Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage. (Note: This story was originally posted on Thursday.)
Several streaks will be tested at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards this Sunday. Will Mad Men win a record fifth Emmy in a row for Outstanding Drama Series? Will Bryan Cranston make it four consecutive lead acting wins for Breaking Bad and Jim Parsons three in a row for The Big Bang Theory? Can Modern Family pull a top comedy series three-peat? And can The Daily Show With Jon Stewart make it a decade as the Emmy winner for best variety series? At the Creative Emmy Awards last weekend, HBO’s fantasy drama Game Of Thrones‘ bagged the most Emmys, six. Will GOT be able to hold onto its lead Sunday? And will Mad Men finally win an acting trophy? While waiting for all those questions to be answered Sunday, here are some final predictions for how things might go down in some of the top categories.
The Nominees: Mad Men (AMC), Breaking Bad (AMC), Homeland (Showtime), Downton Abbey (PBS), Game of Thrones (HBO), Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Who’s Going to Win: Let’s go out on a limb and say Breaking Bad is going to get it done. It would be highly unusual for a drama to win its first Outstanding Drama Series Emmy in its fourth season, but Breaking Bad is a highly unusual show whose buzz has sailed off the charts of late. “What a lot of people might forget,” one producer told me, “is that this award is for Season 4, not Season 5, when Breaking Bad arguably peaked. Just personally, all my friends voted for it. Take from that what you will.” I’ll take it as an omen for a semi-upset.
Then Again: One can make the argument that Breaking Bad is simply too dark for the TV Academy mainstream. And if that turns out to be the case, a Mad Men triumph would surprise few. That would give it a record five statuettes in the category, an accomplishment that eluded four-timers Hill Street Blues, The West Wing and L.A. Law. But as one writer told me, “I don’t feel the love for Mad Men this time. The perception is that it’s time to honor someone else.” That could also mean Homeland, which has both the advantage and disadvantage of being a rookie.
Not Bloody Likely: Downton Abbey has a small shot, but would have had a better one by staying in the miniseries race that it dominated last year. Game Of Thrones is hot but also is the kind of violent fantasy that will never win an academy majority. As for Boardwalk Empire, not this time… or any other time in the foreseeable future.
LEAD ACTOR – DRAMA SERIES
The Nominees: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad (AMC); Damien Lewis, Homeland (Showtime); Jon Hamm, Mad Men (AMC); Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey/Masterpiece (PBS); Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire (HBO); Michael C. Hall, Dexter (Showtime)
Who’s Going to Win: Well, if the name inside the envelope isn’t three-time champ Bryan Cranston, they may need to consider doing a recount. His fourth Emmy would tie him with Dennis Franz of NYPD Blue for the most by an individual in the category. But Franz didn’t win his on consecutive nominations while Cranston would – a first. As one TV Academy member argues, “I think Bryan is as close to a slam-dunk as I’ve ever seen at the Emmys.” The reason is that Cranston is simply so good as Breaking Bad’s ever-evolving Walter White that it renders anyone else winning nearly unthinkable. The only reason he failed to take home the trophy a year ago is he wasn’t eligible. That seems to be the only way to stop him.
Then Again: “Now watch, as soon as we say Jon Hamm doesn’t have a chance, this’ll be the year he wins,” predicts one producer with tongue planted firmly in cheek. It’s unlikely, but could happen, though a likelier upset (if any are possible) would be Damien Lewis for his arresting performance in Homeland.
Not Bloody Likely: Hugh Bonneville, Steve Buscemi and Michael C. Hall are simply filling out the category this time, barring an upset of epic proportions. Like Hamm, this is Hall’s fifth nomination in a row. But also like Hamm, his best shot to win came in a previous year.
LEAD ACTRESS – DRAMA SERIES
The Nominees: Claire Danes, Homeland (Showtime); Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife (CBS); Kathy Bates, Harry’s Law (NBC); Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men (AMC); Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey/Masterpiece (PBS); Glenn Close, Damages (DirecTV)
Who’s Going to Win: It will be Claire Danes. Unless it’s Claire Danes. Then again, it could also be… Claire Danes. While no one was paying particularly close attention, Danes sneaked in and seized the mantle as television’s most revered actress. She swept all the honors in 2010, including the Emmys, for her work in HBO’s Temple Grandin, and now she looks to be a lock for her role as the troubled, damaged CIA agent Carrie Mathison on the first season of Homeland. One voting producer said, “I’d vote for Claire Danes if she was playing a tree. Everyone in town wants to work with her.”
Then Again: Voters could decide to honor Julianna Margulies again after her triumph in the category last year for The Good Wife. That would be a far better possibility were Danes not in the race, however. One can also never count out a performer with the chops of Glenn Close, although as a writer noted, “We’ve already given (Close) a couple of Emmys (in 2008 and ’09) for this show. That seems like enough.”
