BarrysonnenfeldEmmy’s picks for writing and directing nominees in the series categories are kinda like a state of the craft report card every year. They’re often the category where new and innovative programs are recognized long before they crack the more prominent races.

But in a year when Emmy voters seemed to embrace new and different, the choices in the writing and directing heats seem more pedestrian, though some of this year’s contenders were so obvious (Bryan Fuller and Barry Sonnenfeld for "Pushing Daisies" Pie-lette, Matthew Weiner and Alan Taylor for the "Mad Men" pilot) as to take some of the suspense out of the race this year. Sonnenfeld (pictured left) and Taylor (pictured right) have already bagged DGA Awards for their work on these pilots.

Sonnenfeld, IMHO, can safely begin rehearsing his acceptance speech for comedy helmer. (Coming from him, it oughta be a doozy.) The competish is strong — a six-nominee category meaning that there was one tie in the nom ballotting — but nothing was quite so inventive and visually distinct as that first slice of ABC’s "Pushing Daisies."Alantaylordga

From my viewfinder, the dark horse in the race could be James Bobin of HBO’s "Flight of the Conchords." Bobin, co-creator of the series with Kiwi comedy-rockers Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, is up for the "Sally Returns" episode of "Conchord’s" 12-episode frosh season.

Dan Attias nabbed a nom for the "No Cannes Do" installment of "Entourage." Paul Lieberstein has shown that there’s no end to his talents by performing, writing and directing segs of NBC’s "The Office," and now he’s up for helming the seg "Money" Parts 1 and 2 (sounds like a James Brown hit from the early ’70s). Also nommed from "Office" is Paul Feig, for handling the season finale, "Goodbye, Toby," which happened to mark the farewell of Lieberstein’s character. Michael Engler of NBC’s "30 Rock" is up for the "Rosemary’s Baby" installment.

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