After any awards body announces its nominations, the question at hand immediately becomes, “What’s the big takeaway here? What insight have we gleaned from this information, be it about a larger awards race or the vibe of the industry in general?” That’s the case, at least, if awards analysis is your job. Often, it’s difficult to differentiate wheat from chaff. But that’s not the case for this year’s Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award TV nominations. Not in the slightest.
Upon the announcement of this year’s nominees, it was revealed that HBO’s “Succession” had swept the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series category, garnering mentions for five distinct episodes and directors, including Kevin Bray (“Retired Janitors of Idaho”), Mark Mylod (“All the Bells Say”), Andrij Parekh (“What It Takes”), Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman (“Lion in the Meadow”), and Lorene Scafaria (“Too Much Birthday”).
This wasn’t the first time the category has seen such dominance. “Hill Street Blues” managed it twice, once in 1981 and again in 1983, but at that time the category featured only three nominees. “The Sopranos” came close for its first season in 1999, which saw the show earn four nominations — including a win for David Chase’s direction of the pilot — but its sweep was stymied by the inclusion of “The West Wing” pilot.
Which is all to say that what “Succession” has achieved is nothing to scoff at. When it comes to rubbing historical elbows with past dramas, you could do much worse than “Hill Street Blues” and “The Sopranos.”
And while the accomplishment isn’t unprecedented — after all, “Succession” is both highly decorated and critically acclaimed — it’s not as though it has an extensive track record of success with the directors’ guild. The show’s five nominations this year brings its overall number of DGA noms to seven. In its first season, only Academy Award winning executive producer Adam McKay was nominated for his direction of the “Succession” pilot, “Celebration” at the DGA Awards. He ultimately won. But the lone DGA nomination for the series’ second season, for Mark Mylod’s work on the exquisite finale “This Is Not for Tears,” was bested by an episode of “Watchmen.”
For its first two seasons, “Succession” was a worthy contender in a dense field of competition, so what’s changed now?
The field of competition.
In its first go-round at the DGA Awards, the series was nominated alongside episodes from “The Americans,” Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Homeland,” and Netflix’s “Ozark.” For its second season, the fellow nominees were the aforementioned “Watchmen” and “Game of Thrones.” At last year’s DGA Awards, where “Succession” was ineligible, the nominees were “Homeland,” AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” and “Ozark.”
This year, almost all of those contenders are out of the picture, for one reason or another. “The Americans,” “Game of Thrones,” “Homeland,” and “Watchmen” have all ended. “Better Call Saul,” “The Mandalorian,” and “Ozark” didn’t air episodes in 2021 so were ineligible. Only “The Handmaid’s Tale” was still in contention this year.
Of course, when we’re talking about Peak TV, when one show ends, two more spring up in its place. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, “Succession” isn’t the only game in town when it comes to beloved drama series. The most obvious new contender being Netflix’s “Squid Game,” which was a runaway success for the streamer and a big player during the TV winter awards. The problem is that “Squid Game” isn’t eligible to compete at the DGA Awards, as the series is not a DGA signatory and director Hwang Dong-hyuk is not a DGA member.
It would have been great to see Hwang eligible and nominated and it would have been great to see Karyn Kusama nominated for the pilot of Showtime’s “Yellowjackets.” But at this point, “Succession” is king of the mountain and it shows no signs of giving up its throne.
Elsewhere among the DGA Awards nominations, Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” made its own splash in Comedy Series, nabbing three mentions for its second season, including MJ Delaney (“No Weddings and a Funeral”), Erica Dunton (“Rainbow”), and Sam Jones (“Beard After Hours”). Rounding out the category are Mike White for HBO’s “White Lotus” (“Mysterious Monkeys”) and Lucia Aniello for “Hacks” (“There Is No Line”). While “Ted Lasso” would seem to be the frontrunner in the category, it’s worth noting that a series with multiple nominees in the category hasn’t won since HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in 2011, in addition to the fact that Aniello won the Emmy Award for comedy direction last September for her work on “There Is No Line.”
Meanwhile, in the Limited Series category, Barry Jenkins and Amazon Prime Video’s “Underground Railroad” and Craig Zobel and HBO’s “Mare of Easttown” both earned nominations, while the category was filled out by Hiro Murai for HBO Max’s “Station Eleven” (“Wheel of Fire”), as well as Barry Levinson (“The First Bottle”) and Danny Strong (“The People vs. Purdue Pharma”) for Hulu’s “Dopesick.” In terms of what that might mean for the eventual races come Emmy season, the anthology series status for “White Lotus” means that it will be competing against “Station Eleven” and “Dopesick,” rather than in the Comedy category.
Still, their inclusion indicates the industry is watching — which is more than can be said for anything but “Succession” in Drama.
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