Every year, writers and directors kind of get the short straw, if you will, when it comes to Emmy night. In the past, these categories have served as catch alls for the Academy to recognize series that aren’t getting the same level of attention at higher levels. Two years ago, House won for Best Writing in a Drama Series while Lost swept Directing/Drama Series; last year, My Name is Earl won writing and directing despite being otherwise shut out. This year, these categories will be yet another chance for shows to be recognized.
Today, I want to highlight five drama episodes in both directing and in writing that, I believe, should be recognized by the Academy and its voters this year.
Oustanding Writing in a Drama Series
Lost – “Through the Looking Glass” (Writers: Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse)
Taking over as full-time co-showrunners, Lindelof and Cuse were behind some great episodes this season. Nothing, however, lives up to this beautifully plotted and mind-bending finale that incorporates action, drama, romance and of course the season-ending twist that was eloquently foreshadowed throughout. It’s a great piece of script work, and deserves to be considered for an Emmy award.
Lost – “Expose” (Writers: Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz)
This is perhaps a surprising choice, as the episode was quite divisive. However, in terms of single episodes, this was a wondrous throwback to Twilight Zone storytelling with an amazing slow reveal to the buried alive conclusion. It was a tragedy and a morality tale all wrapped in one, and I think it was an achievement that the writing came together in such a sharp fashion on what could have been (And may have been, for some) a complete disaster.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – “Pilot” (Writer: Aaron Sorkin)
Say what you will about what the series became over the span of its twenty-two episodes, but this pilot is still a fast-paced rollercoaster that does a brilliant job of setting up a series with a lot of potential. It’s contrived, but so is just about everything else on television: Sorkin’s work on the pilot was his best in the series, and I think it is the show’s only chance at garnering a nomination. And, well, it kind of deserves it.
Heroes – “Company Man” (Writer: Bryan Fuller)
Rumour has it that Tim Kring might have a better chance with the series’ pilot, and if that is nominated but Company Man is not I will personally hunt down Bryan Fuller and apologize to him on behalf of the Academy. The single best piece of writing to come out of the series if not the season, Company Man shined a magnifying glass on the world of Heroes to find stories, people, development and subtle qualities I didn’t know the show had. Fuller elevated the material, without a doubt, and deserves recognition for the amazing achievement.
Battlestar Galactica – “Occupation / Precipice” (Writer: Ronald D. Moore)
As the show’s third season began, BSG turned into a post-colonial study of people being oppressed, and their only hope losing hope that they could do something about it. Having flashed forward over a year, Moore had a lot of pieces to pick up and did it well. The introduction of the resistance and its plight was real, relevant to today’s politics, and felt like the series was finding a new ground. It is almost unfortunate that they left New Caprica so soon, because the material to be mined there was very solid. And Moore knew it.
Oustanding Direction in a Drama Series
Friday Night Lights – “Pilot” (Director: Peter Berg)
Some people are turned off by the show’s handheld style, but without it I think this pilot may have been just a pedestrian football drama. So much of the show’s heart comes from our intimate location during both the football games and conversations: being able to capture that allowed his characters to grow, and Berg’s touch made sure that happened.
Lost – “Through the Looking Glass” (Director: Jack Bender)
Action sequences, drownings, a flash forward and a whole lot of drama: Jack Bender couldn’t ask for a better Emmy submission. This director, who often takes the helm on Lost as he did on Alias before it, is always given the big episodes and it always pays off: he nailed every scene of this one, without a doubt.
Heroes – “Five Years Gone” (Director: Paul Edwards)
While the episode was a bit of a writing nightmare, Paul Edwards deserves serious kudos for capturing a look just different enough for each character and for capturing the seriously odd vibe that this episode brought forward. The writers asked a lot of him, and this cinematographer (Who also handled some episodes of Lost this season) was up to the task.
The Sopranos – “Made in America” (Director: David Chase)
There will likely be multiple nominations for The Sopranos in both of these categories, but since I don’t watch the show I can’t really make those claims…except in this case. Simply for that final scene alone, I think Chase is deserving of a nomination for this episode. That took serious balls, and I think that this is an admirable quality in a television director.
Dexter – “Born Free” (Director: Michael Cuesta)
The series always had a strong visual style, don’t get me wrong, but the finale came to the table with a gorgeous sense of atmosphere. Whether it’s the sunny exterior to Dexter’s childhood home or the dark shadows of the Ice Truck Killer’s freezer, the direction helped elevate the episode from your standard finale into something that felt real and, coincidentally, final.