great television. Their passionate decision making helped nominate critical darlings like Friday Night Lights and The Americans before the other branches caught on. Last year, they celebrated shows UnReal and Catastrophe, two shows very few people were expecting to become Emmy nominees.
This year’s Emmy race has been particularly interesting to watch unfold thanks to the industry response to new and unlikely shows. Shows like Atlanta and Stranger Things became unlikely frontrunners. Cult-hits like The Leftovers and Black Mirror are finally gaining traction. If any branch fully signals all of the new directions television is going in the future in terms of genre, streaming networks, quality, and what gets deemed an “awards contender,” these nominations will be the single biggest indicator.
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
Even when the Television Academy at large struggled to embrace cult favorites like Community and Parks and Recreation or last year’s Catastrophe, the writers branch gave the series some surprising nominations. This year, there seems to be a lot of focus on auteur-driven comedies. This year’s frontrunners seem to be the two-time WGA winner Atlanta as well as last year’s Emmy winner Master of None with a standout episode like “Thanksgiving.”
Most networks were smarter this year and only submitted one or two episodes per show for consideration in the comedy races. HBO perennial favorite Silicon Valley submitted the season premiere, and Veep submitted the season finale as well as the episode “Georgia.” Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is finally in the writing race after only submitting two episodes, especially the Titus-heavy “Kimmy’s Roommate Lemonades!” It’s clear that writers are paying attention the show after three WGA nominations and a surprise win earlier this year.
The new comedies that the writers branch might gravitate toward include Better Things, Insecure, Fleabag, Crashing, and One Mississippi. WGA voters nominated Better Things and One Mississippi in various categories, giving them a chance at a writing nomination even though they failed to gain traction anywhere else.
On top of the obvious contenders, a few wild cards exist in the race. Network sitcoms typically have a hard time standing out recently, but after black-ish solely submitted “Lemons,” their response to the election result, the comedy might finally earn its first writing nomination. Girls hasn’t been nominated since the first season, but if there is anything the writers branch can’t resist it’s a finale. There are bound to be voters wanting to celebrate Dunham’s creative vision over the past six years.
1. Atlanta – “B.A.N.”
2. Veep – “Groundbreaking”
3. Silicon Valley – “Success Failure”
4. black-ish – “Lemons”
5. Master of None – “Thanksgiving”
6. Girls – “Latching”
7. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – “Kimmy’s Roommate Lemonades!”
8. Fleabag – “Episode 1”
9. Atlanta – “Streets On Lock”
10. Insecure – “Insecure as F**k”
Other Names in The Race: Veep (“Georgia”), Catastrophe (“Episode Five”), Insecure (“Broken a F**k”), Schitt’s Creek (“Opening Night”), Dear White People (“Chapter I”).
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
A huge overhaul is about to take place in the Outstanding Drama Series race as an overwhelming new wave of shows extending our current state of the Golden Age of Television. Writers won’t miss out on a chance to honor these popular and sometimes innovative new shows. With The Crown, Westworld, Stranger Things, and The Handmaid’s Tale all submitting a single episode for consideration, they will all likely enter the writing race.
A ridiculous amount of episode submissions hindered the Emmy chances of Better Call Saul last year, but there is clearly still support for the show after the same season was nominated for four WGA nominations. AMC didn’t learn from the mistake, however, and submitted seven episodes this year. This Is Us has the potential to have a massive year at the Emmys after winning over audiences, critics, and creating buzz within the industry. It might miss out on a writing nomination after submitting five episodes. WGA voters awarded “The Trip” as the best dramatic episode of television last year signaling that it has the power to be singled out, and the buzz around “Memphis” might be enough to push that episode through as well.
For years, critics begged the Television Academy to pay attention to shows like Friday Night Lights and The Americans. The writers branch were the first voters to notice. After three seasons of being one of the best reviewed shows on television, The Leftovers finally has a legitimate chance at awards consideration especially since writers love a standout finale.
If anything, voters might be swayed by the submitted episode synopsis: “Series Finale. Nothing is answered. Everything is answered. And then it ends.”
1. The Americans – “The Soviet Division”
2. The Crown – “Assassins”
3. Stranger Things – “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers”
4. The Handmaid’s Tale – “Offred (Pilot)”
5. Westworld – “The Bicameral Mind”
6. The Leftovers – “The Book of Nora”
7. This Is Us – “The Trip”
8. This Is Us – “Memphis”
9. Better Call Saul – “Chicanery”
10. The Good Fight – “Inauguration”
Other Names in The Race: Billions (“Golden Frog Time”), Bloodline (“Part 33”), The Leftovers (“Certified”).
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series or TV Movie
A recent lawsuit filed by Olivia de Havilland because of the way she was portrayed in Ryan Murphy’s FEUD: Bette and Joan won’t affect the nominating stage of the competition. Yet, it will be interesting to see if the headlines stick around to force the writers to question the legitimacy of the story. In the end, these headlines aren’t likely to affect their decisions because the writers branch as a whole has a huge soft spot for stories about their own industry. Instead, the nominating round will serve as an interesting indicator of whether or not FEUD is truly the limited series frontrunner. Voters have four episodes to choose from, and it’s hard to tell if they will go all in like they did for American Crime Story or simply single out the pilot.
At least here in the writing race, it is much more likely that Big Little Lies is the actual frontrunner especially since HBO presented all episodes as a single submission. With 28 nominations and 10 wins, Emmy voters worship David E. Kelley. That admiration mixed with the passion for the series as a whole will likely rally writers behind the limited series.
The third installment of Fargo concluded in the thick of the voting period. But after an underwhelming season, it’s hard to gauge whether or not voters will respond positively to the series. In the end, even though voters might not be as excited for the current season, enough of them probably still admire the show enough to nominate Hawley once again.
As a tight HBO adaptation of a British series, The Night Of checks off all the right marks of an obvious writing contender. Voters have fully embraced British imports in the past with recent winners like Sherlock and The Hour. This year Black Mirror holds the opportunity to appeal to some of those same voters. As word of mouth for the anthology series grows, it becomes a stronger awards contender across various guilds and groups.
1. Big Little Lies
2. FEUD: Bette and Joan – “Pilot”
3. The Night Of – “The Call of The Wild”
4. Black Mirror: San Junipero
5. Fargo – “The Law of Vacant Places”
6. FEUD: Bette and Joan – “You Mean All This Time We Could Have Been Friends”
7. FEUD: Bette and Joan – “And The Winner Is… (The Oscars of 1963)”
8. Sherlock: The Lying Detective (Masterpiece)
9. The Wizard of Lies
10. Looking: The Movie
Other Names in The Race: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, King Charles III, Guerrilla (“Episode 101”).