Emmy Predictions 2014: Outstanding comedy/drama lead actress
Because it's NBC's turn to air the Primetime Emmy Awards this year, and because the Peacock would understandably rather air its lucrative Sunday night NFL package in September, the ceremony will take place in late August again. And as an added wrinkle, this year's ceremony will actually happen on a Monday, August 25 at 8 p.m., with Seth Meyers hosting.
Between now and then, Dan and I will be making our picks for both who should and will win many of the major categories — if you're wagering, keep in mind that Dan tends to be much better at predicting the winners than I am, but also that he was just as flummoxed as I by last year's winners like Jeff Daniels, Merritt Wever and Bobby Cannavale — continuing with our look at the comedy and drama lead actress categories.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Lena Dunham, "Girls"
Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"
Melissa McCarthy, "Mike & Molly"
Amy Poehler, "Parks and Recreation"
Taylor Schilling, "Orange Is the New Black"
Alan's pick: Louis-Dreyfus is almost certainly going to win (barring an "Orange" sweep of the comedy categories), and she will be entirely worthy of it for her best year yet on "Veep." That said, this is one of a couple of categories where my awards show socialist leanings come into play. Louis-Dreyfus has two Emmys for this role, plus one apiece for "Seinfeld" and "Old Christine." Whereas Amy Poehler remains a perpetual Emmy bridesmaid, and even if this wasn't her best overall year on "Parks and Rec" (a bit too much of the self-interested Leslie Monster at times), I find it unacceptable that she doesn't yet have an Emmy for this classic role. Some other fine performances here — particularly Schilling demonstrating a lot of versatility and nuance playing a character who was far from her show's most likable — but I will keep stumping for Poehler this year and next, unless she happens to win this one.
Dan's pick: I love Taylor Schilling on "Orange Is The New Black," I love how uncompromisingly she plays Piper's weakness and prickliness and now she doesn't care if the lead character on "Orange" is quote-unquote "likable." I always like Amy Poehler. And "Beach House" is a really good showcase for Lena Dunham (though not, on any level, the episode I'd have chose for her). But that's all just lead-up to my sense that Julia Louis-Dreyfus is doing some next-level work on "Veep," an egoless performance of both verbal and physical dexterity and a performance that keeps breaking out in new colors with such regularity that I won't quibble with the lack of wealth-spreading in giving Louis-Dreyfus a third straight Emmy and a fifth win overall. In this case, she absolutely deserves it. [The lack of Emmy Rossum in this category still makes me sad, but as great as she is, I'm still not sure she'd be my pick over Julia Louis-Dreyfus. But at least it'd be a conversation in my head.]
Alan's pick: Again, the only scenario in which Louis-Dreyfus (who has the great submission episode "Crate," where Selina and Gary share a laugh in the bathroom over some unexpected news) doesn't threepeat is if voters are going all-in for "Orange" and decide to check Schilling's name. But I think Louis-Dreyfus is still strong enough to float above an "Orange" groundswell.
Dan's pick: The winner will either be Taylor Schilling or Julia Louis-Dreyfus. As she's done before, I think Louis-Dreyfus can win without "Veep" being a juggernaut and picking up four or five Emmys. I'm not convinced in the same way on Schilling. I don't think she could be the lone representative winner for "Orange," but if "Orange" goes HAM on the Emmy field and wins six or seven Emmys including Outstanding Comedy? Schilling could easy be lifted to a victory I wouldn't begrudge in the slightest. Because I'm not predicting that kind of full-ballot success, I can't predict a Schilling win. Julia Louis-Dreyfus takes it.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Lizzy Caplan, "Masters of Sex"
Claire Danes, "Homeland"
Michelle Dockery, "Downton Abbey"
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
Kerry Washington, "Scandal"
Robin Wright, "House of Cards"
Alan's pick: The role of Virginia Johnson in "Masters of Sex" should be just about unplayable. She is placed on a pedestal by every male character on the show, and some of the women, to boot. Everybody loves Virginia, just as no one could possibly want to love the cold, controlling Bill Masters. She is a quick study at everything she does, has the people skills Bill could never have in his dreams, and pushes through many of the biggest breakthroughs in the early stages of the famous Masters & Johnson sex study. She's basically the Mary Sue to end all Mary Sues, and yet Caplan not only makes you believe every word of praise said about Virginia, but finds the complicated human being inside the sex goddess. It's a complicated, charismatic performance, and the best of one of this year's stronger fields.
Dan's pick: I was all prepared to say that Robin Wright was both the deserving winner and the likely winner because I made the assumption that she chose "Chapter 17" -- the live interview episode -- as her submission. She didn't. She chose the S.2 finale, which I still haven't gotten to, because I don't especially care for or about "House of Cards." This category is actually a real problem for me, despite its difficult-to-dispute quality and depth. Julianna Margulies chose "The Last Call" as her submission and that was an episode I aggressively disliked. Had she gone with "Hits the Fan," she'd be my pick, but instead she chose the episode where her lower lip quivers for 43 minutes. I get that Kerry Washington got to show a lot of emotion in "The Fluffer," but it was also an episode in which she was variably immobile due to the need to hide her pregnancy. Last finale wasn't Danes' best "Homeland" episode and the "Masters of Sex" pilot wasn't Lizzy Caplan's best. And Michelle Dockery is a supporting actress and if she wanted to take Maggie Smith's place in that category, I would cheer, but she shouldn't be here if Keri Russell, Tatiana Maslany, Vera Farmiga and Elisabeth Moss aren't making the cut. Yeah. This is hard. Given the choices and the voting criteria? I've gotta go Caplan, I guess.
Alan's pick: This one has me the most stumped out of any category. Danes has won twice in a row, but the public tide seemed to turn against "Homeland" this season, and she submitted a more muted episode for Carrie (the season finale) after winning the previous two years for episodes with huge emotional shifts. Margulies had a great year, but maybe didn't pick the best submission episode ("The Last Call," where Alicia is grieving, but in a largely subdued way, whereas "Hitting the Fan" would seem like a lock to get her the win), and much as I'd love to see a Caplan win to recognize both her work and the greatness of "Masters" as a whole, the show doesn't seem to have widespread enough Emmy support. So as a stab in the dark, I'll go with Washington, who carries one of the most popular shows on television, completely embraces the melodramatic insanity of "Scandal," and would have historical significance as the first African American woman to win in this category.
Dan's pick: Per Sepinwall, Wright has a big emotional moment in the finale. It's hard for me to predict a win for her based on an episode I haven't seen, but it feels more logical to me than a three-peat for Danes. I suppose Magulies could win, but I'm being prejudiced in my prediction because of my dislike for that particular manipulative and logically inconsistent episode. I'm rooting for Caplan or a history-making win for Washington, but I'm predicting Wright because... whatever.
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Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com