Who says there's nothing good to watch on television? Surely, not the Emmy voters. And, by the looks of those growing cable ratings, certainly not TV audiences. The truth is, if you really take a look at the top shows nominated for Best Drama Series and Best Comedy Series, you'll find yourself staring at a list of not only some of the finest shows on the air, but some of the best programs in television history.
Homeland, Breaking Bad, Louie, Modern Family? Without a doubt, these shows have offered viewers some of the most breathtaking hours of television in a decade. And then there's that quirky anomaly, American Horror Story: Asylum on FX, which, under the spell of creator Ryan Murphy, managed to collect the most Emmy nominations this year—17 in all. True, it won't win that many—you can, however, expect Sarah Paulson to take home top honors for her role as beleaguered reporter Lana Winters in the hit show.
Something to ponder this year: Facebook. Could it have factored into the voting mix? Voting was due at the end of August, but since Sept.1, the social media beast has been gathering all of the U.S. mentions of various nominees. Why? To get a glimpse of who is at the top of users' minds this go around. Thus far, there's growing buzz around Breaking Bad as the show for receiving the most mentions for Best Drama with Best Actor (Bryan Cranston) and Best Supporting Actor (Aaron Paul) also getting mentions. Curious to note: Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright of House of Cards were not far, which could prove interesting should they manage to win—the show was birthed by Netflix!
The 65th Primetime Emmy telecast unfolds live at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22 on CBS, with Neil Patrick Harris taking on hosting duties. Note the nominees below and my predictions.
Breaking Bad, AMC
Downton Abbey, PBS
Game of Thrones, HBO
House of Cards, Netflix
Mad Men, AMC
Will win: Breaking Bad. Should win: Breaking Bad with Homeland trailing close behind.
You can just feel the vibe for Breaking Bad this year. Its time has come, especially after three Best Drama Series noms and most of the gold going to its actors—Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, the unlikely odd couple brought together in an emotionally grueling story arc that began as a simple idea to cook meth as a way to move beyond Walt's (Cranston's) cancer and financial dilemmas. Still, Homeland could surprise everyone with a clean sweep.
Lead Actor In A Drama Series
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey, PBS
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad, AMC
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom, HBO
Jon Hamm, Mad Men, AMC
Damian Lewis, Homeland, Showtime
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards, Netflix
Will win: Bryan Cranston Should win: Bryan Cranston
The timing is good for Cranston as Breaking Bad wraps up its final season. And, after last Sunday's episode—perhaps the best episode of television this year—it would be hard to beat the man. Still, Lewis would not be a bad choice. Or Daniels for that matter—the man manages to help keep Newsroom from sliding into the creative abyss and thus far, he's been pitch-perfect as the befuddled, outspoken and infuriating newsman Will McAvoy.
Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Connie Britton, Nashville, ABC
Claire Danes, Homeland, Showtime
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey, PBS
Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel, A&E
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men, AMC
Kerry Washington, Scandal, ABC
Robin Wright, House of Cards, Netflix
Will win: Claire Danes Should win: Claire Danes
Some day, it might be nice for Emmy voters to take a closer look at Farmiga's work, which elevated Bates Motel in its freshman outing, but it won't happen this year. Washington has received some major buzz (for Scandal) and can steal the gold from Danes, but Danes' remarkable ability to illuminate the many psychological layers of her Carrie Anne Mathison continues to give audiences one of the finest, most complex creatures to emerge out of the annals of television.
The Big Bang Theory, CBS
Modern Family, ABC
30 Rock, NBC
Toss up: Louie or Modern Family
Girls grabbed the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Series, but does it have enough power to lure Emmy voters? Probably not, especially since its second season stumbled a bit creatively. Veep would be a good choice—Julia Louis-Dreyfus is favored to win—but it's doubtful the show will. That leaves a toss up between Modern Family and Louie. Should MF win, that would make four consecutive wins for the ABC hit, a significant marker considering only a handful of series have managed to do that: The Dick Van Dyke Show, All in the Family, Cheers and Frasier. And then there's Louie, the brilliant FX outing that so wonderfully captures the creative verve of Louis C.K. Tough call.
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development, Netflix
Louis C.K., Louie, FX
Don Cheadle, House of Lies, Showtime
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes, Showtime
Jim Parsons, Big Bang Theory, CBS
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock, NBC
Will win: Louis C.K. Could win: Matt LeBlanc
It's hard to deny Louis C.K.'s remarkable work—not just on screen but off screen as writer, director and much more. The man is brilliant and after multiple noms, his day may have arrived—the show already won for writing last year. Still, I wouldn't mind if LeBlanc, who surprised many with Episodes, grabs the spotlight.
Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
Lena Dunham, Girls, HBO
Laura Dern, Enlightened, HBO
Tiny Fey, 30 Rock, NBC
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation, NBC
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep, HBO
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie, Showtime
Will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Could win: Edie Falco Hopeful: Laura Dern
Close call on this one. Both actresses already won—Dreyfus last year; Falco before that. It would be nice to hand the honors over to Dern, whose critically-acclaimed yet under-performed HBO show Enlightened (now cancelled), generated some of the best episodes television offered. Dern so wonderfully captured a mood-swinging, soul-searching damsel-in-distress trapped in corporate America office politics. Alas, it may end up in Julia's hands.
Miniseries or Movie
American Horror Story: Asylum, FX
Behind the Candelabra, HBO
Phil Spector, HBO
Political Animals, USA
The Bible, History
Top of the Lake, Sundance Channel
Will win: Behind the Candelabra Should Win: Behind the Candelabra Guilty Pleasure: American Horror Story—which for some reason fell into this category instead of Best Drama.
It's hard to deny: Michael Douglas lost himself in the role of Liberace in HBO's nuanced outing, Behind the Candelabra. He'll take home the Emmy, overshadowing costar Matt Damon in the process, but the project itself was a curious blend of humor and drama and stands out among this list. (Although Phil Spector was brilliant as well.) Candelabra did more than shed light on an oft-misunderstood icon. It did the rare thing that TV films of the 70s and 80s used to do—create a TV movie experience you could not wait to savor. And one that you did not want to see end.
Notable favorites that might get overlooked: Aaron Paul (of Breaking Bad), Peter Dinklage, (Game of Thrones), Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), Al Pacino, (HBO's Phil Spector), Jessica Lange (turning in the most mindbending, can't-take-your-eyes-off-her story arc in American Horror Story's second season), Laura Linney, (The Big C: Hereafter).
Catch the Emmys live at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22 on ABC.