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.

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