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WGA Awards: 'Promising Young Woman' Wins Original Screenplay, 'Borat 2' Takes Adapted Prize

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'Ted Lasso' dominated the TV awards with two wins as 'Desus & Mero' won best comedy/variety talk series over reigning champ 'Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.'

Promising Young Woman and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm topped the 2021 Writers Guild Awards, winning best original and adapted screenplay, respectively.

Accepting the award for adapted screenplay, Borat's Sacha Baron Cohen quipped of the film's many nominees, "I can't help but think that we won it because 60 percent of the Writers Guild worked on this movie."

He added, "A film like this is extremely hard to write, partly because it stars real people whose behavior is completely unpredictable. Well, apart, of course, for Rudy Giuliani, who did everything we hoped for."

Promising Young Woman writer-director Emerald Fennell said in her speech, "I wish I could be in the room and see everyone in person. As it is, I will say thank from my bleak writers room in England."

Promising Young Woman and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm are nominated in the original and adapted screenplay categories, respectively, for the 2021 Oscars.

After failing to even make the best documentary feature shortlist for the Oscars, The Dissident — which chronicles the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul and its investigation, implicating the Saudi royal family — took the award for best documentary screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards.

The Dissident director and co-writer Bryan Fogel thanked the Human Rights Foundation and paid tribute to reporters taking big risks for their stories: "to journalists all over the world that work to make this world a better place."

None of the WGA's documentary nominees were nominated for the best documentary Oscar, with All In the only one to make the Oscars' documentary shortlist.

A number of high-profile Oscar nominees — including Nomadland, Mank, The Father and Minari — were not eligible for WGA award nominations due to guild regulations.

Actor-writer Kal Penn hosted the virtual ceremony, with the pretaped program replacing the guild's traditional live, simultaneous bicoastal events.

Penn previously told The Hollywood Reporter that all of this year's nominees were instructed to send in an acceptance speech, with the winning team's remarks making the cut.

Penn began his monologue pretending there was a sound problem and quickly went into one-liners hitting everything from Quibi to former president Donald Trump to Alexa, and also self-deprecatingly, his own ethnicity.

He did end on a more serious note, saying, “It was the hard work of those in this union along with the thousands of others in this industry that provided one the few real comfort that helped us get through all that. So tonight is about celebrating that.”

Top TV award winners included Ted Lasso, which won best comedy series and best new series, and The Crown, which won best drama series.

Accepting the best new series award, Ted Lasso co-creator Bill Lawrence said he was “grateful that anybody is watching anything” and gave a shout out to writers assistants. “You’re writing the show without us and we just stamp our name on it at the end,” he said. He wrapped up by noting the other nominees: “We’re sad that you lost but happy that we won.” After a pause, he continued, “Is that how this works?” as his co-writers, including star Jason Sudeikis, laughed in agreement.

Sudeikis, sporting yet another hoodie in what's becoming an awards season motif for him, spoke first for the comedy series win, thanking the guild "again" before clarifying he didn't know if Ted Lasso had already won another award: "Thank you again, possibly or not. Maybe thank you for the first time."

Sudeikis also thanked the writers who couldn't be with them because, as he joked, they "couldn't afford laptops," and he again acknowledged the writers' assistants, calling them "the glue that holds this rickety old ship together."

The Crown's Peter Morgan thanked a long list of people including his five children, "not one of whom shows the slightest interest in their father's work."

In a surprise, reigning comedy/variety talk series winner Last Week Tonight With John Oliver was unseated by Desus & Mero.

Stephen Colbert's 2020 election special won the award for comedy/variety special.

Speaking for the long list of writers for the Showtime program, writer Opus Moreschi, accompanied by his cat and holding a tiny trophy, thanked his colleagues for writing for the many possible scenarios that could unfold on election night.

"The writers on these election night shows have to write every possible show before we pluck out the thread that actually is the story we need to tell that night and discard the rest, so I want to thank all of the other multiverse writers who have written all of the other shows because we did it all," he said in part. "This is probably the best thing that happened in election night 2020, one of like the top two things."

