You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Where the gags write themselves?

Road to the Emmys 2012: The Writer

Emmy-worthy comedies originate from award-worthy scripts, at least that has been the popular thinking.

But different conclusions arguably could be drawn from the current crop of Emmy nominees. Of the six sitcoms up for best comedy series, only “Girls” could manage a writing nod — the fewest for any group of comedy finalists since Richard Nixon was president.

So why the disconnect between the two categories?

That’s a tough question to answer without getting into the heads of the 15,000 members of the TV Academy, but one writer with a theory is David Isaacs, a professor at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts with credits that include “MASH,” “Cheers” and “Frasier.” He believes the 1,400 Emmy-voting scribes don’t simply check the boxes for what’s popular, but instead have their fingers on TV’s pulse.

“The writing branch is a little more attuned to the new stuff, the hippest stuff and what feels (like a) breakthrough than the rest of the community, which tends to be a little more conservative,” he says. “Writers don’t have an exclusivity on it, but they do tend to appreciate things that are new and fresh.”

Indeed, writers were early cheerleaders for HBO’s edgy “Entourage,” giving it an Emmy nomination in 2006, a year before the rest of the Academy caught up and rewarded the pay-cable series with the first of three consecutive noms for best comedy. Scribes also were among the first to bestow Emmy nominations on “Seinfeld” (1991), “Malcolm in the Middle” (2000) and “Flight of the Conchords” (2008) — in each case, a year before those skeins received their first bids for top comedy.

This year, “Louie” and “Parks and Recreation” fit the mold that writers admire, Isaacs says.

“You know the cliche about the water cooler? Those are the shows my peers are talking about,” he says.

Both received writing nominations (“Parks and Rec” actually got two), even though they failed to draw broader support for comedy series.

Another possible reason for the writing and series categories not lining up is that quality comedies are coming from more outlets than ever, says Ross Brown, an assistant professor of film and media arts at Chapman U.

In the 1980s, when Brown was writing for “The Cosby Show” and “The Facts of Life,” there were five times when all the writing nominees also were represented in the series category. In the past 15 years, that has only happened three times.

“Back then, you were basically talking about a three-network universe, so it was going to match up more exactly because the choices were fewer,” Brown says. “But now with Fox and all of the cable shows, there’s a much larger pool of potential nominees.”

More potential nominees mean more shows for voters to consider, and that gives the ones that have the highest ratings or get the most publicity an advantage, says Tim Brooks, a TV historian and co-author of “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows.”

“You can’t watch all of them, so you tend to gravitate toward the ones that seem to be in the zeitgeist and seem to be talked about,” Brooks says. “They are evaluated separately, even by separate parts of the Academy that may not agree with each other, but they both rely a lot on familiarity and buzz.”

Road to the Emmys 2012: The Writer
Where the gags write themselves?
And the nominees are:
Drama | Comedy | Miniseries & Movies | Variety | Nonfiction

More TV

  • THE BLACKLIST -- "Katarina Rostova (#3)"

    ‘The Blacklist’ Bosses on Delivering the 'Really Intense Family Drama That We've Been Promising for Seven Years'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Katarina Rostova,” the midseason seventh season finale of “The Blacklist.” Since “The Blacklist” began it has been building towards a confrontation between Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) and her biological mother, Katarina Rostova (Laila Robbins). That promised confrontation was front-and-center in the seventh season [...]

  • REEF BREAK - "Pilot" - When

    'Reef Break' Canceled After One Season at ABC

    “Reef Break” will not be back for a second season at ABC. The series debuted back in June on the broadcaster and aired 13 episodes, with the finale airing on Sept. 13. It starred Poppy Montgomery as Cat Chambers, Ray Stevenson as Jake Elliot, Desmond Chiam as Wyatt Cole, Melissa Bonne as Ana Dumont and [...]

  • Jeff Shell

    Jeff Shell: Who Is the NBCUniversal Heir Apparent?

    Analytical, decisive, loyal, fair, empowering. Those are just a few of the choice words industry insiders who have worked with incoming NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell — set to succeed current chief exec Steve Burke, as Variety exclusively reported — use to describe the longtime media exec.  On Universal’s North Hollywood lot, many insiders who work [...]

  • Reese Witherspoon Kerry Washington Little Fires

    TV News Roundup: Hulu Reveals 'Little Fires Everywhere' Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, Hulu announces a premiere date for “Little Fires Everywhere” and Variety exclusively obtains a first look at this year’s Christmas episode of “The Simpsons.” DATES “Little Fires Everywhere” will debut March 18, Hulu announced. Produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, Kerry Washington’s Simpson Street, and ABC Signature Studios, the show [...]

  • Watchmen Regina King Tim Blake Nelson

    How 'Watchmen' Pulled Off One of the Best TV Seasons of the Decade

    The first time Damon Lindelof realized that “Watchmen” — his adaptation/remix/continuation of the groundbreaking 1986 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons — might actually be a hit was after the pilot debuted at New York Comic Con in October. In the following panel, the 46-year-old writer-producer could tell the audience was connecting with [...]

  • 9-1-1: Angela Bassett in the “Christmas

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of Dec. 2: 'The Good Doctor,' '9-1-1' Top Gainers

    “The Good Doctor” on ABC and “9-1-1” on Fox were the two biggest gainers in the Live+3 TV ratings for the week of Dec. 2. The pair benefited from the absence of NBC’s “This Is Us,” which to date has shown the largest gains across all scripted shows after three days of delayed viewing. “Good [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content