Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2014 Emmys in Review - Hopping in the Time Machine

Seth Meyers helmed an amiable, if disappointing Emmy broadcast.

“Welcome to the 2011 Emmys,” host Seth Meyers did not say Monday night, though it would have been appropriate given how much the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards felt like a flashback to three years ago, when Modern Family was the freshest, funniest comedy on television, Sherlock was mesmerizing audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, and Breaking Bad was still the AMC upstart trying to dethrone the HBO juggernaut.  The only differences between now and then are that in 2011 Breaking Bad was ineligible after moving the show from airing in the spring to the summer to accommodate Mad Men’s delayed start and Sherlock had not yet realized that it could submit individual episodes as television movies.

Those two changes aside, last night’s Emmys looked awfully familiar.  Modern Family and The Amazing Race won their fifth and tenth series Emmys, respectively.  Ty Burrell, Julianna Margulies, and Jim Parsons were all winners again.  In fact, if you take out the miniseries and movie categories (which by their very nature are not meant to be won multiple times) fourteen of last night’s eighteen winners had previously won an Emmy for the exact same show – the only newbies being Moira Walley-Beckett for her “Ozymandias” script, Cary Fukunaga for directing True Detective, Sarah Silverman for writing her stand-up special We Are Miracles, and Allison Janney, who had previously one six other Emmys including one this year for her guest star turn in Masters of Sex.

It’s long been easy to criticize the Emmy voters for their laziness and resistance to change (as much as I loved Monk did Tony Shalhoub really deserve eight nominations and three wins for that role?), but such recalcitrance becomes especially galling given the sheer breadth of amazing television that has hit the screen in the last few years.  Instead, Emmy newcomers were largely ignored last night.  Orange Is the New Black was shut out.  True Detective managed only Fukunaga’s directing award.  Even Silicon Valley, which scored writing and directing nominations, in addition to a series nod, went home empty handed.  For all the talk of the new golden age of television being built around a large quantity of great new shows, the same, familiar names keep getting called. 

Certainly, there is some measure of hypocrisy in these statements.   I may be disappointed that Modern Family continued its dominance or that Sherlock won over what I thought was a vastly superior Fargo, but I obviously predicted the Breaking Bad sweep and made clear that I thought it was deserved.  So how do I reconcile those two viewpoints?  Perhaps my problem with the continued disappointment at the Emmy voters’ unwillingness to recognize new names and shows is because the Emmy telecast continues to show an almost pathological aversion to showing the audience actual television.  It’s a complaint I made last year but, once again, the Emmys went an entire telecast without showing any clips outside of the awards presentations and the In Memoriam segment, and even those were few and far between.   

One of my favorite aspects of both the Oscars and the Tonys are the 90-second to two-minute long clips for nominated films, or the musical productions at the Tonys.  It’s a great way to get me interested, as a person who is not likely to have seen all ten Oscar-nominated films or all sixteen Tony-nominated plays and films.  A similar problem surely exists in television as I’m certain that, based on the ratings, most of the 15+ million people who watched the Emmys Monday night have not seen Silicon Valley, Veep, Mad Men, or even a majority of the twelve nominated series.  Don’t just tell us that these shows are good, show the audience what makes them worthy of our time.

Instead of actual television clips, we got an extended, mostly unfunny bit where Weird Al adds lyrics to TV theme songs, way too much banter from the presenters, and a continuing, strange obsession with the world of film.  How else to explain the numerous cuts to Matthew McConaughey, a Julia Roberts countdown, and Roberts and Halle Berry both presenting awards?  If you’re not going to honor new television with wins and nominations, why not bring them in to present?  In the same way that the Tonys bring out the Lion King cast to present an award or the leads of Once to sing a song to remind us that these shows are still playing on Broadway (even if they’re not eligible for awards), the Emmys should be asking the cast of Orange Is the New Black to present an award, or the acclaimed Tatiana Maslany, or even stars of upcoming shows like Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis (who also fit the “obsessed with film” quotient).  Instead, the presenters were largely comprised of film stars only tangentially connected to television (Roberts, Berry, McConaughey, Woody Harrelson), or late-night hosts.  Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and even Jay Leno all showed up to give out awards.  Television is broader and more diverse than it has ever been before, but you would never know it from watching the Emmys.

