The Walking Dead’s executive producer and writer Glen Mazarra moderated the evening. Although the popular AMC zombie show received a few 2012 Creative Arts Emmy nominations, it was dramatically overlooked this year when the primetime nods came out. Mazzara turned that into a running gag throughout the evening. “You have a character played by Claire Danes who is bi-polar. What network executive is she based on?” Mazzara asked Homeland’s Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa. The two looked at each other and laughed – but did not answer. It was that kind of evening at the Writers Guild of America, West’s Emmy nominees panel, filled with dry humor and insider jokes, which is what happens whenever top TV showrunners, creator, and writers get together like this. Of course panelists talked about what they thought might be worthy of a win. “If the number of drafts were the benchmark, we’d kill,” said Gansa. Then he surprisingly added about his nominated Homeland pilot, “I don’t think it is the strongest episode of the year. The strongest episode is ‘The Weekend’ written by Meredith Stiehm.” A droll Billy Martin claimed, ”There is no higher honor than the Emmy nomination. I think the win diminishes it.” The head writer behind HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher is a 17-time Emmy nominee with no wins. He got big laughs. Martin was joined on tonight’s panel by fellow nominees Matthew Weiner and Semi Chellas of Mad Men, Girls’ Lena Dunham, Homeland’s Gordon and Gansa, Hatfields & McCoys’ Ted Mann, and Dave Boone, nommed for both his work on the Oscarcast as well as the 65th Annual Tony Awards. If Mad Men wins Best Drama this year, it will make Emmy history because it’s the fifth straight year. Weiner joked, “It’s like standing up at the table in Vegas and saying I cannot lose.” But he noted, “I really look at the Emmys as a way to promote your show.”

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