Emmy crystal ball Who will win and who should win TV glory.
As with TV itself, the only certainty with the Emmys is that almost everything will unfold as predicted. It’s the exceptions that will leave people scratching their heads.
And predicting where those exceptions will happen, in which categories and to whom, is about as easy as guessing what new comedy or drama will be cancelled first.
The new fall season is officially underway the night following the Emmys, which, this year, falls on Sept. 18. And, as Academy of Television Arts & Sciences chairman John Shaffner recently reminded me, the Emmys are all about celebrating what’s new and in-the-moment, and not fixating on the past.
That’s why, if you glance over the list of Emmy winners in key categories over the past six decades, there are few so-called “legacy” awards, where the Emmys acknowledge programs that retired or were cancelled earlier that year.
Instead, the Emmys tend to reserve some of their biggest accolades on newly discovered series in their first year. The West Wing, for example, won a ballot-stuffing nine Emmys in its first season. Although The West Wing went on to win four consecutive Emmys for best drama, it never again hauled in that many trophies in a single year.
The Emmys favour the new over the old, even if it seems some years as though the same programs keep winning year after year. Mad Men is favoured to win yet again this year, and Modern Family is once again the frontrunner for best comedy. Both those programs are relatively new, however, and will return.
Friday Night Lights, on the other hand, will likely be overlooked for best drama because — as with Lost last year — it has retired and is no longer on the air. This, despite having already won a Peabody, Humanitas Prize and last month’s TV Critics Association award for Program of the Year.
The trend continues in the performance categories. Nominated actors and actresses often win in their first year. Previous winners often win again. It’s unusual, though, for a performer to win who’s been nominated often, but has never taken home the prize. It happened last year, with Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer, but that may have been a one-time aberration.
This time around, five of 12 nominated comedy and drama series are first-time nominees, including Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones and Parks and Recreation. The year’s first-time acting nominees, and potential winners, include The Killing’s Mireille Enos and Michelle Forbes, The Big C’s Laura Linney, The Good Wife’s Josh Charles and Alan Cumming, The Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki, Justified’s Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins, Raising Hope’s Martha Plimpton, Louie’s Louis C.K., Boardwalk Empire’s Steve Buscemi and Kelly Macdonald, and Mike & Molly’s Melissa McCarthy.
Here’s a quick look, then, at the likely winners in key Emmy categories, as well as a nod to some of those who deserve to win, but likely won’t:
Drama series: Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, Friday Night Lights, Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, Mad Men
Yes, it may seem frustrating (Mad Men has won three times already, after all), but the truth is that Mad Men had its finest season. It’s never wise to bet against Don Draper & Co. And, as The West Wing proved from 2000 to 2004, one shouldn’t hold a series’ past quality against it, especially when it improves with age.
Friday Night Lights deserves it, though. This was a fine season for drama, but no series in recent memory left a valedictorian summation speech quite like FNL did.
If Boardwalk Empire should win, it will be another sign that Emmy voters are quick to acknowledge the new over the old, even if, in Mad Men and Friday Night Lights’ case, the older, the better.
Will win:Mad Men
Should win: Friday Night Lights
Lead actress in a drama series: Kathy Bates (Harry’s Law), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), Mireille Enos (The Killing), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order:SVU, Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
Margulies is poised to win the Emmy denied her last year — The Closer’s Kyra Sedgwick landed that evening’s big surprise last year, remember — but Moss is more deserving, for the tour-de-force Mad Men episode in which Peggy and Jon Hamm’s Don Draper are locked in the office overnight, on Peggy’s birthday, no less, forced to deal with a difficult account, all the while giving each other an emotional beating.
Also deserving: The Killing’s Mireille Enos, who underplayed a role where the temptation must have been to overplay, and for being The Killing’s quiet heart and soul at the core of an excruciatingly painful mystery.
Take a long, hard look at this list, by the way. Who says there are no good roles for women in TV today?
Should win: Enos or Moss
Lead actor in a drama series: Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Hugh Laurie (House), Timothy Olyphant (Justified)
Time to face facts: Hugh Laurie is never going to win this thing, even if he has won the Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe.