This is the second year that I’ve written about the Emmys and the second year that has been marked by a bland telecast, numerous repeat winners, and a general resistance to celebrating the actual shows created by the people being honored.  Seth Meyers was fine, his opening monologue held back by the fact that he’s just not that good at standup, but he appeared to loosen up significantly as the night went on.  But there wasn’t anything he really could have done to save a show that could have been ripped from 2011 or 2012 without anybody really knowing any different. 

Perhaps next year things will change.  Breaking Bad is done and Sherlock will not be airing any new episodes until Christmas 2015.  True Detective won’t be airing until the summer of 2015 and Fargo will likely do the same, which would push both out of the eligibility period.  By my count, fully half of the 26 Emmy winners will not be eligible to win next year, opening up the possibility for new talent to be recognized.  Even if it isn’t, though, it would be nice to see the awards production put a little less focus on the movie stars and big numbers and a lot more focus on the shows.

Just for full disclosure, here are the results from Monday night and how they compare to my original predictions:

Writing for a Minseries or Movie: Steven Moffat, Sherlock; (Prediction: Noah Hawley, Fargo)
Writing for a Comedy: Louis CK, Louie; (Liz Friedman & Jenji Kohan, Orange Is the New Black)
Writing for a Drama: Moira Walley-Beckett, Breaking Bad; (Moira Walley-Beckett, Breaking Bad)
Directing for a Miniseries or Movie: Colin Bucksey, Fargo; (Ryan Murphy, The Normal Heart)
Directing for a Comedy: Gail Mancuso, Modern Family; (Gail Mancuso, Modern Family)
Directing for a Drama: Cary Joji Fukunaga, True Detective; (Cary Joji Fukunaga, True Detective)
Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie: Kathy Bates, American Horror Story; (Alison Tolman, Fargo)
Supporting Actress in a Comedy: Allison Janney, Mom; (Anna Chlumsky, Veep)
Supporting Actress in a Drama: Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad; (Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad)
Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie: Martin Freeman, Sherlock (Matt Bomer, The Normal Heart)
Supporting Actor in a Comedy: Ty Burrell, Modern Family; (Tony Hale, Veep)
Supporting Actor in a Drama: Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad; (Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad)
Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story; (Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful)
Lead Actress in a Comedy: Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Veep; (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Veep)
Lead Actress in a Drama: Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife; (Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex)
Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie: Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock; (Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart)
Lead Actor in a Comedy: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory; (Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory)
Lead Actor in a Drama: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad; (Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad)
Outstanding Television Movie: The Normal Heart; (The Normal Heart)
Outstanding Miniseries: Fargo; (Fargo)
Outstanding Comedy Series: Modern Family; (Orange Is the New Black)
Outstanding Drama Series: Breaking Bad; (Breaking Bad)

I went 11-for-22 in my major award picks, which I’m going to consider a success, given that I nailed six of the seven drama categories.  We’ll shoot for better next year.

Tyler Williams is a professional librarian and an amateur television critic.  You can reach him at TyTalksTV AT gmail DOT com or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

Monday, August 25, 2014

2014 Emmy Preview - Series Awards

Can "Orange Is the New Black" end "Modern Family's" reign?

It’s NBC’s year to host the Emmys, which means it’s time once against for the broadcast to air in August.  Additionally, thanks to the network’s Sunday Night Football contract – and the primetime preseason game that comes with it – the awards are also bound for a Monday night.  So with the ceremony airing tonight, I figured that I would take a look at the nominees and lay out my hopes and predictions.  Granted, most of this won’t matter because the Emmys are usually a crapshoot (I mean, Jeff Daniels), but I like writing about the Emmys and I hope you like reading about them.  Previously we looked at the movie and miniseries awards, the writing and directing awards, the supporting actors and actresses, and the lead actors and actresses.  Today we’ll discuss the final two categories: Outstanding Comedy and Drama Series.

Outstanding Comedy Series
The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
Orange Is the New Black
Silicon Valley

Hope:  I like The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, and Silicon Valley well enough, and they are perfectly fine examples of their form, but none of them really transcends the form or excels beyond expectations.  Louie, on the other hand, is doing things that no other show on television is doing – whether it’s telling a six-part story, or dedicating a pair of episodes to an origin story that doesn’t involve the show’s star at all.  Orange Is the New Black, meanwhile, has one of the best casts on television and manages to expertly blend comedy and drama.  Some might argue that OItNB would be more suited to the drama category, but it’s not the first dramedy to find its way here.  Choosing between the two, I have to go with the more well-rounded and consistent: Orange Is the New Black.

