This years Emmy race proves its not a second-hand awards show.
Its sad and slightly unfair that Oscar gets all the love and Emmy is left to be the red-headed stepchild.
PHOTO COURTESY OF AMC
Bryan Cranston plays Walter White on AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and is once again up for
Best Actor in a Drama.
Oscar may get more (unjust) respect but the Emmys have been more important than ever considering were in a new golden age of television. Blasphemous as that sounds its not as heretical as you think.
Yes, reality TV is abhorrent and many, many shows get cancelled minutes into their premiere, but good TVthe ones where actors and writers actually tryis as good as its ever been. Look at the Best Drama category. Its an extremely deep category with two former nominees (Dexter, Boardwalk Empire) left out in the cold. House of Cards is a game changer for Netflix with Breaking Bad and Mad Men as two of the greatest dramas of all time still going strong. The main characters are not only iconic but make a commentary on the environment in which we live.
Comedy is riding high as well. Louie has a strong presence in the field this year, well deserved after two seasons of relative obscurity. Its easily one of the best comedies of all time but it has to compete with the stalwart Modern Family, which isnt looking to abdicate its throne anytime soon, and Veep that is arguably the smartest show on television.
Below arent necessarily predictions but rather a refresher course, cliff notes for people who need to catch up or havent heard of the nominees. For those who say television is boring, I strongly recommend firing up Hulu and Netflix and check out these wonderful programs below.
Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Claire Danes, Homeland
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Elizabeth Moss, Mad Men
Connie Britton, Nashville
Kerry Washington, Scandal
PHOTO COURTESY OF AMC
Elizabeth Moss plays Peggy Olsen on AMC’s “Mad Men.”
Breakdown: Though its only in its second season, Homeland is already running on reputation. Danes was lights-out brilliant in Season One but this last season was basically a redux of the original with more crazy and crying. It seems like its a three-horse race between Moss, Britton and Washington. Scandal has become a recognized guilty pleasure in the mainstream with Washingtons talent shining through Shonda Rimes (sometimes) schlocky-ness. Britton has lots of support as well but a win here might be considered as compensation for her lack of awards on Friday Night Lights. My favorite here is Moss from Mad Men. We see her character transforming from plucky underwriter to Don Draper in training.
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
Damian Lewis, Homeland
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
Breakdown: The roster is so deep in this category that Michael C. Hall (Dexter) or Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire) didnt even make the cut. There is no actor here that is head and shoulders above the crowd, but the winner is certainly first among equals. Daniels may seem like a surprise pick but he gets the nod simply because he breathes life into a blowhard that appears one-dimensional even on paper. Bonneville and Lewis carried their franchises this season but the writing lacks the breadth to warrant anything beyond a nomination.
Spacey is flat-out brilliant and just might win because voters love A-list movie stars who slum it. Were at the point where we may have to consider that Jon Hamm may never win an award for his portrayal of Don Draper. For comparisons sake, hes Lou Gehrig, The Iron Horse, Pride of the Yankees, one of the top 10 players to play the game; he also happens to be overshadowed by Babe Ruth. Bryan Cranston has already won three consecutive awards for playing Walter White on Breaking Bad. The final season (which is one of the greatest last seasons ever) will certainly win him another one. So whos to argue that he wont win a fourth? The steely, remorseless Cranston portrayals keep viewers glued to the screen.
A lot of people couldve played Don Draper; no one else couldve played Walter White. Cranston deserves this award and the next one.
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad.
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
Morena Baccarin, Homeland
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
PHOTO COURTESY OF AMC
Christina Hendricks has been nominated four consecutive times for role as Joan Harris on AMC’s “Mad Men.”
Breakdown: If there is any justice in this race, Hendricks would win this one hands down and not just for this season but for the entire series. The role of Joan Harris is nuanced and is the definition of support as it balances the personal storylines of Mad Men while highlighting the sexism than has run the workplace since forever.
Bobby Cannavale, Boardwalk Empire
Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad.
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad.
