The first thing done on any show is the writing. Before directors are attached or actors can perform scenes, the episodes of the series have to be written to provide the map of where the show is going, the dialogue to be spoken, the actions to be taken. At the Emmys, only six are chosen each year to be nominated in the Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series category, making it a steep hill to climb to get nominated. This year, there are 104 submissions in the category from 71 different comedy series that have come on in the past year.
Amongst these new and returning shows are some newcomers to the Emmys and some returning talent in the category. Some shows have elected to only submit one episode, while others have opted to submit five or six episodes to try to create more possibility of being nominated. In the cases where only one episode is submitted, it’s common to see finales and pilots being submitted. For new shows, it’s almost a guarantee that the show will submit the pilot in the writing category, submitting an episode that encapsulates what their show is going to be. These pilots usually have some of the strongest writing in the season as it’s designed to hook audiences and capture attention. Finales are also good episodes for submissions as they usually also feature strong writing. This isn’t the case for all shows, necessarily, it’s just a route that some series opt towards.
Let’s begin by looking at some shows that have episodes that might be considered “locks” when looking at nomination day. Ted Lasso, Apple TV+’s breakout comedy from last fall about a folksy American football coach being hired to coach a British football team, has submitted two episodes from its first season for consideration. These include episode 1, “Pilot”, and episode 7, “Make Rebecca Great Again”, both very strong episodes. Both of these episodes could end up being nominated, as it’s not uncommon for at least one show a year to receive more than one nomination in this category. Last year, What We Do in the Shadows took three spots out of the seven that were nominated. The year before, Russian Doll took two spots of its own for its first season. These are just examples from the past couple of years, but plenty of evidence that the Television Academy isn’t afraid to show lots of love to one show.
Another series submitting two episodes is Hulu’s Pen15, which has submitted episodes 3 (“Vendy Wiccany”) and 6 (“Play”) for consideration; the former episode revolves around the girls thinking they can solve their problems with magic while the latter handles the school play being cast. Pen15 has been nominated in this category before for a season one episode back in 2019 and they look to repeat that nomination with the first half of season two (which consisted of seven episodes). The show stands a good chance of being able to have at least one of these episodes nominated, if not both. Joining Ted Lasso and Pen15 with two submissions this year is Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, NBC’s gone-too-soon musical comedy that follows the titular Zoey as she deals with life and grief while hearing the “heart-songs” of others, allowing her to know their innermost thoughts through song. NBC has submitted episodes 6 (“Zoey’s Extraordinary Reckoning”) and 13 (“Zoey’s Extraordinary Goodbye”) for consideration. Out of the two, the latter seems to have a better chance at gaining the nomination, it being the finale of a great second season that ends with a twist meant to set up a third. It’s doubtful that both episodes would be nominated since the show didn’t gain any Emmy nominations for its first season.
Now time to look at some shows that only submitted one episode each in this category. Hacks, the HBO Max comedy that just ended its first season in early June, has submitted only the pilot from its premiere season. While there are certainly other episodes that would have been viable options to also submit alongside the pilot (especially that killer finale), it’s a smart choice: voters won’t have to decide between episodes and the series will very likely gain a nomination in this category. Another HBO Max comedy going the same route is the Kaley Cuoco-starring The Flight Attendant, which has been submitted in this category with its pilot, “In Case of Emergency.” The pilot follows a flight attendant as she goes for a night out, then awakens in the morning with a dead man beside her with no knowledge of what transpired the night before. It’s a dark comedy, to be sure, but a comedy nonetheless, and will likely get noticed and nominated in this category. HBO has also submitted genera+ion’s pilot for consideration in this category.
HBO won’t be the only one choosing one episode from a season to submit. Netflix will follow suit by only submitting episode 4 of Master of None’s third season, “Moments in Love: Chapter Four”, for consideration. While only submitting one episode from the third season, Master of None has won twice before in this category, one for its first season in 2016 for the episode “Parents” and one for its second season in 2017 for the episode “Thanksgiving.” Being a previous winner in the category does hold some weight here, perhaps propelling the show to receive another nomination in the category. Netflix will also submit one episode per show for Big Mouth, Emily in Paris and Cobra Kai. Will the strategy pay off for any of these shows? Peacock and Apple+ will also do the same for some of their own shows. Peacock will be submitting the pilot episodes for both Girls5Eva and Rutherford Falls, both of which could be considered longshots for the category. Perhaps having Tina Fey’s name on the show will draw a little bit more notice for Girls5Eva, but it’s to be seen whether or not that will have any effect on nominations.
There are shows that submit one episode, then there are shows that submit several episodes from their current season in the hopes of getting nominated. This year is no different, with a couple of shows submitting at least three or more episodes from their season. Apple TV+’s Mythic Quest is one such show, submitting four episodes from the second season (and one pre-season special that aired about a few weeks before the season premiered). Out of these four episodes, the pre-season special “Everlight”, about the team returning to the office from quarantine for their annual Everlight party, has the best chance of being nominated. It’s a standout episode of the show that showcases humor and hilarity in one episode, quintessential Mythic Quest. FX’s Archer has submitted five episodes from its eleventh season, the Emmy-winning series attempting to break into the category for the first time in the show’s history. It’s unlikely that this will be their year, though, with so much competition going into just the nominations.
With all of these shows submitted anywhere from one to six episodes, this category is as unpredictable as ever this year. There will be some left out, there are sure to be surprises. It’s the Emmys!
My predictions for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series:
- “Pilot” – Ted Lasso
- “Make Rebecca Great Again” – Ted Lasso
- “There is No Line (Pilot)” – Hacks
- “Vendy Wiccany” – Pen15
- “In Case of Emergency (Pilot)” – The Flight Attendant
- “Play” – Pen15
Then: “Everlight”, Mythic Quest; “Moments in Love: Chapter Four”, Master of None; “Zoey’s Extraordinary Goodbye”, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist; “Let’s Meet”, Made for Love; “Why is No One Ready?”, Special; “Chapter 17: In All The Old Familiar Places”, The Kominsky Method
The nominations for the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards are Tuesday, July 13, 2021.
Photo courtesy of Hulu