Related Story: Chuck Barney's Emmy predictions
The Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony isn't until Sept. 22, but the nominations will be announced 5:35 a.m. Thursday and the publicity machine has been in full gear.
"For your consideration" material has been popping up in my mail and email touting some series for an Emmy. Quite honestly, I didn't know some of these shows were even on television. Many of them fall under the reality category, and I'll readily admit the only reality shows I watch are guys in uniform playing in a league called the NHL, NBA or NFL.
As it turns out, there is some urgency to networks reminding critics and voting members of the TV academy about their shows. The Emmy eligibility period ends May 31, and nominating ballots will be posted on the Television Academy's website on June 10. Voting ends June 28, and the nominations will be announced July 18.
Now, I'm not a voting member of the academy, but I am a member of the Television Critics Association. We have our own awards ceremony, which usually isn't held until after Emmy nominations are announced. Whether that carries any weight, who knows?
But since I'm being urged to make some considerations, here's my wish list/expectations for Emmy nominations. A few caveats, though: A number of series are still finishing up and I have not seen them all, nor have I seen HBO and Steven Soderbergh's "Behind the Candelabra" with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, which looks terrific.
Lastly, anyone who says he or she can keep up with the mountains of shows across television's ever-growing landscape is either lying, has no social life or never sleeps -- or probably all three. I try to drop in on shows when I can for professional reasons, but I stick with relatively few. So here goes my imperfect considerations for nine top categories, six nominations for each.
Drama seriesLast year's winner, Showtime's "Homeland," should definitely be in the mix. Some, myself included, found this year a bit off from its freshman season, but it still worked at a high level. Plus its stars, and last year's Emmy winners, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, continued to shine.
Netflix's "House of Cards," however, was the best show on television. Based on a British miniseries, it stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as an ambitious Washington, D.C., power couple -- he the House Majority Whip and she the head of a nongovernmental organization. The fun aspect of the show, which was used in the original, is how Spacey's character talks to the audience, detailing his planned manipulations.
Likely to get consideration are the usual suspects including HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," AMC's "Breaking Bad," PBS' "Downton Abbey," HBO's "Game of Thrones," four-time Emmy winner "Mad Men" on AMC, the now-departed "Damages" on FX, Showtime's "Dexter" and CBS' "The Good Wife," though I am always mystified by the appeal of that show.
No argument in considering the others, though I think there are two shows worthy of being included on the final list, both on FX.
"Justified" has its share of champions. Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, it looks on the surface to be a crime procedural set in Kentucky with its hero, Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), quick on the draw in a place where everyone has a gun. "Justified" is far cleverer than that and this season found Raylan contemplating his place in this nasty little world of drug dealers and family feuds while the storytelling was filled with nifty little twists and turns.
"The Americans" is a tricky concept for a TV show. It's the story of a pair of Soviet sleeper spies living in 1981, killing people, sleeping with people to get information and quietly raising two kids in a Washington, D.C., suburb to maintain their cover. On one level it could be argued the show is about marriage and the lengths people go to maintain the illusions. It also deals with subjects of loyalty and responsibility set against the paranoid landscape of the Cold War.
And while HBO's "The Newsroom" got lambasted by many critics, I thought that the Aaron Sorkin drama turned into one of the better shows of the year. My nominations: "House of Cards," "Justified," "The Americans," "Game of Thrones," "Mad Men" and "Boardwalk Empire."
Last year's winner, Claire Danes of "Homeland," should repeat. Glenn Close ("Damages"), Michelle Dockery ("Downton Abbey"), Julianna Margulies ("The Good Wife") and Elisabeth Moss ("Mad Men") are eligible to return.
I'd like to see three others, though. Robin Wright from "House of Cards" treads a difficult role as a woman who has made her choices and must live with them. How do you play someone who is destined to end up a corpse in the attic? Vera Farmiga is top-notch as Norma Bates in A&E's "Bates Motel."
And Keri Russell's role in "The Americans" as a spy who will do anything for Mother Russia, and as a mother of two children, has shown she has grown a lot since "Felicity. "My nominations: Danes, Russell, Farmiga, Wright, Moss and Close.
I would be surprised if Damian Lewis in "Homeland" repeats. It was a bit of a shocker last year when he beat three-time winner Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad"). The others in the category also eligible: Hugh Bonneville ("Downton Abbey"), Steve Buscemi ("Boardwalk Empire"), Michael C. Hall ("Dexter") and Jon Hamm ("Mad Men").
I say not only make room for Kevin Spacey from "House of Cards," but give him the Emmy. It's a delicious role that he plays to perfection. I would also like to see Timothy Olyphant of "Justified" on the list. Sometimes his role of Raylan is just too cool and understated it may seem like he isn't doing much, but Olyphant always reminds us how human he is.
