In a couple days—5:35 AM on July 19, to be specific—the nominees for the 64th Annual Emmy Awards will be announced by actress Kerry Washington and Ron F*cking Swanson himself, Nick Offerman. As excited as fans will be to see their favorite programs and performers recognized, inevitably there will be disappointments. Every year, a show is ignored, an actor is robbed of his just accolades or someone snuck into the party that had no business being there. And as someone who now watches TV for professional purposes, I feel like the stakes are raised.
On a week-to-week basis, I’m evaluating these shows, the performances, the writing, and many nuances of craft that contribute to the story and its accompanying visuals. But I don’t have a say in the matter. Well here, on my turf, I’m calling the shots. I will be forming my own Emmy ballot consisting of those whom I believe should be lauded for their artistic achievements in the television medium this past year.
Disclaimer: Although I watch a considerable amount of television, I do have other obligations and responsibilities in life. I can’t get to them all. I do read a lot of criticism though (No! Not just my own…) and I have a carefully formed opinion. So while I would like to believe I’m a vigilante critic who will right the wrongs of the establishment, I likely will ignore just as much exceptional work. But no matter what that participation trophy you were given by your hometown’s recreational soccer league tells you, there has to be winners and losers. And from my makeshift ivory tower, I shall make my decree of the most deserving in television for this calendar year. In addition, I will make an early prediction of who would most likely win among my nominees (if the Academy were to consider them) and who should be taking home the statuette.
I will only be tackling the four major acting categories, the series awards, and the writing nods—since you know, its kinda my thing.
Up first, the funny people!
Anna Chlumsky as Amy—”Veep” (HBO)
Elisha Cuthbert as Alex—”Happy Endings” (ABC)
Zosia Mamet as Shoshanna Shapiro—”Girls” (HBO)
Aubrey Plaza as April—”Parks and Recreation”(NBC)
Kristen Wiig as Various characters—”Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
Allison Williams as Marnie Michaels—”Girls” (HBO)
Should Win…Aubrey Plaza. She’s on my favorite sitcom and she had the most standout season. While I’m no Rashida Jones hater (I like her in most things she’s in), she was very much the sidekick best friend while Leslie ran for office. April was a character who was given more of a load to carry, and the actress carried it steadily. Not only was there a definite arc where April began to insert herself into her friends’ lives, but Plaza pulled off that transition with humor and appropriate feeling. She grew as an actress as her character grew as a person. While Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope are the heart and soul, April continues to be that agent of chaos with a sweet streak that makes Pawnee such a wonderful place to visit.
Would Win… Of all my nominees only one has has caught the Academy’s eye before. Kristen Wiig. Though “Bridesmaids” was last summer, the goodwilll from it will last. Also it’s her last season the iconic sketch show, and she was the reliable veteran presence on her team. A statuette would be a nice sendoff, though likely the award is gift-wrapped for Julie Bowen, defending her title. Either that, or her “Modern Family” co-star Sofia Vergara. Yeah, the Emmys love them some freaking Modern Family. To me, it’s become less impressive and undoubtedly less innovative since its first season, frankly.
Adam Driver as Adam Shackler—”Girls” (HBO)
Max Greenfield as Schmidt—”New Girl” (Fox)
Jake Johnson as Nick—”New Girl” (Fox)
Keegan Michael Key as Various characters—”Key and Peele” (Comedy Central)
Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson—”Parks and Recreation” (NBC)
Jordan Peele as Various characters—”Key and Peele” (Comedy Central)
Should Win… This was tough. This year saw the premiere of two superb HBO comedies—I had to leave off my boy Tony Hale who I was SO pleased to see back on TV since I’m a huge Arrested Development fan— the addition of a critical and ratings success for the networks (“New Girl”) and Comedy Central brought a biting sketch show back into the fold. But it won’t be any of the five newbies that I’m championing. That honor goes to Ron F*cking Swanson. For three years now, since “Parks and Recreation” became adored by reviewers like me, Nick Offerman has played the show’s most iconic character. Whether it’s his jazz-playing alter ego Duke Silver, his outrageously stringent libertarian beliefs or his borderline fetishistic love of meat, this man’s man is an Internet meme waiting to happen. Why the Academy hasn’t recognized him yet is beyond me. But I see you, sir. There’s a reason the man has a notorious John Wooden-esque Pyramid of Success. He’s the original T-Pain. All he does is win. It’s time he won an Emmy too.