Earlier, The Great and Ozark won in the categories of episodic comedy and drama.

Ozark winner Miki Johnson said the award was a "bright spot in a wildly dark year" and also thanked the actors who brought her words to life: "You are the masters and you make what we do look extraordinary."

The Queen's Gambit continued picking up trophies as the acclaimed Netflix limited series won best adapted long form. Best original long form went to the writers of FX on Hulu's Mrs. America.

And despite The Simpsons scoring four nominations in the best animation category, BoJack Horseman won that award.

During speeches from the presidents of the Writers Guild of America, West and East, West president David Goodman took a shot at the figure behind one of the big conflicts that the guild faced.

Goodman noted that they were recording the speech three weeks before the award show, then added, “If anything has happened to me, I’d ask the police to take a hard look at Ari Emanuel.”

Goodman did go over some of the notable achievements the guild made, becoming “true partners” with the agencies and portable paid parental leave, among them.

Beau Willimon, president of the WGA East, noted that writers and their stories were key during the pandemic, with stories that let people “confront pain, giving joy, staving off despair and inspire hope.”

Judas and the Black Messiah writers Will Berson, Shaka King and Keith and Kenny Lucas received this year's Paul Selvin Award, named for the union's late general counsel of 25 years, which is given to the member or members whose script best embodies the spirit of constitutional and civil rights and liberties. The award was presented by The New Yorker's Jelani Cobb.

In his introduction, Cobb said the "searing indictment of the government's role in the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton could not be more relevant," connecting Hampton's death to Breonna Taylor, George Floyd "and far too many other victims to name."

"This screenplay is at once a character study of two very different men, a morality tale, a history lesson and a shocking indictment of what can happen when a government makes it their goal to suppress the voice of its people," Cobb said.

In accepting the award, King said, "It feels fitting that a movie featuring Fred Hampton's words be honored with an award dedicated to freedom of expression."

Keith Lucas added, "It's important that we as writers recognize our power and exercise it, even and especially when it may imperil us to do so."

Previous recipients of the Paul Selvin Award include Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, Dustin Lance Black, Alex Gibney, Susannah Grant, Eric Roth, Liz Hannah, Josh Singer and Tony Kushner.

While Better Call Saul went into the night with five nominations, including one in the short-form new media category for its Legal Ethics With Kim Wexler, it failed to win a single award.

Presenters for the 73rd annual Writers Guild Awards included Riz Ahmed, Sacha Baron Cohen, Rachel Brosnahan, Sarah Cooper, Andra Day, Daveed Diggs, Ava DuVernay, Jimmy Fallon, Dominique Fishback, Brett Goldstein, Ryan O'Connell, Leslie Odom Jr., Amber Ruffin, Lilly Singh and Baratunde Thurston.

The show also featured interstitial segments with writers reflecting on the past year and sharing their take on important writing debates like "sharpie or pencil?"

A complete list of this year's winners follows.


Promising Young Woman, Written by Emerald Fennell; Focus Features (WINNER)

Judas and the Black Messiah, Screenplay by Will Berson & Shaka King, Story by Will Berson & Shaka King and Kenny Lucas & Keith Lucas; Warner Bros.

Palm Springs, Screenplay by Andy Siara, Story by Andy Siara & Max Barbakow; Hulu

Sound of Metal, Screenplay by Darius Marder & Abraham Marder, Story by Darius Marder & Derek Cianfrance; Amazon Studios

The Trial of the Chicago 7, Written by Aaron Sorkin; Netflix


Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Dan Swimer & Peter Baynham & Erica Rivinoja & Dan Mazer & Jena Friedman & Lee Kern, Story by Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Dan Swimer & Nina Pedrad, Based on Characters Created by Sacha Baron Cohen; Amazon Studios (WINNER)

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Screenplay by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Based on the play written by August Wilson; Netflix

News of the World, Screenplay by Paul Greengrass and Luke Davies, Based upon the novel by Paulette Jiles; Universal Pictures

One Night in Miami, Screenplay by Kemp Powers, Based on the stage play One Night in Miami by Kemp Powers; Amazon Studios