As Russell's husband on "The Americans," Matthew Rhys has similar problems in his life as a secret agent, but is conflicted in other ways. Others who have caught my eye this year include: Jonny Lee Miller (CBS' "Elementary"), Anson Mount (AMC's "Hell on Wheels") and Tom Riley (Starz's "Da Vinci's Demons"). My nominations: Spacey, Olyphant, Lewis, Cranston, Hamm and Hall.
Expect ABC's "Modern Family" to win for the fourth year in a row. I'm not a fan of most network sitcoms -- I see the jokes coming -- but I'll give it its props.
HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" isn't eligible but I would vote for it anyway just as a holding place. Having seen just one episode of the returning "Arrested Development" on Netflix, that was enough to make it my choice for best comedy this year. HBO's "Veep," FX's "Louie" and Fox's "New Girl" are the only other laughers I watch with any regularity.
CBS' "The Big Bang Theory," HBO's "Girls" and NBC's "30 Rock" are likely to get noms, but I have little affection for any of them. My nominations: "Arrested Development," "Veep," "Louie," "New Girl," "Modern Family" and "30 Rock."
Hopefully last year's winner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus of "Veep," will repeat. She's hilarious as the out-of-touch vice president. Her competition from last year is likely to return: Zooey Deschanel ("New Girl"), Lena Dunham ("Girls"), Edie Falco (Showtime's "Nurse Jackie"), Tina Fey ("30 Rock"), Melissa McCarthy (CBS' "Mike and Molly") and Amy Poehler (NBC's "Parks and Recreation").
I would toss in Mary-Louise Parker (Showtime's "Weeds"), Laura Dern (HBO's "Enlightened") and Lea Michele (Fox's "Glee"). Dern's show was canceled, but it was a far more interesting role than the one-dimensional ones of many of the others. At least "Glee" is a dramedy, giving Michele's role some depth, plus she can sing. My nominations: Louis-Dreyfus, Fey, Poehler, Falco, Michele and Dern.
I think last year's winner, Jon Cryer, is funny, but I rarely watch an episode of CBS' "Two and a Half Men." Larry David ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") won't be back this year, but the other nominees have a shot: Alec Baldwin ("30 Rock"), Don Cheadle (Showtime's "House of Lies"), Louis C.K. ("Louie") and Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory").
I'm thinking it's time to give the Emmy to Jason Bateman of "Arrested Development." As the put-upon son Michael from the wealthy Orange County family, Bateman makes everything seem somehow believable no matter how absurd the situation is. Though I'm not a great fan of Showtime's "Californication," David Duchovny pulls out all the stops in his performance, while Matt LeBlanc is just terrific playing a version of himself in Showtime's "Episodes. "My Nominations: Bateman, Duchovny, Louis C.K., Cheadle, LeBlanc and Baldwin.
This has become less of category over the years as the networks have bowed out for the most part, and for good reason since much of their stuff is dreadful. Meanwhile, cable turns out short series that return rather than finite miniseries. So pickings are slim.
HBO's "Behind the Candelabra" with Michael Douglas as the flamboyant performer and Matt Damon as his companion is likely to be among the top vote getters. I was not a fan of FX's "American Horror Story: Asylum," finding it just too gory without redemption. "The Girl," HBO's story of Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren during the making of "The Birds" and "Psycho," was a bit stilted, but interesting.
Among the others: HBO's "Parade's End" with Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall; HBO's "Phil Spector" with Al Pacino and Helen Mirren from writer-director David Mamet; Sundance Channel's "Top of the Lake," starring Holly Hunter and Elisabeth Moss from writer-director Jane Campion; and PBS' "Wallander," with Kenneth Branagh as the troubled Swedish detective.
Oscar winners Jessica Lange for "American Horror Story: Asylum" and Helen Mirren as the attorney for the legendary record producer in "Phil Spector" are likely to get nominations. Elisabeth Moss should get one as the detective in "Top of the Lake." I liked Romola Garai as the tough-minded TV producer in BBC America's "The Hour," Rebecca Hall as the cheating wife in "Parade's End" and Sienna Miller as Hedren in "The Girl." Then there's Laura Linney "The Big C: Hereafter" -- really the finale of her Showtime series about a woman diagnosed with cancer -- and two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank as a woman fighting malaria in HBO's "Mary and Martha." My nominations: Mirren, Moss, Garai, Miller, Hall and Linney.
Let's assume that Al Pacino as the musical genius and convicted murderer in "Phil Spector" and Michael Douglas as the gay Las Vegas icon in "Behind the Candelabra" are locks. My guess is that Matt Damon also will get one for "Candelabra." It's impossible not to include Kenneth Branagh for "Wallander" and Benedict Cumberbatch as the disaffected upper-class Brit during the World War I era in "Parade's End." My only other favorite is Ben Whishaw as the intrepid reporter in "The Hour. "My nominations: Pacino, Douglas, Damon, Branagh, Cumberbatch and Whishaw.
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