Is ‘Testimony’ episode key to ‘Veep’ finally beating ‘Modern Family’ at Emmys?

Veep” has contended for Best Comedy Series at the Emmys for each of its first three seasons but has been bested by “Modern Family” each time. While that ABC laffer has won five times in a row, could HBO’s political satire keep it from breaking the record it shares with “Frasier” ths year? According to our official racetrack odds — compiled from the predictions of industry Experts, our in-house Editors, the Top 24 Users (those two dozen folks who did the best forecasting last year’s nominations) and All Users — this race is a close one with “Modern Family” just ahead at 4/1 versus 5/1 for “Veep.” 

With each successive season, “Veep” has earned more Emmy nominations (three then five then nine). Besides that trio of Best Comedy Series bids, star Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won Best Comedy Actress for three years running (and is tipped to win again this year). In its first year (2012), its only other nomination was Casting; it has contended for this prize twice more. In 2013, Tony Hale won Comedy Supporting Actor while Anna Chlumsky was nominated for Comedy Supporting Actress. Both returned to those races last year and each is expected to be back in the running again this year. Last year, Gary Cole reaped a Comedy Guest Actor bid. And the show picked up its first Comedy Writing nomination as well as Art Direction and Sound Mixing. 

However, “Veep” has never contended in the key category of Comedy Directing. “Modern Family” lost that race in its first year (2010) to another freshman laffer, “Glee,” but its helmers have prevailed for the last four years in a row. This year, “Modern Family” has submitted five episodes while “Veep” is shrewdly entering only one, “Testimony,” in this race to avoid splitting the vote.

This ninth of 10 episodes — in which the staff appeared before a Congressional committee — was the only one directed by series creator Armando Iannucci who co-wrote it with Sean Gray and Will Smith. “Veep” featured players Timothy Simons and Matt Walsh spoke exclusively to us about how Iannucci, who is stepping down as showrunner, put together this innovative episodeand the process involved in making it one of the memorable TV moments of the year. (Watch their interviews below.)

As Simons says, “We shot essentially that entire episode in one day. On average a show would do between six and 10 pages a day, depending on how quickly that show moves. Fifty-four is generally unheard of and so it was an insane day.” He explains, “Armando set it up that we shot everything in order. Every deposition we saw were shot in order chronologically.”

Walsh notes, “because it was all pretty much like C-Span set up, we had six cameras set up and the cameramen were dressed so they could be seen on camera like they were congressional aids or something.” And, he adds, “It was kind of like a reality show. we were kept in the dark about pretty much every other scene in that episode. We never saw that script outside of the depositions and hearings that we were in. We weren’t allowed on the set, we didn’t know how many people in the room or who the scene would go. it kind of played out like a real cross examination from congressmen.”

Simons explains, “Armando wanted that feeling of our nervousness of the situation in general and our lack of familiarity, and he didn’t want us to understand how the room sounded and microphone sound and stuff like that.” 

For Walsh, being a founding member of the Upright Citizen’s Brigade proved helpful as “you were basically thrown in the water without a life preserver so you were sort of improvising around the scene and moments happened where they were gonna just keep rolling. Being an improviser helped me in that moment and it was really fun.”

For Simons, the experience was “one that i found really rewarding and really fun despite the fact it was a little bit scary at some points.” And Walsh admits, “it was really cool actually and I had no idea how it was going to turn out or what other scene were in that show.” 

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