The White Tiger, Screenplay by Ramin Bahrani, based on the book The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga; Netflix


The Dissident, Written by Mark Monroe and Bryan Fogel; Briarcliff Entertainment (WINNER)

All In: The Fight for Democracy, Written by Jack Youngelson; Amazon Studios

Herb Alpert Is…, Written by John Scheinfeld; Abramorama

Red Penguins, Written by Gabe Polsky; Universal Pictures

Totally Under Control, Written by Alex Gibney; Neon


The Crown, Written by Peter Morgan, Jonathan Wilson; Netflix (WINNER)

Better Call Saul, Written by Ann Cherkis, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Ariel Levine, Heather Marion, Thomas Schnauz, Gordon Smith, Alison Tatlock; AMC

The Boys, Written by Eric Kripke, Ellie Monahan, Anslem Richardson, Craig Rosenberg, Michael Saltzman, Rebecca Sonnenshine; Amazon Studios

The Mandalorian, Written by Rick Famuyiwa, Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni; Disney+

Ozark, Written by Laura Deeley, Bill Dubuque, Paul Kolsby, Miki Johnson, Chris Mundy, John Shiban, Ning Zhou, Martin Zimmerman; Netflix


Ted Lasso, Written by Jane Becker, Leann Bowen, Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly, Bill Lawrence, Jamie Lee, Jason Sudeikis, Phoebe Walsh, Bill Wrubel; Apple TV+ (WINNER)

Curb Your Enthusiasm, Written by Larry David, Justin Hurwitz, Steve Leff, Carol Leifer, Jeff Schaffer; HBO

The Great, Written by Vanessa Alexander, Tony McNamara, Tess Morris, Amelia Roper, Gretel Vella, James Wood; Hulu

PEN15, Written by; Alyssa DiMari, Maya Erskine, Anna Konkle, Josh Levine, Gabe Liedman, Rachele Lynn, Vera Santamaria, Diana Tay, Sam Zvibleman; Hulu

What We Do in the Shadows, Written by Jake Bender, Jemaine Clement, Zach Dunn, Joseph Furey, Shana Gohd, Sam Johnson, Chris Marcil, William Meny, Sarah Naftalis, Stefani Robinson, Marika Sawyer, Paul Simms; FX Networks


Ted Lasso, Written by Jane Becker, Leann Bowen, Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly, Bill Lawrence, Jamie Lee, Jason Sudeikis, Phoebe Walsh, Bill Wrubel; Apple TV+ (WINNER)

Dave, Written by Dave Burd, Vanessa McGee, Saladin Patterson, Luvh Rakhe, Alex Russell, Jeff Schaffer, Max Searle, Yamara Taylor; FX Networks

The Flight Attendant, Written by Kara Lee Corthron, Michael Foley, Ryan Jennifer Jones, Ticona S. Joy, Meredith Lavender, Jess Meyer, Daniele Nathanson, Marcie Ulin, Ian Weinreich, Steve Yockey; HBO Max

The Great, Written by Vanessa Alexander, Tony McNamara, Tess Morris, Amelia Roper, Gretel Vella, James Wood; Hulu

Lovecraft Country, Written by Misha Green, Shannon Houston, Jonathan Kidd, Kevin Lau, Ihuoma Ofordire, Wes Taylor, Sonya Winton; HBO


Mrs. America, Written by Tanya Barfield, Joshua Griffith, Sharon Hoffman, Boo Killebrew, Micah Schraft, April Shih, Dahvi Waller; FX Networks (WINNER)

Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story, Written by Aaron Carew, Alexandra Cunningham, Lex Edness, Kevin J. Hynes, Juliet Lashinsky-Revene, Stacy A. Littlejohn, Katherine B. McKenna; USA

Hollywood, Written by Ian Brennan, Janet Mock, Ryan Murphy, Reilly Smith; Netflix

Safety, Written by Nick Santora; Disney+

Uncle Frank, Written by Alan Ball; Amazon Studios


The Queen’s Gambit, Written by Scott Frank, Allan Scott, Based on the novel by Walter Tevis; Netflix (WINNER)

