Writers Guild TV Winners: ‘Mr. Robot,’ ‘Better Call Saul’ Gain Steam in Emmy Race

Mr. Robot” and “Better Call Saul” have gained important endorsements going into Emmy season by winning key votes from the scribe tribe.

USA’s “Mr. Robot” prevailed at the Writers Guild Awards in the race for best series, topping “Better Call Saul” (which premiered last year after the eligibility window for the 2015 WGA kudos). But AMC’s “Saul” won the episodic drama category over stiff competition from “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men,” “The Good Wife,” “Narcos” and “The Leftovers.”

“Mr. Robot” already has plenty of momentum coming off of its Golden Globe award for best drama series, among other kudos. But the guild vote codifies its standing as an influential series in the creative community. And the fact that “Mr. Robot” creator/showrunner Sam Esmail was on hand to accept the statuette at the WGA East ceremony at the Edison Ballroom in Midtown Manhattan, rather than at the WGA West gathering in Century City, underscores the prominence of New York as a production hub amid the incredible boom in scripted series.

“Saul’s” win in the episodic category, for the episode “Uno” penned by series co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, signals that writers see it as a worthy successor to its predecessor, “Breaking Bad.” “Breaking Bad” was such a WGA darling during its run that in 2013 it grabbed no less than four of the six slots in the episodic drama race.

On the series side, writers gave a final-season farewell nod to AMC’s “Mad Men” rather than a second kudo for “Mr. Robot,” or a nod to a show that is widely seen as overlooked when it comes to awards hardware, FX’s “The Americans.”

The comedy series win went to another seasoned campaigner, HBO’s “Veep,” rather than the newer shows that were also up in the category. That list included HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” which won the episodic comedy category for episode “Sand Hill Shuffle” by Clay Tarver; Amazon’s “Transparent,” Comedy Central’s “Broad City” and Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

The WGA’s long-form TV winners were both predictable and unpredictable. “Fargo” took the adapted win, edging out the widely praised HBO miniseries “Show Me a Hero,” by writer’s-writers David Simon and William Zorzi. Simon and Zorzi were even singled out earlier in the Writers Guild of America East ceremony as “inspirations” by Tom McCarthy as he collected his win for original screenplay for “Spotlight.”

The long-form TV original prize went to the low-profile historical miniseries “Saints and Sinners,” which aired on National Geographic Channel.

On the talk-variety front, HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” scored its first win for comedy-variety talk series after 10 nominations. Comedy Central’s “Inside Amy Schumer” was rewarded for its inventiveness with the sketch comedy win over Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele” and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” For comedy-variety special, Jimmy Kimmel’s 10th annual “After the Oscars Special” logged a surprising win over the cavalcade of stars who turned out for “Saturday Night Live’s” 40th anniversary telecast last year.

Another honoree at the WGA East ceremony brought a unique perspective on the nature of working as a writer. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., received the guild’s Evelyn F. Burkey Award, which recognizes those who bring “honor and dignity” to writers.

Franken, an original member of the “Saturday Night Live” writing staff, spoke of his pride in serving in elected office since 2008 and the satisfaction of being able to make an impact in the lives of everyday people by championing legislation on everything from health care to net neutrality. He called himself a “proud warrior” fighting media consolidation, and he touted his stance as the lone voice in the Senate actively opposing the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.

But Franken admitted that at times he misses the “camaraderie” that comes with working on a TV show. “There’s nothing more fun than writing comedy with really hilarious people. That doesn’t happen in the U.S. Senate,” Franken said. “I miss you. Who knows, someday I may be back.”

(Pictured: Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould)

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • Peter Weber and Mike Johnson

    'The Bachelor's' Mike Johnson on Diversity and New Leading Man Peter Weber

    ABC named its newest star of “The Bachelor” this week, officially making Peter Weber the leading man for Season 24 of the long-running dating show. Social media backlash ensued following the announcement due to ABC’s selection lacking diversity, yet again. Since the dating franchise began in 2002, there has been only one “Bachelorette” of color [...]

  • ABC Studios Logo

    ABC Studios Head of Alternative Fernando Hernandez Exits

    ABC Studios’ head of alternative Fernando Hernandez has departed from his post at the Disney-owned television studio, a source familiar with the situation told Variety. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news. Hernandez’s exit follows an executive shuffling at the top in recent months that has included the departure of Amy Hartwick, ABC Studio’s head [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

  • TV Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville'

    TV News Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville' Role in 'Arrowverse' Crossover

    In today’s TV news roundup, Erica Durance reprises her “Smallville” role in the CW’s annual “Arrowverse” crossover, and Showtime shares with Variety an exclusive sneak peek at the return of “The Circus.” FIRST LOOKS “2020 is the most important election of our lifetime,” Alex Wagner says in a new trailer for the fourth season of [...]

  • Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel WME

    Endeavor Targets Sept. 27 for Stock Debut, IPO Video Tells Company's Origin Story

    After years of preparation, Endeavor is set to make its formal Wall Street debut on Sept. 27, when its stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Endeavor has targeted Sept. 26 for the final pricing of its shares. The stock will trade publicly the following day. Earlier this week, Endeavor said its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content