Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama Acting

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama Acting

June 3rd, 2010

On the drama side of things, there’s fewer trends that we can follow through to the nominees than there are in comedy. There, we can look at Glee and Modern Family and see some logical directions the awards could take, but in Drama there’s really only one new contender (The Good Wife), and the other variables are much more up in the air in terms of what’s going to connect with viewers. Lost could see a resurgence with voters in its final season, or it could be left in the dust; Mad Men could pick up more acting nominations now that its dynasty is secure, or it could remain underrepresented; Breaking Bad could stick to Cranston/Paul, or it could branch out into the rest of the stellar cast.

That unpredictability isn’t going to make for a shocking set of nominations, but I do think it leaves a lot of room open for voters to engage with a number of series to a degree that we may not have, so it’s an interesting set of races where I’m likely going out on some limbs.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Last year’s Nominees:

  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) [Winner]
  • Simon Baker (The Mentalist)
  • Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)

This is always the most stacked category as of late, and last year was no exception: Baker was the only one who didn’t really have a shot at deservedly winning the category, which is why he’s unlikely to make it to the dance again this year. Meanwhile, In Treatment didn’t air this season, so Byrne is also out, opening up two spots.

This Year’s Shoo-in Nominees:

  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)

Just in case it wasn’t clear, the other three aren’t going anywhere, and as much as I love Jon Hamm I really think he’s going to go home empty-handed again. Both Hall and Laurie are due for an Emmy at this point, and both did some very showy work (Laurie in the two-hour movie-like premiere, Hall alongside John Lithgow) this year which will put them high on Emmy’s radar. Throw in Cranston continuing to do superlative work on Breaking Bad, and we’ve got another horse race before we even add two more contenders.

The Contenders:

  • Bill Paxton (Big Love)
  • Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)
  • Matthew Fox (Lost)
  • Ray Romano (Men of a Certain Age)
  • Simon Baker (The Mentalist)
  • Kiefer Sutherland (24)
  • Peter Krause (Parenthood)
  • Timothy Olyphant (Justified)

While it may be a stacked set of nominees, I don’t know if it’s really that competitive for the final two spots. I’d say the two I’d most expect to see in the category are Romano, who played against type better than I think we all expected in TNT’s rather tremendous Men of a Certain Age, and Fox, who did his best work of the series in Lost’s sixth and final season. I’d normally rule out Chandler, but DirecTV sending out the entire fourth season plays to his favour, and while I’d like to rule out Sutherland (who didn’t get back in last year when Cherry Jones won for the show) you never know when nostalgia will take over voters.

As for Paxton, I think Big Love is going to disappear from the races outside of one exception (which I’ll get to below), so he’s a long shot along with Baker (who isn’t strong enough to remain in the category) and Krause (whose status as a three-time Emmy loser may not be able to overcome the series’ relative low-profile). Meanwhile, I’d consider Timothy Olyphant a wild card – FX is pushing Justified and has had success in this category in the past (Michael Chiklis won in 2002), but Olyphant was never feted for Deadwood, and it’s not clear what kind of pull he has in this kind of company.

Most Painful Omissions from Contenders: Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters (Treme)

Treme has a better shot of breaking into these acting categories than The Wire did, with some bigger names who are likely going to get attention in the below categories, but unfortunately I don’t think voters are going to recognize the brilliant (and often subtle) performances from Pierce and Peters on their ballots. It would be wonderful if they could break up the overwhelming whiteness of this category, but I just don’t think it’s going to happen – I won’t go so far as to call it racist, but it does indicate a failure on the part of the Academy as they certainly deserve to be part of these discussions.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Last year’s Nominees:

  • Glenn Close (Damages) [Winner]
  • Holly Hunter (Saving Grace)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
  • Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: SVU)
  • Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
  • Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters)

This may seem like a stacked category, but a lot of these nominees are feeling a bit tired (some before they were even nominated, like Hunter). Only one, however, will definitely not be returning: Elisabeth Moss is submitting in supporting this year, which means that there will be at least some turnaround. However, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say there will be a bit more, as the landscape for lead actresses has changed quite a bit this year.

This Year’s Shoo-in Nominees:

  • Glenn Close (Damages)
  • Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
  • January Jones (Mad Men)

While I’m anticipating the series losing some of its lustre, Close is certainly sticking around for Damages, while I think Mad Men has established itself as enough of a dynasty that January Jones will make her way into the category in what was a very Betty-heavy season for the series. And, there’s no question that your front-runner is set to battle for the trifecta, as Margulie has already won the Golden Globe and the SAG Award for her role on CBS’ drama series.

