We've covered who should be nominated for the Emmys come next Thursday's nominations. Now it's time to settle in for grim reality. With all of last year's nominated shows back again, it's going to be tough for anyone, beyond True Detective and its moody leads, to break through.
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama
Joe Reid: Of last year's nominees, four will be eligible for nomination again, while one (Michael J. Fox on The Good Wife) didn't submit and one (Rupert Friend on Homeland) was bumped up to Supporting. As for the other four, you could easily say they all have even better chances to be nominated this year than last. Well, maybe Nathan Lane has about the same chance to be recognized for The Good Wife, since he did that same nerdy fretting thing. But both Dan Bucatinsky (Scandal) and Robert Morse (Mad Men) could see a mortality bump on their way to another nod, while Harry Hamlin was by many accounts one of the best parts of this past Mad Men season. It's kind of a toss-up who fills the other two slots, but I'd make a very strong case for Beau Bridges in Masters of Sex, a performance that should probably be in the Supporting category anyway.
David Sims: Agreed that Bridges should be in supporting, as should Hamlin (the man is in every episode of the season) but these are the rules, and these actors are wisely exploiting them. I'd call Bridges a lock to join those four men because he is one of the most popular actors in Emmy history. Did you know Beau Bridges has FOURTEEN Emmy nominations and three wins? Almost entirely in the Miniseries and Guest categories. I think Ben Feldman could have a shot from his showcase episode of Mad Men this year, or Paul Giamatti for being both famous and on Downton Abbey, but the other biggest threat to join this category is Pedro Pascal, who had a very memorable time on Game of Thrones this season as Prince Oberyn.
Reid: Memorable, you say? Oh I hadn't noticed except yeah I guess that one time BARF. Not because of Pascal's performance, of course; he was quite good, and I'd love to see him nominated. A few other recurring players who I think might stand a chance: Reg E. Cathey for House of Cards, since he had a bigger part to play in this season, and people know him from HBO shows, so he must be good; Hamish Linklater, who was a huge part of The Newsroom's improved second season; and God willing there will be a place on the ballot to honor the EPIC scenery chewing of Joe Morton on Scandal. This is an actor whose time has come.
Predicted Nominees: Beau Bridges, Masters of Sex; Paul Giamatti, Downton Abbey; Reg E. Cathey, House of Cards; Harry Hamlin, Mad Men; Robert Morse, Mad Men; Joe Morton, Scandal
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama
Sims: Last year's nominees include someone who switched from drama to comedy (Joan Cusack in Shameless) and someone who left Don Draper behind (Linda Cardellini). But the other four nominees are strong bets to return, particularly the wily Diana Rigg of Game of Thrones, surprise winner Carrie Preston from The Good Wife, Jane Fonda in The Newsroom, and Margo Martindale in The Americans (who I'd say is the most vulnerable). But there's some other big names jockeying to get in here: Allison Janney feels like a similar lock for the best storyline on Masters of Sex's first season, and Shirley MacLaine was on Downton Abbey, so, uh, look out everyone.
Reid: Yeah, this category is pretty stacked, right? Aside from all those you mentioned, who are all huge contenders, you've got Marcia Gay Harden, who was awesome on The Newsroom (and who is still an Emmy away from 3/4 of an EGOT), Lisa Kudrow who was a huge standout on Scandal and who the Emmys already love, and I'd even put a flier in Gina Torres, who would be the person you'd nominate from Hannibal if you didn't want to watch any of the scenes involving gross dismemberment.
Predicted Nominees: Jane Fonda, The Newsroom; Marcia Gay Harden, The Newsroom; Allison Janney, Masters of Sex; Lisa Kudrow, Scandal; Carrie Preston, The Good Wife; Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Reid: So here's the problem with the entire Drama side of the ballot: none of last year's nominated shows went away, and there were no new shows that demanded a space on the ballot, save for True Detective, which is only going to end up being a factor in two of the categories (plus writing/directing, where it stands a good chance of dominating, sure). So what we're left with is everyone from last year back again, meaning Emmy voters need to either evaluate past nominees based on whether this year's performances were any better/worse (something Emmy voters have never been all that good at) or just Xeroxing last year's slate and nominating them all again. Which is to say: last year's nominees Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) and Christine Baranski (The Good Wife) are solidly in. After that it gets interesting. I can't imagine anyone would say that Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke had enough to do this season to deserve another nomination, and it'll be tough for her to get one. The same is true, honestly, for Morena Baccarin (Homeland), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), and even Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), much as I love her. And yet I'm pretty much expecting two of them to show up in this category again (sorry, Morena).