Not Bloody Likely: Kathy Bates just won last weekend for comedy guest actress in Two and a Half Men (her first win in 10 Emmy nominations). She won’t be getting another this year. If an actress from Mad Men is going to break the show’s Emmy acting shutout, it will be Christina Hendricks, not Elisabeth Moss. Downton Abbey‘s Dockery, in her first nom, is unfortunately no Dame Maggie Smith.
The Nominees: Modern Family (ABC), Girls (HBO), The Big Bang Theory (CBS), Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO), Veep (HBO), 30 Rock (NBC)
Who’s Going to Win: It appears nothing is going to stand in the way of a three-peat for Modern Family, in spite of whatever ill will might have been inspired by the cast’s poorly-timed (if brief) salary holdout. No series has yet stepped up to the plate to challenge the ABC half-hour in terms of sheer laughs. “I’m glad to see that funny is being rewarded in comedy again, instead of just how cool and artsy a show happens to be,” says one voter. Having a 2012 Golden Globe victory in its pocket (its first) and undiminished ratings doesn’t hurt Modern Family’s Emmy chances, either.
Then Again: It’s possible, if unlikely, that the Academy was so wowed by Lena Dunham and her HBO freshman buzzfest Girls that it snatches the gold away from Family. No other series would seem to have a genuine shot at the gold, but Girls has the kind of water-cooler cache that occasionally pulls an upset. It has undeniably become a popular culture phenom almost overnight. “I’m voting for Girls,” admits one producer, “just for its sheer bravery. We need to reward that kind of daring.”
Not Bloody Likely: Curb Your Enthusiasm remains a darling of the comedy community, but Larry David turns off too many people to capture the trophy. 30 Rock has three wins in its back pocket but its best days are behind it. Veep is more about star Julia Louis-Dreyfus than the show itself. And The Big Bang Theory is from Chuck Lorre, who is destined always to be the bridesmaid.
LEAD ACTOR – COMEDY SERIES
The Nominees: Louis C.K., Louie (FX); Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory (CBS); Don Cheadle, House of Lies (Showtime); Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO); Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock (NBC); Jon Cryer, Two And A Half Men (CBS)
Who’s Going to Win: The TV Academy is going to want to honor Louis C.K. if for no other reason than to save the embarrassment of conferring seven nominations on him without a single win. This category seems like it’s C.K.’s best shot for the statuette, even though he’ll have to beat Jim Parsons to do it. He will also have to defeat the two men (Parsons and Alec Baldwin of 30 Rock) who combined have won the last four Emmys in the category. But C.K. will do it. “Everybody loves this guy and what he’s doing with his show,” says one comedy writer. “We want to show we appreciate the kind of creative license he’s been granted.”
Then Again: Parsons is still seen as the favorite by many, as he’s going for his third straight win. Number 3 is a tough one to get. Baldwin couldn’t do it. However, Parsons also has the advantage of being on an enduringly popular network series. “If I had money,” says one voter, “I’d put it on Jim.
Not Bloody Likely: Larry David is simply too divisive a personality to ever win. Don Cheadle is too new and hidden-from-view in Showtime’s House of Lies. And 2009 victor Jon Cryer, switching this year from supporting to the lead category, was fortunate to get a nomination at all.
LEAD ACTRESS – COMEDY SERIES
The Nominees: Amy Poehler, Parks And Recreation (NBC); Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO); Zooey Deschanel, New Girl (Fox); Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly (CBS); Lena Dunham, Girls (HBO); Tina Fey, 30 Rock (NBC); Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
Who’s Going to Win: “As great as it would be to see Amy Poehler finally get her due, I can’t see anyone but Julia Louis-Dreyfus winning this thing,” believes one voting producer. It’s hard to argue. This is Louis-Dreyfus’ 13th Emmy nomination overall. And while she’s won only twice before – once for Seinfeld in 1996 and once for The New Adventures of Old Christine in ’06 – her work in Veep is as good as anything she’s ever done (Seinfeld included). It’s also precisely the kind of role that seems to have Emmy written all over it. This year, it will.
Then Again: Poehler could pull off an upset in her third consecutive nomination as Parks And Rec’s Leslie Knope. The fact she is so universally well-liked in the industry helps, but obviously hasn’t helped enough thus far. Also looming as a longshot is the white-hot Lena Dunham, nominated this year as producer, writer, director and lead actress for Girls. Not bad for a kid in her mid-twenties in the first year of her first series.