Bad Education, Written by Mike Makowsky, Based on the New York Magazine article " The Bad Superintendent" by Robert Kolker; HBO

Clouds, Screenplay by Kara Holden; Story by Casey La Scala & Patrick Kopka and Kara Holden, Based on the book entitled “Fly A Little Higher’ by Laura Sobiech; Disney+

The Good Lord Bird, Written by Jeff Augustin, Ethan Hawke, Erika L. Johnson, Mark Richard, Kristen SaBerre, Lauren Signorino, Based on the Novel by James McBride; Showtime

Little Fires Everywhere, Written by Harris Danow, Rosa Handelman, Shannon Houston, Attica Locke, Raamla Mohamed, Amy Talkington, Liz Tigelaar, Nancy Won, Based on the book by Celeste Ng; Hulu


#FREERAYSHAWN, Written by Marc Maurino; Quibi (WINNER)

Better Call Saul Employee Training: Legal Ethics With Kim Wexler, Written by Ariel Levine; AMC Digital on YouTube

Most Dangerous Game, Written by Nick Santora, Story by Josh Harmon and Scott Elder; Quibi

* Per Writers Guild Awards submission rules, if there are insufficient entries in any category, those entries may be placed in another category.


“Xerox of a Xerox” (BoJack Horseman), Written by Nick Adams; Netflix (WINNER)

“A Springfield Summer Christmas For Christmas” (The Simpsons), Written by Jessica Conrad; Fox

“Bart The Bad Guy” (The Simpsons), Written by Dan Vebber; Fox

“I, Carumbus” (The Simpsons), Written by Cesar Mazariegos; Fox

“Prank You for Being a Friend” (Bob’s Burgers), Written by Katie Crown; Fox

“Three Dreams Denied” (The Simpsons), Written by Danielle Weisberg; Fox


“Fire Pink” (Ozark), Written by Miki Johnson; Netflix (WINNER)

“Bad Choice Road” (Better Call Saul), Written by Thomas Schnauz; AMC

“JMM” (Better Call Saul), Written by Alison Tatlock; AMC

“Raised by Wolves” (Raised by Wolves), Written by Aaron Guzikowski; HBO Max

“Something Unforgivable” (Better Call Saul), Written by Peter Gould & Ariel Levine; AMC

“Trouble Don’t Last Always” (Euphoria), Written by Sam Levinson; HBO


“The Great” (The Great), Written by Tony McNamara; Hulu (WINNER)

“Grandma & Chill” (Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens), Written by Kyle Lau; Comedy Central

“It’s Not You, It’s Me” (Dead to Me), Written by Liz Feldman & Kelly Hutchinson; Netflix

“Pilot” (Ted Lasso), Teleplay by Jason Sudeikis & Bill Lawrence, Story by Jason Sudeikis & Bill Lawrence & Brendan Hunt & Joe Kelly; Apple TV+

“The Tank” (Grace & Frankie), Written by Alex Kavallierou; Netflix

“Trick” (High Maintenance), Written by Isaac Oliver; HBO


Desus & Mero, Writers: Daniel "Desus Nice" Baker, Claire Friedman, Ziwe Fumudoh, Josh Gondelman, Robert Kornhauser, Joel "The Kid Mero" Martinez, Heben Nigatu, Mike Pielocik, Julia Young; Showtime (WINNER)

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, Writers: Kristen Bartlett, Samantha Bee, Pat Cassels, Sean Crespo, Mike Drucker, Mathan Erhardt, Joe Grossman, Miles Kahn, Sahar Rizvi, Chris Thompson, Holly Walker, Alison Zeidman; TBS

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Writers: Johnathan Appel, Ali Barthwell, Tim Carvell, Liz Hynes, Greg Iwinski, Mark Kramer, Daniel O'Brien, John Oliver, Owen Parsons, Charlie Redd, Joanna Rothkopf, Chrissy Shackelford, Ben Silva, Seena Vali; HBO