The Contenders:

  • Jeanne Tripplehorn (Big Love)
  • Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad)
  • Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
  • Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: SVU)
  • Melissa Leo (Treme)
  • Evangeline Lilly (Lost)
  • Lauren Graham (Parenthood)
  • Patricia Arquette (Medium)
  • Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy)
  • Holly Hunter (Saving Grace)

The reason I’m hoping for some turnaround in this category is that there are some really strong performances from performers who haven’t been nominated before, and I’d hate to see entrenchment be the only justification for keeping people like Field, Hunter, Sedgwick and Hargitay when there’s other actresses are breaking out. High on my list would be Katey Sagal, who will benefit from FX’s position to push the show as its marquee offering this year, and who was absolutely haunting as the matriarch of a broken family struggling to come to terms with her own personal demons without further exacerbating the situation. I’ve also got my fingers crossed for Anna Gunn – she managed to convince me that Skyler wasn’t a worthless part of Breaking Bad, and she stepped up to the plate in a way that really impressed me. The same goes for Evangeline Lilly, who I’d have never considered in past years but who turned in her series-best work towards the end of the sixth season and would deserve a token final season nomination this time around.

Meanwhile, Tripplehorn was one of the few people unscatched by a terrible season of Big Love (even if they completely lobotomized her character), and it will be interesting to see how Medium’s change of network potentially affects Patricia Arquette’s chances of grabbing a third nomination. It’s also unclear whether Melissa Leo will become the face of Treme: she’s a recent Oscar-nominee, which always goes over well for voters, and she’s managed to make me care about a storyline that I initially felt the show kept at a distance, so she’s certainly got a shot. And yes, I know that Lauren Graham was shut out for the entirety of Gilmore Girls’ run, but Graham is on a real network now (albeit NBC), and with a fairly star-studded cast there’s a chance Emmy voters will reward her for it. I’m not holding my breath.

Most Painful Omission from Contenders: Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)

Including Graham and not Britton was really painful, but I think Britton should have submitted in Supporting. Her storyline in the fourth season doesn’t reach “Lead” status until late in the season and even then I actually thought it was one of the series’ weakest Tami storylines even if Britton still acted the hell out of it. Perhaps I’m misreading her chances out of personal knowledge of the season in question, but I think she would have been better off emphasizing her supporting role as the heart of the show rather than emphasizing those parts of the show which revolve around her character.

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Last year’s Nominees:

  • Michael Emerson (Lost) [Winner]
  • Christian Clemenson (Boston Legal)
  • Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
  • William Shatner (Boston Legal)
  • William Hurt (Damages)
  • John Slattery (Mad Men)

Ooh boy, this is a fun one. Emerson, Paul and Slattery are all still contenders, but the other three nominees are entirely absent this year (due to either leaving the show or the show being canceled), which opens up plenty of space for new contenders (who might well come from the shows of those who remain in contention).

This Year’s Shoo-in Nominees:

  • Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
  • Michael Emerson (Lost)
  • Terry O’Quinn (Lost)

I’m willing to lock these three into the list right now: Paul was a surprising but much-deserved breakthrough last year, so he’ll definitely stick around for more great work this season. The same goes for Emerson, who has been nominated for three seasons in a row and had some more great material in Lost’s final season. And while it’s still possible that O’Quinn will not submit himself for consideration (which is why he wasn’t nominated last year), I would hate to see it happen: he did some stunning work balancing two separate characters this year, and I really hope he’s able to be rewarded for that.

The Contenders:

  • Zjelko Ivanek (Big Love)
  • Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
  • John Noble (Fringe)
  • Chris Noth (The Good Wife)
  • Josh Charles (The Good Wife)
  • Robert Sean Leonard (House)
  • Sam Waterston (Law & Order)
  • Nestor Carbonell (Lost)
  • Henry Ian Cusick (Lost)
  • Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men)
  • John Slattery (Mad Men)
  • Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age)
  • Scott Bakula (Men of a Certain Age)
  • Craig T. Nelson (Parenthood)
  • John Goodman (Treme)

This is going to be an incredibly challenging category, and there’s a lot of variables which could technically knock people off this list. For example, Vincent Kartheiser isn’t likely going to be grabbing a nomination for Mad Men (Slattery is the safer bet), but this could be the year the show really breaks out in the acting categories and he could be swept up in the wave. Similarly, Carbonell and Cusick aren’t huge names, but Cusick is a past nominee (for guest work in Season 2) and Carbonell is heavily featured in “Ab Aeterno,” which works well as a standalone episode that ABC may highlight for voters who don’t know the series mythology, so if Lost goes over big they could threaten for a spot in the category. Meanwhile, you can’t ignore past successes: Nelson won for Coach, Bakula was a four-time nominee for Quantum Leap, Braugher has two Emmys already, Goodman won in 2007 for Studio 60 and was nominated multiple times for Roseanne, and despite being pretty nondescript on Big Love Ivanek did win two years ago.

