Emmy for Best Comedy Writing: Battle between ‘Catastrophe,’ ‘Master of None,’ Silicon Valley’ & ‘Veep’

Nine talented writers have been nominated for their six scripts that are contending for Best Comedy Writing at this year’s Emmy Awards. They have 39 previous Emmy nominations among them but not one win. So, somebody is going to be very happy on the evening of September 18.

Scripts from two new series on streaming networks – “Catastrophe” (Amazon) and “Master of None” (Netflix) — are nominated alongside two episodes each from veterans in this race – HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and “Veep.” Each was nominated for Best Comedy Writing in both 2014 and 2015, with “Veep” taking home the Emmy last year.

“Veep” leads all comedy contenders this year with 16 nominations. Does that make it the favorite in this category?  Not necessarily.  Over the last decade, the comedy series with the most nominations has taken this prize five times, but five times it has not.  So it’s anybody’s guess this year.

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Full disclosure:  I am an Emmy voter in the Writers Branch and will be voting in this category for the final award. When DVDs are distributed for the final vote, I will watch all the nominees back-to-back and mark my ballot.  Until then, I shall refrain from making any comments on the horserace and instead want to focus on the scripts themselves and the Emmy history of their lucky writers. That being said, here are this year’s nominees:

“Catastrophe” – “Episode 1”
Written by Rob Delaney (1st Emmy nomination) & Sharon Horgan (1st Emmy nomination)

This marks the second year in a row that Amazon has landed a nomination in this category; last year “Transparent” was its first series to garner an Emmy writing bid. Delaney and Horgan co-created the show as well as star in it as American businessman and an English schoolteacher who hook up on his business trip to London and have lots of sex without a condom in sight. Sharon’s resulting pregnancy prompts Rob to return to England to do the right thing, whatever that may be. Not exactly kids themselves, they want to learn to fall in love with each other to give the baby a proper home, but that path is not always easy or smooth. A surprisingly frank look at sex and love among the (almost) middle-aged, “Episode 1” welcomes Delaney and Horgan to the Emmy party.

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“Master of None” – “Parents”
Written by Aziz Ansari (3rd Emmy nomination) & Alan Yang (2nd Emmy nomination)

Ansari featured on the seven seasons of “Parks and Recreation” as aspiring entrepreneur Tom Haverford but was never nominated. This year, he has nabbed three nominations (Best Actor, Best Director, Best Writing) for his Netflix series “Master of None,” which he co-created with Alan Yang, who joins him in this nomination for “Parents.”  (Yang was previously nominated for producing “Parks” when it contended for Best Comedy Series in 2015.)  In “Parents,” through a series of events, Dev (Ansari) and Brian (Yang) realize just how much their immigrant parents went through to come to America to provide them both a better life that they may just be frittering away. They decide to take their folks out to a nice dinner, and while their parents are modest at first, the boys are stunned when some unexpected emotional truths are revealed.

“Silicon Valley” – “Founder Friendly”
Written by Dan O’Keefe (2nd Emmy nomination)

This marks O’Keefe’s second nomination for “Silicon Valley” — the first came last year for producing the Best Comedy Series nominee (he may be up for that award again this year but the nominated producers have yet to be named). In this third season premiere, Richard comes to terms with the fact that he has been demoted. Even though Pied Piper is his baby, it is in the hands of investors who have other plans for Richard’s grand idea.  There’s a new boss, and O’Keefe’s script widens to illustrate how the other members of Pied Piper’s original brain trust deal with that new reality.

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“Silicon Valley” – “The Uptick”
Written by Alec Berg (11th Emmy nomination)

The season three finale brings the storyline that began with “Founder Friendly” full-circle. The plight that faced Richard and his brain trust returns by a convoluted series of unexpected events, back to a place of contentment and hope that marked the 2nd season finale. “The Uptick” was written by the series’ veteran showrunner who has received multiple nominations for his work on “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm, as well as “Silicon Valley.”  Berg, like O’Keefe, might be one of the credited producers up for Best Comedy Series.

“Veep” – “Morning After”
Written by David Mandel (7th Emmy nomination)

The Season 5 premiere, written by showrunner Mandel (after the departure of series creator Armando Iannucci) has the large task of taking on the aftermath of the Electoral College tie between Selena and Bill O’Brien which all comes down to a recount in Nevada that will provide a focus for the rest of the season. Wrangling the large cast of characters is challenging. Mandel (who is also nominated for directing this episode), gives them plenty to do, including trying to twist arms in Congress to support Selena and attempting to handle the embattled and self-centered President.

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“Veep” – “Mother”
Written by Alex Gregory (6th Emmy nomination) & David Huyck (6th Emmy nomination)

This pair (who were previously nominated for their work on “Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Larry Sanders Show” and “King of the Hill”) creates a delicate balance between drama and very dark humor. Their story focuses on Selina, who is awaiting a court ruling as to a recount that could determine whether she has finally won the election but must deal instead with the inconvenient stroke suffered by her not-so-beloved mother. Public grief is not Selina’s strong suit, but the prospect that her mother’s passing could give her a “death bump” in the polls brightens her day considerably.  It’s a blackly comedic episode that marks a bit of a departure from your average episode of “Veep.”

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