The NAACP Image Awards have nommed no fewer than five dramatic TV series (“Broadway Empire,” “The Good Wife,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Law & Order: Special Victims’ Unit” and “Treme”) and five comedy series (“The Game,” “Love That Girl!,” “Modern Family,” “Reed Between the Lines” and “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne”) as the best of 2011.
Surprisingly, only one of those series — “Treme” — is also honored with a directing nom.
Why does one episode of a TV series catch the attention of the NAACP Image Awards honchos? And not another?
The following helmers, each nommed for their work on a particular episode, offer thoughts on why they won the attention of the nominators.
Paris Barclay critiques the “Out” episode of “Sons of Anarchy” (FX Network).
“The opening first five minutes of ‘Out’ has very little dialogue,” he says. “So everything that a director does becomes more pronounced. That absence of dialogue really shows what a director can do with a camera, with performances, and how shots are framed. That episode is such an emotional roller coaster. It has weddings. It has murders. And sometimes they’re intercut. It’s a little like ‘The Godfather.’ ”
He continues: “After Jack’s back from murdering the Russian, he hugs his wife and says, ‘It’s all going to be all right.’ Emotionally, that scene is a tornado. That’s about the best that I can do.”
Everything flowed perfectly for Miguel Arteta when it came to his directing the “Monfongo” episode of “How to Make It in America” (HBO).
“The show was in a groove,” Arteta recalls. “The writing was great. The actors were excited. The cinematographer had his scenes under control.
“This is a show about moving around in New York City. Kids get together at night, sometimes by the hundreds, and go biking around the city, taking it over.”
Arteta wanted to give “Monfongo” a lot of style, showing the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, the subways.
“It has a lot of energy,” he says. “You sense the city at night and the release of being free, on a bike. It was a moment that the producers cared about, and they were willing to give me the financial backup.”
The “Do Watcha Wanna” episode of “Treme” (HBO) is about another city.
“New Orleans is a major character,” Ernest Dickerson says. “It’s full of light and it’s the light of the people. The show deals with the lives of the people who struggle to keep the soul of New Orleans alive. The city and its workings is part of what makes the show work. There isn’t any one special scene. It’s hopefully the conglomeration of all the scenes. The buildup.”
For Kevin Hooks, the “Mother’s Day” episode of “Drop Dead Diva” (Lifetime) was an effort to bring depth to what is otherwise perceived as a light show.
“There were a number of layers to that script,” Hooks points out. “It wasn’t just a straight comedy. There was some real nuance. This episode was an opportunity to get inside the head and heart of Jane/Deb’s character.”
Helmer Jay Chandrasekhar says: “There’s a goal with ‘Happy Endings’ (ABC), by my eyes, to be post-racial and post-sexual preference.” In his “The Girl With the David Tattoo” episode, Chandrasekhar got the chance to show a oft-ignored character type on TV: a wealthy African American.
“And race is not the centrally defining factor in his character,” he says. “Writers can make adjustments in how people are perceived in society by being on the front edge of social movements.”
Seith Mann’s aim with the “Get Geller” episode from “Dexter” (Showtime) was to give the audience the same jolt that he experienced upon reading the script.
“This episode revealed a major development that I did not see coming,” says Mann. “In the closed-door concept meeting, when the producers explained the contents of the unpublished script pages, I was floored. I wanted to give the audience that same experience of surprise and danger,” regarding Dexter’s sister’s discovery that he’s a serial killer.
And realness is what helmer Ken Whittingham wanted for the “Opening Night” episode of “Parenthood” (NBC).
“I wanted to keep it real,” he says. “In ‘Parenthood,’ with the dialogue, we talk over each other, like most families do. In this episode, we’ve adapted a voyeuristic style of kind of looking into this family’s life. What I brought to this show was this long lensy look, peeking into this family.”
Leonard R. Garner Jr. had to deal with three distinct story lines in his “The Set Up” episode of “Rules of Engagement” (CBS).
“Each scene was clearly representative of the character,” he states. “And it’s the type of episode, that even if you weren’t familiar with the show, each of the three stories is so character-driven that it gives good insight into the characters and the show as well.”
With the “Tell-All” episode of “NCIS” (CBS), Kevin Sullivan acknowledged the show’s brew of procedure, action and comedy.
“The job of a director in an episodic is to deliver what the show does very well in a consistent way,” he says. “You don’t come in to reinvent the wheel.”
In Sullivan’s episode, Mark Harmon and Joe Spano’s characters discover they were both married once to the same woman. And now she’s getting married for a third time. They’ve been invited to the wedding. They decide to have pizza instead.
“There’s a very tender moment, where Harmon’s character says to Spano, ‘You got a great daughter out of this.’ That scene lifted it from what had been comedic and edgy, all the way through, to something tender and smart.”
Also nommed for a NAACP TV director award is Salim Akil, who helmed the “Parachutes/Beach Chairs” episode of “The Game” (BET).
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