Showrunners of Emmy-Nominated Comedies Discuss Submitted Episodes

Emmy Comedy Race
Courtesy of HBO/Netflix/Amazon Studios

Each Emmy nominated comedy series is asked to submit six episodes from their eligible season to serve as a sample of their work. Variety asked showrunners of each nominated series to discuss the standout elements of one of those submitted episodes.

Kenya Barris
“I don’t care about these awards. But the day they came out, just because of all the things going on [in the U.S.], I had secretly said to myself that I would love to have that episode be nominated [for writing]. I was mad at myself for even caring and I’m crazy right now for even mentioning it. I was terrified of writing that episode because I thought this would piss people off. It’s not a funny episode [because it’s about police brutality], but after it came out so many people came up to talk with me about it. I would have loved to see it be a part of the conversation and one of the things that we try to do on the show is open up dialogue. From the responses from people, I think that episode opened up a lot of dialogue.”

Alan Yang
“It’s just so personal and meaningful to us. It’s a love letter to our families and to the sacrifices that they’ve made. It’s funny, and I think it’s relatable. Whether you’re a 30-year-old Indian man or 22-year-old Asian woman, or any race or any age, I had people come up to me and say, ‘That’s the story of my Polish grandfather who immigrated in the ’30s.’ Or, ‘That’s the story of my dad who grew up in Washington state, but was really blue collar.’ It’s such a personal statement of an honest feeling we had, and that’s one of the reasons I like the episode.”

Chris Lloyd
“What we attempt to do here is to tell stories that are both funny and have a quotient of emotion in them. A surprising moment between characters where the audience may find themselves moved has kind of been our hallmark. The six episodes we submitted have really been representative of that. The season finale, which is called ‘Double-Click’ had a lot of stories going on but it was also a bit of a mini tear-jerker in Haley’s (Sarah Hyland) story. At the same time Jay (Ed O’Neil) is advising Claire (Julie Bowen) at the office, but isn’t able to double-click on a computer. That’s a little silly, but it actually led to a sweet feeling in the season finale.”

“The Uptick”
Alec Berg
“It’s the last episode of the season, so it’s always special when you feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The curse of doing episodic television is that it’s like laying track in front of a moving train. The pressure is on because you want some sort of finality and closure. And you also need to imply what the next season will entail. The challenge was, when your characters don’t succeed, you need to make sure that you’re not essentially telling the audience that they were fools for rooting for these guys because they’re idiots. So their company has crashed down around their ears, but they own the core IP, and they have a way forward.”

“Man on the Land”
Jill Soloway
“There is a scene around the campfire, [that brings up] this debate, which is underneath this question of the bathroom bills – what are people so afraid of? We try to go straight to that question and actually have the best version of the debate with all the intrinsic things that people might say when they have these conversations. My sister and I were raised at a time of the civil-rights movement and feminism, and I think my first love was the idea of movements. It would be fitting, that it would all come together for me, to come work every day knowing that we’re helping change the world.”

“Kimmy Finds Her Mom!”
Robert Carlock
“The last episode with Kimmy and her mom set up this recognition on Kimmy’s part that her issues were deeper than her experience in the bunker. We knew what kind of childhood we wanted Kimmy to have had, and we had made jokes and dropped little bread crumbs here and there about what that childhood was like — including a couple passing mentions that she liked riding roller coasters. The idea of someone who’s really into roller coasters gave the actress a lot to do and gave us a lot to write into. And it always feels satisfying when you can use what you’ve established over the course of 25 episodes to answer who this person is.”

“The Morning After”
David Mandel
“When you think about it, The whole season takes place over 10 weeks. It’s a very small amount of time. I felt like ‘The Morning After’ helped really define what the season was about, which was the resolving of the election. It set up a whole bunch of things that at the time, you didn’t necessarily know were things. Whether it was Marjorie getting hired as Selina’s ‘look-alike from behind’ bodyguard or a mention of Chinese hackers. And dare I say, I was hoping to set a tone too, so that when you watch that first episode, you know that this is still the show you like.”