Inside the WGA Award Nominations

The WGA Awards announced their 2010 TV nominees yesterday, and the list has a few entries that comedy fans will find surprising. The heavy hitters that you’d expect – 30 Rock, The Office, and Modern Family – are all well represented, but beyond that there’s a seemingly random mix of nominations in all of the comedy-related categories.

Note that the WGA awards, unlike the Emmys or the Golden Globes, focus on the calendar year rather than the most recent completed TV season.

AWARD: Best Comedy Series

NOMINEES: 30 Rock (NBC), Glee (Fox), Modern Family (ABC), Nurse Jackie (Showtime), The Office (NBC)

There’s no arguing that 30 Rock and Modern Family had strong years, but the rest of the nominees are rather dubious, especially considering that 2010 brought us so much great television comedy. Although The Office has for years been one of TV’s best comedies and the flagship show on NBC’s spectacular Thursday night lineup, the past year saw a slip in quality, mostly caused by shoddy plotting. In 2010, the show delved into questionable story arcs that failed to achieve the comedic success of the show’s early days. The writers’ attempt to recreate Jim and Pam magic with a tedious relationship between Andy and Erin fell flat, and an unnecessary shift in power with Jim and Michael working as co-managers was a misstep the writers quickly backpedaled out of, getting very little comedic mileage from the plotline.

The Office has seen better days, but it’s still a cut above Nurse Jackie and Glee. Does anyone really watch Glee for the writing? The songs, the performances, and the choreography are what draw fans to the show, I doubt any fans consider the writing a strong point. The fact remains that most comedies are more deserving than these two. Parks and Recreation, Community, Eastbound and Down, and Louie are four writer-driven shows with vastly different styles and tones that contributed to 2010 hosting the most diverse comedic television landscape in years, and each show is more deserving of a nomination than Glee.

AWARD: Episodic comedy

NOMINEES: “Anna Howard Shaw Day” (30 Rock – NBC), “Earthquake” (Modern Family - ABC), “Nightmayor” (The Sarah Silverman Program – Comedy Central), “Starry Night” (Modern Family – ABC), “When It Rains, It Pours” (30 Rock – NBC), “” (The Office – NBC)

What a mess. The real surprise here is the inclusion of The Sarah Silverman Program. Kudos to the WGA for recognizing a cable comedy besides the hilarious Nurse Jackie, but I can’t help from wondering why this particular Sarah Silverman episode is considered better than dozens of more deserving episodes of better shows.

The Modern Family episodes are both high points in an amazing year, and “When It Rains, It Pours” is 30 Rock at its best; but “” and “Anna Howard Shaw Day” seem as if they were picked at random. Maybe the WGA has secretly done away with voting and opted for a new system in which the names of every single comedy episode from the year are written down on tiny slips of paper and drawn from a magic hat.

AWARD: Comedy/Variety (including talk)

NOMINEES: Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (Showtime), Saturday Night Live (NBC), The Colbert Report (Comedy Central), The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)

The thing that surprised me most here is that Penn & Teller’s show is still on the air. I call “bullshit.” Also shocking is that Conan O’Brien was snubbed, considering all the media coverage and goodwill bestowed upon him surrounding the destruction of his Tonight Show. The sheer outlandishness of the situation, Conan’s constant pot-shots at his soon-to-be former network, and an unrelenting parade of A-list guests showing their support led to Conan’s final shows being the year’s most compelling viewing in the variety/talk genre (and television in general). The WGA couldn’t cough up a measly fifth nomination for this? The sense of impending doom infused the final shows with a manic energy as Conan’s writers gleaned every possible joke they could from their show’s unfortunate circumstances. This was to late night TV what the 2000 presidential election was to politics, with Conan as Gore and Jay Leno as Bush.

All in all, this was a strong year for writing in TV comedy, and some of that work was recognized here. Although it’s granted that Hollywood awards shows are more about politics than actually recognizing good work, and the winning of awards doesn’t actually make the shows themselves any better; it’s still important to pay attention to who these prizes are being handed out to, even if the choices often seem absurdly unfair. Still, I defy anyone to tell me that Glee is better written than every one of these shows the WGA voters snubbed this year: Community, Parks and Recreation, Eastbound and Down, Bored to Death, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Louie, The League, Party Down, and Delocated. This is a group of shows so varied that any discerning comedy fan would at least prefer one, if not more, over Glee.

The 2011 Writers Guild Awards will be held on February 5, 2011, in L.A. and New York, but you shouldn’t care because of how lackluster their list of nominees is.

Bradford Evans is a vindictive comedy writer from L.A., taking his career frustrations out on the WGA Awards for not nominating him, despite the fact that he didn’t actually write anything that was produced this year.

Inside the WGA Award Nominations