Would Win… Again, I’ll have to play the game of, “Who has a chance in hell of even being nominated?” “Modern Family” locked up four nods last year, and will likely secure three of those this year. Chris Colfer of “Glee” is still beloved and didn’t give the Emmys a reason to look the other way, and with all the controversy Jon Cryer will remain a contender. So who sneaks in? You always go with the safe bet of a network show (though HBO has been showered with love in the past, so I’ll be interested to see how the comedies fare). And that leaves two roomies from “New Girl” and Swanson. Since I already mentioned the ignorance of the Academy towards Mr. Offerman, it would seem the rookies have the Hunger Games-like odds in their favor. And the stronger and flashier of the two is Max Greenfield. Out the gate, Schmidt had the best lines, the most outlandish personality, and stole all the scenes he was in. Look for the douchebag jar to make an appearance on the list, which gives him at least a puncher’s chance at the hardware.
Christina Applegate as Reagan Brinkley—”Up All NIght” (NBC)
Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day—”New Girl” (Fox)
Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath—”Girls” (HBO)
Tina Fey as Liz Lemon—”30 Rock” (NBC)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer—”Veep” (HBO)
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope—”Parks and Recreation” (NBC)
Should Win… While all of these women have enlightened the male-dominated viewing public that women are indeed funny (no matter what Adam Corolla say), one was able to accomplish more that just shits and giggles. In her challenging arc, Amy Poehler played a candidate running for office with grace, humility and poise. Wait, huh? Does that even exist. We live in a country that grows more cynical by the day about politicians, and this actress rendered a nominee who would actually earn my vote. While she feel victim to gotcha journalist traps, and got slowed by bureaucratic mess, she remained idealistic about the role of government and the responsibility of public service. Sure, shenanigans ensued, and performance was bolster by “her man” Adam Scott, but Poehler proved she was not playing a ditzy blonde with overreaching ambition. She’s a highly competent, if not neurotic, compassionate leader who brings the best out of her friends and colleagues. That her surrogate family was so gung-ho to help her campaign was a ringing endorsement. In the hands of a less capable actress this whole season could have felt one note, but nuance and depth are Poehler’s new middle names.
Would Win… This is the first category where I truly believe the majority of my picks will be recognized by the Academy. It’s a STACKED pool. Louis-Dreyfus, Deschanel and Poehler are shoe-ins. Tina Fey could fall out of perennial status, Dunham may be too controversial, and Applegate definitely is the weak link (though most years she’d shine) Critic’s Choice had Deschanel and Poehler in a tie, too bad the Emmys aren’t as generous. I’ll go out on a limb and say Poehler finally gets her due and justice is served for at least ONCE on awards night.
Will Arnett as Chris Brinkley—”Up All Night” (NBC)
Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy—”30 Rock” (NBC)
Louis C.K as Louie—”Louie” (FX)
Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan—”House of Lies” (Showtime)
Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger—”Parks and Recreation” (NBC)
Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt—”Parks and Recreation” (NBC)
Should Win… If my standup idol were somehow in a category of his own, then this award would be Adam Scott’s for the taking. His ability to deliver straightforward dialogue as a punchline in unrivaled. But he is in the same category as the epitome of the multi-tasker, Louis C.K. He’s an comic genius, an innovative filmmaker, and is quickly becoming a skilled actor. Though he dedicated an episode to his acting insecurities, he’s actually quite good Facial expressions are his forte, and discomfort is where he lives. It’s almost unfair to compare what Louis does to Adam, but unfortunately that’s what I must do. They are the best in their respective niches, but you you pressed me to group them together, my heart will say Louie. They both do so much more with less, but Scott played an awesomely supportive boyfriend with growing anxieties about his self-worth. Louie played a single father who is trying to open himself up again.Both embodied their roles, but Louie’s felt genuine and heartbreaking, whereas Scott’s felt sweet. Both tap into emotional reservoirs, but Louie depletes me, where Scott revitalizes me. I suppose I’m a glutton for punishment, because Louie’s leaves a bigger mark. In a photo finish Louie pokes ahead with his protruding belly.
Would Win… I haven’t included Jim Parsons, so the other beloved nominee and two-time winner Alec Baldwin would be the next best bet. No knock against the man, he IS Jack Donaghy. I was enamored with the character in the beginning, but it’s begun to feel tired. But continued greatness is very “in” at the Emmys. Louie got the nod last year, so maybe the gods smile on him, but that a universe where C.K is an award winner and widely recognized feels like the bizarro world. So, let’s pour more accolades on the Words With Friends-playing, paparazzi-punching veteran.