Hamm deserves it, for a Mad Men season in which he showed Don Draper’s human face, despite the lurking suspicion that there may not be a real human being there. Ad men are all about the sale, remember, not what’s underneath. Hamm and Moss provided some of TV’s most telling scenes, even so.
Buscemi is the favourite, though, because he’s won a few big awards already, and because he’s a film actor working in the TV medium, and many Emmy voters have yet to get over their inferiority complex.
Will win: Buscemi
Should win: Hamm
Comedy series: The Big Bang Theory, Glee, Modern Family, The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock
Glee lost much of its mojo last year, and 30 Rock, The Office and The Big Bang Theory seem like yesterday’s news. Parks and Recreation may be too subtle, laid-back and small-town for its own good.
That leaves Modern Family, which is deserving of every accolade it gets. It took a lively, bright, fresh freshman year and, if anything, made Family life seem even fresher and more lively in its second year. So much for the dreaded sophomore slump.
One caveat, though. Where on God’s green earth is Community on this list? (It’s not just me, by the way. Talking with Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan last month in Los Angeles, Levitan told me he laughs so hard while watching Community at times that he sometimes hurts himself.)
Will win: Modern Family
Should win: Modern Family
Lead actor in a comedy series: Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Steve Carell (The Office), Louis C.K. (Louie), Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory), Matt LeBlanc (Episodes), Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Many prognosticators believe Carell is the likely winner for The Office, but his show is no longer on the air. Instead, look for Emmy voters to resume their beautiful friendship with the elder statesman of the Baldwin clan. He’s won before, he’s a big-time movie actor (still), and voting for Baldwin will ease Emmy voters’ guilt that they didn’t vote for 30 Rock for best comedy.
Louis C.K. is the comic genius, though, for playing an Everyman shlub in one of TV’s most unfairly overlooked comedies, and making it look easy. If you thought Elaine Benes’s dancing in Seinfeld was funny, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen white, nebbish, out-of-shape, 40-something Louie (Louis C.K.) trying to get down in an urban dance club.
Will win: Baldwin
Should win:Louis C.K.
Lead actress in a comedy series: Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Laura Linney (The Big C), Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly), Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
Laura Linney seems assured of a win, because Emmy voters are suckers for a dramatic role, especially in a comedy about cancer. The Big C is not really a comedy, of course — neither is Nurse Jackie— but that’s the category its makers placed it in.
Anyone who’s seen Raising Hope, though, can’t help but have been wowed by Plimpton’s assured, charismatic turn as a blue-collar mom who seems to have everything against her, including a nutbar grandmother for a sounding board, but manages to survive just the same.
Reality-competition program: The Amazing Race, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, Top Chef
It’s a big world out there, and the world is The Amazing Race’s oyster.
American Idol is too big and messy. And, let’s face it, that interminable final results show is a buzz kill, year in and year out. Dancing with the Stars is the very definition of trivial. And while So You Think You Can Dance has growing buzz (it won a number of creative arts Emmys last week), it still feels small in scale, like a summer silly-season reality show.
One curiosity: Survivor once again failed to make the shortlist, even though host Jeff Probst won his fourth consecutive Emmy last week for best reality-competition host. But wait, there’s more. The reality-competition category is relatively new: Probst is the only person to have won. Go figure.
Will win and should win: The Amazing Race
Variety, music or comedy series:The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Conan, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Real Time with Bill Maher, Saturday Night Live
The Daily Show is the closest thing there is to an Emmy lock. As savvy and acerbic as Stewart is, though, what Colbert does is harder by half. Stewart’s weakness is Colbert’s strength. Stewart’s interviews can be wanting, especially when he goes out of his way to coddle political adversaries he routinely trashes in his monologues. However, Colbert’s interviews, in which he stays in character as the blowhard know-it-all unwilling to listen, verge on the surreal at times. Almost everything Colbert does is a highlight reel moment. Colbert is the bomb.
Will win: The Daily Show
Should win:The Colbert Report
The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards air Sunday on CTV at 8 ET/5 PT, repeated on CTV and FOX at 8 PT.