Will ‘The Leftovers’ be main course at the Emmys?

Although HBO’s “The Leftovers” ended its first season earlier this month, we must wait almost a year before it can contend at the Emmys. Although it was not as acclaimed as showrunner Damon Lindelof’s last show “Lost,” this series is sure to register at the Emmys. While the first four episodes yielded a score of just 65 on Metacritic, it dramatically improved over the remaining six installments.

Indeed, it may well register on many top 10 lists published at year’s end. Remember, “Orange is the New Black” only scored 79 on MetaCritic for its first six episodes, but was the second most popular show on these critics lists last year (after “Breaking Bad”). 

If it reaps a Best Drama Series bid, “The Leftovers” will have no trouble finding six top-notch episodes to submit. Despite its serialization, three of the season’s best-received installments were self-contained: “Two Boats and a Helicopter” and “Guest” were hyper-focused character studies while “The Garveys at Their Best” took place entirely in flashback. Other submissions could be the entirely accessible “Pilot” and late-season highlights “Cairo” and “The Prodigal Son Returns.”

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Two episodes stand out as Best Directing submissions. The directors’ branch has consistently demonstrated a fondness for pilots as they establish the look of a show that resonates in later episodes by other directors. So, Peter Berg‘s direction of the first episode of “The Leftovers” would make a wise submission, especially as he  was a nominee for the pilot of “Friday Night Lights.” The other big directing showcase was the season finale “The Prodigal Son Returns,” which featured a rare action sequence for the show, complete with a riot and a catastrophic fire. Mimi Leder, who was the second and most recent woman to have won Drama Directing (1995, “ER”), handled the helming.

Although submitting the pilot is almost always the smart choice for directing, it can be savvier on the writing side to go with other episodes. While the first seasons for “Game of Thrones” and “Silicon Valley” reaped directing bids for their pilots, they got writing nominations for more acclaimed episodes from later in their seasons. While Lindelof and Tom Perrotta could enter both the pilot and the season’s high water mark “The Prodigal Son Returns,”  it would be wise to strategically concentrate support and avoid vote-splitting, which is more of a factor for writing than directing. Lindelof lost all five of his races for “Lost.” 

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Like “Lost,” “The Leftovers” is a contemporary-set drama about everyday people, with supernatural elements and occasional flashbacks, so it may prove formidable in those same Creative Arts categories that “Lost” once dominated such as Picture Editing (two wins from seven nominations) and Sound Mixing (one win from five nominations).

And HBO dramas with large ensemble casts of have done well in Casting, even when they do not score many major nominations, as “True Blood,” “Big Love” and “Carnivàle” proved. And another good bet is a nomination for the main title sequence scored by series composer Max Richter that depicts the series’ rapture-like inciting incident as an eerie fresco.

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