Friday, September 16, 2011

Emmys 2011: Drama

The Drama categories are generally perceived to be the "more prestigious" awards, since in general we like to pretend that drama is more prescient and "deep" than comedy. I want to reverse that idea in my preview, not only because I think that television comedy is arguably producing more high-quality shows (especially on the broadcast networks: Modern Family, Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock, The Middle, Happy Endings, How I Met Your Mother, the just-premiered Up All Night, which is not even to mention cable shows like Louie - the best show on television, period - or Curb Your Enthusiasm or Wilfred or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) than television drama. Which isn't to say there aren't great dramas; it's just that, at this particular moment, I think comedy is stronger than drama. Feel free to discuss in the comments.

BEST DRAMA SERIES
Boardwalk Empire
Dexter
Friday Night Lights
Game of Thrones
The Good Wife
Mad Men



This has shaped up to become a battle of the perennial winner versus the newcomer who was basically built to win this category. Mad Men is gunning to become the fourth series to win four Drama Series Emmys, while Boardwalk Empire is hoping to turn its Golden Globes and Creative Arts Emmys dominance into the night's top prize. Though it certainly deserves to win, I think Friday Night Light's nomination will have to suffice as reward for five incredible season of television. More likely spoilers, in my eyes, are Game of Thrones, which has huge critical support but needs to overcome "fantasy bias," and The Good Wife, which has both popular and critical support. Even though Boardwalk Empire cleaned up at the Creative Arts Emmys, Mad Men had the stronger season, and will probably claim that fourth consecutive trophy.

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
Hugh Laurie, House
Timothy Olyphant, Justified
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Buscemi

Without three-time winner Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) in the mix, this one could go to anyone, theoretically. The strongest contenders at this point echo the Best Drama race: Buscemi, who won the Golden Globe, and Hamm, who's still trying to win his first Emmy. Of course, Chandler could (and should) take it home for his brilliant, sublime work as Coach Taylor, and I wouldn't count out Olyphant either, since he has FX's marketing division in his corner (the network knows how to campaign smart). I even wouldn't count out Hall or Laurie, since Emmy voters haven't always been predictable in this category and sometimes throw out trophies to strange choices (see: James Spader three times), especially if they've done great work in the past. However, I don't think this is going to be Hamm's year, even if his incredible, nuanced performance in "The Suitcase" was stronger; I'm going with Buscemi for the win, since he's had the heat and support.

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Kathy Bates, Harry's Law
Mireille Enos, The Killing
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Moss

This too has been narrowed down, I think, to two big frontrunners, with only one real spoiler. The latter would be Britton, who probably has the best chance of any of Friday Night Lights' nominees to win, thanks to her powerful and moving work on that show. As for the frontrunners, in one corner there's Julianna Margulies, last year's favorite, who turned in another great year of work on her show. In the other corner is Moss, who's seen her Peggy Olson evolve even more this past season on Mad Men to become the show's best character. Hargitay's had her moment in the sun, The Killing's late-season slide won't help Enos' chances, and let's be for real, Bates is only here because she's Kathy Effin' Bates. I expect Moss to be Mad Men's first acting winner, especially since she submitted the show's finest hour, "The Suitcase."

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
Walton Goggins, Justified
John Slattery, Mad Men
Andre Braugher, Men of a Certain Age
Dinklage

This race is a little more up-in-the-air. Goggins was deliciously shady this season, giving his Boyd Crowder real character while never really letting you know what he was planning. Slattery would have been a shoe-in in other years, but he wasn't really given anything exciting to do this year. Braugher could pick up the win for his now-cancelled show as a farewell. Of the Good men, I'm thinking Cumming is going to fare better than Charles. However, I'm picking Dinklage to surprise and win this one: for many viewers, he was the best part of the show, and he'll be rewarded for it.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Kelly MacDonald, Boardwalk Empire
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Margo Martindale, Justified
Michelle Forbes, The Killing
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Martindale

Last year, Panjabi pulled off a surprising upset in this category, and there's a strong chance that she could repeat, given her controversial character arc this past season. MacDonald also has a good chance at win, given that she's fairly liked by Emmy voters; however, many of the critiques against Boardwalk Empire was it's poorly-drawn female characters. Baranski didn't have much to work with this year, nor, really, did Hendricks in the episode she submitted. And as with Enos, Forbes is going to suffer from The Killing backlash. Either way, Martindale is the most likely winner, and she deserves it: her performance as Mags Bennett was probably the best on any show last year, managing to be warmly maternal and icily vicious all in the same moment.

BEST DIRECTION OF A DRAMA
Martin Scorsese, Boardwalk Empire ("Pilot")
Jeremy Podeswa, Boardwalk Empire ("Anastasia")
Neil Jordan, The Borgias ("The Poisoned Chalice/The Assassin")
Tim Van Patten, Game of Thrones ("Winter is Coming (Pilot)")
Patty Jenkins, The Killing ("Pilot")
Scorsese

With all of the complaints against how The Killing's first season ended, the pilot really is a terrific hour of television, and if voters remember that, I could see Jenkins pulling off an upset here. Patten is a veteran of The Sopranos, and he's proven himself to be worthy as well. However, the real showdown here is between the two Oscar winners: Jordan (The Crying Game) and Scorsese (do I need to list anything?). And even though I'm sure everyone here turned in strong work, Scorsese's name alone is going to be too difficult for them to resist. He's easily the favorite.

BEST WRITING OF A DRAMA
Jason Katims, Friday Night Lights ("Always")
David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, Game of Thrones ("Baelor")
Veena Sud, The Killing ("Pilot")
Matthew Weiner, Mad Men ("The Suitcase")
Andre Jacquemetton & Maria Jacquemetton, Mad Men ("Blowing Smoke")
Weiner

The Jacquemettons' nomination is notable for being the first Mad Men writing nomination to not have Matthew Weiner's name attached to it. Katims crafted a brilliant finale to a brilliant show, and he could pick this up as a "honor the series" win. Sud, on the other hand, wrote an excellent pilot but couldn't keep an engaging pace, something that will probably be to her detriment here. Benioff and Weiss' script featured a truly shocking watershed moment for their show, but I don't see voters really jumping for it. This one, once again, belongs to Weiner, who crafted a classic hour of television that is not only the best Mad Men has ever done, but also could work as a stand-alone play. It's absolutely incredible, and deserves the win.

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