Thursday, July 25, 2013

2013 Emmy Nominations

This year's Emmy nominations were announced last Thursday morning, and though most likely you've already seen them, I've waited to put up this post in order to let my thoughts on them stew a little bit (in other words, I didn't have time to write it earlier). I also used this time to "binge-watch" (side note: I hate that term) House of Cards on Netflix, since I had actually been holding out on watching it to see if it could score Emmy nods. Anyway, below are the major nominees, complete with my thoughts on the quality of the performances and categories, as well as early guesses as to who should and will win.


The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
30 Rock

Finally! I'm so excited to see Louie finally recognized as one of the best comedies on television. In general, I was surprised to see it nominated, along with a second consecutive nod for Veep, a frequently hilarious show that I didn't think would get continuous Emmy love outside of star Julia Louis-Dreyfus.  The even bigger surprise for Emmy watchers was that Arrested Development missed out on a nomination here; personally, I'm not too disappointed by this, since I wasn't particularly thrilled by the fourth season (I'm actually kind of glad it wasn't nominated). This is the last hurrah for 30 Rock, a former juggernaut in this category; it remains to be seen whether or not the show will be recognized again for it's final season (the Emmys don't usually honor final seasons; the only recent examples are The Sopranos winning Best Drama in 2007 and Everybody Loves Raymond winning Best Comedy in 2005). But can anyone finally beat Modern Family in this category? And was The Big Bang Theory - primetime television's top-rated comedy, yes - really all that better than the improved and excellent second season of New Girl?

Should win: Louie
Will win: Modern Family
Spoilers: Louie, 30 Rock, Girls, The Big Bang Theory


Laura Dern, Enlightened
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Here's a question for you: would Dern have been nominated if Enlightened hadn't been cancelled a few months before? I personally don't think that that was a factor, but it is disappointing that the underloved show is only now getting recognized by the Emmys. But if it's going to be for anything, it should be for Dern's terrific and challenging lead role. As always, honestly, this category is full of great performances, though most of them are returning nominees from last year. There's a chance that they could send off 30 Rock with another win for Fey, but Louis-Dreyfus continued to do strong work on Veep this year, and I suspect she'll repeat here (plus she had the most consistently laugh-out-loud material to work with). But given last year's super-sized category, they couldn't find room for Zooey Deschanel again, who was even better this year on the stellar second season of New Girl? Nor for Patricia Heaton - so consistently funny on The Middle - nor Sutton Foster, the only submission from Bunheads?

Should win: Lena Dunham
Will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Spoilers: Tina Fey, Lena Dunham, Amy Poehler


Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Louis C.K., Louie
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock

Amazingly, this is the much-ballyhooed fourth season of Arrested Development's only major nomination, for Bateman's performance as "the son trying to keep [the Bluths] together." All of these men have been nominated here before, but the most notable - and welcome - omission is last year's winner, Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men). This is nothing against Cryer as a person, but the facts of the matter are 1) his show is terrible, and 2) his surprising wins in recent years have mostly been seen as rewards for putting up with Charlie Sheen for so many years. I still don't understand LeBlanc's nominations here - I'm not crazy about Episodes - so couldn't they have made room for Jake Johnson, who really was the MVP of New Girl this past season. Baldwin and Parsons had dominated this category for four years prior to Cryer's win; can either of them claim a third victory this year?

Should win: Louis C.K.
Will win: Alec Baldwin
Spoilers: Jim Parsons, Jason Bateman


Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Jane Lynch, Glee
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
Anna Chlumsky, Veep

This is probably the most bizarre category among the comedies. I'm glad to see Chlumsky score a nomination - she makes a terrific foil for Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Selina Meyer (or would-be foil, if they didn't share more in common than either would care to admit) - as well as additional nominations for Krakowski and Wever. I have nothing against Lynch - I was an ardent supporter of her win three years ago in this category for her role on Glee, and she's been a consistently great fixture in Christopher Guest's films - but why was she included this year? Did she even do anything this year on the show (I didn't watch, so I'm asking somewhat-seriously)? I can see trimming her out of this packed category and improving the field slightly (these are mostly the same performances nominated every year).

