Emmys Watch: Martin Scorsese vs. Frank Darabont for Best Drama Director

The Drama Series Directing race isn’t usually one of the most buzzed-about at the Emmy Awards. Raise your hand if you can name the winner of last year’s trophy; it was “Dexter” helmer Steve Shill. While the Oscars consider the directing award one of their top prizes — usually positioning the category late in the evening alongside Best Picture — the Emmys have always treated helmers as an afterthought. Several years back, the TV academy was even considering moving all of the writing and directing categories off of the primetime show.

If that idea had come to fruition, the upcoming contest, which may include Oscar favorites Martin Scorsese and Frank Darabont, would have been consigned to the creative arts ceremony alongside such categories as Outstanding Choreography and Main Title Design. With these two movie titans in the hunt for the top TV award this season, the directing race could get a starring role.

Over the decades, Martin Scorsese has contended for eight Academy Awards (six for directing and two for writing). While his sole victory came for helming Best Picture champ “The Departed” (2006), most pundits believe he should have won as well for directing “Raging Bull” (1980) and “Goodfellas” (1990).

With HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” Scorsese and his team recreated Depression era Atlantic City. In February, he prevailed with the Directors Guild of America for the pilot episode of this crime drama series. And he would be the clear frontrunner to repeat at the Emmys, if it weren’t for those pesky zombies.

Frank Darabont has three Oscar bids to his name, but only as a writer and producer. While two of the films he helmed were Best Picture nominees — “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994) and “The Green Mile” (1999) —  as a director, Darabont was snubbed. His breathtaking vision for the pilot of “The Walking Dead,” in which he followed the main character through the terrifying aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, earned Darabont a DGA bid and he is likely to be nominated for the Emmy as well.

Who will have the misfortune of going up against Scorsese and Darabont? ?? The Golden Globes fail to recognize TV directors (what’s up with that anyway?) but the DGA race included two other likely nominees: Allen Coulter for the “Boardwalk Empire” episode “Paris Green” and Jennifer Getzinger for the “Mad Men” episode “The Suitcase.” Rounding out the DGA list was Jack Bender, who helmed the epic “Lost” finale; he competed at last year’s Emmy ceremony.

Steve Shill could contend once again for “Dexter” while Matthew Weiner could reap his first directing bid for the season finale of “Mad Men.” Also in the mix: Neil Jordan for the pilot of “The Borgias,” Tim Van Patten for the pilot of “Game of Thrones,” Patty Jenkins for the pilot of “The Killing” and Michael Waxman for the emotional series finale of “Friday Night Lights.”

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