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A Television Celebration

Several UNC School of the Arts alumni have received nominations for the 66 th Primetime Emmy Awards (announced last week), providing yet another boost to the school’s reputation and standing in the industry.

Actor/director Joe Mantello, undoubtedly one of the most successful UNCSA graduates – he’s already earned two Drama Desk Awards and two Tony Awards – has earned his first Emmy nomination, as Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role for his turn as Mickey Marcus in the HBO adaptation of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, which led all TV movies with 16 nominations.

Mantello, who graduated from the School of Drama in 1984, had earlier played the lead role of Ned Weeks in the 2011 Broadway revival of The Normal Heart, for which he earned a Tony nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance.

Mantello, who won back-to-back Tony Awards for directing Take Me Out (2003) and Assassins (2004), is one of Broadway’s most-acclaimed and most in-demand directors. He’s already amassed six Tony nominations and nine Drama Desk Award nominations. His latest project is The Last Ship, which boasts music and lyrics by Sting (AKA Gordon Sumner) and is inspired by his (Sting’s) childhood. The Last Ship recently completed a “tryout” run at the Chicago Theatre and is scheduled to open on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre in the fall.

The popular Discovery Channel reality series Alaska: The Last Frontier received Emmy nominations as Unstructured Reality Program and for Outstanding Cinematography for Reality Program. The production team includes several graduates from the UNCSA School of Filmmaking, including director of photography Brian Mandle (‘99), cameramen Scott Gardner (‘99) and David Short (‘03), field producer/cameraman Neil Moore (‘02), producer Frank Gibson (‘02), associate producer Scott Kyger (‘07), editors Charles Dugan (‘02) and David H. Price (‘07), and camera assistant Andrew Taylor (‘13).

The National Geographic Channel’s production of Killing Kennedy, based on the best-seller by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, was nominated for Outstanding Television Movie and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Mini-series or Movie. Taylor Roberts, who graduated the UNCSA high school program in 1998 and then graduated from the School of Drama in 2002, appears in the film as Faddle.

The Emmy Awards will be broadcast Aug. 25 from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by comedian and talk-show host Seth Meyers (himself a nominee this year).

The official UNCSA website is www.uncsa.edu. Speaking of television, Neil Landau’s self-explanatory book The TV Showrunner’s Roadmap (Focal Press; $24.95 paperback), offers an in-depth look at what makes a successful TV series tick.

Subtitled “21 Navigational Tips for Screenwriters to Create and Sustain a Hit TV Series,” Landau interviewed several small-screen notables who have crafted such acclaimed and award-winning series’ as Vince Gilligan (“Breaking Bad”), Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal”), Michelle and Robert King (“The Good Wife”), Alex Gansa (“Homeland”), Damon Lindelof (“Lost”), Glen Mazzara (“The Walking Dead”), Hart Hanson (“Bones”), Chip Johannessen (“Dexter”), David Shore (“House, M.D.”) and others.

The book offers a detailed exploration of each series and the ideas that first birthed and then sustained them. It’s not a light read – those expecting shallow gossip or star stories needn’t bother – but it is an engrossing and instructive one. Those interviewed share their experiences in the small-screen trade, including ideas that worked and, perhaps more importantly, those that didn’t.

They also discuss the characters they’ve created, as well as their situations and surroundings – in short, the whole picture. Some series’ are better suited to cable because of subject matter (let’s face it, “The Walking Dead” or “Breaking Bad” probably wouldn’t work on a network, given their violence). Although cable allows more freedom, networks allow more financial freedom.

Author Landau, who previously penned 101 Things I Learned in Film School (2010), writes from experience, having toiled on such TV series’ as “Melrose Place, “Dougie Howser, M.D.,” and the daytime soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” He knows what questions to ask and how to ask them, allowing the people he interviews to provide their insight into the creative process.

As the subtitle indicates, sometimes the hardest task is to sustain a series and keep it fresh and interesting. (How many series’ have “jumped the shark” and worn out their welcome? Plenty.)

For more information regarding The TV Showrunner’s Map, check out the official Taylor & Francis website: www. taylorandfrancis.com. Its specific listing is: www.taylorandfrancis.com/books/details/9780415831673/. !

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