WINNER: CLARK JOHNSON, THE SHIELD, FX
While most great TV shows fizzle and sputter out, The Shield kept getting better every season as it established FX as home base for the type of quality original drama that had previously existed only on broadcast TV and premium cable. As an actor and director, Clark Johnson was part of that success, courageously taking on the task of directing the much-anticipated last episode last year. Under Johnson’s wing, it was an incredibly satisfying (and disturbing) trip down a karmic rabbit hole. Malignant, soul-numbing corruption and comeuppance congeal as antihero Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) — broken, exposed and friendless — finds himself rotting at a desk job after selling out his crew. Johnson, who had directed several episodes, knew how important it was to get the last one right. He succeeded in showing us how corruption leads ultimately to loss, regret and death. Thanks to creator Shawn Ryan, Johnson and those who contributed to The Shield can walk tall. That’s more than we can say for Vic Mackey.
Peter Tolan, Rescue Me, FX: Talk about a delicate dance, Tolan excels as he directs Rescue’s star and creator, Denis Leary. No pressure. No pressure at all.
Matt Weiner, Mad Men (Season 2 Finale), AMC: Weiner took the reins for the mind-blowing season 2 finale, which hit on all cylinders. We’re enjoying the ride.
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad (Season 2 Premiere), AMC: Cranston showed he’s not just an incredible actor but a competent and — dare we say — darned exceptional director. And all of this after nearly getting pigeonholed as "just a comedic actor" on broadcast TV. Face it: Cable brings out the best in people. Thanks, AMC.
Andy Wolk, Lincoln Heights, ABC Family: The emotion bubbles up gloriously in every ep of this poignant series, thanks to Wolk’s direction.