The Primetime Emmys are supposed to represent the cream of the crop when it comes to honoring the year’s best television programs, and before I go any further, I’d like to say that for the most part, the academy did a good job with its nominations.
Still, The Emmys tend to contradict themselves every year when nominations are announced, honoring creative, critically-acclaimed programs alongside lesser-regarded shows with a broader, mainstream appeal (though at least Glee has been bounced from most of the major categories this time around).
There’s plenty of good and bad to analyze with this year’s nominations, so let’s take a look at the major categories.
Supporting Actor, Comedy Series
Ed O’Neill, Modern Family
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Max Greenfield, New Girl
Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live
Who will win: Burrell
Who should win: Greenfield
Who was snubbed: Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation, among many others
Sure, Modern Family is still a decent show, but it’s a far cry from the laugh-out-loud, critical- and commercial-darling it was in its first season. All four MF actors are enjoyable and very good, but the fact that they are still dominating this category really bugs me, considering none of them are really supporting actors at all.
With the MF takeover, only two spots were left in a very crowded field, and I’d be happy if either Greenfield or Hader wins. But still no nomination for Ron F-ing Swanson is one of the biggest Emmy gaffs in recent memory. Others deserving nominations: Danny Pudi for Community, Damon Waynes Jr. and Adam Pally for Happy Endings, Adam Driver for Girls, Neil Patrick Harris for How I Met Your Mother.
Supporting Actress, Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Kathryn Joosten, Desperate Housewives
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
Who will win: Vergara
Who should win: Wiig
Who was snubbed: Gillian Jacobs, Community, Eliza Coupe, Happy Endings
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Wiig took home the award in her last season as an SNL cast member, though swan-songs are rarely a reason to win at the Emmys (see Steve Carell last year). One of the Modern Family women will more than likely take it home. I just hope it’s Vergara, because as much as I like Julie Bowen, Claire Dunphy rarely makes me laugh. I don’t watch TBBT, though I hear nothing but good things of Bialik’s performance.
The Emmys continue to ‘Britta” the situation when it comes to nominating Community for anything (though the episode “Remedial Chaos Theory” was nominated for Writing). Jacobs oftentimes falls to the background in the crazy Community universe, but when she gets a chance to shine, she’s the funniest part of the show. Coupe and her on-screen husband Damon Waynes Jr. manage to make a “moral” center of the Friends-esque vibe of Happy Endings completely unhinged and hilarious.
Best Actress in a Comedy Series
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Who will win: Louis-Dreyfus
Who should win: Poehler
Who was snubbed: Jane Levy, Suburgatory
Probably the most well-constructed category as far as comedy goes, I can envision each of the nominees winning and all are deserving in their own ways (though I’d argue that last year’s winner, McCarthy, rode a wave from her huge success in Bridesmaids, as she is funny on Mike & Molly but doesn’t get much to work with). Veep is amazingly fast-paced, snappy, and smart and JLD never skips a beat, but I’m rooting for Poehler all the way, who is long overdue for her role as Leslie Knope, the heart and soul of perhaps the best comedy on TV.
While Suburgatory was spotty during its first season, it was mostly a strong rookie campaign thanks to its sassy, smart and incredibly likable protagonist played by Jane Levy.
Best Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Louis C.K., Louie
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Who will win: Parsons
Who should win: C.K.
Who was snubbed: Joel McHale, Community, Thomas Jane, Hung
As much as it hurts me to say, Parsons has this one in the bag. Personally, I don’t get how using a complicated scientific theory as a metaphoric punchline multiple times an episode constitutes as great comedy, but what do I know? The two guys I’m pulling for most, C.K. and David, have an uphill climb because both are playing fictionalized versions of themselves, which could be constituted as not 100% acting in some voters eyes, but as long as it’s funny, who really cares?
McHale is the true lead on the smartest and most innovative comedy on TV, and he brings plenty of laughs, smarmy dialogue, and charm to Jeff Winger. I might be the only one waiving the Hung banner, but its third and final season was not only its best yet, but captivating television by anyone’s standards, and Jane was outstanding as prostitute, teacher, dad, ex-husband Ray Drecker.
Best Comedy Series
The Big Bang Theory
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Who will win: Modern Family
Who should win: Curb/Girls
Who was snubbed: Louie, Community, Parks & Rec, etc.
Modern Family is an unstoppable freight train yet again and should sweep most of the categories it’s in, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. As ScreenInvasion’s Girls recapper, I whole-heartedly support it in all categories it’s up for, as its innovative, stylish, and funny take on 20-something life these days is a refreshing change of course compared to most of what’s on cable.
