It’s that time of year again: the Television Solstice, the Night that is Not Like All Other Nights, the Great Reckoning of the Small Screen. The Emmys! And even though Seth Meyers is hosting this year (snoozy mcsnoozerson), the crop of nominees is varied and fascinating. We’re going to have some very close races tonight, particularly in the dramatic categories. I’m very much looking forward to sobbing during Billy Crystal’s tribute to Robin Williams. And because this is my favorite awards show, bar none, I humbly offer my predictions and my hopes below. Enjoy these sweet glistening innards of my TV-addled brain.
Because I am not thorough, I’ve excluded the throwaway categories like Outstanding Reality Program, Children’s Program, etc, as well as Guest Actors and Actresses because they’re usually such wild cards. Same goes for the writing and directing categories, the analysis of which would have tortured me to no end.
Let’s have at it.
Outstanding Comedy Series
The Big Bang Theory
Orange Is the New Black
Orange. This season was vastly superior to Season 1, with more nuanced performances, better writing, and far more cultural resonance. I waffled a little bit, because I have loved Louie very deeply and for so long, but OITNB is just a solid piece that finds the black notes in the waves and quells of its humor. And its cast is just so talented.
Veep. Maybe. They could also go for OITNB, but the problem is that it’s a younger-skewing show and Veep has been performing stronger than ever. It’s a voter favorite thanks to its comedy pedigree (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, et al) and its sharp feminist bent. Just anything except Modern Family. Stop it. Please.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Ricky Gervais, Derek
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Louis C.K., Louie
William H. Macy, Shameless
Louie C.K. He had a phenomenal season and he really got to stretch his range, especially in his submitted episode – the jaggedly comic “Model.” Louie is going alternately to really dark and really hysterical places on his show, and although he’s up against a lot of talent, he has really proven himself as an actor.
Louie C.K. The category got kind of weird because Shameless suddenly became a comedy and not a drama, and I’m sure everyone who’s up against Bill Macy is peeing themselves. But none of these other guys have challenged themselves in these roles – least of all Ricky Gervais, whose Derek has got to put a bad taste in the voters’ mouths.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis Dreyfus, Veep
Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Amy Poehler, Parks & Recreation
Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black
Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I’ve watched the reviews roll in on this season of Veep and JLD has apparently been knocking it out of the park. It’s kind of cheap to pick someone based on my Tumblr dashboard, but who else in this category really deserves the win? Not Lena – weirdly, she submitted “Beach House,” which was not a great showcase episode – and not Amy Poehler, who still hasn’t won for Parks & Rec but didn’t have a stellar season.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus. They also might pick Taylor Schilling, whose performance as Piper was much more palatable this season. But JLD is tried and true, and Veep is at the zenith of its quality. She’s the safe winner.
Oustanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Andre Braugher, Brookiyn Nine-Nine
Adam Driver, Girls
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Fred Armisen, Portlandia
Tony Hale, Veep
Tony Hale. Because his little alien face does half the work and he is a delightful little crumpet who gives Veep its heart. But I’d also be cool with Andre Braugher winning, because he’s currently giving a fascinating comedic performance by not being funny at all. Side note, I am super happy for Adam Driver just for being nominated, because although he’s still developing as an actor, he has a core of charm and honesty that can’t be taught.
Tony Hale. But I don’t trust these Emmy yahoos; if they pick a Modern Family cast member I am going to seppuku. If they come to their senses and realize the Modern era is over, I’m pretty sure they’ll go with Hale, who has a good amount of critical heat behind him for this role.
Oustanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Allison Janney, Mom
Kate Mulgrew, Orange Is the New Black
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Kate Mulgrew. This is a very low-key group, and Mulgrew as prison puppeteer Red is the standout choice. She’s created the most iconic character amongst these nominees, and I think voters are pretty much over Anna Chlumsky and Mayim Bialik at this point. Mulgrew really holds OITNB together and has had some heartbreaking moments this season.
Allison Janney. I don’t watch Mom, but there’s been so much hype surrounding it. It’s my understanding that Janney plays straight drama in a funny show, which is usually an ironclad zeppelin to that great trophy in the sky. And I would never begrudge Janney any award, ever. Her bug eyes deserve their day.
Oustanding Drama Series
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Breaking Bad. You already know why.
Breaking Bad. Not only did none of these competitors have near-perfect seasons, they also didn’t have half the cultural and artistic impact of BB. It’s a no-brainer and I’ll be thrilled to see this show go out in a blaze of glory.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex
Claire Danes, Homeland
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Lizzy Caplan. But just by a nose. This is not a strongly populated category. ARE YOU PEOPLE STILL NOMINATING KERRY WASHINGTON FOR ACTING AWARDS? Robin Wright did not submit her best episode of the season, and voters have really soured on Homeland. But Caplan still faithfully performs as sphinxy, minxy Virginia.
Robin Wright. The voters will probably be thinking about her performance throughout HoC and not necessarily the finale, and she’s up against weakly publicized contenders. I’m not sure they’ll laud a sexy (relative) newcomer like Caplan.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Woody Harrelson, True Detective
Matthew McConaughey, True Detective
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Matthew McConaughey. Hear me out! Cranston was absolutely blistering in the final eight BB episodes (particularly “Ozymandias”) and I would clearly be totes fine with him carrying away his fourth emmy for his swan song as Walter White. But I think McConaughey’s work in True Detective was so raw, so tremendously human, and so bravely un-McConaughey that he should be recognized for it. TD was not my favorite show, but Mr. Bongos absolutely blew me away.