Prediction:  I truly believe this is the year that Modern Family finally releases its firm grip on the Outstanding Comedy Series award, not because of anything the show has necessarily done, though I think it has been a couple of years since it was the best comedy on television, but simply because it is hard to win five outstanding series Emmy awards, let alone five in a row.  In fact, only Frasier has ever done it.  Even so, Modern Family might still be the favorite.  I think, though, that the winner will come down to Orange Is the New Black and Veep.  In these circumstances, I always default to the new show,* so I predict that Orange Is the New Black will win Outstanding Comedy Series.

* The last comedy series to win its first series Emmy for a season that wasn’t its debut was Everybody Loves Raymond, which won its first Emmy for its seventh season in 2003.  I’m not counting The Office here, which won the Emmy for its second season after a truncated freshman year.

Outstanding Drama Series
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Mad Men
True Detective

Hope:  A year ago around this time everybody (myself included) was already handing Breaking Bad the 2014 Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series – and for good reason.  Bad had just won the 2013 award and was in the middle of a tour de force final campaign.  But then January rolled around and True Detective took the world by storm.  Either series will make a worthy winner, but Breaking Bad had the higher degree of difficulty.  True Detective had the ability to come in, tell a story, and leave again, while Bad had to wrap up six years’ worth of storytelling and deliver a satisfying conclusion.  Given that both succeeded spectacularly, I’ll be rooting for Vince Gilligan and company tonight.

Prediction:  Again, this all comes down to Breaking Bad versus True Detective.  Neither would really surprise me here, but I think Breaking Bad still has the momentum from last fall’s finale and its Emmy win, and I think it takes home the big prize.

Tyler Williams is a professional library and an amateur television critic.  You can reach him at TyTalksTV AT gmail DOT com or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

2014 Emmy Preview - Lead Actors and Actresses

Bryan Cranston was amazing in "Ozymandias" and should

It’s NBC’s year to host the Emmys, which means it’s time once against for the broadcast to air in August.  Additionally, thanks to the network’s Sunday Night Football contract – and the primetime preseason game that comes with it – the awards are also bound for a Monday night.  So with the ceremony just over a week away (airing Monday, August 25th), I figured that I would take a look at the nominees and lay out my hopes and predictions.  Granted, most of this won’t matter because the Emmys are usually a crapshoot (I mean, Jeff Daniels), but I like writing about the Emmys and I hope you like reading about them.  Previously we looked at the movie and miniseries awards, the writing and directing awards), and the supporting actors and actresses.  Today we’ll discuss the lead actors and actresses.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
Helena Bonham Carter – Burton & Taylor
Minnie Driver – Return to Zero
Jessica Lange – American Horror Story: Coven
Sarah Paulson – American Horror Story: Coven
Cicely Tyson – The Trip to Bountiful
Kristen Wiig – The Spoils of Babylon

Hope:  Truth time: I’ve seen none of these, which is probably a sign of the dearth of female leads on television.  Since I don’t have anything substantial to base my rooting interest on, let’s just say Minnie Driver.  I like Minnie Driver.

Prediction:  When in doubt, I usually go with the biggest name or the actor with the most previous awards.  In this case, that’s probably Cecily Tyson on both counts.  She already has nine career Emmy nominations and two wins and won a Tony for playing the same role on Broadway.  Anything else would be an upset.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock: His Last Vow
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Dancing on the Edge
Idris Elba – Luther
Martin Freeman – Fargo
Mark Ruffalo – The Normal Heart
Billy Bob Thornton – Fargo

Hope:  While I’ve had my problems with Luther and Sherlock, neither of those were the fault of those shows’ leads.  But, really, Fargo was the standout this season and my rooting interest will be there.  I honestly wouldn’t be disappointed with either Martin Freeman or Billy Bob Thornton winning, but I think it was Freeman’s gradual transformation from passive bystander to villain that had the bigger impact on me than Thornton’s straight black hat performance. 

Prediction:  This is an award that generally goes to actors in television movies.  Over the last decade, only Andre Braugher and Kevin Costner have managed to win for a miniseries.  Granted, bringing in movie stars for a miniseries could change that calculus.  Given that Cumberbatch and Elba have been nominated before without winning, I’m going to rule them out.  Chiwetel Ejiofor makes an interesting pick after his Oscar-nominated turn in 12 Years a Slave, but I think this is going to come down to the Fargo guys and Mark Ruffalo, and I have Ruffalo winning it.  HBO was seemingly born to make Emmy-winning movies (three of the last five winners in this category were the stars of HBO films) and there’s nothing holding Ruffalo back.    

