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.

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