Hammond On Emmy's Hottest Races: Drama — 'Mad Men', Bad Men And A Good Wife

With peer group voting now going in full force for the Primetime Emmys and most ballots in key marquee categories like Drama and Comedy due Aug. 26  (others that will be presented on the Creative Arts Ceremony on Sept. 10 are actually due today). It’s time to handicap the race and see who should be preparing those pithy 45-second thank you speeches for the Fox telecast on Sept. 18. Take it with a grain of salt, though, since all these categories are voted by a comparatively small number of Academy members who receive the DVDs at home and must verify that they have watched each episode submitted. It’s a process that often produces some surprises.

There is no question that some of Emmy’s hottest, most unpredictable races this year are happening in the Drama Series categories with tight contests across the board. Here’s a primer for those voters who need help and those viewers ready to enter their office pool (do they have those for Emmys?)

Drama Series

Perhaps the most prestigious — and sought after — Emmy, it has gone to AMC’s Mad Men the last three years in a row, but the 60’s-set Madison Avenue drama faces the most serious threat yet from a quintet of  contenders including two from the resurgent HBO, who had a shot at one time of getting Mad Men but let it slip through its fingers. HBO has been paying for that mistake on Emmy nights since 2008. Will it wreak revenge this year?

HBO’s Boardwalk Empire certainly had the big ‘Mo after its early fall debut virtually sweeping every major award for TV including a DGA trophy for exec producer and pilot director Martin Scorsese, the New Series WGA award (although it lost to Mad Men in the overall category), a pair of Golden Globes including Best Drama and Actor in a Drama Series for star Steve Buscemi and a pair of SAG awards including Buscemi as Actor and the Ensemble Cast honor. But recently it has found itself the bridesmaid against resurgent Mad Men, which has won the Television Critics Association award and the inaugural  Critics Choice award, plus it actually took its biggest haul of Emmy nominations ever with 19, one more than Boardwalk, although both are impressive totals. With AMC’s The Killing and The Walking Dead not placing in this category, the cable net can put all its marbles behind Men while HBO has hedged its bet with the fantastic fantasy and intrigue of Game of Thrones, which seems to have gathered a lot of fans since its debut in the second half of the season. Emmy rules prevent anyone associated with the networks or shows from signing up to vote in these categories, so HBO does not have to worry about canceling itself out with its own votes, but the vivid period pieces that have got them back in this race for the first time since The Sopranos still could split and open to door to a fourth Mad Men win. Unlikely winners are Showtime’s Dexter with its fourth nomination here and DirecTV’s fine Friday Night Lights, which is getting some late love in its final season, winning a Peabody and a first Drama Series Emmy nod. The most likely spoiler, though, is the only purebred broadcast network nominee, CBS’ The Good Wife, which somehow has managed to inject cable-quality first-rate weekly drama into a network that seems more interested in spinning off procedural series. The category used to be exclusively composed of shows from the big 4 nets, now it’s an anomaly, but the Academy might want to make a statement.

Also, Mad Men, which has always had the advantage of lots of extra promotion by launching its new season just as Emmy voting is taking place is AWOL this summer (contract negotiations forced a 5th season delay to next spring) so maybe that has opened an opportunity for the others.  Still, Men had a stellar fourth season, as evidenced by all those nominations and looks like it is the one to beat again in this category.  It’s Matt Weiner’s to lose.

Acting in a Drama Series

There are genuine horse races in both lead categories  with some hefty competition. For Lead Actress and Actor, though, my guess it is finally Mad Men’s time to shine. Incredibly, the series has yet to cop its first acting Emmy, but thanks to a tour de force episode, The Suitcase, focusing solely on Don and Peggy (played by three-time nominee Jon Hamm and two-time nominee Elisabeth Moss), both may well find themselves marching to the Nokia Theatre podium to grab an Emmy. These types of episodes are irresistible to the actors who vote, and both stars really got a chance to shine. Before last year’s Emmy show, I asked creator Weiner if he thought Hamm would finally win, and he told me it didn’t matter because he had the episode for the next season that would place him in the winners’ circle. That time has come, and fortunately for Hamm, the man who has beaten him three years running, Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, is out of the race this year due to ineligible air dates for his series. If either Mad Men performer were to falter, the most likely winners would be awards show vet Julianna  Margulies for her sophmore season on The Good Wife and  Globe and SAG winner Buscemi on Boardwalk Empire, although with Cranston out of the mix  the Academy could also decide to finally reward frequent nominees Michael C. Hall of Dexter or Hugh Laurie of House. It’s unlikely the very deserving first-time nominee Timothy Olyphant of Justified or Kyle Chandler’s swan song in Friday Night Lights can compete, but Emmy often has surprised us, so don’t give up the faith.  In Lead Actress, there doesn’t seem to be much heat for FNL’s Connie Britton, Law & Order: SVU’s Mariska Hargitay or the very deserving Mireille Enos on The Killing (especially since she didn’t solve the crime!). A real dark horse, though, could be the beloved nine-time Emmy nominee and never winner, Kathy Bates in the old-fashioned but swell-rated Harry’s Law.