“30 Rock” (NBC)
“New Girl” (Fox)
“Parks and Recreation” (NBC)
Should Win… Louie in a squeaker. Both seasons of Louie and “Parks” expanded on the exceptional storytelling of the prior season, but Louie edges out “Parks” because it’s bolder. “Parks’ is not your traditional sitcom, but it’s a flavor that’s familiar to the American TV viewing palate. If it was the award for funniest show, then “Parks” is more consistent with jokes and laughter, but because Louie can provide as many contemplative moments as chuckles, I admire that artistic ambition even more. That doesn’t mean it should be more revered necessarily. “Parks” is a terrific blend of silly and sentiment. But with that element of unpredictability, Louie becomes a pleasure to witness as its vision expands.
Would Win... Precedent says 30 Rock, though they might smell new blood in the water and champion either the new network smash, New Girl, or the sophisticated HBO freshman Girls. It’s hard to say since Modern Family will likely secure the three-peat, but based on pedigree, an HBO comedy seems like the sexy pick. Girls would run the world on this imaginary night.
“Girls” for Pilot (HBO)
“Louie” for Pregnant (FX)
“Parks and Recreation” for The Debate (NBC)
“Parks and Recreation” for Win, Lose, or Draw (NBC)
“Veep” for Tears (HBO)
Win, Lose, or Draw only because that represents the best that “Parks” can offer, and I can think of a handful of episodes that would be better submissions for Louie that would best “Parks”in a face-off. That is not to say Louie is vasty superior. They are my clear one-two punch in my dream comedy lineup BUT Louie constructs such distinct short films every week, it’s as if he’s writing a different show entirely twelve times a season. But regardless, this submission is one of the weakest they could have chosen—why not Eddie or Duckling? Perhaps Louie had trouble finding an episode that wasn’t as grave. “Parks and Recreation” is long overdue for one of these though. They crank out smart, witty, and layered jokes with a better knockout ratio than Mike Tyson.
Would Win… Since 30 Rock and Modern Family have owned this category in the last several years, it’s hard to envision anyone else winning, but the Emmys love doling out for innovative pilots, so Girls’ Pilot would enjoy the spoils if this were the actual field. Again, despite all the love from critics, it’s hard for me to gauge the Emmys’ attitude, but since the most likely winners aren’t in my field. So, I’ll go with the same logic I subscribed to for the series category. It’s safe to go with sexy and fresh in this case. Score one for Lena Dunham.
Now, let’s get serious.
Morena Baccarin as Jessica Brody—”Homeland” (Showtime)
Anna Gunn as Skylar White—”Breaking Bad” (AMC)
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister—”Game of Thrones” (HBO)
Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway Harris—”Mad Men” (AMC)
Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper—”Mad Men” (AMC)
Maisie Williams as Arya Stark—”Game of Thrones” (HBO)
Should Win… Much like the Supporting Actor in a Comedy race, this is extremely tight. If this were the list the Academy came up with I’d be delighted if any of these fantastic females won. Some had their best seasons yet in long running shows—Kiernan, Christina, Anna. Others stood out in shows just starting to take the world by storm—Morena, Lena, Maisie. Two of them are underage, and yet exude the breadth of life experience of their older peers. Some play the wives of tortured men, some play treacherous villains, and others play women and girls who’ve suffered immense trauma. Not one of these girls wouldn’t deserve validation on their mantel, but the slightest of edges goes to Christina Hendricks. “The Other Woman” became one of my top five favorite Mad Men episodes, one of the best episodes in dramatic television I’ve seen. Some had issues with plausibility, but I say poo poo. It called upon Christina to portray a woman who had to make an impossible decision, made it with agency, and yet had no choice at all. She nailed it. If she doesn’t take the gold I will be sorely disappointed, but that goes for nay of these fine and talented ladies.
Would Win… Truthfully, Christina Hendricks. This would be her third nomination for “Mad Men” and January Jones is really no competition at all this year considering how insignificant a role Betty Draper played. As i mentioned she is more than deserving and she’s already been recognized with the Critic’s Choice. It’s her time. I could see one of the “Good Wife” women stealing it, or perhaps the classy Maggie Smith (she’s lovely I just haven’t gotten into “Downton Abbey.”), but I believe the stars have aligned for Christina and “Mad Men” which has already held the favor of the Academy for four straight years.
