The 67th Emmy Awards are this Sunday and they promise to be one of two things; either wildly populist with some potentially shocking wins or utterly predictable and very Emmy-like. Here’s why.
This year, the Television Academy made some pretty big changes to their eligibility, category placement and voting processes. The much reported and ballyhooed announcement that a Comedy Series over 30 minutes needed to be submitted into Drama Series caused quite a stir. A show could appeal and three of them did. Jane the Virgin and Glee both had successful appeals and were allowed to submit or remain (as was the case for Glee) in Comedy. For Orange is the New Black, however, that appeal was denied and Netflix was told they must move from Comedy (where the show netted a ton on nominations last year) over to Drama where the streaming network already had House of Cards. To many of us it seemed like a shady move on the Television Academy’s part but the show was always on the cusp of comedy and drama and more often than not fell on the side of a drama with comedic elements. The result? Orange is the New Black still netted a Drama Series nomination as well as one for Uzo Aduba, who won the Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy last year. This year, however, as a part of one the changes, she was forced to submit in Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (she appears in more than 50% of the season’s episodes, new rule). That might sound good but the show only received two other nominations (Casting, Guest Actor) for four total. That’s compared to 10 last year in Comedy.
The big change though is the voting process. Historically, the Television Academy would create ‘blue-ribbon’ panels, smaller groups of Emmy voters, which would ultimately decide the winners. Shows and performers would submit ‘tapes’ of their best episodes for consideration. For actors it’s a single episode, for shows they submit six. That number used to be eight but the rise of cable and network shows with 13-episode seasons (or less) lowered that number. This panel was required to view all submissions (signing affidavits and whatnot) and it often ended up to the chagrin of viewers that the same people would win year after year while newer, more exciting shows and performances were snubbed. With the new rules, the panels are gone and voting is now open to every member within a specific discipline (acting, writing, directing, etc). That could lead us to some more populist choices, no? Maybe. This year being the first we probably won’t have much to go on until two or three years down the line to identify a pattern.
What does all of this mean for this season? It means that a show like Mad Men, which has never won an acting Emmy, stands a pretty good chance at changing that this year. Jon Hamm looks to be the most likely candidate for this timely change but Christina Hendricks has a good shot too. Now, if we end up with winners like Jeff Daniels, Kyle Chandler or Uzo Aduba then we’ll gather that the new voting process isn’t as impactful as we thought.
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
Better Call Saul
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Orange Is the New Black
This is an exciting category as it feels like there are only two outcomes; either a first win for Game of Thrones or a record-setting 5th for Mad Men in its final season. Although many regarded the most recent season of Game of Thrones as its weakest it’s likely to win this year more than any previous year. If Mad Men were to win it would be a huge comeback. Immediately after winning Drama Series for the fourth year in a row, it returned to three years of nominations with ZERO wins. Game of Thrones enters Emmy night with a whopping eight wins from the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend and a massive 24 nominations. It should be noted that it only needs to win one Emmy on Sunday to tie with The West Wing’s first season for the most Emmy wins by a series in a single year. Two and it grabs the record for itself.
Downton Abbey isn’t winning. Neither is Orange is the New Black. Homeland’s return to the Drama Series lineup, and a previous winner that blocked Mad Men’s five-peat, is lucky (but deserved) to be there after a disastrous 3rd season. Better Call Saul’s freshman season is well loved, hit tons of nominations but doesn’t ‘feel’ like a Drama Series winner. House of Cards? A weak season says no.
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Kyle Chandler, Bloodline
Jeff Daniels, “What Kind of Day Has It Been,” The Newsroom
Jon Hamm, “Person to Person,” Mad Men
Bob Odenkirk, “Pimento,” Better Call Saul
Liev Schreiber, “Walk This Way,” Ray Donovan
Kevin Spacey, “Chapter 32,” House of Cards
This is Jon Hamm’s to lose, full stop. He’s up against two guys he’s lost to before (Jeff Daniels and Kyle Chandler) but the voting process change, which is less submission based than before, could give Hamm the ‘I can’t believe he hasn’t won’ sympathy vote. I’ll bet Steve Carell is wishing this were in place during his final season on The Office.
The Emmy Experts pick Jon Hamm but it’s far from unanimous. #1 votes for Bob Odenkirk and even Kevin Spacey are set to spoil Hamm’s chances here.
