WGA TV Awards Script a New Batch of Comedy Contenders

It's a big day for "Ted Lasso" and "The Great," each of which scored three nominations at the WGA Awards.
The Great -- Episode 105 -  The Great is a genre bending, anti-historical ride through 18th Century Russia following the wildly comic rise of Catherine the Nothing to Catherine the Great. Catherine (Elle Fanning) and Peter (Nicholas Hoult), shown. (Photo by: Ollie Upton/Hulu)
Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult in "The Great"

You’ve heard that variety is the spice of life — and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to television awards. Increasingly, the TV awards season is shifting away from a myopic view of the medium that saw the Primetime Emmy Awards as the only arbiter of quality. By embracing a Winter TV awards season, other shows are given room to blossom, creating a wider array of contenders — all the better to represent TV’s continued boundary pushing.

All of which is to say that having the Golden Globe nominees and the Writers Guild of America nominees announced on the same day is absolutely wild.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is never afraid to blaze its own path when it comes to nominations for the Golden Globes — vacillating wildly between buzzy upstarts and movie stars with few stops in-between — while the WGA generally presents a more contemplative slate of nominees. Not perfect, but it provides a better insight into the breadth of what TV has to offer.

It’s little surprise, then, that there are not many crossover nominees between the two organizations. Take the comedy series category. At the Golden Globes, the contenders included “Emily in Paris,” “Ted Lasso,” “The Flight Attendant,” “Schitt’s Creek,” and “The Great.” At WGA the category looks more like this: “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Great,” “PEN15,” “Ted Lasso,” and “What We Do in the Shadows.”

Apple TV+ fan favorite “Ted Lasso” shows up on both lists, as does Hulu’s royal satire, “The Great,” but that’s where the overlap ends. But I don’t need to tell you how different the Globes and the WGA Awards are. So let’s pivot instead to the WGA nominees from last year.

Maybe even more exciting than the variance of nominees from organization to organization is how much a category’s slate differs from year-to-year. Now, part of that is because in Peak TV, shows are taking plenty of time to stretch their legs between seasons. For example, It’s been nearly two years since a new episode of “Barry” aired. Of course, given the extended complications for TV production in 2020, shows that were hoping to have aired an entire season by this juncture have yet to film — again, like “Barry” — meaning that there’s all the more opportunity for nominee turnover at awards shows.

Again, to look at the comedy category, last year’s contenders at the WGA Awards included the aforementioned “Barry,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “PEN15,” “Russian Doll,” and “Veep.” Only a single nominee — Hulu’s brilliant “PEN15” — reappears this year, with “Veep” ended and “Barry,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and “Russian Doll” still languishing away in TBD land, waiting to get back in the game.

Taken within the context of a calendar that, regardless of changes in the works, still ultimately marches directly into Emmy season, it suggests that “Ted Lasso” is a very real contender in the comedy categories and that just maybe “PEN15” can break through in a more significant way come summer. In drama, Amazon Prime Video’s “The Boys” nabbed a significant nomination for series, planting seeds for what might manifest throughout the rest of awards season.

But taken on their own, the WGA Awards nominees are a fresh batch of TV competitors angling to enter the conversation and boost their profile. So while we can look ahead to awards to come, it’s also nice to sit with two batches of nominees, both offbeat in their own ways, and live in this place where “Better Call Saul” and “The Crown” are the two most beloved shows on TV and “Ted Lasso” is on the verge of being an awards darling.

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