Should win: Jane Krakowski
Will win: Julie Bowen (for whatever reason, they love her more than is really necessary)
Spoilers: Sofia Vergara, Mayim Bialik (if they suddenly go nuts for The Big Bang Theory)


Adam Driver, Girls
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Ed O'Neill, Modern Family
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live
Tony Hale, Veep

The Modern Family bloc has been (kind of) broken! Surprisingly, two-time winner Eric Stonestreet is the the only member of the show's main adult cast to miss out on a nomination this year. Unfortunately, Max Greenfield (New Girl) missed out this year after scoring a fantastically-earned nomination last year. But the men who did make the cut form a stellar field. Hader has left SNL behind, and this may be the year they honor his essential contributions to the show's legacy. I'm really surprised to see Hale nominated for his hilariously spineless turn on Veep as the vice-president's loyal-to-a-fault lapdog (he is what Buster Bluth could have become), as well as Driver, who really came into his own on Girls this year. (Really, what I'm most impressed by is the number of acting nominations for shows that generally haven't picked up many in the past - Girls, Veep, Enlightened).

Should win: Adam Driver
Will win: Ty Burrell
Spoilers: Ed O'Neill, Bill Hader


Molly Shannon, Enlightened
Dot-Marie Jones, Glee
Melissa Leo, Louie
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock

I love the fact that Leo was nominated for her raucous turn on Louie this season, but if any actress from this past season should have been nominated here, shouldn't it have been Parker Posey for "Daddy's Girlfriend Part 1"? I'm also thrilled with - and totally supportive of - Shannon's nomination for her arc on Enlightened. From what I understand, she was a pivotal part of the action this season, and Shannon is always a delight to watch. I'm still surprised to see Jones getting nominated - again, does anyone do anything on Glee anymore? - though the rest are to be expected. The question is: do they honor Wiig here this year for her work on SNL, since they didn't in last year's Supporting Actress in a Comedy category?

Should win: Molly Shannon
Will win: Elaine Stritch
Spoilers: Melissa Leo, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig


Bob Newhart, The Big Bang Theory
Nathan Lane, Modern Family
Bobby Cannavale, Nurse Jackie
Louis C.K., Saturday Night Live
Justin Timberlake, Saturday Night Live
Will Forte, 30 Rock

This year's field features an odd line-up. We have two very different SNL hosts, both of whom were very celebrated; comedy legend Bob Newhart, who showed up as a former TV professor; Cannavale, who was all over the tube last year - as villains no less - between Nurse Jackie and Boardwalk Empire (see below); and Lane and Forte as very different but very flamboyant characters on their shows. It's odd that Forte was nominated for 30 Rock and not Will Arnett, the usual "Will" nominee from the show here, but a testament to Forte's truly bizarre work. Though Timberlake usually claims this prize when he's nominated, I wouldn't count on his win this year.

Should win: Louis C.K.
Will win: Bob Newhart
Spoilers: Louis C.K., Justin Timberlake


Episodes; written by David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik ("Episode 209")
Louie; story and teleplay by Louis C.K., story by Pamela Adlon ("Daddy's Girlfriend Part 1")
The Office; written by Greg Daniels ("Finale")
30 Rock; written by Jack Burditt and Robert Carlock ("Hogcock!")
30 Rock; written by Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield ("Last Lunch")

I want to re-iterate that I don't understand the hubbub that surrounds Episodes - judging by the Emmy nominations, it's TV's best comedy that nobody really watches or cares about. Maybe it's just a decade-long nostalgia for Friends? However, the rest of this field is fairly decent. The two episodes of 30 Rock combined for the series finale, and the show managed to go out on a high note that satisfactorily closed out the series. Though The Office did tumble much farther than 30 Rock did during it's later season, it's nice to see the series score a nod for tying things together and bringing the long-running sitcom to a close. The real standout, though, is Louie; the show's third season was it's most obtuse yet, but this episode was a highlight, turning the Manic Pixie Dream Girl story on it's head in a funny and compelling way. Louis C.K. won this award last year; hopefully he and Adlon can do it again this year.