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Claire Danes, “From A to B and Back Again,” Homeland
Viola Davis, “Freakin’ Whack-a-Mole,” How to Get Away With Murder
Taraji P. Henson, “Pilot,” Empire
Tatiana Maslany, “Certain Agony of the Battlefield,” Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss, “Person to Person,” Mad Men
Robin Wright, “Chapter 32,” House of Cards
An exciting category, and an historical one. Never before have two African-American women been nominated in the same year until Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson both made it in this year. Two-time Oscar nominee Viola Davis is the favorite here for the freshman season of How to Get Away with Murder but Henson in Empire isn’t too far behind. If we’re going by tapes, Davis has a more traditional winning tape. It’s courtroom-heavy, big monologue and avoids the trappings of the show’s more campy and silly aspects. But could Tatiana Maslany spoil with her first nomination? It doesn’t seem likely but honestly, any one of these women could take this. Two-time winner in this category Claire Danes has a great submission, Robin Wright finally put the right tape forward (unlike last year’s debacle) but what about Elizabeth Moss? She submitted the series finale (as Hamm did) and although it doesn’t seem like her best she could be swept up in a possible Mad Men sweep.
The Emmy Experts are predicting Viola Davis to win, which would make her the first African-American woman to win in this category. No, really. The first.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Jonathan Banks, “Five-0,” Better Call Saul
Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline
Jim Carter, “Episode 9,” Downton Abbey
Peter Dinklage, “Hardhome,” Game of Thrones
Michael Kelly, House of Cards
Alan Cumming, “Undisclosed Receipts,” The Good Wife
This seems like a fight between Jonathan Banks in Better Call Saul (reprising his Breaking Bad role) and Ben Mendelsohn in Bloodline. Both have excellent submissions (again, if it even matters) but Banks has the edge. Coming off a series that just won two years in a row and also grabbed a bagful of acting wins, the familiarity should bode well for him. But, and it’s a big but, Mendelsohn’s role is one that the Emmys traditionally really love. I could spoil the reason why but if you haven’t seen Bloodline I don’t think I will. Does Peter Dinklage have a chance to repeat? Probably not. His screentime this season was woefully small and even his submission is free of flair and great moments. If he wins though, Game of Thrones is winning Drama Series. Count on it.
The Emmy Experts are predicting, unanimously, that Jonathan Banks will win for Better Call Saul.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Joanne Froggatt, “Episode 8,” Downton Abbey
Lena Headey, “Mother’s Mercy,” Game of Thrones
Emilia Clarke, “The Dance of Dragons,” Game of Thrones
Christina Hendricks, “Lost Horizon,” Mad Men
Uzo Aduba, “Hugs Can Be Deceiving,” Orange Is the New Black
Christine Baranski, “Loser Edit,” The Good Wife
This is a pretty open category. Most feel that Lena Headey’s nude walk of shame, “Mother’s Mercy,” (her submission) is the safest bet. I wonder if the knowledge that a nude double was used for that walk though, with Headey’s head digitally placed on the double’s body, or if it will even matter. Uzo Aduba is the closest threat, coming off her surprising SAG win this year. But then, the Emmys aren’t a precursor-heavy awards show like the Oscars. Plus that happened nine months ago and was closer to her Emmy win last year…in Comedy. As mentioned above, Christina Hendricks stands a great shot at winning (I have her at #2 behind Headey) if Mad Men is suddenly swept up in a slew of acting wins for its final season as a sense of being owed or overdue.
The Emmy Experts predict Lena Headey to win, with Uzo Aduba not too far behind.
OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A DRAMA SERIES
The Americans, “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?”
Better Call Saul, “Five-O”
Game of Thrones, “Mother’s Mercy”
Mad Men, “Lost Horizon”
Mad Men, “Person to Person”
Mad Men is the clear favorite here. Weiner has won this category three times (in a row) before the fall of the series from favor. Better Call Saul is the closest rival and even Game of Thrones is within spitting distance.
The Emmy Experts are unanimously predicting Mad Men (“Person to Person”) to win here.
OUTSTANDING DIRECTING IN A DRAMA SERIES
Boardwalk Empire, “Eldorado”
Game of Thrones, “Mother’s Mercy”
Game of Thrones, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”
Homeland, “From A to B and Back Again”
The Knick, “Method and Madness”
In directing it’s a different story; Game of Thrones’ “Mother’s Mercy” and Boardwalk Empire’s “Eldorado” are neck and neck. Game of Thrones had previously only been nominated in directing twice before and now it has two nominations in the same year. In a fantastically ironic twist of fate, and bear with me as I try and get this out, Game of Thrones‘ first season pilot episode director nomination was Timothy Van Patton, who lost to Martin Scorsese’s pilot episode direction of Boardwalk Empire. This year, Game of Thrones‘ main competition is Timothy Van Patton…for Boardwalk Empire. Small world. So, does anyone else have a chance? I could see Steven Soderbergh upsetting both with his submission for The Knick. The Emmys have traditionally loved to reward first season pilots directing and writing over previous winners and even stronger competition before.
The Emmy Experts are predicting Game of Thrones (“Mother’s Mercy”) to triumph over Boardwalk Empire, but juuuust barely. We are literally split down the middle; three for Game of Thrones, three for Boardwalk Empire. It’ll be a nail-biter.
Watch for the Comedy category predictions tomorrow.