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy
Lena Dunham – Girls
Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep
Melissa McCarthy – Mike & Molly
Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation
Taylor Schilling – Orange Is the New Black

Hope:  It’s becoming increasingly likely that Amy Poehler is going to go seven years playing Leslie Knope and not have a single Emmy to show for it.  In fact, by my count, Parks and Rec has never won an Emmy, and that’s a damn shame.  There are a lot of great actresses here, but Poehler is the absolute best at balancing comedy and drama.  She’s capable of playing zany and straight.  She deserves one of these (either this year’s Emmy or next year’s), but she’s not going to get it.

Prediction:  Julia Louis-Dreyfus will win this.  There’s not even really a question – anybody else would be an enormous upset.  She’s won each of the last two years, to go along with her twelve nominations and two wins for Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine.  On top of that, Veep is, by all accounts, at the top of its game right now.  Emmy voters love JLD and there’s no logical reason to pick against her.  The only conceivable reason she might lose would be if Orange Is the New Black dominates the night and sweeps Taylor Schilling to a win.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy
Louis C.K. – Louie
Don Cheadle – House of Lies
Ricky Gervais – Derek
Matt LeBlanc – Episodes
William H. Macy – Shameless
Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory

Hope:  This is a tough one for me.  I haven’t seen the most recent season of House of Lies or Episodes or Shameless.  So, really, it comes down to Louis C.K., Ricky Gervais, and Jim Parsons.  I like all of these guys in their respective roles.  Gervais has a great episode in Derek’s second season finale.  C.K., too, had “Model,” which allowed him to be funny and awkward in pretty much every way he can be.  Parsons was good this year as well, though I don’t know if it was much better than where he’s been previously.  Ultimately, I have to go with Louis C.K.  It’s a difficult decision, but I think he really gave the best performance this year.

Prediction:  Jim Parsons has won this award three of the last four years.  I see no reason for that to change.  The one wild card is Gervais, who has won before but whose performance as a character with some sort of “otherness,” whether it’s autism or simply social awkwardness, may put some voters off.

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

Hope:  I liked Michelle Dockery enough this season that I’m not upset she’s nominated here, but she shouldn’t win.  Likewise, Claire Danes was good again, but the third season of Homeland was too much of a mess to look past.  Julianna Margulies was awesome in the one episode of The Good Wife I saw, but Lizzy Caplan stole the show last year.  Her Virginia Masters was fierce and loving, motherly and sexy, and was frequently the best thing about the show that ended up at #4 on my Best of 2013 list.

Prediction:  This is an interesting category to analyze.  Claire Danes has won the last two trophies for the first two seasons of Homeland, but her show has lost basically all of its critical support in the last season and a half.  Julianna Margulies has won in the past and has a great episode as her submission.  Honestly, though, none of these performances really stands out above the others, so I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Lizzy Caplan wins.  It’s probably a mistake to go against Danes, but if anybody’s going to take it from her, it’s probably going to be an actress from a first-year show, and the only actress who fits that description is 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

Hope:  Anybody but Jeff Daniels.  But seriously, this should be Bryan Cranston’s award.  I can make an easy argument for Hamm or McConaughey, but the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad were mesmerizing and Cranston was a huge reason why.

Prediction:  This will be the award that probably tells us whether Breaking Bad or True Detective will take home best drama.  For as much of a surprise as Daniels’s win was last year, there’s no argument you can make that somebody other than Cranston or McConaughey deserves this award.  If Cranston beats McConaughey, I think Breaking Bad takes home the big trophy, and vice versa.  I’m predicting Breaking Bad to take it all (SPOILER ALERT), so that means I’m taking Bryan Cranston here.

Tyler Williams is a professional library and an amateur television critic.  You can reach him at TyTalksTV AT gmail DOT com or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

2014 Emmy Preview - Supporting Actors and Actresses

"Ozymandias" devastated most "Breaking Bad" viewers as much as it did Skylar White

It’s NBC’s year to host the Emmys, which means it’s time once against for the broadcast to air in August.  Additionally, thanks to the network’s Sunday Night Football contract – and the primetime preseason game that comes with it – the awards are also bound for a Monday night.  So with the ceremony just over a week away (airing Monday, August 25th), I figured that I would take a look at the nominees and lay out my hopes and predictions.  Granted, most of this won’t matter because the Emmys are usually a crapshoot (I mean, Jeff Daniels), but I like writing about the Emmys and I hope you like reading about them.  Previously we looked at the movie and miniseries awards and the writing and directing awards.  Today we’ll discuss the supporting actors and actresses. 

