Emmys 2011: Insights from the comedy series episode submissions

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big-bang-theory-justice-league-320.jpgA couple of weeks ago, we talked about the not-very-well-known procedure where Emmy-nominated actors are judged on one episode submitted to the academy for consideration, not on their body of work for the entire season.

It's not that much different for the nominees for best series, with one exception: instead of one episode, each series submits three pairs of episodes, which are then sent to the voters at random. So, even though each voter is only voting on two episodes, it's not the same two as everyone else. If it still seems somewhat archaic and arbitrary, just like most people feel the procedures for the acting awards are, well ... welcome to the Emmys, folks, where the archaic and arbitrary is warmly embraced

Our friends at Gold Derby found out which episodes the producers for each series nominee are submitting. Today, we'll take a look at the comedy nominees, and what their episode submissions tell us about their prospects:

At first glance, it seems like the submitted episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" are all over the map, but if you take a closer look, each episode had Pasadena's nerdiest crew in very unusual situations, even for this show. "The Love Car Displacement" has the gang on a road trip to a science convention; "The Justice League Recombination" shows the gang in costume for a contest at the comic-book store; and "The 21-Second Excitation" has everyone standing on line for a movie. The last episode even has an appearance by "evil" Wil Wheaton to add some juice. Many fans of the show would consider these six to be in the top echelon of the season's episodes, so they're putting their best foot forward this year.

The selections for "Glee" are interesting because, in a season full of big-event theme episodes, the producers stayed away from most of them. Just about all of the submissions were story-driven episodes, with less music than usual; the only possible exception could be "Original Song," which was notable on its own for the quality of its original music. "The Substitute," the first episode with Gwyneth Paltrow, was submitted, but that also happened to be one of the hit show's best episodes of the season. The submissions almost feel like an acknowledgement from creators Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk that the show strayed pretty far from what made it so good in its first season. Biggest surprise: the "Funeral" episode was not among the submissions.

It would be hard to fault the producers of "Modern Family" for submitting six random episodes if they wanted; while the show was a little more uneven this year than it was in its first season, it was still pretty good from beginning to end. The episodes submitted seem to spread the wealth; each member of the cast gets a spotlight somewhere in this list. "Caught in the Act" isn't only a showcase for Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell, but also for Nolan Gould, Sarah Hyland and Ariel Winter. "Manny Get Your Gun" was one of the funniest episodes of the season, and "The Kiss" was a great showcase for Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet.

The producers of "The Office" were smart in submitting as many Michael-and-Holly-centric episodes as they could, mainly because they were where the show stood out this season. "Andy's Play" and "Threat Level Midnight" were submitted because they were a little different from the norm, and "Goodbye, Michael" was submitted for obvious reasons. Notice that the star-packed season finale wasn't submitted. Neither were the other two late-season Steve Carell-free episodes. Knowing how mediocre they were, it's not a coincidence.

"Parks and Recreation" was in the same boat as "Modern Family": With a consistently excellent set of episodes to choose from, any six would have worked. But the producers decided to give the academy scenes from each of the season's big moments: "Harvest Festival," "Flu Season," "L'il Sebastian," "Ron & Tammy Part Two." "The Fight" may be the worst of the bunch that was submitted, but it was still pretty funny because we got to see the whole cast drunk on Snake Juice.

Finally, "30 Rock" would get strong consideration by the academy no matter what it submitted; the show could send a DVD of Alec Baldwin reading his TV's warranty and it'd still have a good chance of winning. Indeed, the six episodes submitted feel fairly random, and while the west coast version of the live episode and a Matt Damon guest spot ("Double-Edged Sword") are on the list, it's a surprise that one of the funniest episodes of the season, the reality-show send-up "Queen of Jordan," isn't.

Which episodes would you have submitted for the comedy series nominees?
Photo/Video credit: CBS