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Breakdown: Aaron Paul. Paul, playing in the shadow of Cranston, has done a remarkable job earning his third consecutive Supporting Actor nomination. As Jesse Pinkman, Paul adds what little humanity there is to Breaking Bad.
Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones
Linda Cardellini, Mad Men
Joan Cusack, Shameless
Margo Martindale, The Americans
Carrie Preston, The Good Wife
Jane Fonda, The Newsroom
Rupert Friend, Homeland
Robert Morse, Mad Men
Harry Hamlin, Mad Men
Dan Bucatinsky, Scandal
Nathan Lane, The Good Wife
Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife
Breakdown: I normally wouldnt include these two for analysis but these performances are among the strongest weve seen in years. Sure there are still big names with guest spots, but there was an actual performance for the most part, not just a familiar face with a walk-on spot. Especially in Guest Actress Linda Cardellinis performance as Sylvia Rosen, who was dark, sultry, seductive, and more importantly, was able to out-Draper Don Draper. That gets you on the list by itself, right? Margo Martindales turn on The Americans was probably the most vital to the season, entrenching the show as a spy/thriller rather than a family drama. The biggest splash has to go Jane Fonda. Amid all the posturing and peachiness in the first season of The Newsroom, Fondas performance as media mogul Leona Lansing may have been the closest thing to reality.
Dead FreightBreaking Bad
Say My NameBreaking Bad
Episode 4Downton Abbey
The Rains of CastamereGame of Thrones
Breakdown: There should be no surprises here. Its Breaking Bad and its not even close. Next
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Breakdown: This category has a first-among-equals feel to it as you can see any one of these winning but youre pretty sure one of them has it locked up. Homeland is running on reputation and had Dexter or Boardwalk Empire had stronger seasons, they would be in this category. The same could be said for Downton Abbey, as it had a roller-coaster season with regard to quality. House of Cards could pull the upset here and could be a true watershed moment if it does. Released on Netflix with little to no publicity and zero interference from corporate execs with regard to creative control, a win here can change how shows are created, written, acted and marketed on a new platform. Really interesting stuff. Its a compliment to Matthew Weiner that Mad Men is on this list. Its not running on rep like Homeland but the last season was in large part a setup for the final season to come. This season is certainly a bridesmaid, not the bride. Oddly enough that same logic is why I like Breaking Bad as much as I do to get the win. Season four and five were supposed to be the final season combined.
Unlike Mad Men, where it was all build-up, season four of Breaking Bad was so well done with build-up and story that it left viewers wondering how the final season is going to top what they just saw. Plus the show has absolutely captured the mainstream and has tons of support. Id be surprised to see anything else win.
PHOTO COURTESY OF NBC/UNIVERSAL
Tina Fey has only won once for her iconic role as Liz Lemon on NBC’s “30 Rock.”
LEAD ACTRESS COMEDY
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Laura Dern, Enlightened
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Amy Poehler, Parks And Recreation
Julia Louis-Dreyfus- Veep
Breakdown: I usually dont like the idea of giving awards to shows in their final season as a collective thank you but how can you not with Tina Fey? She wrote, produced and starred in one of the greatest comedies of all time that hasnt won in five years. Just give her the award already. If she did lose, it wouldnt be so bad if Fey lost to Amy Poehler. Parks And Recreation has quickly replaced 30 Rock as TVs strongest comedy and more props to Poehler for creating a character that is definitively her and not a Michael Scott clone which NBC execs initially wanted her to be. Oh, yeah, and then theres Julia Louis-Dreyfus who is doing her best work .ever.
PHOTO COURTESY OF FX
Louis C.K. writes, produces, directs and stars in FX’s "Louie."
LEAD ACTOR COMEDY
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Louie C.K., Louie
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Breakdown: The Jim Parsons pick here has become an annual thing and needs to stop. What used to be funny has become very one note and Im not sure why there is a nomination there. The rest of the field seems very blasé. Baldwin, Bateman, Cheadle and LeBlanc are all nominations by numbers. Dont get me wrong, they do very good work but none of it is innovative, or hasnt been for seasons. Louis C.K. should be the obvious pick here. This would be his third consecutive nomination for Louie and, along with the fact that he writes, produces, stars and directs his own show, no one comes close to beating this auteur on a creative level.