Should win: Louie ("Daddy's Girlfriend Part 1")
Will win: 30 Rock ("Last Lunch")
Spoilers: 30 Rock ("Hogcock!"), Louie ("Daddy's Girlfriend Part 1")


Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Mad Men

All of last year's nominees aired another season this year; however, despite finding a terrific focus and building to a stunning finish, Boardwalk Empire gave way to the freshman from Netflix, House of Cards (a show that, though flawed in a few critical ways, is still riveting and wholly deserving of the nomination). I'm a little surprised to see Downton Abbey here: the show was less-than-beloved critically this year, even though it continued to grow in terms of popularity. The same can be said of the divisive seasons of Mad Men (which I thought was the show's best) and Homeland (which I have yet to see) too, though each of those still carried enough champions and goodwill that I'm not surprised to see them still here. Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, despite being genre shows, have continued to score nominations, and have done so by constantly evolving into the most thrilling - and very best - shows on television. Perhaps one of these can break through and secure a win.

Should win: Breaking Bad
Will win: Homeland
Spoilers: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, House of Cards, Breaking Bad


Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Claire Danes, Homeland
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Connie Britton, Nashville
Kerry Washington, Scandal

Like last year's Best Actress in a Comedy Series, there are seven nominees in this year's categories. First, the surprise inclusions: I was not expecting to see Washington, Britton, Wright, and Farmiga here, especially the lattermost. This is not to knock Farmiga's talent; I just didn't expect her to be nominated for a show as hit-or-miss as Bates Motel (tellingly, she is the show's only overall nomination). Similarly, I figured that Scandal and Nashville were too soapy to be taken seriously by the Emmys, though if I had to pick one, I would've guessed that Washington - a phenomenal actress - would've been nominated before Britton, a terrific actress stuck in a strangely sedate role. And the reason I didn't think Wright would be nominated for her Lady MacBeth-esque role is that I figured House of Cards would be seen as the Kevin Spacey show. I'm not sure how to predict this category; I can't really see any of the aforementioned nominees winning, though Dockery lacks the overall momentum and Moss didn't really have enough showy work this year. So maybe Danes wins again by default?

Should win: Elisabeth Moss
Will win: Claire Danes
Spoilers: Elisabeth Moss, Kerry Washington, Robin Wright, Michelle Dockery


Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
Damien Lewis, Homeland
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom

I mentioned above that I'm surprised to see Downton Abbey continuing to score major Emmy nominations; I guess I shouldn't be, given the show's pedigree. But I am genuinely surprised to see Bonneville here, given that he was barely buzzed about this past season the way other cast members were. In general, these are all great performances from great actors, each of them doing great work on their shows - even when their show is as maligned as Daniels' The Newsroom. There's no question Spacey is going to be the odds-on favorite, but don't count out Hamm - if he submits the season finale, with it's killer Hershey's pitch, then he may actually become the first Mad Men cast member to win an acting Emmy.

Should win: Jon Hamm
Will win: Kevin Spacey
Spoilers: Jon Hamm, Bryan Cranston, Damien Lewis


Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Morena Baccarin, Homeland
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men

Though many fans of Game of Thrones have decried Clarke's role as Daenarys Targaryan as boring and slow-moving (she's pretty far removed, at the moment, from the rest of the show's action), I've enjoyed watching her evolve into the "Mother of Dragons," and think that her performance will be even more fondly remembered when the series is complete and reflected upon in the future (at least, that's what I hope). Baccarin has been terrific on Homeland, though I'll be the first to admit that I'm just happy to see a former Firefly cast member finally make it to the Emmys (it also erases memories of V, which the less spoken of, the better). The rest of the nominees are excellent in their returning nominations, though the biggest surprise is that Baranski is now the only regular cast member of The Good Wife to be nominated this year.

Should win: Anna Gunn
Will win: Maggie Smith
Spoiler: Christina Hendricks


Bobby Cannavale, Boardwalk Empire
Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland

Is there any greater drama category this year than this one? All of these men did fantastic work this year. Patinkin has been the beating heart of Homeland, the same role that Paul has played on Breaking Bad and Dinklage has played on Game of Thrones. Carter took his character to new, rewarding places this year on Downton Abbey. Cannavale was an absolute delight as a deeply disturbed gangster with a sadistic streak, and he brought a much-needed dose of energy to the show this year (though it's still a shame Steve Buscemi didn't score a Lead Actor nod). However, no one was more imposing, more terrific, or more heartbreakingly perfect than Banks, who's Mike Ehrmantraut evolved over the past few seasons from sidekick to partner to threat. Need evidence of how great he was? Go watch "Say My Name" right now.

