Emmy Awards 2016: Comedy Directing frontrunners – ‘Veep,’ ‘black-ish,’ ‘Catastrophe,’ ‘Ballers’ …

The Emmy Awards ballot for Best Comedy Directing lists a jaw-dropping 154 episodes come from 76 series. This is the first year that there will be officially six nominees. Last year’s five nominees were:

The Last Man on Earth” season 1
“Alive in Tucson” (Phil Lord & Christopher Miller)

“Louie” season 5
“Sleepover” (Louis C.K.)

Silicon Valley” season 2
“Sand Hill Shuffle” (Mike Judge)

Winner: Transparent” season 1
“Best New Girl” (Jill Soloway)

Veep” season 4
“Testimony” (Armando Iannucci)

“Louie” is on an indefinite hiatus and the category is expanding to six nominations, so there are two open slots.

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Noting what pilots are eligible is a sensible first step when considering contenders, as this category has a history of awarding the helmers of them. Five consecutive pilots won from 2004 to 2008 (“Arrested Development,” “Desperate Housewives,” “My Name is Earl,” “Ugly Betty,” “Pushing Daisies”). Surprisingly few are on the ballot this year, as several new shows — including “Baskets,” “Catastrophe” and “Master of None” —  have opted to submit later episodes instead. That strategy worked last year for “Transparent,” which forewent its pilot for its eighth episode.

Ballers” has the pilot most likely to be nominated, thanks partly to the pedigree of director Peter Berg, who was previously nominated on the drama side in 2007 for his “Friday Night Lights” pilot and more recently directed the Oscar-nominated 2013 film “Lone Survivor.”

“The Last Man on Earth” was nominated for its pilot last year, but that is no guarantee that it will be nominated for its second season. Indeed, none of the five aforementioned shows that won from 2004 to 2008 were ever nominated for Best Comedy Directing again.

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Big names are banking on a breakthrough year for “black-ish.” Although Gail Mancuso won consecutive Emmys for “Modern Family” (2013, 2014) and has already been nominated by the Directors Guild of America for her work on the eligible season of that show, she has withheld her name from being submitted for “Modern Family,” as she hopes to concentrate her support on the “black-ish” episode that she guest-directed. Similarly, although Beth McCarthy-Miller has reaped seven Emmy nominations for Tina Fey collaborations “Saturday Night Live” (1999, 2000, 2003, 2006) and “30 Rock” (2009, 2011, 2013),she has only entered her “black-ish” episode, despite being eligible for Fey’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” for which she submitted last year.

“Veep” was finally nominated in this race last year for its fourth season. Given that “Veep” won Best Comedy Series for the first time last year, the directing breakthrough might appear to be the result of the show’s soaring popularity within the TV Academy. However, last year was also the first that “Veep” submitted only a single episode for directing consideration. Previous snubs might have been the result of votes splitting between the three to four episodes submitted per season. “Veep” returned to submitting three episodes this year.

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“Silicon Valley” always limits its submissions to its two show runners. Mike Judge was nominated for directing the pilot and second season premiere and contends this year for the third season premiere. Alec Berg has submitted the penultimate episode of the third season, having been snubbed for the first and second season finales. It has been four years since a comedy received multiple directing nominations, but it used to be the norm. From 2008 through 2012 saw five consecutive years of such an occurrence. And “30 Rock” took three slots in 2009 as did “Modern Family” in 2011.

Finally, the extra nomination slot might mean that there is finally enough space for “The Big Bang Theory,” which has never been nominated by the Emmys for directing, but has been by the DGA, so it is certainly on the radar.

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Submissions from top contenders:

“Ballers” season 1
“Gaslighting” (Simon Cellan Jones)
“Heads Will Roll” (Julian Farino)
“Pilot” (Peter Berg)

“Baskets” season 1
“Picnic” (Jonathan Krisel)

“The Big Bang Theory” season 9
“The Fermentation Bifurcation” (Nikki Lorre)
“The Opening Night Excitation” (Mark Cendrowski)

“black-ish” season 2
“Any Given Saturday” (Gail Mancuso)
“Daddy Dre-Care” (Kenya Barris)
“Dr. Hell No” (Millicent Shelton)
“Hope” (Beth McCarthy-Miller)
“The Word” (Matt Sohn)

“Catastrophe” seasons 1 & 2
“Episode 3” (Ben Taylor)

“The Last Man on Earth” season 2
“Pitch Black” (John Solomon)
“Silent Night” (Jason Woliner)
“Smart and Stupid” (Payman Benz)

“Master of None” season 1
“Parents” (Aziz Ansari)

“Modern Family” season 7
“Crazy Train” (Jim Hensz)
“Double Click” (James Bagdonas)
“I Don’t Know How She Does It” (Ryan Case)
“The Party” (Steven Levitan)

“Silicon Valley” season 3
“Daily Active Users” (Alec Berg)
“Founder Friendly” (Mike Judge)

“Transparent” season 2
“The Book of Life” (Jim Frohna)
“Man on the Land” (Jill Soloway)

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” season 2
“Kimmy Finds Her Mom!” (Michael Engler)
“Kimmy Gives Up!” (Ken Whittingham)
“Kimmy Meets a Drunk Lady!” (Claire Scanlon)

“Veep” season 5
“Kissing Your Sister” (David Mandel)
“Morning After” (Chris Addison)
“Mother” (Dale Stern)

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