It’s that time of year again, where we reflect on the year that was in television. The 2010/2011 season was both excellent and disappointing in many ways. For the good, we look no further than the slew of fantastic dramas that are on television right now. The dramas of network, cable, and premium cable are really challenging anything that you would see in a movie theatre. I cannot remember a time when there has been such a wealth of finely acted, scripted, and directed drama, across all channels.
Now for the bad. Comedy is struggling. There is always “Modern Family” and “30 Rock,” but for the most part, it’s very difficult to come up with a true list of five or six worthy nominees in the comedy category. Of course, that could be due to the fact that reality television and high production costs are killing scripted comedy, but why do we have such good drama? Who knows?
Trying to predict the Emmys, is by far the most challenging of any of these award shows. With a Golden Globe or Television Critics Award, the entire season is under consideration. With the Emmy’s, it comes down to just a few moments. To refresh your memory, once the nominees are announced (by popular vote); each acting nominee has to submit one single episode that best showcases their work of the entire season. That way voters don’t have to watch an entire season of five or six different performers. It’s a great system in concept, but it’s difficult to predict. It’s often hard to know what voters are going for when comparing one episode to another. Unlike the Oscars, the precursor awards aren’t very helpful because a) they took place back in January (mid-season), and b) they are based on a whole season, outside factors, and buzz. That is why we have such big jaw droppers on Emmy night.
For the purposes of the big two awards, Best Comedy and Best Drama, each nominated show gets to submit six episodes each of their best work, so those can be a bit easier to predict.
BEST DRAMA SERIES
Nominees: “Dexter,” “Mad Men,” “The Good Wife,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Game of Thrones,” and “Friday Night Lights”
“Mad Men” has won this category three times in a row, and I really don’t see any possible way in which it shouldn’t make it four in a row. Although it aired last summer, it is still the finest show in television, and its fourth season was its best. It received the most nominations of any show this year, and it received more than it ever has in the past.
That being said, it should be noted that “The Good Wife” is outstanding network drama, and will likely come up a deserving second. For a show like “The Good Wife” to make the cut is a big accomplishment considering that it is on CBS and has to put out double the amount of quality episodes of its peers in this category.
Other likely close finishers include Golden Globe/SAG winning “Boardwalk Empire” and recently ended “Friday Night Lights” from DirectTV/NBC. Although “Game of Thrones” should do well, it is probably a bit too strange for the bulk of voters, and season five of “Dexter” was far from its best.
Nominees: “Big Bang Theory,” “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “Glee,” “Modern Family,” and “Parks and Recreation”
First off, I think it’s really great that critically acclaimed shows like “Parks and Recreation” and “Big Bang Theory” can finally make the cut in this category. I am also pleased to see that “The Office” has returned, after a fantastic season (until Steve Carrell left) for the 2006 winner. Three-time winner “30 Rock” is here again after a so-so season. After, perhaps, the most uneven season in history, “Glee” actually made it in based on the strength of a few of its episodes. I hope they get their stuff together for its upcoming third season. However, in the end, last year’s winner “Modern Family” will – and should – repeat here. It is the most consistent, best acted, best written, best directed comedy on television. PERIOD!
Lead Actor: Jon Hamm “Mad Men,” Michael C. Hall “Dexter,” Steve Buscemi “Boardwalk Empire,” Kyle Chandler “Friday Night Lights,” Timothy Olyphant “Justified,” and Hugh Laurie “House M.D.”
Lead Actress: Connie Britton “Friday Night Lights,” Mariska Hargitay “Law and Order SVU,” Elisabeth Moss “Mad Men,” Julianna Margulies “The Good Wife,” Mireille Enos “The Killing,” and Kathy Bates “Harry’s Law”
Mariska Hargitay and Hugh Laurie must have made some sort of pact with God, because they seem to get nominated every year. I’m sure they are both lovely people, but can the academy please consider rewarding somebody new and fresh. The same could be said for Academy Award winner Kathy Bates (who I love), who is on such a trite and silly show. That being said, it’s really cool to see new names like Olyphant and Enos in the mix. It is also great to see Chandler and Britton rewarded for their farewell season.
Last year’s winners were Bryan Cranston “Breaking Bad,” and Kyra Sedgwick “The Closer.” Cranston’s show didn’t air any new episodes this year, so the THREE-TIME! defending champ is out until next year. Sedgwick didn’t make the cut this year, which is a pretty low blow after winning. This combined with “Breaking Bad’s” Aaron Paul (last year’s Best Supporting Actor) means that we will have a slew of new winners on the drama side.
I think that Jon Hamm must be elated that Cranston is not in the field. Not only has he been in the shadow for the past three years, but he finally received the season of a lifetime on “Mad Men.” His submission of “The Suitcase” episode will probably, FINALLY, lock this category up for him. It is a master-class, two-person episode between Hamm and Moss (who, herself, submitted the same episode), which should finally get Hamm the recognition he deserves, over likely runner-up Steve Buscemi, who won the Golden Globe back in January (when “Boardwalk” was still hot).
Elisabeth Moss and Julianna Margulies are in a dead heat in the best actress category. They both had KILLER Emmy submissions. If there was any way that there could be a tie, this would be it. Moss acts alongside Hamm in the finest hour of episodic television in recent memory, and Margulies finally gets to sink her teeth into a great submission which shows the range and versatility of the one-time (ONLY—that’s a shame) winner (ER,1995). In the end, I think Margulies’ excellent submission and goodwill will win her a tight victory, but I could see it going either way.
