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Emmy Picks: My Choices for Outstanding Directing

Emmy submissions were released earlier this week and now even us regular, non-industry folk can still have some fun deciding what we would nominate. In that spirit, here are my Emmy picks for outstanding directing.

Comedy Series

Who should win:

Alec Berg for “Two Days of the Condor” (Silicon Valley)

This episode has the distinction of being one of the most edge-of-your-seat, anxiety-inducing sitcom episodes ever without for a second losing its humor. It’s like an action movie in spirit because of how infused with suspense and adrenaline it is, but it never devolves into straight parody, choosing a more nuanced visual language that’s consistent with the show’s usual style while still creating a uniquely extreme impact. It’s difficult to pick a favorite sequence from “Two Days of the Condor”: the scene where the team scrambles to keep their video player online even as a fire rages behind them? The high-energy sequence of Richard trying to save the day against a ticking clock? The quietly nostalgic throwback to the pilot where we get to breathe a sigh of relief before a simple, devastating blow? They’re all wonderfully executed and combine to make a truly special episodes of television.

Who else should be nominated:

Michael Schur for “One Last Ride” (Parks and Recreation)

Finales are very difficult, especially one as sprawling and full of story as this. The way each character achieved huge dreams and happiness could have easily come out overly saccharine or unearned (just look at the sloppy Glee finale for comparison), but this episode struck just the right tone. Yes, it’s deeply optimistic, but it felt honest and organic, not like rote wish-fulfillment.

Courteney Cox for “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” (Cougar Town)

This show also pulled off a beautiful finale, but in a completely different way from Parks and Recreation. The characters of Cougar Town have always been pretty happy and settled into their lives, it’s one of the qualities that has made it the ultimate feel good show. They managed to create a finale that fit that. The episode managed to momentarily make you feel Jules’s anxiety before its beautiful, quietly happy ending. The final scene of everyone standing around the kitchen talking about how this is probably what their lives will be forever hit a perfect note and one that was very refreshing.

Jay Karas for “Sabotage” (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

For the most part, this episode was stylistically the same as every Brooklyn Nine-Nine (in other words: perfectly executed), but it’s my choice for the standout episode out of the submissions because of the sequences where Jake is trapped in a van by a vengeful Geoffrey Hoytsman. They managed to harness the claustrophobia and genuine suspense for comedy without having any issues maintaining a consistent tone.

Rob Schrab for “Modern Espionage” (Community)

This was the most stylized episode of Community season 6. The spy movie homage sequences are well done, but it also had an earnestness throughout. They were always willing to undercut what was happening and bring everything back to reality, to excellent effect.

John Riggi for “Valerie is Brought to Her Knees” (The Comeback)

This was one of the most emotionally resonant episodes of The Comeback. It really makes you feel for Valerie as she tries to struggle through the awkward, embarrassing scene she has to film. The moment of relief when she’s given a bit of dignity was one of the most memorable sequences from all of this season.

Drama Series

Who should win:

Andrew McCarthy for “Low Self-Esteem City” (Orange is the New Black)

This is full of powerful, beautifully executed sequences. Although it’s infused with tension and drama when necessary, this episode has such a unique satirical, often surprisingly light-hearted tone that it could have easily earned a place amongst the best directed comedy episodes as well. It’s a true unique gem.

Who else should be nominated:

Jay Karas for “Justify the Means” (The Fosters)

Yup, one of my choices for best comedy director is also showing up amongst my choices for best drama director. The Fosters is one of the most earnest, emotional shows on TV. It really stands out from other current teen shows, which are often overly styilized at the expense of real heart. This episode exemplified those qualities. Its genuine tone makes you feel for each character.

Nestor Carbonell for “The Deal” (Bates Motel)

While some episodes of Bates Motel this season were thoroughly dark, this gave us scenes of Norma feeling like she’s actually on top for once, making the dark scenes even more powerful because of those moments when we felt like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. It kept up the tension of the season while also showing us new sides to Norma.

Lee Daniels for “Pilot” (Empire)

Few shows come right out of the gate knowing exactly what they are, but Empire flawlessly introduced its tone and its characters. It completely changed the musical genre. While it integrates original music in a similar way to Smash, it was the first show to prove you can have the spirit of music throughout a show without drawing your inspiration from Broadway. It immediately defined exactly what it was and revealed itself to be different from any TV show prior.

Gabriel Macht for “Enough is Enough” (Suits)

Some episodes of Suits‘s most recent season seemed to meander and have major issues with tone, but “Enough is Enough” was one of the episodes that really got things back on track, filling the show with tension and allowing us to take these characters seriously once again.

Jeff King for “Whack a Mole” (White Collar)

The penultimate episode of White Collar ramped up the tension and ultimately felt more like a proper goodbye than the overly complicated finale. It embodied everything that an episode of White Collar should be.

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