HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” surprised everyone last year by winning Best Drama Directing at the Primetime Emmys for the second year in a row. After all, no drama had repeated in the category since NBC’s “The West Wing” (which won in 2000, 2001, and 2003), and director Tim Van Patten had seven prior Emmy directing nominations without a win.
This year, “Boardwalk Empire” is no longer nominated for Best Drama Series or Best Drama Actor, but it returns to the directing race and Gold Derby could be underestimating it again: our experts and users have it ranked in fifth place, behind “Breaking Bad,” “Homeland,” and “Downton Abbey,” three series it upset last year and is once again nominated against this year. Editors have it ranked third, which lifts it to fourth place in our overall odds.
Executive producer Van Patten is again the nominee for the period crime drama, contending for the season finale, “Margate Sands,” which ends in the death of a major character, just like last year’s winning episode. Having also been recognized as a producer and writer of various HBO programs, Van Patten has accumulated 13 career nominations; he is a two-time winner.
The “House of Cards” pilot, titled “Chapter 1,” marks the first directing nomination for online streaming service Netflix and the first Emmy nod for executive producer David Fincher, a two-time Academy Award nominee. The prestige of his film work may earn him many votes on name alone, the same way legendary director Martin Scorsese was able to win just two years ago for “Boardwalk Empire” over nominees with greater experience in television.
“House of Cards” unites Fincher with a slew of other Academy Award nominees and winners, including executive producer Dana Brunetti, screenwriter Beau Willimon, lead actor Kevin Spacey, and editor Kirk Baxter. The frontrunner according to our experts, editors, and users, with about twice the support of his closest competitor, Fincher is the only nominee in the category not scheduled to direct an episode of his series for the 2013-2014 season, so he is likely to be ineligible in this race next year. “Chapter 1” contends in a total of seven Emmy categories, making it the most-nominated drama episode this year.
“Breaking Bad” won the Directors Guild Award earlier this year for “Fifty-One,” but voters have bypassed that episode in favor of the AMC drama’s mid-season finale, titled “Gliding Over All” and directed by Michelle MacLaren. The episode is most notable as a directorial effort for two montages: the first depicting eight gruesome prison murders committed simultaneously, and the second a four-minute, intricately shot and edited sequence in which time lapses three months accompanied by the 1969 song “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells. MacLaren was nominated in this category in 2010, while creator/executive producer Vince Gilligan represented the series in this category in 2008 and 2012. MacLaren has earned three other nominations as an executive producer of “Breaking Bad.”
Oscar nominee Lesli Linka Glatter (she received a bid in 1985 for directing a live-action short) recently signed on as the new in-house producing director for Showtime’s “Homeland” following the departure of executive producer Michael Cuesta, who was nominated in this category last year for the spy drama’s pilot. This year, Glatter contends for “Q&A,” her first directing credit for the series; she has one prior Emmy nomination, for directing AMC’s “Mad Men” in 2010. “Q&A” is a performance-driven episode centered on an interrogation and eventual confession in a secluded location and has been submitted for acting consideration by lead actor Damian Lewis, lead actress Claire Danes, and guest actor Rupert Friend. It ranks third overall from the aggregate predictions of Gold Derby’s experts, editors, and users.
British import “Downton Abbey” won Best Movie/Miniseries Directing two years ago, and has been nominated both years since as a drama. This year, guest director Jeremy Webb has scored his first Emmy bid, for “Episode 3.04,” which features the first death of an original core character: youngest daughter Sybil, who loses her life in childbirth. “Downton Abbey” has fewer nominations this year than last, which may be why Gold Derby considers it such a longshot to win: our predictors rank it last.