Late Night With Seth Meyers, Head Writer: Alex Baze Writing Supervised by: Seth Reiss Closer Look Writing Supervised by: Sal Gentile Writers: Jermaine Affonso, Karen Chee, Bryan Donaldson, Matt Goldich, Dina Gusovsky, Jenny Hagel, Allison Hord, Mike Karnell, John Lutz, Seth Meyers, Ian Morgan, John Mulaney, Amber Ruffin, Mike Scollins, Mike Shoemaker, Ben Warheit, Jeff Wright; NBC

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Head Writers: Ariel Dumas, Jay Katsir Writers: Delmonte Bent, Michael Brumm, River Clegg, Aaron Cohen, Nicole Conlan, Stephen T. Colbert, Paul Dinello, Glenn Eichler, Django Gold, Gabe Gronli, Barry Julien, Michael Cruz Kayne, Eliana Kwartler, Matt Lappin, Felipe Torres Medina, Opus Moreschi, Asher Perlman, Tom Purcell, Kate Sidley, Brian Stack, John Thibodeaux, Steve Waltien; CBS


Stephen Colbert's Election Night 2020: Democracy's Last Stand: Building Back America Great Again Better 2020, Head Writers: Ariel Dumas, Jay Katsir Writers: Delmonte Bent, Michael Brumm, River Clegg, Aaron Cohen, Stephen T. Colbert, Nicole Conlan, Paul Dinello, Glenn Eichler, Django Gold, Gabe Gronli, Barry Julien, Michael Cruz Kayne, Eliana Kwartler, Matt Lappin, Felipe Torres Medina, Opus Moreschi, Asher Perlman, Tom Purcell, Kate Sidley, Brian Stack, John Thibodeaux, Steve Waltien; Showtime (WINNER)

30 Rock: A One-Time Special, Written by Tina Fey & Robert Carlock; NBC

Father of the Bride Part 3 (ish), Written by Nancy Meyers; YouTube

Yearly Departed, Head Writer: Bess Kalb Writers: Karen Chee, Akilah Green, Franchesca Ramsey, Jocelyn Richard; Amazon Studios


At Home With Amy Sedaris, Writers: Jeremy Beiler, Cole Escola, Peter Grosz, Amy Sedaris; truTV (WINNER)

How To With John Wilson, Writers: Michael Koman, John Wilson; HBO

The Amber Ruffin Show, Head Writer: Jenny Hagel Writers: Demi Adejuyigbe, Shantira Jackson, Dewayne Perkins, Amber Ruffin Additional Material by John Lutz; Peacock Originals


Weakest Link, Head Writer: Ann Slichter Writers: Chip Dornell, Paul Greenberg, Joyce Ikemi, Stuart Krasnow, Jon Macks, Mona Mira, Scott Saltzburg, Aaron Solomon, Chris Sturgeon, Grant Taylor; NBC (WINNER)

Hollywood Game Night, Head Writers: Ann Slichter, Grant Taylor Writers: Michael Agbabian, Allie Kokesh, Dwight D. Smith; NBC

Jeopardy!, Writers: Matthew Caruso, John Duarte, Harry Friedman, Mark Gaberman, Debbie Griffin, Michele Loud, Robert McClenaghan, Jim Rhine, Billy Wisse; ABC

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Celebrity Season, Head Writer: Bobby Patton Writers: Alan Bailey, Josh Halloway, Seth Harrington, Shawn Kennedy; Disney/ABC Syndication


Days of Our Lives, Head Writer: Ron Carlivati Writers: Lorraine Broderick, Joanna Cohen, Carolyn Culliton, Richard Culliton, Rick Draughon, David Kreizman, Rebecca McCarty, Ryan Quan, Dave Ryan, Katherine D. Schock, Elizabeth Snyder; NBC (WINNER)

General Hospital, Head Writers: Dan O'Connor, Christopher Van Etten Associate Head Writer: Anna Theresa Cascio Writers: Barbara Bloom, Suzanne Flynn, Charlotte Gibson, Lucky Gold, Kate Hall, Elizabeth Korte, David Rupel, Lisa Seidman, Donny Sheldon, Scott Sickles; ABC