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
Alison Tolman – Fargo

Hope:  This is all about Alison Tolman.  She was absolutely phenomenal as the lead investigating officer in Fargo.  She’s got stiff competition, but nobody else shined as brightly this season as Tolman.

Prediction:  Angela Bassett has nominations for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe and a Golden Globe win.  Kathy Bates has three Oscar nominations and a win, six Golden Globe nominations and two wins, twelve Emmy nominations and a win, and a Tony nomination.  Ellen Burstyn has six Oscar nominations and a win, seven Golden Globe nominations and a win, and seven Emmy nominations and two wins.  Frances Conroy has seven combined Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and a Golden Globe win.  And Julia Roberts has a Golden Globe and three Oscars with her twelve combined nominations.  This is all to say that when I tell you Alison Tolman is going to win Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, I mean business.  The competition is insane and, honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of those other women win.  But Tolman was fantastic and Fargo was great.  I think Emmy voters will be able to look past the big names to find the true gem.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Matt Bomer – The Normal Heart
Martin Freeman – Sherlock: His Last Vow
Colin Hanks – Fargo
Joe Mantello – The Normal Heart
Alfred Molina – The Normal Heart
Jim Parsons – The Normal Heart

Hope:  Martin Freeman and Jim Parsons are two of three actors looking to pull the rare and difficult double-win this year.  Parsons is up for lead comedy actor for The Big Bang Theory while Freeman is nominated for lead miniseries actor for Fargo (Allison Janney is the third, having won a guest actress Emmy for Masters of Sex and nominated for Mom).  I don’t really care for either here, however.  Not that they were bad, just that only one of these performances really surprised me: Colin Hanks.  At the beginning of Fargo's season it looked like Hanks was going to be the comic relief: the bumbling cop who lets the big bad get away.  But as the season progressed, Hanks really stepped up the dramatic work, even earning one of the series’s most emotional climaxes. 

Prediction:  My love for Colin Hanks aside, this award is almost certainly going to Matt Bomer.  Director Ryan Murphy might have cost Parsons the chance to win it with his awkward cuts during a eulogy that serves as one of the emotional centerpieces of the film.  But even had that been executed perfectly, it was Bomer who had the flashier part, who lost all the weight and who got to physically demonstrate the ravages of HIV and AIDS.  Bomer is a good actor who has never been better.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik – The Big Bang Theory
Julie Bowen – Modern Family
Anna Chlumsky – Veep
Allison Janney – Mom
Kate McKinnon – Saturday Night Live
Kate Mulgrew – Orange Is the New Black

Hope:  This isn’t one of the stronger Emmy categories in my opinion, but it is one of the deepest.  I honestly have a hard time choosing a favorite.  I have to eliminate Chlumsky and Janney, even if they might be the frontrunners, simply because I haven’t seen their shows.  Even still, that leaves us with four strong performances.  Bialik has gotten to play one of the better dramatic arcs on The Big Bang Theory.  I may be tiring of Modern Family, but Julie Bowen still brings the funny.  And Kate McKinnon’s characters are almost always the best on SNL.  But I think I have to go with Kate Mulgrew, whose stern and prideful, but ultimately maternal Red was one of many breakout characters from the first season of Orange Is the New Black. 

Prediction:  Supporting Actress in a Comedy is usually one of the first awards given on the night and it will have particular importance this year.  Modern Family is clearly on a downward trajectory.  It took home only one award last year (for directing) prior to earning the big prize.  This year, it’s down to only three acting nominations and a directing nod.  Winning five best series awards in a row is tough (only Frasier has done it), and it appears that Modern Family is vulnerable.  The question will be which show can dethrone it.  The two most likely candidates are Veep, which won a couple of acting awards last year, and Orange Is the New Black, which is the new kid with the Netflix cachet.  I expect Anna Chlumsky to win here, and Veep to have a strong night, but Mulgrew winning could signal big things for OItNB. 

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Fred Armisen – Portlandia
Andre Braugher – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Ty Burrell – Modern Family
Adam Driver – Girls
Jesse Tyler Ferguson – Modern Family
Tony Hale – Veep

Hope:  There are several good performances here, but the standout is Andre Braugher, who is most often asked to play the straight man to the crazy antics of his detectives, but whose straightness (so to speak) makes his comedic moments stand out all the more.  He’s certainly not the funniest of the actors here but, as Adam Driver’s presence also signifies, this isn’t the award for Outstanding Comedic Actor; it’s the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, and Braugher could win that award if only for his pronunciation of “Kwazy Kupcakes.”

