To Jason Katims, there was something strangely appropriate about “Friday Night Lights” generating its strongest Emmy showing in its final year of eligibility.
“I feel like a Dillon Lion right now,” he said, referring to the show’s underdog high school football team that defied the odds to win a championship. “There’s definitely some symmetry between this and what happened on the show.”
Katims was among scribes and directors who woke up Thursday to Emmy-nom recognition from their peers. The longtime showrunner earned his first-ever Emmy nom for pen-ning “FNL’s” much-praised finale seg,”Always,” in addition to the show’s best drama series bid.
Cable skeins were once again dominant across the drama series writing race, with “Mad Men” nabbing multiple mentions — one for creator Matt Weiner (for “The Suitcase”) and one for Andre and Maria Jacquemetton (“Blowing Smoke.”).
Veena Sud, exec producer of “The Killing,” landed a nom for the murder mystery’s pilot seg, as did “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, for the penultimate episode of season one, “Baelor.”
Sud called the process of adapting “Killing” from its original Danish source material akin to “taking a beautiful riff from a jazz piece and creating our own song off of that.”
Seeing the show generate such a passionate fan following right out of the box was “a gift,” she added. Even the over-the-top angry reactions by some to the season-one finale were “indications of how much people cared about the show,” Sud said.
Two frosh series broke into the comedy series writing heat. Louis C.K. garnered a bid for the “Poker/Divorce” seg of his FX comedy, while David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik were recognized for the season closer of Showtime’s “Episodes.”
“Modern Family,” which won the category last year for its pilot seg, earned a spot for “Caught in the Act,” by series co-creator/exec producer Steven Levitan and Jeffrey Richman. Levitan also grabbed a helming nom for the seg “See You Next Fall.”
Two NBC vets that have been Emmy mainstays — “The Office” and “30 Rock” — are once again represented. “Office” exec producer Greg Daniels is nommed for Steve Carell’s swan-song seg, “Good-Bye Michael.” Matt Hubbard, a past winner for “30 Rock,” is in the running again, this time for the seg “Reaganing.”
Hubbard has been with “30 Rock” since its inception. Although the show reflects the singular vision of Tina Fey, it’s not hard for other writers to channel their inner Liz Lemon.
“Tina really is the guiding force of everything. She is so decisive and set the tone for the show so early,” Hubbard said. “You just listen to her and (exec producer) Robert Carlock and try to be as brilliant as they are. You never are, but you always try.”
In the comedy and drama series helming categories, “Modern Family” and “Boardwalk Empire” are the shows to beat. Competing against Levitan for “Modern Family” are Gale Mancuso (“Slow Down Your Neighbors”) and Michael Alan Spiller (“Halloween”). Martin Scorsese is up for the pilot of “Boardwalk”; his competish includes Jeremy Podeswa for the “Boardwalk” seg “Anastasia.” (Scorsese nabbed a second helming nod, shared with Kent Jones, for nonfiction programming for the PBS spesh “A Letter to Elia/Reflecting on Kazan.”)
The helmers behind the pilots for “The Killing” (Patty Jenkins) and “Game of Thrones” (Tim Van Patten) and Showtime’s “The Borgias” (Neil Jordan) are contenders on the drama side. Sitcom vet Pamela Fryman is up for “How I Met Your Mother” (“Subway Wars”), as is Beth McCarthy-Miller for last season’s live episode of “30 Rock.”
The scribe contenders for variety, music or comedy series — “The Colbert Report,” “Conan,” “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” and “Saturday Night Live” — mostly mirror the nominees in the series category, with the omission of “Real Time With Bill Maher.”
Louis C.K. scored a second writing nom, for variety, music or comedy special, for his Epix standup spesh “Hilarious.” He’ll compete against fellow standup Colin Quinn (HBO’s “Long Story Short”), as well as the teams behind last year’s Tonycast, NBC’s “Real Women of SNL” and Comedy Central’s “Night of Too Many Stars” austim fund-raiser spesh spearheaded by Robert Smigel.
While the spotlight during Emmy season tends to shine brightest on the top series and performer nominees, writers and directors enjoy the long-term benefits of a profile boost. In an ever-expanding media landscape, it’s meaningful to be one of a handful of contenders as selected by industry peers.
“Episodes” co-creator Crane has been to the Emmy dance before, but it never gets old. On Thursday, he and Klarik were up early to exult at the news of their star Matt LeBlanc earning a lead comedy actor mention.
“Then we turned to the writing section (of the noms list) to see if any of our friends were nominated, and we both had this stunned moment of looking at our names,” Crane said.
Added Klarik: “We kept looking at each other saying, ‘Are we really awake?'”