Not Bloody Likely: Of the category’s other four nominees, all but first-timer Zooey Deschanel have won in the category before: Edie Falco (2010 for Nurse Jackie and three previous times for The Sopranos), Tina Fey (2008 for 30 Rock) and Melissa McCarthy (last year for Mike & Molly). Of the four, Deschanel has the best shot as the adorable, fresh-faced semi-newcomer. But she will have to wait her turn.
Related: Pete Hammond On Emmy Voting: Video
The Nominees: Game Change (HBO), American Horror Story (FX), Hatfields & McCoys (History), Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia (Masterpiece) (PBS), Luther (BBC America), Hemingway & Gellhorn (HBO)
Who’s Going to Win: Because this is falling so closely to a typically fractious Presidential Election, Game Change gets the nod despite general acknowledgement that it’s a less than great film. It’s a very good movie filled with terrific acting work from Woody Harrelson and Julianne Moore in particular. Of the two actual movies among the nominees, Game is far superior to the plodding Hemingway & Gellhorn (a rare longform misfire from HBO that nonetheless got nominated, which speaks volumes about the state of the longform business. The liberal voter base aren’t likely to let a sympathetic political film lose the Emmy race this time.
Then Again: The highly rated History Channel mini Hatfields & McCoys has a better than outside shot to claim the prize itself, particularly if academy voters are feeling nostalgic for a well-crafted period piece. As one longform writer told me, “I was blown away by how good Hatfields & McCoys was. And judging by the ratings, it seems a lot of other people were, too.” Of course, that probably only means it will finish a close second.
Not Bloody Likely: The fact that this is one of the oddest apples-vs.-oranges years ever in the category won’t help such strange bedfellows as FX’s American Horror Story (which qualified as a mini), BBC America’s Luther and PBS’ Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia. “It’s just a weird collection of nominees,” one voter insists. “I was shocked that the TV Academy even knew how to spell ‘Belgravia’.”
The Nominees: The Amazing Race (CBS), Top Chef (Bravo), The Voice (NBC), So You Think You Can Dance (Fox), Project Runway (Lifetime), Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
Who’s Going to Win: It will be The Amazing Race yet again – for the ninth time in 10 years. The only time the long-running CBS series has lost since it first qualified for nomination was in 2010 when Bravo’s Top Chef pulled off a shocker. And while Chef is back again, no one expects that kind of lightning to strike twice. It doesn’t seem to be a case of continuing enthusiasm for Race so much as the lack of anything else to get excited about. As one producer admits, “I think we all just vote for Amazing Race because we’re not sure how not to. And who else are we going to go for, Dancing With the Stars?”
Then Again: NBC’s The Voice, the singing competition show that displaced Fox’s American Idol on the Emmy ballot after nine consecutive nominations and no wins, has the look of potential Race-beater. Not that it’s the way to bet. Also, if Top Chef won it before, it could do it again.
Not Bloody Likely: If it seems there’s a certain sameness to the nominees in this category year after year, it’s because there is. Project Runway has been tabbed here eight straight years, Dancing With the Stars seven straight, So You Think You Can Dance a mere two. All of them, however, have something in common: They never win. They won’t this time, either.
DRAMA SERIES WRITER
The Nominees: Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey/Masterpiece “Episode 7″ (PBS); Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon and Gordon Raff, Homeland: Pilot (Showtime); Matthew Weiner and Semi Chellas, Mad Men: “The Other Woman” (AMC); Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton, Mad Men: ”Commissions and Fees” (AMC); Matthew Weiner and Semi Chellas, Mad Men: “Far Away Places” (AMC)
Who’s Going to Win: This shapes up as a heavyweight two-horse race pitting Julian Fellowes and the second-season finale of Downton Abbey vs. Matthew Weiner-Semi Chellas and the controversial Mad Men episode “The Other Woman”. The pick here is Fellowes, who won last year for Downton in the movie-mini category, if only because it’s difficult to bet against a Best Screenplay Oscar winner (as Fellowes was in 2002 for Gosford Park). On the other hand, Weiner won in this category three years running (2008-09-10), and with “The Other Woman” he co-wrote a much-buzzed hour that found Joan (Christina Hendricks) being prostituted out by the firm to land a major client.
Then Again: If Mad Men snares its fifth straight Emmy for top drama series, Weiner and Chellas could well take the writing statuette, too. And this year, they have two chances, also nominated for the Mad Men seg “Far Away Places”. One series writer observes, “This is such a Golden Age for drama. Having to choose between Julian Fellowes and Matt Weiner is ridiculous. They’re both just astoundingly good.”
Not Bloody Likely: The Mad Men hour from husband-and-wife Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton is a victim of Men category excess, while the Homeland pilot teleplay from Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon and Gordon Raff was a standout, but not as much as was the episode’s nominated direction.