The Sleepover, Written by Sarah Rothschild; Netflix (WINNER)

“Countdown” (The Astronauts), Written by Dan Knauf; Nickelodeon

Mo Willems and the Storytime All Stars Present: Don't Let the Pigeon Do Storytime, Written by Mo Willems, Based on the children's books and published by Hyperion: Leonard the Terrible Monster; Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale; A Busy Creature's Day Eating!; Elephant and Piggy's Waiting is Not Easy!; and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus; HBO Max

The Not Too Late Show With Elmo, Writers: Geri Cole, Scott Gray, Benjamin Lehmann, Wendy Marston, Andrew Moriarty, Ken Scarborough, Moujan Zolfaghari; HBO Max

The Power of We: A Sesame Street Special, Written by Geri Cole; HBO Max

“Speaking of Cancer” (Alexa & Katie), Written by Leo Chu & Eric S. Garcia & Julia Miranda; Netflix


“Agents of Chaos, Part II,” Written by Alex Gibney & Michael J. Palmer; HBO Documentary Films (WINNER)

“Agents of Chaos, Part I,” Written by Alex Gibney & Michael J. Palmer; HBO Documentary Films

“The Choice 2020: Trump vs. Biden” (Frontline), Written by Michael Kirk & Mike Wiser; PBS

“Whose Vote Counts” (Frontline), Written by Jelani Cobb, June Cross & Tom Jennings; PBS


“Opioids, Inc.” (Frontline), Written by Tom Jennings; PBS (WINNER)

“The Poison Squad” (American Experience), Written by John Maggio; PBS

“The Violence Paradox” (Nova), Written by Michael Bicks and Anna Lee Strachan; PBS


“Anger in America” (World News Tonight with David Muir), Written by Dave Bloch, David Muir, Karen Mooney, David Schoetz; ABC News (WINNER)

“Critical Condition” (60 Minutes), Written by Katie Kerbstat Jacobson, Scott Pelley, Nicole Young; CBS News

“Gale Sayers Obit,” Written by Joe McLaughlin; WCBS-TV

“The Wild West of Covid Testing” (60 Minutes), Written by Sharyn Alfonsi, Oriana Zill de Granados; CBS News


“Juneteenth: A Celebration of Overcoming,” Written by Dave Bloch; ABC News (WINNER)

“Exhume the Truth” (60 Minutes), Written by Katie Kerbstat Jacobson, Scott Pelley, Nicole Young; CBS News

“The African Basketball Trail” (60 Minutes), Written by Oriana Zill de Granados; CBS News


“The Store That Called the Cops on George Floyd,” Written by Aymann Ismail; Slate.com (WINNER)

“Pornhub Doesn't Care,” Written by Samantha Cole and Emanuel Maiberg; Vice.com

“This Week Has Happened Before,” Written by Julia Craven; Slate.com

“Why Did the Government Separate This Family?” Written by Jeremy Stahl; Slate.com



“Changemakers: Leaders Who Made a Difference,” Written by Gail Lee; CBS News Radio (WINNER)

“CBS News on the Hour with Norah O'Donnell, March 10, 2020,” Written by James Hutton; CBS New Radio

“World News This Week, November 13, 2020,” Written by Joan Harris; ABC News Radio/WNTW Podcasts


"Against Those Thugs: Delores Tucker and Bill Bennett” (Slow Burn) Written by Joel Anderson, Christopher Johnson; Slate Podcasts (WINNER)

“Instrument of Hope,” Written by Christopher Barry; ABC News Audio

“The Gist: Spiel, April 3, 2020,” Written by Mike Pesca; Slate Podcasts



“Get Out The Vote - Check Out Those Moves,” Written by Meghana Reddy and Angad Bhalla; Facebook, Instagram, YouTube (WINNER)

“Can You See It?” Written by Meghana Reddy and Angad Bhalla; Facebook

“Launch Trailers,” Written by Molly Neylan; CBS All Access


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