WGA Awards: Top Contenders Include ‘King Richard,’ ‘Ted Lasso’

Voting has only just begun for select nominees at the 2022 WGA Awards. Drama series, comedy series and new series votes will be taken until Jan. 5, while voting doesn’t even open for original and adapted screenplays until Jan. 12 (with a deadline of Jan. 26). Nominations for the television categories, as well as new media, news, radio/audio and promotional writing awards will be announced on Jan. 13, with screenplay nominations announced Jan. 27. Final voting for all takes place between Feb. 2 and Feb. 16, with the winners being announced at the 74th annual ceremony on March 20.

Although it is still very early days for some of these categories, The Hamden Journal breaks down where select series, scripts and categories stand so far.

Original Screenplay
The contenders in the original screenplay field are dominated by repeat WGA and Academy Award nominees with a few breakthrough tyro scribes in the mix. “King Richard,” penned by Zach Baylin (who was selected as one of The Hamden Journal’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch) could very well make a significant splash in the category, with the film being touted for its emotionally charged portrayal of the rise of tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams. Likewise, Fran Kranz’s debut feature, “Mass,” is one of the most compelling character-driven dramas to come along in decades, and has bowled over critics since its premiere at Sundance. But in the veteran screenwriter space, the array of contenders is incredibly strong, from Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant “Being the Ricardos” to Kenneth Branagh’s poignant drama “Belfast” to Paul Thomas Anderson’s love letter to 1970s San Fernando Valley, “Licorice Pizza.” Adam McKay, who won the 2016 adapted screenplay Oscar for “The Big Short,” is also a notable front-runner while Mike Mills’ “C’Mon C’Mon” is also expected to be in the race. Others in the game include Pedro Almodóvar’s “Parallel Mothers,” “The Harder They Fall,” penned by Jeymes Samuel and Boaz Yakin, and “A Hero,” Asghar Farhadi’s dramatic thriller.

Adapted Screenplay
Front-runners in the adapted screenplay race include several veteran scribes, including the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, who factors into the race with Joel Coen’s appropriately moody and eerie adaptation of “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” Other established writers in the mix include Jane Campion (who won the WGA gong in the original category for “The Piano”) for “Power of the Dog”; Lin-Manuel Miranda for the musical “Tick, Tick … Boom!”; and “Dune,” adapted from the Frank Herbert sci-fi classic by Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts. Other strong contenders include “CODA,” adapted by Sian Heder; “Passing,” penned by actor-turned-writer/ helmer Rebecca Hall; Cannes festival hit “Drive My Car,” adapted from the Haruki Murakami story by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi; and “The Tender Bar,” with William Monahan adapting from J.R. Moehringer’s book. But don’t discount the deliciously arch “Shiva Baby,” written and directed by young filmmaker Emma Seligman: The small but mighty film has already scored awards on the festival circuit, including Adelaide Film Festival and L.A. Outfest.

Documentary Screenplay
A category that has only been in play since 2005, with Morgan Spurlock winning the inaugural award for his “Super Size Me” script, this year’s presumptive front-runners pivot on two beloved actors facing life-threatening medical challenges. In “Introducing Selma Blair,” which has already picked up awards at SXSW and the Hamptons Intl. Film Fest, Rachel Fleit does a deep dive into the actor’s courageous experience battling multiple sclerosis. In “Val,” Ting Poo and Leo Scott use never-before-seen footage charting the daily life of Val Kilmer, who survived throat cancer. The film scored raves at its Cannes premiere. Others in the race include U.S. Women’s National Soccer team documentary “LFG,” from director writers Andrew Nix Fine and Sean Fine, “Procession,” Robert Greene’s account of sexual abuse within the Catholic church, and Jimmy Chin’s “The Rescue,” which examines the daring rescue of 12 boys trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand, a story that captivated the world in 2018.

Drama Series
None of the five 2021 nominees aired or streamed new episodes in the 2021 calendar year, and therefore, there will be no consecutive repeats on the ballot. But scrolling a bit further back in time you’ll find two recent winners with strong shots at making comebacks: HBO’s “Succession,” the 2020 winner, and Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the 2018 winner. FX’s “Pose” could pick up its first nom in this category for its final season; it was previously nominated in the new series race in 2019.

Comedy Series
When it comes to comedy series, all of the 2021 nominees are eligible again. Though this voting body does love repeat nominees, it would be rare to see an exact replica, despite the quality of the former contenders. Apple TV Plus’ “Ted Lasso,” which not only won this category in 2021 but also took home the new series trophy, will likely make the cut again, as should HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” a proven WGA favorite with seven prior nominations overall. Hulu’s “The Great” and “Pen15” and FX’s “What We Do in the Shadows” are possibilities to receive consecutive nominations but not shoo-ins, especially with some newer comers grabbing attention this year. WGA voters champion unique voices in very specific worlds, so HBO Max’s “Hacks” and “The Other Two,” FX on Hulu’s “Reservation Dogs,” Peacock’s “Girls5eva” and Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building” are strong contenders for kudos recognition.

New Series
It is not uncommon for the WGA Awards to see repeat titles in the ongoing series races and in this category. In 2021, for example, Apple TV Plus’ “Ted Lasso” and Hulu’s “The Great” both made the cut of comedy series and in category this ballot, with “Ted Lasso” going on to win both. And, since ongoing series are the only series eligible for this category, the likelihood of titles appearing in multiple places is expected. This year, series that could end up nominated here include the same newcomers in the comedy race (“Reservation Dogs,” “Girls5eva,” “Hacks” and “Only Murders in the Building”), while it’s also worth keeping an eye on dramas including “American Rust” from Showtime.

Long Form (Original and Adapted)
The long form categories give WGA voters the chance to celebrate both limited series and television movies in one place. Long form original is reserved for content that is inspired by real-life individuals, but long form adapted is the one that celebrates stories directly shifted from source material to the screen. This year, some of the most poignant titles are eligible here, including Netflix’s “Colin in Black & White,” based on athlete/activist Colin Kaepernick’s younger years, as well as “Maid,” based on Stephanie Land’s memoir of the same title, and Hulu’s “Dopesick,” about the opioid crisis. HBO’s “Scenes From a Marriage,” Peacock’s “Dr. Death” and FX’s “Impeachment: American Crime Story,” about Monica Lewinsky’s time in the White House, are also ones to watch here.