news With No Eye Toward Emmys, DGA TV Award Winners Prove Surprising and Undeniable

With 17 of the last 20 DGA Award winners going on to secure the Oscar for Best Director, the Director’s Guild of America plays a pivotal role in who wins an Academy Award. Momentum is key for film’s grueling winter awards circuit, and now we’ll wait and see if Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have enough to make it 18 of the last 21.

In TV, there is no waiting — not this year. While the DGA Awards can certainly play their part in the Emmy race — having boosted future darlings like “Succession,” “Watchmen,” and “The Queen’s Gambit” — the 2023 winners already had their shot at Emmy glory. Nominations may still prove valuable to freshman series like “Wednesday” and “The Bear” (not to mention “Better Call Saul’s” last chance to win its first Emmy), but Saturday night’s ceremony will have little to no effect on what’s next.

Instead, refreshingly enough, there were surprise twists, satisfying sure-things, and a last-minute head-scratcher.

Let’s start at the end: To the surprise of virtually everyone, Sam Levinson and “Euphoria” won the DGA Award for Best Drama Series, completing a three-category sweep for HBO and sending many awards enthusiasts searching for answers. For one, Levinson faced stiff competition. “Severance” earned two nominations — for Ben Stiller, who won three years prior for “Escape at Dannemora,” and first-time nominee Aoife McArdle — while “Better Call Saul” and “Ozark” were up for their final seasons, having never won before. Vote splitting could’ve played a factor, though it’s not uncommon for shows with multiple nominees to still triumph. (“Watchmen,” “Homeland,” and “Succession” have all done it in the last 10 years.)

Adding further confusion to the matter is that Levinson’s win is for Season 2 of the HBO drama — a season marred by controversy, including fan backlash against the writer-director’s scripts, his alleged treatment of the cast, and a report citing “gruelingly long workdays.” Perhaps this win shows a guild rallying around one of its own? Or, more likely, they’re simply responding to what’s clearly the best episode of a very showy, very hit-or-miss season.

Over in the Comedy category, things were much neater, as Bill Hader snagged his third DGA Award for “Barry” in as many seasons. While a majority of experts expected Mike White to triumph for the more-recent “White Lotus” Season 2, Hader’s episode — “710N” — is an astonishing entry, even by his escalating standards. Featuring an extended chase sequence (in a car, on a motorcycle, and on foot), the instant classic has been rightly hailed since its release, just as the Guild has gotten behind the director and show since it first qualified. Hader’s undefeated streak is well-deserved.

Earlier in the evening, the Limited Series race provided a pleasant surprise. With four first-time nominees, the odds were in favor of new blood taking the stage, and an overwhelming number of Gold Derby experts (13 of 18) predicted Eric Appel (“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story”) to be the one with a victory lap. Even those who bet on the actual winner, “Station Eleven,” weren’t betting on the right nominee, as three prognosticators had the only past-nominated contender, Jeremy Podeswa, finally hearing his name read.

Instead, Helen Shaver stood victorious for Episode 8, “Who’s There?” — a welcome choice that also makes perfect sense in hindsight. For one, “Station Eleven” is exquisite, and her two episodes in the limited series are standouts. For another, Shaver has been directing in TV for 25 years, bringing her talents to memorable programs like “The O.C.,” “Castle,” “The Bridge,” “Orphan Black,” “Westworld,” “Lovecraft Country,” and “Maid.” This may be her first nomination at the DGA, but she’s been nominated multiple times — and won — at the Directors Guild of Canada Awards. Shaver is exactly the kind of hardworking talent the DGAs love to honor, and her award certainly earned a lot of smiles both in the room and throughout the industry.

(For those wondering why pilot director Hiro Murai wasn’t considered, it’s only because he wasn’t eligible. “Station Eleven” released seven of its 10 episodes in 2021, meaning only three qualified for this year’s ceremony. That the series still snagged two nominations speaks to the respect it garnered from DGA voters — as does the fact that Murai was nominated last year, when he lost to Barry Jenkins for “The Underground Railroad.” And there’s no shame in that.)

Rounding out the TV winners were Liz Patrick for Variety Program, which gave “Saturday Night Live” its seventh straight win in the category; Glenn Weiss in Variety Special, marking his ninth DGA Award overall and eighth for directing the Tony Awards; Anne Renton for Children’s Program, which made sure Apple TV+ didn’t go home empty-handed; and Ben Simms for Reality Program, where “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” won its first DGA Award after landing its first nomination last year.

Come Monday, Hollywood will probably still be talking about “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and what the DGA win means for its Oscar odds. But all of these accomplished artists don’t need to worry about what’s next. They’ve already taken home their top prize.