It's kind of ironic that a night designed to celebrate television can be one of its ugliest. The Emmys force us to pick favorites among the many, many shows we've watched and loved and then declare one the best. Instead of really enjoying "Game of Thrones," "Mad Men," "Downton Abbey," "House of Cards," "Breaking Bad" and "True Detective," you've got to pick one for Best Drama.
Those last two nominees are the ones that are giving awards analysts, office awards poolers and fans of great TV a lot of heartache. Both "Breaking Bad" and "True Detective" put out eight great episodes of dark and brilliant television, but which deserves Best Drama Series? Beyond that, superb leading men anchored both, so who gets Best Actor in a Drama Series?
In the last hours before the awards begin, no one is quite sure, so let's break it down.
Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series
This is why, at the end of the day, awards shows are pointless. You've got two incredible performances from actors at the top of their games, but one will be declared better than the other. Bryan Cranston brought the story of Walter White to an end in a way that set a new standard for series finales, and Matthew McConaughey made his Oscar-winning turn in "Dallas Buyers Club" look second best.
But we can't focus on why this isn't fair. The Emmys don't care about fair.
Like most dead-heat races, this isn't going to come down to acting ability, since both McConaughey and Cranston are fantastic. Many awards experts think that this will be the big win of the night for "True Detective," suggesting that Cranston's three consecutive wins are reward enough for creating Walter White. Does it make sense? Not really, but this is an awards show.
There are other factors too. McConaughey has the star power — which the Emmys love — plus Rust Cohle is a one-off character, so there's no other chance to reward it. It comes down to a choice between two amazing performances: one the Emmys have already handsomely rewarded and one they haven't.
Best Drama Series
While more clear-cut than Best Actor, this is still a race to watch for a number of reasons. There are a few prevailing schools of thought as to how this could go down.
» The Emmys favor newer shows, so "True Detective" will win.
» The Emmys want to reward "Breaking Bad's" end, so that will win.
» But "Breaking Bad" won Best Drama for the first half of the final season, so "True Detective" will win.
No matter which way you go, you're splitting hairs, but I have to give this one to "Breaking Bad." As difficult as telling a fully realized story in eight episodes might be, sticking the landing on six years of groundbreaking television is harder.
The end of "Breaking Bad" had so many masters to serve, considering how many characters Walter dragged into this mess, how many lives he had ruined and how many viewers the show picked up over the years. Those last episodes were shocking at the same time that they felt like the only way the story could end. That's great storytelling.
It may feel like "Breaking Bad" ended a long time ago, but here's to hoping that the Emmys can dust off our memories and once again reward one of the greatest dramas ever made.