DRAMA SERIES DIRECTOR
The Nominees: Michael Cuesta, Homeland: Pilot (Showtime); Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad: “Face Off” (AMC); Brian Percival, Downton Abbey/Masterpiece: “Episode 7″ (PBS); Tim Van Patten, Boardwalk Empire: “To The Lost” (HBO); Phil Abraham, Mad Men: “The Other Woman” (AMC)
Who’s Going to Win: As with the drama writing category, the result here largely depends on how the top drama race itself plays out. If Breaking Bad manages to sneak past Mad Men for that win, it’s easy to see Vince Gilligan carting off the directing Emmy for his intense and extraordinarily artful fourth-season closer “Face Off. But if Homeland somehow pulls an upset, Michael Cuesta’s dynamic work in the Homeland pilot could well follow its coattails. As it stands, Gilligan gets the nod here due to the sheer tonnage of Breaking Bad’s buzz (even if that buzz was more for Season 5 than Season 4).
Then Again: Homeland is certainly going to get some winning attention Sunday night with Claire Danes, and Cuesta is the guy who directed her. A fellow TV director stresses, “That Homeland pilot was a masterwork, as cinematic in its look as anything I’ve seen on TV this year. Michael did just a brilliant job.”
Not Bloody Likely: Tim Van Patten is good at getting nominated (this is his 11th) but has never won for his directing. Brian Percival is vying for his second Emmy in as many years for Downton Abbey, but last year’s came in the movie-mini category. As for Phil Abraham, his episode “The Other Woman” is perceived as more a tour de force for its acting and writing.
COMEDY SERIES WRITER
The Nominees: Lena Dunham, Girls: Pilot (HBO); Chris McKenna, Community: “Remedial Chaos” (NBC); Amy Poehler, Parks And Recreation: “The Debate” (NBC); Louis C.K., Louie: “Pregnant” (FX); Michael Schur, Parks And Recreation: “Win, Lose Or Draw” (NBC)
Who’s Going to Win: It’s already becoming clear that this is Lena Dunham’s world. The rest of us just live in it. She’s got to take home an Emmy on Sunday night. The question is whether it will be more than one, and which category or categories it will be for. Perhaps her best shot is for the writing of her brilliant and jarring Girls pilot, which served notice that this was one singularly fearless writer-performer. The prediction is she will win here, the first of what is likely to be multiple Emmys. The fact that it’s rare for a woman to win for comedy writing – unless your name is Tina Fey – won’t be a factor. As one writer told me, “Everybody is talking about Lena, and it’s with awe.”
Then Again: Amy Poehler has to win an Emmy for Parks And Recreation, and if it isn’t for her acting, maybe it will be for her writing. Her nominated episode “The Debate” is considered one of the show’s funniest ever. While Louis C.K. is nominated for pretty much everything this year, his better shot would seem to be in directing for his more acclaimed episode “Duckling”.
Not Bloody Likely: Chris McKenna figures to suffer from Community’s much-publicized behind-the-scenes issues and the May ouster of showrunner Dan Harmon. And Michael Schur, while blessed with a significant past Emmy pedigree, has too much competition this time.
COMEDY SERIES DIRECTOR
The Nominees: Robert B. Weide, Curb Your Enthusiasm: “Palestinian Chicken” (HBO); Lena Dunham, Girls: “She Did” (HBO); Louis C.K., Louie: “Duckling” (FX); Steven Levitan, Modern Family: “Baby On Board” (ABC); Jason Winer, Modern Family: “Virgin Territory” (ABC); Jake Kasdan, New Girl: Pilot (Fox)
Who’s Going to Win: It will be tough to beat Robert Weide, a five-time comedy directorial nominee who won in this category for an installment of Curb Your Enthusiasm once before (in 2003). This time, the Emmy-nominated episode, “Palestinian Chicken”, already copped the DGA Award honor, which is a pretty fair barometer. All that stands in the way for Weide is, well, the other five nominees, headed by Louis C.K.’s acclaimed episode of his FX series Louie entitled “Duckling” that’s already considered something of a classic. In other words, this is a competition most fowl, pitting a chicken and a duckling.
Then Again: There’s Lena Dunham yet again, this time for directing the Girls episode “She Did”. She’s looking to buck some difficult history here – the comedy directing Emmy has been won by a woman only once before: Betty Thomas for HBO’s Dream On in 1993.
Not Bloody Likely: Steven Levitan has been denied only a win for directing among his prizes for Modern Family, and he’s going to be passed over again. The same goes for Levitan’s cohort Jason Winer. This is Jake Kasdan’s first Emmy nod, and while he comes from a long line of directing talent, he won’t be taking home a trophy for New Girl.