Should win: Jonathan Banks
Will win: Bobby Cannavale
Spoilers: Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks, Peter Dinklage


Margo Martindale, The Americans
Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones
Carrie Preston, The Good Wife
Linda Cardellini, Mad Men
Jane Fonda, The Newsroom
Joan Cusack, Shameless

If you're a fan of Freaks & Geeks like I am, celebrate with me that Lindsay Weir (Cardellini) is finally an Emmy nominee! Of course, Cardellini wasn't playing that famous character here, but her performance was just as surprising layered and impressive. What's also surprising is that Martindale was the only nominee for The Americans; however, it was her Emmy win for Justified two years ago that finally made the phenomenal character actor a popular - and essential - addition to a number of movies and television shows. Cusack is routinely here for her hilarious and heartbreaking work on Shameless, though the nature of that show has prevented her from winning. Most impressive is Rigg's nomination for playing the Queen of Thorns, and did she ever live up that name.

Should win: Diana Rigg
Will win: Carrie Preston
Spoilers: Jane Fonda, Margo Martindale


Nathan Lane, The Good Wife
Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife
Rupert Friend, Homeland
Robert Morse, Mad Men
Harry Hamlin, Mad Men
Dan Bucatinsky, Scandal

The Good Wife appears to still be fruitful in terms of guest spots, doesn't it? The return of Fox should be the big get, especially since he's 1) always terrific and 2) coming back to television full-time this fall. More surprising, though, is that Morse and Hamlin were both nominated for very minor performances this year (neither of them were really prevalent in this season). I don't know much about Friend's performance, unfortunately, so I don't know what to make of it. The same really goes for Bucatinsky; I don't watch Scandal, even though I've been told over and over that I should (and I do want to, when I get time).

Should win: Michael J. Fox
Will win: Michael J. Fox
Spoilers: Rupert Friend, Nathan Lane


Breaking Bad; written by George Mastras ("Dead Freight")
Breaking Bad; written by Thomas Schnauz ("Say My Name")
Downton Abbey; written by Julian Fellowes ("Episode 4")
Game of Thrones; written by D.B. Weiss and David Benioff ("The Rains of Castamere")
Homeland; written by Henry Bromell ("Q&A")

For the first time in the show's entire run, Mad Men did not see a single episode get nominated for writing this year. That's perhaps the biggest surprise of these nominations, especially considering how dominant the show has been even in the years it lost here. However, this did pave the way for not one but two episodes of Breaking Bad, a show that I've been advocating for several years now as one of the best-written shows on television, and two of the fifth season's best at that. The late Henry Bromell got a posthumous nod for what was considered to be one of the best episodes of Homeland's second season; however, the Emmys don't usually hand out awards posthumously, so this may be his only recognition. Then there's the infamous "Red Wedding" episode of Game of Thrones, one of the single-greatest episodes that show has ever produced. And of course, Fellowes is contractually obligated to receive a nomination here every year of eligibility.

Should win: Game of Thrones ("The Rains of Castamere")
Will win: Breaking Bad ("Dead Freight")
Spoilers: Game of Thrones ("The Rains of Castamere"), Breaking Bad ("Say My Name")


American Horror Story: Asylum
Behind the Candelabra
The Bible
Phil Spector
Political Animals
Top of the Lake

Two very surprising things here: first, four of the six nominees here are actually miniseries, not made-for-TV movies, quite a big change from past lineups in this category (well, if you consider Asylum - recently discussed here - to be a miniseries). The second is that The Bible was apparently one of the best miniseries/TV movies of the past year, despite a glaring lack of other major nominations and very little in the way of critical acclaim (but it did have huge ratings and was beloved by the Christian base, so there's that, I guess). Out of the possible movies, though, I'm surprised they went with David Mamet's surprisingly lifeless Phil Spector. All told, it's an odd assortment of nominees. (Third surprising thing: Asylum lead all programs in total nominations).

Should win: Behind the Candelabra
Will win: Behind the Candelabra
Spoilers: American Horror Story: Asylum, Top of the Lake


Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Asylum
Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter
Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
Sigourney Weaver, Political Animals
Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake

The sad, strange saga of Showtime's The Big C is an interesting one: what started as a show full of promise starring Laura Linney squandered nearly every ounce of it's potential by essentially condensing Weeds' eight-season-long derailment into three seasons, then wrapped it up with a four-episode "miniseries"this past spring. What I'm basically saying is that Linney scored a nod here as a farewell, and competes with a number of fellow Oscar nominees in Mirren, Lange, and Weaver, as well as Moss, who had a really great year this year. Lange won the Supporting Actress in a Miniseries/TV Movie Emmy last year; she was the magnificent center of the show this year, and should pick it up this year here.