Matthew McConaughey. Not because the voters defer to me or anything like that. But they know that Matty doesn’t make it to the small screen that often, and BB will surely be decorated in many other ways. Although it’s his last chance for BB, Cranston will surely be up on the Emmy stage again.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan
Aaron Paul. Where I was cool with taking a Cranston break, I am absolutely UNCOOL with this award missing Paul. He brought everything to Jesse Pinkman this season. It’s truly rare to see acting like that, progressively more painful and wild and furious and tender and broken, mounting episode after episode. He turned himself inside out for that role. Period. That said, it still makes me speechless with shock that Dean Norris wasn’t even nominated in this category.
Aaron Paul. I think his only real competition in the category is Peter Dinklage, and although he really brought the passion as Tyrion in GoT, he just didn’t have the same level of material as Paul to work with. I doubt the voters would even touch Jon Voight or Jim Carter, or even Mandy Patinkin. Josh Charles is also a contender, but quite far in the distance.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
Anna Gunn. This is actually an amazing swathe of powerful female performances, but Gunn’s submitted episode, “Ozymandias,” is just head and shoulders above everyone else in the category. Like many BB fans, I didn’t care deeply for Skyler until these final eight episodes, but Gunn really slammed it home and found new depths in her character. The shot of her collapsing to her knees, hoarsely sobbing, as Walt drives away, is indelible. My adoration for Christina Hendricks and Lena Headey aside, this award belongs to Gunn.
Anna Gunn. I just don’t think anything else is possible. There’s not enough heat behind Hendricks or Christine Baranski, the two other nominees who really acted their asses off, and Gunn had so much more to work with writing-wise. It’s a lock.
American Horror Story: Coven
Bonnie & Clyde
The White Queen
Fargo. The fact that True Detective was (inexplicably) excluded from this category was actually a stroke of good luck for this little show that could. Nevermind the fact that these other nominees don’t hold a candle to this tight, thrilling series – Fargo stands alone as a fantastic experiment in the TV medium. It perfectly evoked Coen Brothers dark, scampy charm in episodes, which I don’t think any of us thought was possible. It was gorgeously executed and original.
Fargo. Its quality notwithstanding, it’s got a “one of these is not like the others” vibe that will work to its advantage. The confluence of its achievements in writing, directing, cinematography, and acting cannot be ignored.
Outstanding Television Movie
Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight
The Normal Heart
Sherlock: His Last Vow
The Trip to Bountiful
The Normal Heart. It was a lot less sappy and awards-grabby than I assumed it would be, and the acting ranged from very good to breathtaking. It also has miles and miles of publicity behind it. His Last Vow was a weird pick for Sherlock, episode-wise. They really should have submitted The Reichenbach Fall last year, if anything.
The Normal Heart. For its social resonance, mostly, and also for its film-star power cast, rare to see on television.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Coven
Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor
Minnie Driver, Return to Zero
Kristen Wiig, The Spoils of Babylon
Cicely Tyson, The Trip Bountiful
Jessica Lange. To be transparent, I have seen none of these programs save AHS: Coven, but her work on it was top-notch as usual, as if she was in a completely different show that was good. She was vulnerable and self-immolating and I never took my eyes off her.
Jessica Lange. Again, maybe they know something I don’t about Minnie Driver or Cicely Tyson, but the voters love Lange and she’s the only name I’ve really seen bounced around on the internet in this category.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge
Martin Freeman, Fargo
Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo
Idris Elba, Luther
Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: His Last Vow
Martin Freeman. God, this category is delicious for me. As a huge Sherlock fangirl, it’s fun to see Cumberbatch pitted against Freeman – and although Cumby gave an at-times incandescent performance in His Last Vow, it’s a nomination that comes too little too late.It mostly sucks that this episode was lumped into the miniseries category, otherwise he might have stood a fighting chance. But Freeman’s performance is so tortured, so delicately layered, that I can’t imagine this victory going to anyone else.
Martin Freeman. But I also would not be surprised if they went with Mark Ruffalo, who is a fan favorite and really transformed emotionally for his role. Billy Bob didn’t do much “acting” on Fargo, for all his sinister charisma, and I think the voters will reward a small-timer like Freeman for catapulting the show into higher and higher quality.
Oustanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Colin Hanks, Fargo
Jim Parsons, The Normal Heart
Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart
Alfred Molina, The Normal Heart
Matt Bomer, The Normal Heart
Martin Freeman, Sherlock: His Last Vow
Jim Parsons. I thought he was absolutely lovely and fascinating in The Normal Heart, as opposed to his THREE (!) fellow nominees. Matt Bomer was great at dying, but offered nothing surprising in his portrayal. I’m not exactly sure why Martin Freeman was nominated for His Last Vow, because it’s one of Watson’s most understated episodes, but of course I’d be chuffed to see him win anyway.
Jim Parsons. If he doesn’t win for The Big Bang Theory, he will surely win in this category, simply because the voters are smitten with him.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
Angela Bassett, American Horror Story: Coven
Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Coven
Ellen Burstyn, Flowers in the Attic
Frances Conroy, American Horror Story: Coven
Julia Roberts, The Normal Heart
Allison Tolman, Fargo
Allison Tolman. I don’t know, I just want to see her win! She was quite affecting on Fargo and virtually unknown before it, and I think it would be sweet to reward an up-and-comer. Everyone else is old hat. Angela Basset was excellent, but mostly just gif-worthy.
Julia Roberts. Because they’re boring and they love wheelchairs.
And there you have it! As a bonus, check out this awesome infographic of all things Emmy from Emmys.com, start to finish: