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Emmy Circuit: Who Will Compete for Best Comedy Directing?


Welcome to the 2019 Emmy Circuit series, where we analyze and predict all your favorite TV series and their chances with the Television Academy (at least at this time of publishing). The series examines the shows and performances about their awards potential, most notably the Emmy Awards. Emmy nomination voting opens June 10 and closes on June 24. The official Emmy nominations will be announced on Tuesday, July 16 while the ceremony airs on FOX Sunday, Sept. 22. All Emmy pieces run with the following schedule: Mondays (Dramas), Tuesdays (Network Spotlight), Wednesdays (Comedies), Thursdays (Network Spotlight), Fridays (Limited Series, Variety Series, Below-the Lines).

Opening Statements

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Amy Sherman-Palladino. Photo by Rob Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock (9883800y)

This has been an exemplary year for prestige TV, especially for the comedy series category. And while creating a TV show is certainly a collaborative effort between the series creators, producers, cinematographers, writing staff and crew, viewers should always give special credit to the directors helming the project. They provide vision and organize the chaos. In the television sphere, directors might sometimes be less of a household name than the showrunners, or their big screen counterparts. The Outstanding Directing award is important because it recognizes the auteur-like craft that goes into every aspect of every show.

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Mayim Bialik and Jim Parsons in “The Big Bang Theory.” Courtesy of CBS.

As Emmy season heats up, and with a host of top tier comedies coming from trailblazing directors this year, we ask: who will stand out above the rest? Series like “Veep” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” are expected to compete for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actress, respectively. However, the directing category doesn’t always follow those same rules. The award can sometimes go to series that might not necessarily make the cut for the biggest categories. Take, for example, “The Big Bang Theory,” which was nominated in the category last year. 

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Courtesy of FX.

Last year, Amy Sherman-Palladino won for Outstanding Directing, while shows “Atlanta,” “Glow,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Barry,” and “Silicon Valley” were nominated. Donald Glover, of “Atlanta,” won the previous year. And surprisingly, no director from “Veep” has won in the category, although three different directors were nominated for it last year, and there have been seven nominations for the series since 2015.

ABC Modern Family
Courtesy of ABC.

In 2016 and 2015, Jill Soloway of “Transparent” won the category. Before her, several directors from “Modern Family” won, like Gail Mancuso in 2014 and 2013, Steven Levitan in 2012, and Michael Spiller in 2011. “Silicon Valley” has been nominated seven times, but has never won. Could it finally be “Silicon Valley”‘s time in the sun? It’s a possibility, however enthusiasm for the show has waned over the past year. It may have missed its time to shine.

Exit Strategy

Broad City 1
Courtesy of Comedy Central.

“Veep” ended on a high note. The gut-wrenching final episode, directed by showrunner David Mandel, ran in May, putting the showrunner/director in a strong position for the nomination. And since the series has appeared so many times in the category but has never won, it might appear to be the top choice for Outstanding Director for a Comedy Series. Other options include “Broad City,” which ended in March after five seasons. The first episode of the final season, directed by Nick Paley and titled “Stories,” could earn a nomination, given its formal ingenuity and the popularity of cult favorite show.

jane the virgin season 5 final
Courtesy of the CW.

“Jane The Virgin” could be promising in this category as well. With a 100% on the Tomatometer, critics have definitely been a fan of the final and fifth season. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” could be another option, as might “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” But the fact that they have not been nominated yet, and that they both had their series’ finales already might be a strike against them. In a hyper-competitive field, preference could perhaps go towards the shows–and the directors–that have received nominations in the past but have not yet won. Or the committee might favor a newer series like “Fleabag,” which didn’t have a presence in 2017 for the first season, but might for Season 2.

Network Contenders

Ted Danson DArcy Carden The Good Place
Courtesy of NBC.

The CW’s “Jane The Virgin” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” are possibilities, but “The Good Place” is one of network TV’s strongest contenders for the Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series category. NBC announced that the philosophical caper’s upcoming season will be its last. Many viewers will miss the series’ trademark combination of wry humor, ethical conundrums, and farce. Perhaps that will bode well for the show, and will encourage some backing behind the series. NBC’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is also an option, especially since fans were happy with the latest season and its being saved from cancellation on Hulu.

“Freshman Fire”

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Courtesy of Netflix.

There are tons of extraordinary comedies out there, including brand new ones. From “Dead to Me,” “Tuca and Bertie,” “The Kominsky Method,” and “Shrill,” it has been a season of smart and wickedly funny new television. Beth McCarthy-Miller, the director of the episode “Chapter Four: A Kegel Squeaks in “The Kominsky Method” is a likely candidate for the Outstanding Directing category. As is Andy Tennant, who directed the season finale, “Chapter Eight: A Widow Approaches.” They are particularly impactful episodes in a series that has been critically lauded. Samantha Irby, who directed “Pool,” one of newcomer “Shrill’s” greatest episodes, should also be up for consideration. Many fans of the show applauded the episode for its vibrant, euphoric approach to body positivity. Geeta Patel, the director of “Dead to Me”’s positively electric season finale, might also find a place on the list of nominees.

Cable Contenders

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Courtesy of Amazon Studios.

As previously mentioned, “Veep” will be one of the shows to be beat. Its season finale, aptly titled “Veep” and directed by David Mandel, should almost certainly be on the list of nominations. Mandel expertly brings the pivotal series full circle, taking it to a somewhat devastating, but poignant, turn. Leslye Headland, who directed “Russian Doll”‘s pilot episode, is responsible for one of the best television pilots to premiere in recent memory. Headland would be a smart choice for a nomination. And of course, Bill Hader, who directed the season finale of “Barry” would be an excellent option–given that terrific cliffhanger. Finally, “Fleabag,” which enjoyed one of the best sophomore seasons on television, deserves to be nominated. The Harry Bradbeerdirected finale would be a particularly impactful choice.  

Current Best Directors for a Comedy Series Predictions:

  1. David Mandel, “Veep,” Episode: “Veep”
  2. Harry Bradbeer, “Fleabag,” Episode: “Episode 6”
  3. Bill Heder, “Barry,” Episode: “berkman > block”
  4. Leslye Headland, “Russian Doll,” Episode: “Nothing in this World is Easy”
  5. Andy Tenant, “The Kominsky Method,” Episode: “Chapter Eight: A Widow Approaches”
  6. Michael Schur, “The Good Place,” Episode: Pandemonium

What Are Your Predictions? Let Us Know in the Comments Below! 


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Written by Isabella Deleo

Isabella maintains that "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" is a criminally underrated film. You can follow her on Twitter @isabellabdeleo.


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