Emmy Predictions: The Drama Categories

The major drama surrounding the various drama Emmys this Sunday revolves around the question of whether Mad Men can solidify its status as the most honored show on television, including what would be a record-tying fourth award for Best Drama. While several dramas have multiple nominations, only one other show seems to be threatening to win several trophies of its own: The Good Wife, which is emerging as perhaps the last drama on the broadcast networks that will be able to compete on this level.

Some predictions of how the major drama categories will go on Emmy night:

Best Drama

Nominees: Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, Friday Night Lights, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, The Good Wife

Outlook: Is there anyway there won’t be a fourth straight win for Mad Men? While it would be lovely to dream about a career achievement Emmy for Friday Night Lights, it’s not going to happen. There was nothing about Season Five of Dexter to explain why it would win now when it’s never won before. Game of Thrones did well to even get nominated considering it’s a genre series; the more Emmy-esque Boardwalk Empire is more likely to be honored (its Golden Globe win is of limited relevance, since the Globes always favor the new kid). A win for The Good Wife would not shock, but I’m going to go with the chalk pick of Mad Men. There are a couple of reasons to feel nervous about this prediction, though. In the past, Emmy voting was usually taking place as a new season of Mad Men was airing, but given the long delay between seasons, it could be a case of out of sight, out of mind. Plus, Matthew Weiner’s lengthy money squabbles with AMC, and generally bad overall publicity for AMC lately, could take its toll in the voting.

Best Actress

Nominees: Kathy Bates (Harry’s Law), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), Mireille Enos (The Killing), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)

Outlook: Moss, who goes back and forth between submitting her name as a supporting actress and as a lead, is considered the favorite in many circles. But amazing as it may seem, Mad Men has gotten exactly zero Emmys for its acting in its first three years, so it might be smart to look at other candidates. Hargitay’s status as a perennial nominee (this is her eighth year in a row, with one win) is the single strangest thing about the Emmys. Enos’s stolid performance has its detractors, even if she’s generally thought to be better than her show. Britton is likely too subtle (like everything else about Friday Night Lights) to win.

Even though Harry’s Law is pretty ridiculous, Bates is an intriguing longshot – partly because she’s “Oscar winner Kathy Bates” and the television academy has a huge inferiority complex when it comes to film actors, and partly because the Emmys are traditionally very kind to David E. Kelley shows. Look at all the awards Boston Legal won over the years. And Paul McCrane has already won the Emmy for guest actor for his Harry’s Law appearance. But my pick is Margulies, who lost as the favorite last season. The Good Wife is the only major network drama to get massive Emmy love, and at some point it’s going to start winning some awards.

Best Actor

Nominees: Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Hugh Laurie (House), Timothy Olyphant (Justified)

Outlook: Ever since he first surprised a favored Hamm after the respective debut seasons of their shows, Bryan Cranston has owned this category. But since Breaking Bad didn’t air during the eligibility period, this could be the best chance ever for Hamm, and really for a full generation of dramatic leads, to finally pull out a win (this is the fifth Best Actor nomination for both Hall and Laurie).

Even though multiple actors from Justified were honored with nominations (a rare feat for FX), it would be asking too much for an Olyphant win. Chandler, who gave us one of the great characters ever, is going to be shut out nonetheless. I’m not sure Laurie has necessarily done better work in the past, but I’m positive House used to be a better show. Hall continues to find ways to show us new sides of a character who by definition can’t change very much. It will probably come down to a fight between Buscemi, who has the movie background the Emmys often go for (and a Golden Globe win); and Hamm, who does incredible subtle work season after season. But Buscemi doesn’t reign over his show as Hamm dominates Mad Men, and I expect that to make the difference.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Christine Baranski (The Good Wife), Michelle Forbes (The Killing), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire), Margo Martindale (Justified), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)

Outlook: Forbes has been one of TV’s great utility players since the ‘90s, but her character became awfully hard to like, even leaving aside the multiple issues with The Killing. Macdonald’s best shot is if there’s some kind of Boardwalk Empire sweep. Hendricks’s problem is that her role offers relatively few opportunities to stand out, even considered these are all supporting players. Baranski has a great track record with the Emmys (this is her ninth nomination), but she has the same problem as last year – no one is going to prefer her to Panjabi, the surprise winner in 2010. Panjabi could certainly win again, but I’m going to go with the Cinderella story and pick Martindale, who latched on to a character actor’s dream role this past season. The many nominations for Justified prove that the voters already take the show seriously, so even though it would have been safer for Martindale to be submitted as a guest actress, she ought to prevail in what is not all that tough a field.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age), Josh Charles (The Good Wife), Alan Cumming (The Good Wife), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Walton Goggins (Justified), John Slattery (Mad Men)

Outlook: Braugher and Slattery are the only repeat nominees, and they have never won Emmys for their current shows, making this easily the hardest of all the acting categories to handicap. Braugher and Charles are the big longshots. It’s not unheard of for someone to win an Emmy for a canceled series, but it’s uncommon enough that we can probably write off Braugher. And while Charles is basically the male lead in The Good Wife, he’s not the scene-stealer Cumming is. Slattery has been nominated every season Mad Men has been on the air, but while he’s created one of TV’s most quotable characters, he’s just not around all that much. Dinklage was the only member of the massive Game of Thrones cast to get noticed. And Goggins has lost his unofficial title of “Best Actor to Never Get an Emmy Nomination.” It’s a real coin flip between four men, and I’m going to go with Cumming, who got a guest actor nomination for playing Eli last year.