Sims: Smith will be back; if Hendricks makes it, it's truly a legacy nomination, because she had nothing to do this season. I'm betting that the Emmys will be slightly cooler to Mad Men and she won't make it, and I might say the same for Clarke, although she at least had a lot of screen time this season. But I think it's pretty much a guarantee that Michelle Monaghan will make it in for True Detective, because the Emmys are going to freak for that show and she's pretty famous; and if Scandal gains any traction this year, it'll be with Bellamy Young in this category, after her career season.
Reid: You really think Michelle Monaghan? Speaking of nothing to do for a whole season. I'd love a Bellamy Young nomination, don't get me wrong, but that seems like so much Critics-Choice-TV-Awards/Monica Potter-in-Parenthood wishful thinking. I honestly think a farewell nod to Sandra Oh for Grey's Anatomy wouldn't be out of the question. Nor would a return to the field for Downton's Joanne Froggatt, if the voters respond to her baity material this season (which played all wrong in the context of the season but could play better on a single-episode screener). Meanwhile, I'll just be over here, lighting my candle for Breaking Bad's Laura Fraser and setting my ringtone to "Lydia the Tattooed Lady."
Sims: Froggatt and Oh are both real possibilities, although Oh has been out of the game so long and Emmy is weird about going back to those perennial nominees. Monaghan has star power and that show's prestige going for her, but sure, she didn't have much to do. Still, this category is weak enough that I wouldn't even be shocked if Betsy Brandt snuck in for Breaking Bad or Archie Panjabi bounced back from The Good Wife.
Predicted Nominees: Christine Baranski, The Good Wife; Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones; Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad; Michelle Monaghan, True Detective; Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy; Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Sims: As usual, this category is filled with strong candidates, although last year's surprise winner Bobby Cannavale is gone, and one has to imagine Jim Carter in Downton Abbey is gone too, although you never know with that show. But Aaron Paul, Peter Dinklage (who had a couple big Emmy moments) and Mandy Patinkin seem like sure bets to return. Who will join them? Jeffrey Wright could take Cannavale's Boardwalk Empire slot, Dean Norris could do the same for Jonathan Banks' Breaking Bad slot, and I wouldn't underestimate Charles Dance, a well-known actor to Emmy voters who submitted for the first time this year.
Reid: Yeah, we're basically on the same wavelength here. I didn't watch this season of Boardwalk Empire, but I like Jeffrey Wright a lot, he's a former Emmy winner, and if the voters liked the slop that Cannavale was throwing down last season, it's hard to imagine they'll pass Wright over. I do wonder if Homeland fatigue sets in this year, and Mandy Patinkin bears the brunt of that; he's not the problem, but I could honestly see everyone but Danes getting dropped this season. Two past nominees who I think we could see return to the category: John Slattery, who came on so satisfyingly strong at the end of Mad Men's half-season; and Josh Charles in his last chance for a Good Wife nomination. Also, I'm steeling myself for a Jon Voight nomination for Ray Donovan. Tell me that I'm wrong, and do you have any other wild cards?
Sims: Sadly, I think Voight is a strong possibility, although I don't know whether Showtime is throwing its weight behind Ray Donovan or Masters of Sex this year. I think Patinkin is in because he's an Emmy luminary, but you're right that he's more vulnerable, and if a Good Wife groundswell happens (not at all out of the question) Charles has to grab what would be his second nomination. The only other wild-card I can see (apart from some Downton Abbey bore like Brendan Coyle) is Peter Sarsgaard in The Killing, but I don't know if the Emmys have any more appetite for that show.
Reid: I was thinking the same thing about Sarsgaard. Also remember that year where all the Lost nominations dried up suddenly and the only nominee was Henry Ian Cusick? That, but with Homeland and F. Murray Abraham. I'm not saying it WILL happen, or is even likely, but ...
Predicted Nominees: Josh Charles, The Good Wife; Charles Dance, Game of Thrones; Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones; Dean Norris, Breaking Bad; Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad; Jeffrey Wright, Boardwalk Empire
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama
Sims: So, this is possibly the most interesting category because none of last year's nominees are gone, but there are two newbies who absolutely will get in: Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson for True Detective. Bryan Cranston and Kevin Spacey aren't going anywhere either, and a Jon Hamm snub would be pretty shocking, although it's not completely out of the question. Even last year's winner Jeff Daniels is looking shaky to return, and if I'm Hugh Bonneville or Damian Lewis I don't even book a flight to Los Angeles. And let's not ignore Michael Sheen lurking on the outside for Masters of Sex. Not sure this is the year that show breaks through for Showtime, but he's a known quantity.
Reid: You've gotta feel for an actor like Matthew Rhys, who's putting in some career-best work on The Americans and basically stands no shot at a nomination this year because the lineup is so stacked. He really should have been nominated last year. I hear what you're saying with Michael Sheen, too, but he always has a habit of not getting nominated when he's worthy, be it at the Oscars for The Queen or even a guest-actor nod for his awesome 30 Rock work. In a weaker year, I'd absolutely be on the lookout for either James Spader (a huuuge Emmy fave) for The Blacklist or Demian Bechir for The Bridge. I agree that Bonneville and Lewis are toast. A big part of me says that Jeff Daniels is the rare previous-year's-winner who doesn't get nominated again, but you tell me who gets his slot.