Should win: Jessica Lange
Will win: Jessica Lange
Spoilers: Elisabeth Moss, Helen Mirren


Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra
Toby Jones, The Girl
Benedict Cumberbatch, Parade's End
Al Pacino, Phil Spector

Here's another high-profile list of actors: besides the obvious suspects (Douglas, Damon, Pacino), I'm glad to see Jones here, given that his Hitchcock biopic played second-fiddle to Anthony Hopkin's theatrically-released Hitchcock last fall. Cumberbatch's nomination ensures that Emmy voters see him as more than Sherlock Holmes; if they're feeling wild, it may be a chance to reward him for breaking out in a very big way this year (he has a Julian Assange biopic premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival later this year). However, there's really no question of who's going to win this year.

Should win: Michael Douglas
Will win: Michael Douglas
Spoilers: Matt Damon, Al Pacino


Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Asylum
Imelda Staunton, The Girl
Ellen Burstyn, Political Animals
Charlotte Rampling, Restless
Alfre Woodard, Steel Magnolias

Lifetime's Steel Magnolias remake didn't exactly give the original a run for it's money, but it was still a fine film, and I'm surprised that Woodard was it's only nominee. Burstyn was a delight, though you'd be hard-pressed to call her work truly Emmy-worthy. Honestly, I'm not sure who I would most support here; all of these are fine performances, but none of them are truly revelatory.

Should win: Sarah Paulson
Will win: Ellen Burstyn
Spoilers: Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Imelda Staunton, Charlotte Rampling


James Cromwell, American Horror Story: Asylum
Zachary Quinto, American Horror Story: Asylum
Scott Bakula, Behind the Candelabra
John Benjamin Hickey, The Big C: Hereafter
Peter Mullan, Top of the Lake

The biggest surprise here is that Bakula was nominated for Behind the Candelabra, especially given that I had forgotten he was in the film (Rob Lowe, on the other hand, is completely unforgettable, and continues to haunt my nightmares). But I could not be happier to see the great Mullan recognized; he's been turning in great performances in underseen movies for years now, and I'm excited to get a chance to see what he does in Top of the Lake. I support a win for him just on his terrific body of recent work. Both Cromwell and Quinto got to do excellent work as villains on this edition of American Horror Story, with both of them delivering performances of genuine evil.

Should win: Peter Mullan
Will win: James Cromwell
Spoilers: Zachary Quinto, Peter Mullan


Steven Soderbergh, Behind the Candelabra
Julian Jarrold, The Girl
David Mamet, Phil Spector
Allison Anders, Ring of Fire
Jane Campion and Garth Davis, Top of the Lake ("Part 5")

As is often the case with this category, it's loaded with A-list Hollywood directors (if you can even call them that) and TV directors. The most surprising inclusion is Anders, who scored a nod for her June Carter Cash biopic despite the film getting no other major nominations. Jarrold, too, is a bit of an odd inclusion, given the fact that The Girl missed out in the top category. Mamet, though his film was far less that his best work, would have made it into this category on the basis of his name alone. However, there's no real question of who will prevail here: a certain director who's saying goodbye to the industry after years of remarkable filmmaking (and sounding film's death knell in the process).

Should win: Steven Soderbergh
Will win: Steven Soderbergh
Spoilers: Jane Campion and Garth Davis


Behind the Candelabra; written by Richard LaGravenese
The Hour; written by Abi Morgan
Parade's End; written by Tom Stoppard
Phil Spector; written by David Mamet
Top of the Lake; written by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee

As with the directors, there's a lot of name writers here. Morgan's The Hour is a Cold War espionage thriller from Britain, and she is perhaps best known for writing The Iron Lady, the Oscar-winning Margaret Thatcher biopic. Stoppard and Mamet are two of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century, and while the latter misfired this year, the former turned in a pleasantly great miniseries. However, like in most of these categories, the real showdown is between Behind the Candelabra and Top of the Lake; this may actually be the latter's best shot at a win, particularly if Candelabra is seen as more of a feat of direction and acting than writing.

Should win: Behind the Candelabra
Will win: Top of the Lake
Spoiler: Behind the Candelabra

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