Prediction:  With all due respect to Fred Armisen and the Modern Family guys, I really think this comes down to Driver, Braugher, and Hale.  Adam Driver has been getting a lot of attention recently, most notably his casting as the villain in the next Star Wars movie, and is nominated for a much-buzzed about HBO show.  Andre Braugher is a career mainstay at the Emmys, with seven (now eight) nominations and a win in 1998 for Homicide.  And Tony Hale is the defending champion putting in a great performance on another HBO comedy perceived as being on the rise.  None of those three would surprise me, but as I’ve said many times before, you’ll never go broke betting on Emmy voter complacency, so I’ll pick Tony Hale to win here.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Christine Baranski – The Good Wife
Joanne Froggatt – Downton Abbey
Anna Gunn – Breaking Bad
Lena Headey – Game of Thrones
Christina Hendricks – Mad Men
Maggie Smith – Downton Abbey

Hope:  There are a lot of very good performances here, but there was one that stood out above all the others.  Anna Gunn’s tour de force in “Ozymandias,” the antepenultimate episode of Breaking Bad’s final season was unlike anything else on television this season.  The utter horror of that episode – and Bad was very much a horror show for one episode – ends up focused almost entirely on Gunn, who ably reflects it back onto the audience.

Prediction:  This feels like a wide-open race largely because of the nature of Emmy voting, in which every voter watches one episode submitted by each actress.  Baranski, who has been nominated five times for The Good Wife without winning (though she has a win from her six other Emmy nominations) had a standout performance in the episode following what has affectionately come to be known as “the episode where that thing happened.”  I wasn’t a huge fan of the rape storyline on Downton Abbey, but it certainly gave Froggatt a lot of meaty material to work with.  Gunn, as mentioned above, had “Ozymandias” and is the reigning winner.  Lena Headey was fortunate to actually be in more than half of “The Lion and the Rose,” which allowed her to grandstand at Joffrey’s wedding and then turn on a dime when asked to.  Hendricks doesn’t have as much to do in “The Strategy,” but she gets a deeply emotional, touching scene with Bob Benson.  And Maggie Smith is…well, Maggie Smith, 2012 winner in this category and winner in 2011 for the same role in the miniseries category.  It’s a broad, deep category with several standout performances, but the frontrunner here has to be Anna Gunn.  She won the statue last year and was a big part of probably the best episode of television from the last season.  I would be very surprised to see her lose here and if she were to lose it would likely not bode well for Breaking Bad in its overall war with True Detective. 

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Jim Carter – Downton Abbey
Josh Charles – The Good Wife
Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones
Mandy Patinkin – Homeland
Aaron Paul – Breaking Bad
Jon Voight – Ray Donovan

Hope:  Annually the deepest category, I really feel like this year comes down to four names.  Carter is a mainstay in this category and Voight has the big name, but neither really stands a chance.  Instead, it’s the other four who really deserve the closest look.  With such great performances, it really comes down to nitpicking.  I have to rule Patinkin out because the third season of Homeland was pretty awful and even he couldn’t transcend it.  Aaron Paul, while amazing as always, was largely sidelined for the majority of Breaking Bad’s final eight episodes.  That won’t matter as much to voters, who only have to watch one episode, but it matters to me.  So that leaves us with Josh Charles and Peter Dinklage.  Both have episodes in which they face the blunt end of betrayal: Charles when Julianna Margulies’s Alicia leaves their law firm to start her own and Dinklage when Tyrion’s lover Shea testifies against him.  Really, it comes down to two scenes: Will Gardner confronting Alicia Florrick and clearing off her desk (LINK) and Tyrion Lannister dropping truth bombs in front of his father, Tywin.  By the narrowest of margins, Peter Dinklage comes out on top.

Prediction:  As I said above, I have the value of a full season’s worth of work to measure for most of these actors and, while I can’t give the award to Aaron Paul because his character was sidelined for so much of the season, the Emmy voters won’t have that issue.  He has two wins already for this role and, while he didn’t win last year, Bobby Canavale is no longer eligible.  If it’s not going to be Paul, I would expect Josh Charles to win, but I’m predicting a very strong night for Breaking Bad, and I think that’s going to help push Paul to victory.

Tyler Williams is a professional librarian and an amateur television critic.  You can reach him at TyTalksTV AT gmail DOT com or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.