In the supporting role categories, Margo Martindale’s single season of Justified has one shot to win it all for her extraordinary acting even though she faces stiff competition from The Good Wife duo of Christine Baranski and last year’s winner Archie Panjabi as well as Mad Men’s delectable Joan Harris in the form of Christina Hendricks. For Supporting Actor in a Drama Series it is a wide-open field, but I have a hunch either Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones or Alan Cumming’s ever-fascinating Eli Gold in The Good Wife could take it.

The clearest cut races, though, are in Writing and Directing for a Drama Series. In terms of the latter, Emmy voters are not going to invite Boardwalk Empire’s Martin Scorsese to their party without letting him take home the golden girl herself while Weiner should easily take his fourth consecutive Drama Writing Emmy for the aforementioned The Suitcase episode of Mad Men. If ever there was a script with appeal to writers it’s that one.

Coming up: The likely winners in Comedy.

  1. Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones HAS to win supporting actor. How could he not? He was superb in every episode and was by far the most interesting character on the show.

    I also would love to see Hamm finally get a nod for MM. He’s way overdue.

    Although it’s time for something else to win Best Series. Hopefully Game Of Thrones will win, but I have a feeling it will be the slightly less deserving but more awards friendly Boardwalk Empire.

    1. Gotta go with Andre Braugher of Men Of A Certain Age. Not your fault if you didn’t see it, cause it was poorly promoted and scheduled, and TNT chopped up season 2 and put them 6 months apart. I watched Game of Thrones, and it was entertaining on a certain level, but MOACA hits home on every level. Andre was totally brilliant as Owen Thoreau. Check out the Save The Save Men Of A Certain Age Page..this show should be saved.

  2. Are you kidding? If the voters don’t take a risk and give it FINALLY to Friday Night Lights, we should all just go home. I’m a fan of ALL these shows, they are all high quality, but if you have actually SEEN Friday Night Lights, you’ll know why it deserves to win. It’s not even that subjective … it stands out so far and above. When top critics have been shouting from the rooftops, over and over saying it’s the “best drama in the history of television” for five ignored years — maybe it’s time the voters ACTUALLY watched the show. Shame on them for having not … (as we all know, they didn’t bother) for five stunning seasons.

  3. I’d like Mad Men to not win the Best Drama, but to lock up all the acting nominations, it would be nice to see a reversal from years prior.

    Best Drama: Friday Night Lights
    Best Actor in a Drama: Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
    Best Actress in a Drama: Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
    Best Supporting Actor in a Drama: John Slattery (Mad Men)
    Best Supporting Actress in a Drama: Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)

  4. “JUSTIFIED” and “TIMOTHY OLYPHANT” … the very best.. should finally get the recognition it DESERVES!!!

  5. Sometimes Pete can be way off, esp when it comes to the Emmys.

    Friday Night Lights and Game of Thrones are more likely to win Drama Series than The Good Wife. FNL submitted well and has late buzz on its side due to its Program of the Year win at the TCAs. GoT also has a win at the TCAs (winning best new series over Boardwalk Empire), and the fact that it aired so late into the season means it’s fresh in voters’ minds. The Good Wife didn’t submit well for Drama Series, and there is innate bias against both procedurals and female-driven dramas.

  6. Hugh Laurie of “House”. Best Actor in a Drama. Justified & Very Much
    Overdue. One of the finest actors around.

    1. I agree but sadly McDonald didn’t submit her best episode. Anastasia directed by Jeremy Podwesa was her best by far. It gave her the most emotional range and the best writing. The one she submitted (forgetting name)is unremarkable.

  7. Andre Braugher for Best Supporting Actor! His show, Men of a Certain Age, is incredible and should never have been axed by TNT. Critics and fans alike are thoroughly dismayed by their decision and there is a huge movement under way to try and save it. Go to the “Save Men of a Certain Age” Facebook page to find out more!

  8. Hugh Laurie must win ..I love John Hamm VERY much but I think he can win next year ..Hugh Laurie I think deserves it.Ok season 7 wasn’t such good but if they think that he wasn’t so good this year why they give him a 6th nominee? probably they want to give him the award and this is fair cause let’s be honest Hugh Laurie deserves an Emmy at least..Gregory House has voted as one of the most successful characters of decade…

  9. How can you not mention Andre Braugher of Men of a Certain Age. One of the most amazing yet realistic shift in a male character that I can recall, and it was done WITHOUT A GUN or selling drugs.

  10. I heard that breaking bad and walking dead budgets were both cut by 250,000 to increase the budget of Mad Men after winning so many emmy’s.

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