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
Jane Lynch, Glee
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie
Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Breakdown: Bialik deserves more than a nomination in this category. In addition to carrying The Big Bang Theory, shes the only interesting character in that show. That show was better when it was The Big Bang Theory, not when it tries to be Friends. Someone please get her a spinoff or something. Lynch is so good at what she does but its also so one-note. Everyone in Modern Family deserves an award; it really is the best-acted show on television right now. Maybe they can cut the award into fifths?
Adam Driver, Girls
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Ed ONeill, Modern Family
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live
Tony Hale, Veep
Breakdown: Its a crowded house but itd be a real miracle to see Bill Hader win. Between voices and characters, hes the ultimate chameleon, was the glue on an iconic sketch comedy show and one of the all-time greats on Saturday Night Live. Weird as it may be to see him on T-Mobile commercials, he does deserve a win here.
Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock
Molly Shannon, Enlightened
Dot-Marie Jones, Glee
Melissa Leo, Louie
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
Breakdown: Stritch shouldnt win but anyone who can put Alec Baldwin, er Jack Donaghy in his place deserves something. As gritty and brilliant as Melissa Leo was on Louie, Melissa McCarthy is the obvious choice to win this award. She was bold, fearless, flexible and her timing was impeccable on SNL. With all the new blood coming into that franchise, why doesnt Lorne Michaels add her to that cast? Shed easily be the star.
Will Forte, 30 Rock
Nathan Lane, Modern Family
Bobby Cannavale, Nurse Jackie
Louis C.K., Saturday Night Live
Justin Timberlake, Saturday Night Live
Bob Newhart, The Big Bang Theory
Breakdown: Timberlake might get the win because of name recognition for his turn on SNL but I feel its a two-horse race between Will Forte and Nathan Lane. Lane, as Pepper Saltzman, adds a spark to Modern Family. Any time you see him on screen, you know its going to be a killer episode. Dont pardon the pun, but more Pepper, please. However, I do feel that Forte should win this category. No one, and I mean no one, is willing to take comedy to the level of brinksmanship that Will Forte does. Thats all he did on SNL and somehow was able to out-crazy Jenna Maroney on 30 Rock. If that doesnt win any awards, I dont know what does.
Last Lunch, 30 Rock
Episode 209, Episodes
Daddys Girlfriend Part 1, Louie
Finale, The Office
Breakdown: This is the definition of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. C.K. wrote a funny, heartfelt and real piece that was not only funny, but just flat out beautiful. I dont even know if you call it comedic writing but it was brilliant. On the other side you have the finale for The Office. With the wounds from the Seinfeld finale still fresh and healing (if only it were because its on 24 hours a day), Greg Daniel wrote an episode that was so satisfying and complete it has to win. To weave Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) seamlessly into the story was a masterstroke and one of the most heartfelt moments on television in years. Never mind the rock and the hard place. Its The Office.
The Big Bang Theory
Breakdown: Again, why is Friends in this category? The Big Bang Theory hasnt been funny for years and it would be better to have an empty slot. Hopefully Maron or Portlandia can replace it next year. Girls had a sophomore slump going more for shock than awe; it deserves to be nominated but not win. The same could be said for 30 Rock. The final season was a complete victory lap. Veep is one of my favorites but its too esoteric to be a real contender; more than a smattering of people need to watch the show. Thats what scares me about Louie. Its easily the best comedy on TV and its creator is a universally acknowledged genius but how many people that arent critics watch it? The third season had the shows highest ratings to date but its nothing compared to what Modern Family pulls in. The gap in writing between the two is non-existent and the show has better breadth and depth of actors. Both shows are great but its David and Goliath. Guess which one is Modern Family?