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister—”Game of Thrones” (HBO)
Giancarlo Esposito as Gustavo Fring—”Breaking Bad” (AMC)
Nick Nolte as Walter Smith—”Luck” (HBO)
Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson—”Homeland” (Showtime)
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman—”Breaking Bad” (AMC)
John Slattery as Roger Sterling—”Mad Men” (AMC)
Should Win… With the brandishing of a box cutter, Gus Fring became an iconic villain and Giancarlo Esposito propelled himself into the spotlight. You couldn’t not notice him. His steely demeanor commanded your respect, and his mysterious motivations made for a pins and needles season. As the ominous presence opposing our antihero, Esposito needed to bring it, and he brought extra. If you can share a screen with Bryan Cranston grab my attention by the balls, you deserve at least a slow clap. Since the Chicken Man’s empire was toppled by his cook, Esposito won’t have another chance, so I’d hope the Academy acknowledges the contribution he made to one of our instant classic dramas of the Golden Age. If Bryan Cranston is a lock, shouldn’t his worthiest adversary be given props?
Would Win… He won last year and was given less material, so in a year where he was the debatable lead, why wouldn’t he repeat? Though I gave Esposito my seal of approval, Peter Dinklage is my favorite thing about Game of Thrones. HIs morally dubious and cunning dwarf is by far the most adored member of the cast and he led a freaking army in the battle that was the pinnacle of the season. While the finale suggested his fictional family will ignore his valor, the Academy won’t diminish his accomplishment. Like Tyrion, Dinklage is almost always the smartest man in the room, and while his chief principle is “Stay alive” we put out trust in him to act the most admirably in a cruel world. While his honor is debatable, Dinklage’s shades of vulnerability are undeniably captivating. While the world continues to punish our half-pint friend, my money says the voters repay their debt to Dinklage for his towering performance.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White/Mary Margaret Blanchard—”Once Upon A Time” (ABC)
Mariska Hargitay as Detective Olivia Benson—”Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” (NBC)
Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan—”Once Upon A Time” (ABC)
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson—”Mad Men” (AMC)
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper—”Mad Men” (AMC)
Should Win… I recognize that this list is probably missing at least two names. Something tells me that if I watched “The Good Wife” or “Shameless” than Julianna Margulies and Emmy Rossum would snag two spots away—probably from an OUAT girl or from the perennial nominee Mariska. But sadly, I’m more drawn to male-oriented TV. Is that an indictment of me, the critical community, or an unfortunate lack of strong female characters. I have no freaking clue. One thing I do know, the only nominee that matters is on here. Claire Danes. She owns this award. If she doesn’t get it, the fix is in. The level of difficulty for this part is unheard of. More importantly, she can just flat out act. No questions about it. We already knew that, but she’s grabbing us by the throats with this performance. And I’m perfectly fine haven’t hear take control and dominate my TV.
Would Win… If there is any justice, Claire Danes. I have no more to say. Except she killed it. Okay, now I’m done.
Bryan Cranston as Walter White—”Breaking Bad” (AMC)
Jon Hamm as Don Draper—”Mad Men” (AMC)
Dustin Hoffman as Chester “Ace” Bernstein—”Luck” (HBO)
Jason Isaacs as Michael Britten—”Awake” (NBC)
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House—”House” (Fox)
Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody—”Homeland” (Showtime)
Should Win… First off, STOP YELLING. I can already hear you all hotly debating this. Like in the Lead Actress in a Drama category, I’m neglecting what I’ve heard are noteworthy performances because I haven’t personally seen them. So while I know Steve Buschemi is probably brilliant, while I’ve heard Kelsey Grammar has made a remarkable transition from Fraiser to cable drama, and while “Justified” remains in my Netflix queue primarily because of the press surrounding Timothy Olyphant’s performance, I can’t in all good conscience nominate them. If I haven’t witnessed their greatness, I’m not so sure it makes a sound. Say what you will. However, just like Claire Danes outshines all of her contemporaries this year, Bryan Cranston’s turn from regular joe to homicidal maniac is so damn riveting I can’t see anyone surpassing it. It helps this would be his fourth in a row, too. And there’s no doubt in my mind that Jon Hamm continues to personify Don Draper’s damaged cool, and that Damian Lewis held his own opposite Ms. Danes, but Walter White is the most compelling character in TV currently. Facts are facts.
