[Leading up to the announcement of the nominees in mid-July, Cultural Learnings will be delving into each of the major categories to highlight a major theme or a certain selection of potential nominees.]
As far as categories go, they don’t get too much more wide open than this year’s race for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. It’s long been a category dominated by the show of the moment: both The Sopranos and The West Wing saw multiple nominees on multiple occasions, and Lost was added to that list in recent years. So, for a show like Lost, the question isn’t whether one of its actors will get a nomination: it’s which one, and how many.
This goes for other series as well, as this is certainly a year where there’s a lot of shows that probably have multiple deserving candidates. These types of races are always difficult because of two competing phenomena: vote-splitting, which implies that these candidates will struggle to break into the final five or six nominees, and tape-sharing, where the tapes screened for critics could potentially overlap between candidates. The latter, for example, pretty well won Terry O’Quinn the Emmy last year, as he was in Michael Emerson’s submission almost as much as he was in his own.
This year, it’s three competitors from Boston Legal, four from Lost, and two from Damages that will either be fighting more with each other or working together to multiple nominations. And, well, let’s not forget everyone else, too.
As far as Boston Legal goes, it has seen its chances in the category skyrocket after William Shatner, a perennial nominee, has been joined by John Larroquette and Christian Clemenson. The former is an Emmy darling from his time on Night Court, while the latter won an Emmy for a guest appearance on the series. Considering James Spader’s surprise win, and the series’ nomination, last year, Legal is a hit with Emmy voters, and these new additions to the category could certainly create more buzz around the drama and its stars.
Similarly, however, Lost comes to the table with four realistic candidates. O’Quinn, who won last year and was nominated in 2005, should remain a strong contender even without a showcase quite as good as last year’s, while his fellow nominee from 2005, Naveen Andrews, could make a return with his work in “The Economist.” However, it is in two other previous nominees that the show has its best submissions. Henry Ian Cusick, nominated for a Guest Actor Emmy in 2006 for his work as Desmond, has a bang-up submission in “The Constant,” but he is admittedly not as well known as his fellow castmates.
YouTube: Desmond Finds His Constant [SPOILERS]
Michael Emerson, however, snuck into the category last year and nearly picked up a win with his borderline evil portrayal of Benjamin Linus. This year, he has a fantastic submission in “The Shape of Things to Come,” which runs a wide range of emotions, and he also has the benefit of being in almost all of Terry O’Quinn’s scenes from “Cabin Fever.” Should they both make the Top 10, where all tapes are screened in front of various audiences, chances are that Emerson will find himself in a tuxedo in September.
YouTube: Ben Confronts Alex’s Hostage Taker [SPOILERS]
The one that will pain me the most, however, is Damages. Admittedly, I am not quite convinced that the series deserves the critical accolades it has received, but it has two very strong supporting actor candidates. The most likely nominee is Ted Danson, who showed unknown versatility as slippery CEO gone bad Arthur Frobisher. Playing against type went well for the actor, and his notoreity should get him into the Top 10 with ease.
YouTube: Frobisher Considers a “Solution”
Less likely, but more deserving, is the wondrous Željko Ivanek, whose portrayal of Ray Fiske may have had some accent issues but never failed to entertain. While he seemed fairly minimal in most instance, sparring with Patty or reasoning with Frobisher, Ivanek burst into the main narrative with “I Hate These People.” Without falling into total spoiler territory, the character took a sudden turn to the tragic, a dramatic fall that was more compelling than anything the other supporting characters went through. His lack of recognition will likely keep him from breaking through, especially with Danson already carrying the show’s flag, but that’s an unfortunate scenario.
YouTube: Ray Fiske Deposes Katie Connor
And then there’s the other dark horse that I really wish could sneak in. In his case, his biggest competition is not other actors but actresses on his own show. Brothers & Sisters has four actresses (Field, Flockhart, Griffiths, Wettig) with serious Emmy credibility, but I’d be much more apt to place awards attention on Dave Annable. His portrayal of a young veteran of the Iraq War who returns injured and becomes addicted (again) to painkillers was fantastic, and while voters won’t get to see it in his submitted episode (“36 Days”) he also ensured that the uncomfortable quasi-incestual romance at season’s end was at least watchable. Chances are he’ll be outshadowed by the rest of his cast (Like he somewhat is by Flockhart in this clip), but he deserves to be there.
YouTube: Justin’s Intervention
And these shows aren’t the only ones with buzz: T.R. Knight made it into the race from Grey’s Anatomy last year, but a weaker season could open the door for someone like Justin Chambers from the same series. And Blair Underwood, who did supporting work on a number of series, did his most prominent work in HBO’s In Treatment, a show with few viewers but a lot of network support in its Emmy campaign. It’s also impossible to ignore that Donald Sutherland’s scenery chewing performance in Dirty Sexy Money is the show’s best bet at a nomination, and it’s hard to discount the power his pedigree holds in these circles. I’ll be talking about Mad Men’s chances later, but the show’s success is likely to catapult John Slattery into the race as well.
YouTube: “Finest Piece of Ass” (Mad Men)
Likely missing the cut, however, is Masi Oka, last year nominated for his turn as Hiro on Heroes. The show is likely to see almost no Emmy attention after a mediocre and in some cases downright awful season, and Oka was also stuck in a terrible storyline throughout.
Cultural Learnings’ Top 10 Prediction
(* Denotes Preliminary Nominee Prediction)
*Michael Emerson (Lost)
*Ted Danson (Damages)
*William Shatner (Boston Legal)
*John Slattery (Mad Men)
*Terry O’Quinn (Lost)
*Donald Sutherland (Dirty Sexy Money)
T.R. Knight (Grey’s Anatomy)
Henry Ian Cusick (Lost)
John Larroquette (Boston Legal)
Christian Clemenson (Boston Legal)