WGA TV Awards: What will they mean for Emmys?

While the Writers Guild of America Award nominations for television this year include twice as many first-time nominees as last year (be they freshman series or returning shows), two high-profile new series are conspicuously absent. 

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After being all but snubbed by the Emmys, “Empire” was shut out by the guild. It had been expected to reap a bid in the Best New Series category, which historically has embraced prime-time serial dramas. “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ugly Betty” won this award in 2005 and 2006 respectivley while “Nashville” was a nominee three years ago.

The other surprising omission in the New Series category is “Master of None.” While it is tempting to explain this snub by the fact that the laffer did not start streaming on Netflix until Nov. 4 (i.e., eight days after WGA voting opened on Oct. 27), the guild did nominate another comedy series (“Transparent”) as well as two miniseries (“Flesh and Bone” and “Saints & Strangers”) and two individual episodes (“Gayle Makin’ Bob Sled” from “Bob’s Burgers” and “International Assassin” from “The Leftovers”) that aired even later in the month. 

So, while “Master of None” may have just won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Comedy Series, it might be in trouble at the Emmys. Since the WGA created the New Series category in 2005, no freshman season has been nominated for the program prize at the Emmys without first contending in this category. The only new series snubbed by the WGA to reap a writing bid at the Emmys was “Louie” in 2011.

Although it shares some voters with the TV academy, the guild agrees with critics more than the Emmys do. Examples of this disconnect from just this year’s WGA contenders include: nominating “Broad City” (two bids from Critics’ Choice; zero Emmy nominations), dropping “Louie” after awarding it twice last season (snubbed by TCA after winning Best Comedy last year; a series record-tying six nominations at Emmys), shutting out “House of Cards” (no Critics’ Choice bids; 10 Emmy nominations), blanking “Orange is the New Black” (no Critics’ Choice bids despite the shortened eligibility period; Best Drama Series nominee at the Emmys), and not citing “Modern Family” for Best Comedy Series (ignored by Critics’ Choice; Best Comedy Series nominee at the Emmys). 

Similarly, had it been TV academy voters choosing last year’s Best Drama Episode WGA nominees, one would expect a win for “Game of Thrones” or “Mad Men.” Instead, it was a landmark episode of “The Good Wife” that took the honor. That season of “The Good Wife” had won Best Drama Series at the TCA in 2014 over, among others, “Game of Thrones”; “Mad Men” was not even nominated.

“Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men” are again up for Drama Episode this year, but the victor may well be “The Leftovers” for its series-best “International Assassin”. After all, “The Leftovers” recently set a Critics’ Choice record for most nominations for a drama season,

“The Americans” won Best Drama Series from both the Critics’ Choice and the Television Critics Assn. Awards in 2015 for the same season that the WGA has nominated. Might it follow in the footsteps of  “The Wire,” that all-time critics’ favorite which defeated both “Mad Men” and “The Sopranos” and won Best Drama Series with the WGA in 2007? 

Or will “Game of Thrones” sweeps like it did at the Emmys? The WGA created its Best Drama Series category in 2005 and its winners have included “Lost” once, “The Sopranos” once, “Mad Men” three times and “Breaking Bad” three times. The Emmys similarly awarded “Lost” once, “The Sopranos” once in that timeframe, “Mad Men” four times and “Breaking Bad” twice.

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