I could argue that the list of snubbed shows would be much stronger than the list of nominated shows in this category. While the major networks are struggling to keep up with cable in terms of drama, network comedies are as strong as they’ve ever been, with Parks, Community, New Girl, Happy Endings, and even Cougar Town and How I Met Your Mother cranking out laugh-out-loud moments from week-to-week, while Louie is on its own planet in terms of originality.
Supporting Actor, Drama Series
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad
Brendan Coyle, Downton Abbey
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Jared Harris, Mad Men
Who should win: Esposito
Who will win: Esposito
Who was snubbed: John Slattery, Mad Men, Walt Goggins & Neal McDonough, Justified
What a stacked category. Dinklage won last year when Breaking Bad was ineligible. Former winner Paul is back in the mix, and he is more than deserving of taking home another award. But this year, no one can top the breathtaking performance Esposito poured into Gus Fring, the most intriguing, complex, and terrifying bad guy of the last decade.
Jared Harris slid in and took Slattery’s place as the Mad Men representative, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he won (though I found Layne’s storyline this season to be a distraction and rather unbelievable). After getting a lot of love in 2011, Justified was all but forgotten about this year, which is a shame.
Supporting Actress, Drama Series
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Who will win: Smith
Who should win: Hendricks
Who was snubbed: Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones
I understand the Emmys fascination with Downton Abbey. It’s a British period piece filled with some fine performances, and while it’s a good show, I don’t think it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the best dramas on television. That said, I think this is the category where Abbey can take down an award, with the much more showy Smith being the favorite over Froggatt.
Hendricks is long overdue in this category. I could watch Joan and Don talk at the bar for hours and never get board of it.
Though anchored in season 1 by Sean Bean and season 2 by Peter Dinklage, I always thought that Maisie Williams playing Arya Stark was just as good if not better than her veteran counterparts, and even if Arya’s story dragged a little too much for my liking this season, Williams always made time spent with her worthwhile.
Best Actress in a Drama Series
Kathy Bates, Harry’s Law
Glenn Close, Damages
Claire Danes, Homeland
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Who will win: Danes
Who should win: Danes
Who was snubbed: Emmy Rossum, Shameless
Admittedly, I have not seen one episode of Homeland, but I have read and heard enough about it from people I trust to know that it is the real deal (and I plan on catching up soon). From all I hear, this is Claire Danes’ to lose, and she’s an amazing actress and it would be well deserved, though I wouldn’t be mad about an Elizabeth Moss upset, even if Season 5 wasn’t Peggy Olson’s greatest display.
After a rather one-note first season, Emmy Rossum stepped up her game in Season 2 of Shameless to give Fiona Gallagher a much more well-rounded base from which to work from.
Best Actor in a Drama Series
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Damian Lewis, Homeland
Who will win: Cranston
Who should win: Cranston
Who was snubbed: Timothy Olyphant, Justified, Hugh Laurie, House
Bryan Cranston was going to take this category down for the fourth time regardless of who was matched up against him, but it almost seems unfairly easy this season. Newcomers Bonneville and Lewis are deserving but have no shot. Michael C. Hall is typically great but also has no chance after a flat out terrible season of Dexter. Last year’s winner Kyle Chandler is gone. And if Hamm and Buscemi couldn’t win in 2011 without Cranston, what chance do they have this year?
The fact remains, no one gets to showcase their skills like Cranston does on Breaking Bad. And even if another actor had that sort of stage, nobody could possibly be as menacing, ruthless, and heartbreaking as Walter White than Cranston.
After getting a nomination last year, Olyphant was left out to dry in 2012 with the rest of his Justified cast. House has fallen off severely in the last couple of years, but Laurie was still so great as our favorite cantankerous doc up until the series’ final scene.
Best Drama Series
Game of Thrones
Who will win: Mad Men
Who should win: Breaking Bad
Who was snubbed: Parenthood
Unlike most of the comedy categories, the academy got the majority of the drama picks in the ballpark. My only addition to the field would be Parenthood, which, much like Friday Night Lights before it, is complex family storytelling done right.
Emmy voters have a huge crush on Mad Men, as it has earned the win in this category in each of its first four seasons, and with another strong season, that isn’t likely to change.
While its performances will continue to garner plenty of love, Breaking Bad as a show is still a little too extreme for the Emmys’ taste (part of the reason The Wire was continually shut out during its run), but man, if you can find me a season of television in the past year more compelling, pulsating, and entertaining than Season 4 of Breaking Bad, I’m listening.