Supporting Actor: John Slattery “Mad Men,” Josh Charles “The Good Wife,” Alan Cumming “The Good Wife,” Walter Goggins “Justified,” Peter Dinklage “Game of Thrones,” and Andre Braugher “Men of a Certain Age”
Supporting Actress: Kelly MacDonald “Boardwalk Empire,” Margo Martindale “Justified,” Archie Panjabi “The Good Wife,” Christine Baranski “The Good Wife,” Michelle Forbes “The Killing,” and Christina Hendricks “Mad Men”
I think that these are the toughest two categories of the night to call. These categories always surprise with their winners. I could honestly make a case for any of these actors. However, regarding supporting actor, I think the winner will come down to Slattery, Charles, or Dinklage. If you just go off the submission, I think Charles will probably win. He is a longtime actor from “Sport’s Night” fame. His work (along with Cumming’s) on “The Good Wife” was outstanding this season. His toughest completion may come from Slattery and Dinklage, who each had amazing seasons with good submissions. I could truly see either Slattery or Charles holding the statue. Give it to Charles by a hair.
Last year’s Best Supporting Actress winner Archie Panjabi returns this year, after her jaw-dropping surprise win last year. This year she returns with an excellent chance of repeating with even finer material than she had last year. I could see her repeating based on her submission and general likability.
However, a case could also be made for any of these six actresses. Baranski is respected in the industry and MacDonald is a favorite with the academy. However, I see Panjabi’s main competition coming from Hendricks, Forbes, and Martindale. Martindale is seen as the favorite by most of the critics, and had a killer season. Her submission shows the most range and therefore, it is probably hers to loose. That being said, I say this about someone every year, and then they lo.
Lead Actor: Louie C.K. “Louie,” Alec Baldwin “30 Rock,” Steve Carell “The Office,” Johnny Galecki “Big Bang Theory,” Jim Parsons “Big Bang Theory” and Matt LeBlanc “Episodes”
Lead Actress: Laura Linney “The Big C,” Edie Falco “Nurse Jackie,” Tina Fey “30 Rock,” Amy Poehler “Parks and Recreation,” Martha Plimpton “Raising Hope,” and Melissa McCarthy “Mike and Molly”
Last year’s winner’s Falco and Parsons will probably have to sit this one out. Although they are both excellent, their material and submissions are not near as strong as last year’s winning material. The same could be said for past winner’s Fey and Baldwin.
Although it’s really great to see some new faces in these categories like McCarthy, Plimpton, and Galiecki, veteran actors will probably win these categories.
For actress, the race will come down to a battle between Emmy favorite Linney, and Poehler, who had an amazing season on “Parks and Recreation.” Her submission is the best of the six actresses and is the most “laugh-out-loud” funny. However, this category has been won by SHOWTIME actresses in the past two years, so I see veteran actress Linney making it three in a row, for a show that is far more drama than comedy. However, if there is a surprise, look for Amy Poehler to finally get to hold a statue, after years of hilarious work on NBC.
For actor, a case could be made for C.K., Parsons, or LeBlanc. However, after years and years of sitting in the audience clapping for others, this year’s trophy should/will finally go to Carell, for his outstanding work in the final season of “The Office.” He finally has the type of submission that takes his iconic Michael Scott from simply annoying to heartbreaking and sweet. It will be as much a lifetime achievement award as it will be an award for his outstanding final episode.
Supporting Actor: Jon Cryer “Two and a Half Men,” Chris Colfer “Glee,” and Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O’Neil, and Eric Stonestreet, all of “Modern Family”
Supporting Actress: Kristen Wiig “SNL,” Jane Lynch “Glee,” Sofia Vergara “Modern Family,” Julie Bowen “Modern Family,” Betty White “Hot in Cleveland,” and Jane Krakowski “30 Rock”
All six of the primary actors from “Modern Family” made the cut, in a testament to how strong the acting is on “Family.” I would love to see Vargara or especially Bowen win the actress category. However, the supporting actress race will probably come down to last year’s winner (and this year’s host) Jane Lynch and Betty White. NEVER count out Betty White, who seems to win an Emmy every other year. I think she is probably the favorite, but I think the material really lets her down here. I honestly think that Lynch will probably repeat based on the strength of her own submission, and the strength of Kristen Wigg’s submission of “SNL” where the host just happened to be Jane Lynch. Although, I’d love to see a “Family” lady win this, Lynch would be a worthy choice for rising above the mediocre material of season two of “Glee.”
There is a chance that all of the “Modern Family” men will cancel each other out, and the Emmy will go to Colfer. He did win the Golden Globe earlier this year, and this year on “Glee” was all about his character. However, his episode is not funny in the least. It’s a wonderful performance, but it’s a terribly dramatic turn in a truly annoying episode. I am not sure why he submitted “Grilled Chesseus” when he had some Emmy-worthy work towards the end of the season.
Either way, it will now probably come down to one of the “Modern Family” men, and I think it truly should. When viewing the episode submissions, you must also consider how each of them fares on each other’s episode submissions. Last year’s winner Stonestreet could repeat, but he did not have the showcase performance episode that he had last year. If it is based on single episode alone, than Ferguson could win for his spectacular work in the “Halloween” episode. However, I see the race coming down to either Burrell or O’Neil. Burrell is probably the favorite based on his work across all four submissions. He recently won the Television Critics award, and is a master of comedic timing.
However, there must be some sentiment behind O’Neil who has finally received his first nomination after YEARS on network television. He never received a nomination for “Married with Children,” so this is sweet vindication for a fantastic comedic career. He may win, and has some outstanding work this season, but I think the adorable Burrell wins it by a hair.
Wayne Bell is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He moved to Fayetteville in 2003 for his Master’s Degree and you can almost always catch him at Little Bread Co. or Hammontree’s. For more of Wayne’s contributions, visit his author page.