2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Lead Actor in a Drama Series


Lead Actor in a Drama Series


This is not a good time to be a lead actor in a drama series.

All of last year’s six nominees are back this year, and almost all of them are likely to return. Bryan Cranston followed up his surprise victory for Breaking Bad’s first season (a nomination driven likely by the fact he was never honoured for Malcolm in the Middle) with an even more impressive second season. Hugh Laurie continues to single-handedly elevate House from its procedural roots, driving the show’s popularity and thus his chances at a nomination. Michael C. Hall is still a hero and a serial killer, a duality he pulls off better than anyone could have imagined. Jon Hamm, whose Don Draper was a complex man of mystery in Mad Men’s first season, became even more complicated in the show’s second season. And Gabriel Byrne, who managed a nod for his grueling In Treatment schedule in the show’s first season, is back again with what is generally considered an even stronger second outing. These five are going to be there again, and that leaves little room for new blood.

The one nominee from last year who could be in trouble is James Spader. His nominations (and wins) were always baffling to critics and viewers alike, and the general theory is that his epic, David E. Kelley-penned speeches were Emmy bait in their finest form. However, this year, Boston Legal has been off the air for months and there is no panel where that speech will be seen – he’s operating entirely on popular vote, and he could be ousted from the category faster than you can quote a Supreme Court precedent.

Waiting in the wings is a tough crowd: former nominee Kiefer Sutherland is back in the race, Michael Chiklis is in his final year of eligibility for The Shield, Kyle Chandler made the Top 10 last year for Friday Night Lights, or Big Love could break through and give Bill Paxton a shot. And, in the longest of long shots, Edward James Olmos is like Battlestar Galactica itself in his last year of eligibility, while Matthew Fox had a slightly lighter season on Lost but is doing fine work in an unfortunately crowded period.

The only new threat to the race is Simon Baker, who has the benefit of being well-liked, extremely charming, and starring on the season’s biggest hit. The Mentalist is the highest-rated new show of the year, so Baker could follow in Laurie’s footsteps and break into the category. On the other hand, he’s never been nominated before, and it could be an example of the Emmys and the viewers not quite lining up.

Predictions for Lead Actor in a Drama

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


Filed under Emmy Awards

8 responses to “2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  1. If James Spader gets nominated, I will eat my cat. Completely ridiculous.

    • It’s those speeches, you can’t beat those speeches. Honestly, if I could have a clip show of all of his closings. Whew. He’s changed my mind about so many things. He could probably convince me to have an abortion.

  2. I’m rooting for Michael C. Hall, but I admit that Jon Hamm and Gabriel Byrne are in my blind spot.
    I don’t think Matthew Fox should or will win. Possible next year.

  3. plotline

    I do think it is mostly those who did not watch Boston Legal who feel that James Spader is not worthy of his Emmy wins. Those of us who faithfully watched the show saw a tremendous performance that ranged from slapstick comedy to tear jerking drama sometimes within the same show…this was the roller coaster ride that was Boston Legal. It takes an extremely versatile actor to cover that kind of territory and stay loyal to his character throughout. I have several friends who complained about Spader’s wins until they started to watch the show in reruns. All but one has now agreed that he was a deserving Emmy winner, particularly for his win in 2004 for “The Practice”.
    It is too bad that there is not an award for “Actor in a Dramedy” because that is truly the category that best fits Boston Legal and its cast; if that was the case we would not be arguing about his wins, but instead celebrating them.

    • I want to clarify that I really don’t think James Spader is a bad actor: I think he’s great at those speeches, and I think he does what he can within the show’s universe. However, there’s a point where his degree of difficulty and the lack of subtlety in his performance start to see the other competitors as, well, better. I don’t think you can compare Spader to the work that Hamm and C. Hall are doing, for example, nor James Gandolfini in the final season of The Sopranos.

      I don’t think it’s that he never should have won an Emmy – guy’s a good actor, and there’s no fault in that. But it’s the multiple Emmys that bugs people, since he’s been doing the same schtick all along while other characters have grown substantially, and they get no credit for it because there’s no 15 minute monologue.

      • plotline

        If you please…I am not trying to be argumentative, but I am just wondering…were you a watcher of “Boston Legal” over the years? To my mind his character has changed dramatically over the years…and is a multilayered and complex individual. The weight of Denny’s illness and the love he had for him caused the character to move from self-centered and self-destructive to a person dedicated to loving and helping his best friend cope with the onset and ravages of Alzheimers. As silly as the show was they never lost sight of the love and devotion these two characters developed for each other.

        On the other hand I can understand why some folks who have other favorites want them to win. For a while I felt that way about Gandolfini…three was enough. Maybe there should be a limit of three Emmys for the same character. Would that work?

    • It’s not that I don’t like James Spader, or that I think he doesn’t deserve Emmy’s. But there’s a point where it’s like, okay, WE GET IT. Give the honor to someone else who deserves it, too.

    • It’s true, he’s had many wins for this role. I think he’s had enough attention from it. The award should go to some one else.

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