Would Win… One thing the Emmys and I agree upon is the magnitude and irresistibility of Bryan Cranston. In the off year Jon Hamm missed his shot when Kyle Chandler’s Coach Taylor got a lovely parting gift, so unfortunately he’ll miss out again. Hugh Laurie might get the same nostalgic treatment as Chandler with House off the air, but that would egregious. Nothing against Laurie. House is a complex and intriguing specimen that he pulled off for multiple seasons, but it’s sarcastic apples versus monstrous oranges. Not a fair comparison.
“Breaking Bad” (AMC)
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“Mad Men” (AMC)
Should Win: DISCLAIMER: I definitely would leave “Awake” out if it were only five nominations, because it is clearly the weakest. I’d say with almost absolute certainty that if I watched either “Boardwalk Empire” or “Justifed” I’d have given them a slot instead. Just based on the critical acclaim alone, I can just tell. But the truth is, I haven’t watched any season of either. So it’s not fair. And in respect to fairness, while “Awake” isn’t the same class as the rest of these nominees, it was inventive, captivating, and conceptually ambitious. Showrunner Kyle Killen had another show prematurely cancelled based on its premise being dense and complicated. It’s unfortunate, both could’ve been great.
ANYWAY, the frontrunner here is Breaking Bad. Mad Men made it close. Both, I feel, cranked out their strongest seasons yet this past year, but “Bad” is just purely more enjoyable. Every episode of both is a delight. But the recent premiere of Breaking Bad had me itchy waiting for its 10pm start time. If I missed a Mad Men, I’d just as soon look it up On-Demand the next day. “Bad” just has that quality about it that makes it “must-see.” Mad Men is like watching a documentary on how to make great art and tell a rich and thematically satisfying story. Breaking Bad does reaches that same level of accomplishment while keeping me on the edge of my seat like a Hollywood blockbuster. It’s fitting that the drug of choice on Mad Men is alcohol, where Breaking Bad centers around meth. I would gladly relax and throw back an ice cold Mad Men. Whereas I’m always jones-ing for a new Breaking Bad.
Would Win… Tough one. Can Mad Men make it 5/5? Or will the Showtime sensation storm the castle. The political nature of Homeland makes it attractive, as well as its setting being our very backyard. While nostalgia may have driven Mad Men’s honors, Emmy voters love to congratulate shows that make us look in the mirror. The Academy wavers between rewarding newness and continued excellence. So honestly, it’s a toss-up. Just like I can’t gauge how Girls will be received, aside from Claire Danes, Homeland’s reception is a mystery to me, too. I’ll take the plunge and say that Mad Men’s streak is broken and the bright future of the Homeland will be paraded onstage.
“Breaking Bad” for Crawl Space (AMC)
“Game of Thrones” for Blackwater (HBO)
“Homeland” for The Weekend (Showtime)
“Mad Men” for Far Away Places (AMC)
“Mad Men” for The Other Woman (AMC)
Should Win… Surprisingly, I don’t think the best written episode of dramatic television was from “Mad Men.” I do agree that “Mad Men” word-for-word, is the most consistently well-written program on TV, but when I was reviewing the submissions for each show I noticed that I found myself struggling to pinpoint which episode was the best of the season in terms of line-by-line writing. I ended up just selecting my favorite episode of each. Except for The Weekend. I would argue that the pilot or season finale might have been a better episode in terms of story. But the most memorable scene of the past year in terms of dialogue (Crawl Space’s last five minutes was the best overall scene) was that scene where Carrie interrogated Brody at her childhood lake house. That was just amesmerizingf sequence of events that led to Brody saying ask me what you want. Whether everything he told her was true or not (most was) was irrelevant. After most of the episode saw them romantically involved, we swift gears with one stray comment. Breaking Bad is certainly the expert in tension, but The Weekend took what was a very good show and made it great. Breaking Bad was already there, and drove home the point. If we’re awarding an individual episode, this was the standout of the year. Breaking Bad had the best season. There’s the difference.
Would Win… It’s just a matter of which Mad Men episode they liked better. I would have submitted At the Codfish Ball, which had some of the sharpest dialogue around, but second place goes to Far Away Places. Any episode where Roger gets high on LSD is pure genius. I’d rather see Breaking Bad or Homeland get some credit in this category, but since Homeland will cause Mad Men to loosen their series stranglehold, this will be creator Matthew Weiner’s consolation prize.
*The 64th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, September 23, airing on ABC starting at 7/4p.*