Emmys 2012: The Wacky Writers Races

2012-29 FEA Emmys Amy Poehler H

Poehler, along with co-writer Mike Schur, is nominated for her work on "Parks and Recreation," which failed to snag a nomination for best comedy series.

How can shows like "Parks and Recreation," "Louie" and "Community" earn writing nominations but get snubbed in the series category?

This story first appeared in the Aug. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Among the many shocks foisted upon sleepy journalists Emmy nomination morning was the odd revelation that only one show nominated for outstanding comedy series -- HBO's Girls -- also had earned a slot on the ballot for writing (that would be wunderkind Lena Dunham). This means only one of the six contenders for Emmy's second-most-prestigious prize had writing that voters loved.

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So, who the heck earned comedy writing noms ? Why, four folks who write on snubbed series: Chris McKenna (Community), Amy Poehler and Mike Schur (that's two writing noms for Parks and Recreation) and Louis C.K. (Louie).

This trend started in 2010, when four of the six nominated series earned writing noms; in 2011, it dropped to three out of the six (The Office, 30 Rock and Modern Family).

Does the same strange trend prevail in drama, too? Sort of. Of the six nominated series for outstanding drama this year, only three are represented in the writers race: Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey), Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff (Homeland) and two sets of writers for Mad Men: Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner (two episodes) and Andre and Maria Jacquemetton. (Yep, the scribes on Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire all were snubbed this year.) Oddly, this ratio matches 2011's, which saw the only overlap between drama series and writing in Friday Night Lights, Mad Men and Game of Thrones.

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So what gives? Television Academy senior vp awards John Leverance offers some clarity. "There are 15,000 voters for the program categories and 1,400 writer voters for those categories," he says. This means, says Leverence, that 90 percent of the people voting for drama/comedy series are different from those voting for writing. A smaller voting block for writers races means more fringey entrants (like Community) could creep in, giving the writing races their own unique, unpredictable flair.

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After two years of repeat winners in comedy and drama series races, and comedy writing, a fresh spoiler is likely in order.