Can any show beat ‘Mad Men’ for Best Drama Writing?

Mad Men” continues to dominate the race for Best Drama Writing with two nominations this year for its fourth season. Series creator Matthew Weiner has won three years in a row and is now poised to win a fourth for the episode “The Suitcase.”


In this intimate, emotional episode, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) work through the night – and right through Peggy’s birthday dinner – on an ad for Samsonite. They bicker and bond, expressing resentments and making heartfelt gestures of friendship. One of the most acclaimed episodes of the television season, it was also submitted by Hamm and Moss in the drama acting races.

In just four seasons on the air, “Mad Men” has amassed ten writing nominations, and Weiner has written or co-written all but one of those episodes: “Blowing Smoke,” the series’s second nomination this year, penned by husband and wife team Andre and Maria Jacquemetton. In it, the future of advertising firm Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce is threatened after top client Lucky Strike pulls its account. Don responds by taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times saying the firm will no longer accept tobacco clients. It’s a suspenseful episode, ending with much of the agency’s staff being laid off.

Friday Night Lights” showrunner Jason Katims contends with “Always,” the football drama’s series finale. The extended episode neatly, satisfyingly ties up the series’s major storylines – some of them five seasons in the making. Even before the opening titles, heartstrings are expertly pulled when Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) proposes to his high school sweetheart Julie Taylor (Aimee Teegarden). Meanwhile, her father Eric (Kyle Chandler) prepares his football team for the upcoming state championship. He also must make a major career decision when he and his wife Tami (Connie Britton) are offered jobs in different states. Though this warm, poignant send-off would be a worthy winner, “The Sopranos” is the only show in this category’s history to win for its finale.

The Emmy writers’ branch gravitates towards genre shows more often than most other creative fields, evidenced this year by D.B. Weiss and David Benioff‘s nomination for the medieval fantasy “Game of Thrones.” The series co-creators are cited for the penultimate episode of the first season, “Baelor.” The density of plot and multitude of characters and locations make this episode challenging for first-time viewers, but it is distinguished by a showcase scene for Peter Dinklage – who submitted this episode for Best Supporting Drama Actor consideration – as the mischievous Tyrion, in which he recalls a humiliation at the hands of his father and brother. The only other scene that feels like more than dry exposition comes at the episode’s shocking end when a major character is killed.

Weiss and Benioff adapted their teleplay from George R.R. Martin‘s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series, but the pair may have to be content with their nomination; though “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica” managed multiple nods in recent years, “The X-Files” (1996) and “The Twilight Zone” (1960, 1961) are the only genre programs ever to win this category.

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Veena Sud is also nominated for an adaptation. She created and wrote the pilot for “The Killing,” which she developed from a Danish series of the same name. The slow-burn premiere follows the search for missing Seattle teenager Rosie Larson, who at the end of the episode is revealed to have been murdered. The episode is less eventful than the other nominees, but there are powerful scenes featuring Rosie’s worried mother (Michelle Forbes). The nomination for “The Killing” was a surprise, especially after intense backlash over its unresolved finale, and even more so when you consider the omissions of Best Drama Series nominees “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Good Wife.”

But it seems unlikely that “Mad Men” will lose the award. This category is known for sweeps; before “Mad Men” took hold, “The Sopranos” won six out of its seven contests. Will “Mad Men” prove just as dominant?

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