I’m tempted to suggest that Goodman (in a showy role on Treme) and Braugher (who lets it all loose on Men of a Certain Age) are the big contenders out of the past success stories, but other shows have more momentum as a whole. That’s why Dean Norris has to be considered a serious contender, as he’s done some stellar work as Hank on Breaking Bad this season that I think voters will have a hard time ignoring. The same goes for Chris Noth and Josh Charles on The Good Wife – I think the series will go over well with Emmy voters, and both actors are pretty huge components of Julianna Margulies’ performance in the series, which will bode well for their chances. Leonard and Noble, meanwhile, have different problems standing in their way: House has always been considered a one-man show behind Laurie, while Fringe as a science fiction procedural is fighting against Emmy precedent to garner any attention at all (and it doesn’t quite have the X-Files’ momentum). Still, Noble delivered some stunning performances this season, so I’m hopeful that voters might have been paying attention, as “Peter” is as fantastic an Emmy tape as I could imagine.

And just because you never know how voters will say goodbye to a much-loved series, Sam Waterston could come out of nowhere and grab his eighth acting nomination.

Most Painful Omissions from Contenders: Giancarlo Esposito and Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad)

Here for two separate reasons, Esposito and Odenkirk have been two important presences within the show’s third season, but each will likely be shut out. In the case of Esposito, it’s an extremely subtle performance in a show where two other actors are getting more screentime, which will make it incredibly challenging for him to break through. Meanwhile, Odenkirk is delivering a nuance but very broad comic performance, which means he’s got no shot in the dramatic category – it’s too bad, as he’s bringing more to the role than he perhaps had to, and deserve some sort of recognition for that.

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Last year’s Nominees:

  • Cherry Jones (24) [Winner]
  • Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy)
  • Rose Byrne (Damages)
  • Hope Davis (In Treatment)
  • Dianne Wiest (In Treatment)
  • Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy)

Right off the bat, we can take Davis and Wiest out of the running, which leaves an interesting hole in the category. It’s unclear whether or not Oh, Wilson and Byrne will be able to hold onto their slots, as Damages and Grey’s have sort of fallen off outside of some pockets of support.

This Year’s Shoo-in Nominees:

  • Cherry Jones (24)
  • Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)

I’m got some pretty strong leanings in who I think will round out the rest of this category, but I’m only willing to guarantee these two: Jones’ work on 24 didn’t seem to deteriorate in its final season, while Moss managed to break into a tougher lead category last year and so is a pretty sure bet to grab a nomination here.

The Contenders:

  • Chloe Sevigny (Big Love)
  • Julie Benz (Dexter)
  • Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter)
  • Rose Byrne (Damages)
  • Christine Baranski (The Good Wife)
  • Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
  • Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy)
  • Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy)
  • Lisa Edelstein (House)
  • S. Epatha Merkerson (Law & Order)
  • Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
  • Monica Potter (Parenthood)
  • Khandi Alexander (Treme)
  • Kim Dickens (Treme)
  • Morena Baccarin (V)

Wilson, Oh, and Byrne remain in contention, although I think Wilson has the edge of the three (with a key role in the “shocking” Grey’s finale). Meanwhile, Christina Hendricks made the Top 10 for the series two years ago unless my memory fails me, which would indicate that she’s on voters radars and could contend (although she had stronger material last season and was shut out). It remains to be seen whether or not Dexter’s big season will have any effects for its female cast members, as Jennifer Carpenter did do her best work of the series (even if it remains divisive amongst the show’s viewers) and Julie Benz was front and center for the season finale. Edelstein, meanwhile, is in the same position as Leonard on the Supporting Actor side of things, and while Monica Potter is very good on Parenthood I don’t know if Emmy voters are going to watch Parenthood. And Morena Baccarin is doing weird enough work on V that voters could reward her for it, but the show’s creative downturn makes that a complete oddball shot.

I’m more confident in Chloe Sevigny, who grabbed a Golden Globe for her role on Big Love and who remained strong throughout the weak fourth season, while I can’t rule out Merkerson when she was a surprise Top 10 finisher a few years back. This brings us, however, to two shows with a couple of contenders, including Treme. I think Khandi Alexander has a very strong shot at a nomination, and while Kim Dickens is likely a long shot I find her to be a real grounding point for the series which could connect with voters. However, the big question is with The Good Wife: Christine Baranski has an Emmy for Cybill and a lot of credibility, but Archie Panjabi is playing the series’ breakout character, which could garner her a nomination. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them both grab spots on the list, not unlike Ted Danson and Zjelko Ivanek two years ago for Damages.

