The Tale of the Tape
July 15th, 2009
Heading into tomorrow morning’s nominations (5:30 Pacific Time, so 8:30 Eastern and 9:30 for me in the Atlantic time zone), there are a few certainties, and a few question marks. I talked before about the uncertainty of the popular vote, which places a show like Lost somewhere in between an equilibrium of popular shows like House and Grey’s Anatomy and more critical/industry favourites like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Here, it’s tie to take a look at some of the big stories that could emerge from the nominations, as well as a glimpse at some of the categories that I didn’t get to during the week. So, let’s get the Tale of the Tape.
Mad Men = The New Sopranos?
Last year, Mad Men racked up an Emmy for Drama Series, a nomination for Lead Actor and Best Supporting Actor, and five other statues (including Writing for Matthew Weiner). The question now really comes down to just how much the show’s second season is going to increase those odds. Chances are that one of the show’s two leading women will break through, now much more household names when it comes to the show’s success, and there’s room for more supporting players at well. If it follows the Sopranos pattern, it could break through big – if it, however, gets held back by being on AMC, it could end up with roughly the same nominations.
The Year of CBS?
It may be unlikely, with far more popular shows in terms of Hollwood and the Emmys in the category, but How I Met Your Mother is at the point where its breakout year might be upon us. Neil Patrick Harris is hosting, the show’s ratings have solidified it as a hit in its own right, and it is no longer in fear of cancellation which makes it seem like the kind of show that will be around for a while. It has to compete with stablemate The Big Bang Theory, which has Jim Parsons breaking out in a big way, and Two and a Half Men, but that two more legitimate Emmy contenders than the network had a year ago (and, in my mind, two more than it should have, but that’s neither here nor there). Combine with a chance for The Mentalist’s Simon Baker, and CBS is maybe not just the people’s network anymore.
Breaking Bad Breaking Through?
Last year, Bryan Cranston won in a bit of a shocker in the Lead Actor category for his work on the other AMC drama, Breaking Bad. Many have taken that win and viewed it as a sign that the show, which got even better in its second season, has a chance of breaking through in its own right. I’m of the mind that it will, but Cranston’s win was as much for his lack of a win for Malcolm in the Middle than it was for his brave performance, so it will be interesting to see if the show can join Cranston in the Emmy race. It has the benefit of having aired fairly recently, but it’s yet to be seen if it can break through on the popular vote.
The Final Chance for Battlestar Galactica
A real chance of breaking into the Drama Series race, or the various acting categories, just isn’t in the cards; Battlestar Galactica may have had an amazing finale, and its actors may have stepped up more than ever before, but in a popular vote competition it just isn’t going to get the support it needs. Mary McDonnell is going to get pushed out of her category, although remains a long shot candidate if things get really weird, but the show’s real chance lies in both writing and direction. There’s probably room in those categories for Ronald D. Moore and Michael Rymer, as they’ve been represented before, so it will be interesting to see if they can pick up those nods. They’ll also dominate the special effects categories, with the Visual Effects team easily picking up their third Emmy.
HBO’s New Hope
After years of struggling to piece together a drama contender, HBO has finally found one. The question isn’t whether True Blood can challenge at the Emmys, where I think Paquin will make it into the Lead Actress race despite the competition, but whether it’s being taken seriously enough as a show to break through into Drama Series. It’s one thing for a former Oscar winner to find a spot in the category, but it’s quite another for a show that doesn’t always take itself seriously and that remains more a counterpart to Twilight culturally speaking rather than some sort of highbrow equivalent to really break through in a category dominated by pretty serious fare. If the nominations were going on now, where hype is higher than ever, I might change my tune, but I don’t see it breaking through.