Sims: I'm pretty sure Daniels is gone too, and my gutsy pick is his slot goes to Sheen, but I'd say it's equally likely it goes to Spader, who 1) is beloved at the Emmys and 2) has a hit network show, which is always a bit of a magical unicorn these days. And believe me, I feel for Rhys, who should be getting in over someone like Spacey, but just doesn't have the traction and is on a bit of a pulpier show. But hey, miracles happen.
Reid: Can I also just say how great it is that HBO submitted Woody Harrelson in the lead category rather than go for a surefire (but fraudulent) win in supporting? I feel like photocopying this ballot and sending it to all the major movie studios come Oscar season with a torn-out page from the dictionary containing the definition of "honesty."
Predicted Nominees: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad; Jon Hamm, Mad Men; Woody Harrelson, True Detective; Matthew McConaughey, True Detective; Kevin Spacey, House of Cards; James Spader, The Blacklist
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama
Reid: Boy is this category a bloodbath in the making. Last year saw seven nominees, and they're all in contention once again. And if that wasn't enough, last year's field snubbed Julianna Margulies, and after The Good Wife had such a resurgence this past season, I can't imagine that would happen again. So. Eight women for (most likely) six spots. Of those eight women, I'd say the most vulnerable are Connie Britton (whose Nashville nod seems like a one-time thing) and Michelle Dockery (whose Lady Mary had a very uneventful season), but I've gone broke betting against Downton Abbey before. I also wonder if Vera Farmiga can pull off a second nomination for Bates Motel, considering the buzz for that show quieted a good bit in season two. Do any of this year's upstarts stand a chance?
Sims: Britton, Dockery and Farmiga are all out, I think. Each of those nominations was weird in its own way last year and I'd be shocked if they recurred. Margulies is coming back for sure, unless I'm really misreading the reaction to this amazing season of The Good Wife, but the other open slot could go to all sorts of people. There's Lizzy Caplan in Masters of Sex, who was pretty darn radiant; there's Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black, who I think will always be on the outside looking in; and there's poor Keri Russell in The Americans.
Reid: We should probably mention the locks: Claire Danes for Homeland; Robin Wright for House of Cards; Kerry Washington, who I do think holds on for a second Scandal nomination; and Elisabeth Moss, who might actually stand a chance to win for Mad Men, which would be funny considering no one else from the show ever has. Maslany does seem like an eternal bridesmaid, doesn't she? Like how everybody kept saying how this was the year they positively couldn't deny Mary McDonnell for Battlestar Galactica. They can and will. It'd be weird for Caplan to get a nomination if Sheen doesn't, even though intellectually I realize that's not how these things work; he's up against much stiffer competition. Watch it just be Diane Kruger from The Bridge just to fuck with us.
Sims: I love Kruger in The Bridge! So I'd be cool with that!
Reid: Ugh, wrong.
Predicted Nominees: Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex; Claire Danes, Homeland; Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife; Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men; Kerry Washington, Scandal; Robin Wright, House of Cards
Outstanding Drama Series
Sims: So, this seems like a year where nothing might change, but this is the Emmys, there's always at least one surprise — and as we've mentioned, there's a juggernaut coming down the path that could even threaten to win in True Detective. It will join Breaking Bad's final season and Game of Thrones, and I'd be shocked if House of Cards wasn't back either. So I think Homeland is gone for sure, and I hope Downton Abbey finally joins it on the discard pile, because The Good Wife's incredible fifth season is the kind of network programming the Emmys should be rewarding.
Reid: You've been predicting a lean year for Mad Men, David, but I can't imagine it misses out on this category, even if it doesn't feel like a threat to win anymore. I feel so scared predicting a weaning away from Downton Abbey, too, because that really should have happened last year, and it decidedly did not. I agree with you that The Good Wife seems like the right call, but again, I steel myself against disappointment as a general rule, so I'm not counting out a kind of consolation-prize nod to The Americans, a show I always feel like I'm expected to love much more than I actually do. But obviously we're forgetting Hannibal. The actual best drama on television would HAVE to be nominated for an Emmy, right? That's just the way the world works.
Sims: I'd love to see The Americans or Hannibal make it in, but either would be a jaw-dropping surprise for me; same for Masters of Sex, and I might call those three shows my favorite three dramas of the season. But this is the Emmys, so I'll be happy with just The Good Wife coming back and Downton Abbey going away, and as you say, lord knows they might not even give me that.
Predicted Nominees: Breaking Bad; Game of Thrones; The Good Wife; House of Cards; Mad Men; True Detective