Most Painful Omissions from Contenders: Yunjin Kim and Emilie de Ravin (Lost)

I’d like to believe that these two actresses are in a position to be recognized for their work on Lost this season, but they just didn’t have a strong enough profile within the final season’s storylines. I’d love to see them sneak in, as I think de Ravin did some really strong work this year in particular, but the women of Lost were more or less marginalized this season, and I think it’s going to hurt their chances of getting into this category where no performer from the show has ever been nominated (although that describes every category but Supporting Actor, when I think about it).

Next up: miscellaneous thoughts on Guest Acting, Writing and Directing, Hosting, Reality Competition, Original Song, and SO MUCH MORE…or, maybe that’s it. Huh.

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11 Comments

Filed under Emmy Awards

11 responses to “Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama Acting

  1. Tale

    I’ve really enjoyed reading through your thoughts on this years nominations. They are well though out and gives me a broader understanding of the nominations and the categories as I haven’t watched many of the new shows this season.

    Looking forward to your next installment :)

  2. Did you consider Walton Goggins as a supporting actor nominee for “Justified” or is he a guest role?

    I’ve loved what he’s done this season on the show and think his work there is worthy of notice. It might be a bit of an Emmy make-up for his lack of a nomination for his work in the final season of “The Shield” as well.

    I think Nobel would be a good nominee and his work has been solid this year. But Emmy’s tendency to overlook genre shows will work against it and the episode I think will be submitted with Walter going from our universe to the other side is likely to alienate Emmy voters.

  3. Zac

    Katey Sagal must be nominated!!!!

  4. jeff

    though this season of Damages was kind of uneven, I think Martin Short is most likely going to be nominated for Supporting. Not only does he have a pedigree but his role was so out of character from what is usually expected from him. Not to mention Damages track record of getting nominations for their big names…

  5. JasonV

    Josh Charles deserves an Emmy but likely won;t even get nominated. He didn’t for Sports Night and he was even better on that show. Even 10 years later, and watching it for the umteenth time on dvd, he consistantly blows you away.

  6. Abe

    Hey Myles-
    I’ve started writing my own predictions with the intention of posting them in a couple of weeks, and the only category I’ve gotten through so far is Best Actor in a Drama Series. You’re right on with your locked four, and I think it’s Sutherland, Krause, and Olyphant vying for the last three slots.

    I completely agree about Anna Gunn – I despised her beforehand and now think she’s great. Is she a lead though? The case could be made a bit better for Katey Sagal, and she totally, completely deserves it. I’d be careful about calling January Jones a shoo-in: why should she get nominated now if they haven’t rewarded her before? I know it’s not the same, but John Krasinski has been shut out year after year despite most people predicting him breaking through.

    Regarding supporting actress, Rose Byrne has a great shot because she’s actually supporting this year as opposed to the last two years, and she was better than ever before, in my opinion. You do have two glaring omissions in supporting actor – Martin Short and Campbell Scott. I don’t know if you’ve been watching “Damages” this past year, but they’re definitely in contention, and deserve this a hell of a lot more than William Hurt. I’m not sure that either will make it though, considering Marcia Gay Harden was snubbed last year.

    At this point, the supporting categories are way too crowded and it’s too hard to tell what’s going on there, as evidenced by your dozen plus contenders in each race.

    • I’m making one bold-ish prediction this year, and it’s that Damages falls off the radar beyond Close. Not surprisingly, this means that I didn’t watch the show this year, and so I really had no context for Short/Scott, and am choosing to remain blissfully stubborn to their chances as opposed to really embracing them. You’re right that it’s a definite oversight, but I remain convinced that so few people are watching the show that it will be pushed out of the big races.

      I’m likely crazy for believing so, but that’s the fun of it all.

      • Abe

        That’s fair, and I do love bold picks, even if they really pan out. What I will say is that I didn’t like “Damages” at all in its first season, didn’t really like it last year, and this year, I finally started to like it. It got to be a really good show, partially due to the efforts of Short and Scott. We’ll see what happens!

  7. DEELO

    From the way I see you thinking…an actress Meryl Streep should never be nominated again even if her performance merits it. Mariska Hargitay should be nominated for a continuous well played character. I saw some of her nominations that she SHOULD have won the Emmy and did not. Rethink yourself.

  8. Hi, nice post! I really like your post about Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama Acting

    Keep the good work!

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