Critics’ favorites like “The Americans,” “Better Call Saul,” and “One Mississippi” all landed nods as The Writers Guild of America chimed in on Monday with their best of the year picks, via nominations for the 2017 WGA Awards. Populist choices like “Game of Thrones,” “Stranger Things,” and “This Is Us” were recognized as well.
But as is the case with all exclusive lists, there were plenty of magnificent shows that didn’t make the cut; shows as deserving, if not more so, than a few of the “strange” selections honored by the WGA.
So, in order to pay our respects and not bitch about “snubs” in the process (well, we have to a little bit), here are a few top tier scripts that surely would’ve made the cut had the number of nominees per category been expanded. We’re not advocating for more, so much as making sure no one’s feelings are hurt. Well, not no one. But fewer.
WGA Nominees for Best Drama Series: “The Americans,” “Better Call Saul,” “Game Of Thrones,” “Stranger Things,” “Westworld”
WGA Nominees for Best Episodic Drama: “Better Call Saul” (“Gloves Off,” “Klick,” and “Switch”), “Shameless” (“I Am a Storm”), “This Is Us” (“The Trip”), “Game of Thrones” (“The Winds of Winter”)
- “Rectify” (Season 4, Episode 1 – “A House Divided”)
- “Horace and Pete” (Season 1, Episode “#1.3”)
- “Bloodline” (Season 2, Episode 9 “Part 22”)
- “The Path” (Season 1, Episode 10 “The Miracle”)
- “The Get Down” (Season 1, Episode 1 “Where There Is Ruin, There Is Hope For a Treasure”)
Pardon me one moment of astonishment: What in the world are “Stranger Things” and “This Is Us” doing here? No matter how infatuated you are with Netflix’s ’80s homage to various cinematic entries of the era (which snagged nods for Best Drama Series and Best New Series) or NBC’s breakout family drama (New Series and Episodic Drama for “The Trip”), their strengths lie in areas beyond writing. Acting, cinematography, and production design are all crafts in which the Duffer Brothers’ hit series deserves recognition, but the story itself has been pieced together to pay homage to past hits. “This Is Us” features a number of strong performances, but its twist-driven structure isn’t admirable enough to honor on this level, nor has its straightforward storytelling proven stirring enough to merit viewership on its own.
Neither entry is as fresh as the Netflix dramas “Bloodline” and “House of Cards,” both of which saw creative resurgences in their latest seasons, nor can the two popular dramas compete on an episodic basis with virtually any episode of “The Americans” Season 4 (“The Magic of David Copperfield”? Hello?!). But their inclusion speaks to a larger problem facing the WGA nominations list (and award shows in general): It’s turning into a popularity contest.
Despite earning an episodic nomination two years ago, “Rectify” — one of the most beautifully constructed and distinctively paced TV series of the last decade, if not longer — has failed to break through with the WGA as consistently as it deserves. Considering the critical praise heaped upon it, there’s no questioning its quality. So why was “Rectify” ignored, again, after being cut out last year, too?
The logical answer lies in viewership. The SundanceTV drama has never broken out beyond its small group of devoted followers, and thus can’t tally the necessary majority of votes to be a perennial contender. Similarly, first-year shows like “The Get Down,” “The Path,” and “Horace and Pete” all feature specific writing challenges handled with the utmost confidence and carried through to exquisite execution. But none earned a single nomination.
Exclusions like these indicate it, at least, seems possible the WGA just didn’t get around to watching some of the year’s best TV. Instead, its member body got sucked into cultural phenomena like “Stranger Things,” “Game of Thrones,” and “Westworld.”
WGA Nominees for Best Comedy Series: “Atlanta,” “Silicon Valley,” “Transparent,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Veep”
WGA Nominees for Best Episodic Comedy: “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (“Kimmy Finds Her Mom!” and “Kimmy Goes on a Playdate!”), “One Mississippi” (“Pilot”), “Speechless” (“R-A-Y-C-Ray-Cation”), “Atlanta” (“Streets on Lock”), “Son of Zorn” (“A Taste of Zephyria”).
- “You’re the Worst” (Season 3, Episode 5 “Twenty-Two”)
- “Fleabag” (Season 1, Episode 6 “#1.6”)
- “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (Season 11, Episode 6 “Being Frank”)
- “Casual” (Season 2, Episode 13 “The Great Unknown”)
- “Better Things” (Season 1, Episode 10, “Only Women Bleed”)
That “Atlanta” replacing “Broad City” was the only change in Comedy Series nominees from a year ago speaks to the cultural cachet of Donald Glover’s A-list comedy. It’s certainly deserving of the slot, as are the rest of the nominees, so discussing the excluded-but-equal entries that could be here can be a lot less hostile.
Is it incomprehensible to me that “You’re the Worst” still has no WGA nods? Yes, and the FXX comedy could also suffer from a lack of eyeballs, just as the aforementioned dramas likely did. This season’s Edgar-centric episode, “Twenty-Two,” is one of the year’s best and deserves the utmost respect for transitioning from comedy to drama without betraying the soul of the series (an evolution aided by subtle set-up in the episodes leading up to it, which speaks to the show’s exquisite construction overall).
Amazon’s “Fleabag” toed the line separating laughs and tears equally well, marking a considerable step forward for half-hour storytelling aimed at the gray area between genres. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” bravely entered Danny DeVito’s mind in “Being Frank,” an episode that appears to be about the first person POV, but actually unveils more than expected about the titular character. “Casual” marked a strong season with an emotionally complex finale (“The Great Unknown”) that tied together the season’s three big arcs in immensely satisfying fashion. And “Better Things,” which earned a New Series nod, could very well have replaced “Atlanta” as one of the best comedy series or “One Mississippi” in the episodic category (not that we want them out).
Even with all these exclusions, there is some satisfaction in seeing a short list. When the WGA Awards ceremony takes place February 19 (with host Patton Oswalt), everyone denied an invite can revel in the fact that “BoJack Horseman” landed two episodic nominations. I think we can all agree that’s one show — and one helluva season — worth taking up a little extra space.