Guest Star Guesswork
It’s impossible to know just where these guest star nominations will come from, but rest assured that the comedy side will be dominated by 30 Rock (Salma Hayek, Aniston, Mullaly, Stritch, etc. for Actress, and Martin, Alda, Hamm, Arnett, Dinklage, etc.). And, there’s no chance of Tina Fey not picking up a nomination for her performance as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live (in fact, she’ll likely win). The real question here, though, is who breaks through outside of those restrictions. After a great but short guest stint last year, Amy Ryan returns this year with more material and a much better chance of snagging a nomination for her work as Holly Flax on The Office, while I’d love to see Kristen Bell pick up a nomination for her stint on Party Down. As for actors, I’d be fine with Albert Brooks picking up a nod for Weeds, and I’d love to see Idris Elba sneak in for The Office. Expect to see at least Kathryn Joosten, and perhaps Swoosie Kurtz, pick up nods for Desperate Housewives as well.
On the drama side, meanwhile, expect for maybe even all of the nominees for Actress to come from Grey’s Anatomy and Law & Order: SVU (with performers including Kathy Baker, Mary McDonnell, Bernadette Peters, Sharon Lawrence for the former, and Carol Burnett, Ellen Burstyn and Brenda Blethyn for the latter). Outside of them, the others with a shot are Susan Sarandon and Julianna Margulies from E.R., which in its final season could pick up some nods here for old time’s sake. As for Actors, Ted Danson seems a safe bet for Damages, while Clooney and his other former castmates could grab some spots from E.R. for their late series returns. Eric Stoltz is also a good bet from Grey’s Anatomy for a creepy turn, while Jon Voigt should get in for his work on 24. As for my own personal preferences, I’d love to see Mark Moses get in for his work as Duck Phillips on Mad Men, and either Scott Porter or Gaius Charles getting nominated for Friday Night Lights would be shock and please me.
Writing and Directing
These categories are always hard to predict, but expect for Mad Men and 30 Rock to dominate here. Mad Men has a number of strong contenders in both categories, but expect Matthew Weiner to pick up nominations in both. As far as pilots go on the drama side, Anthony Minghella could pick up a posthumous nomination for directing the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency pilot, and Alan Ball could pick up a nomination for both writing and directing True Blood. I’d also expect, as noted above, Michael Rymer and Ron Moore to pick up nominations for Battlestar Galactica. The other shows that should contend are Fringe, Grey’s Anatomy, House and Breaking Bad.
As for Comedy, 30 Rock and The Office should dominate the nominations, but United States of Tara seems like a freshman series that could appeal to voters, and there’s a good chance of Flight of the Conchords competing again where it was nominated for its first season in both of these categories. How I Met Your Mother could also contend in both categories, but it depends on if they find room for a multi-camera sitcom. Otherwise, the one choice that could make it is the Scrubs finale, submitted in the Writing category.
Variety’s the Spice of Life?
There’s some big questions when it comes to the Variety categories this year: with individual performance no longer in existence, this means that Stephen Colbert (who always does well in that category, despite never winning it) is in a position to perhaps pick up his first Emmy for Variety Series, which the Daily Show has won since 2004. It’s still more likely that Colbert’s staff will have a better shot in the Writing category, but this could be his year. The bigger question is what happens with Saturday Night Live, which with the election had a truly breakout year and should certainly challenge. Nominations will bring no surprises, but they’re very open categories this year.
The TV Movie/Miniseries Side of Things
I don’t have the time or patience to really predict or consider all of this, but I know this much: HBO’s Grey Gardens (with Barrymore and Lange) will dominate the TV Movie side of things, while Ed Burns and David Simon are guaranteed their first major Emmy nomination for Best Miniseries with Generation Kill. I’d love to see some of the latter’s actors break through, but it seems unlikely with British actors slumming it on TV around.
No surprises here: nominees should be the same as last year, with Top Chef and Project Runway joining six-time winner The Amazing Race, American Idol and Dancing with the Stars on the ballot. I’d love to see So You Think You Can Dance? sneak in as a surprise, but it just isn’t going to happen. As far as Reality Host goes, though, I’d again like to see Cat Deeley break into the category, but chances are that a breakthrough would be the arena of The Amazing Race’s Phil Keoghan before the tall and lovely Ms. Deeley.
Want to read all of Cultural Learnings’ Emmy Predictions? You can find all of our coverage of the Emmys by visiting our Emmy Awards category, and we’ll have analysis of the nominees in the morning.