The Television Academy of Arts & Sciences released this year's Emmy ballots last week. Now that the ballots are out, it's time for our annual two-pronged experiment, in which Dan tries to predict the likeliest nominees in each major category, while I pretend that I'm an actually TV Academy member and pick the six nominees that would make me the happiest.
We are, as always, playing by the Emmy rules, which means we can't argue for someone who didn't submit themselves (say, Alan Cumming for "The Good Wife"), can't move someone from lead to supporting or vice versa, and can't declare that "True Detective" is a miniseries and therefore clear more room in the drama categories. I'm also obviously limited by what I watched and what I haven't. I think I saw maybe three episodes of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" this season, for instance, and while I like the show a lot, the sample size wasn't enough.
We enter the home stretch with our first lead actor category, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Dan's analysis is here, and mine is coming right up.
Though this category isn't as deep as its supporting actor counterpart, it's more top-heavy. Even after winnowing out the likes of Joel Kinnaman, Tom Mison and Timothy Olyphant, I still had a list of eight that I had to stare at for a very long time, over a period of many days, before I could finally winnow it down to eight, by very reluctantly cutting out both the "Hannibal" leads. (I agree with Mads Mikkelsen's decision to submit as a lead this year, given Hannibal's increased prominence in season 2; I just liked these other six a fraction more than him or Hugh Dancy.)
Let's start with the headline showdown: Bryan Cranston vs. Matthew McConaughey. I've been convinced that McConaughey is a lock to win this since around the third or fourth week that "True Detective" was on the air, and we can talk more about the reasons why when we get closer to the ceremony in August. For now, though, I'll just say that it's a performance that lives up to the hype, and to the narrative of the McConaissance, and all those jokes about time being a flat circle are as much tribute to the magnetism of his work as Rust Cohle as they are having some fun with that show's philosophizing. Then again, Cranston has "Ozymandias," which features a trio of unforgettable Walter White sequences (his response to what happens in the desert, the fight with Skyler, and the phone call), featuring some of his very best work in one of the all-time great TV roles and performances. So maybe I shouldn't have my various Wooderson/Cohle GIFs ready to go for Emmy night quite yet. Either way, these two men were amazing, and belong here.
Let's continue with McConaughey's "True Detective" co-star, Woody Harrelson. Rust Cohle was probably the better, and certainly the flashier, of the two lead roles on that show, but Harrelson was every bit as good as his longtime pal McConaughey, and I can see a scenario where they both wind up submitting the fifth episode, which has both the "flat circle" monologue for McConaughey and Marty Hart's response to what he finds in Reggie LaDoux's house for Harrelson. Glad to see him submitted as a lead, which he absolutely was, rather than having HBO try to suck up more awards by submitting him in supporting.
And another Matthew: Matthew Rhys from "The Americans," who raised his game right along with the show itself in season 2, shining even as Philip Jennings was falling apart due to a very violent stretch of work, plus multiple complications at home, and at work. If the Academy suddenly becomes aware that this show exists and Rhys gets the nomination he deserves, I can see "Martial Eagle" at least giving voters pause before they make their pre-ordained pick. He's that good.
I've made my peace with the unlikelihood of Jon Hamm ever winning one of these things — it's one thing when "The Suitcase" isn't enough for him to beat Kyle Chandler
Finally, we have Michael Sheen from "Masters of Sex," delivering a performance as buttoned down as so many of the others on this list are explosive. Sheen had his big moments to emote, particularly around the pregnancy arc and at the end of season 1, but so much of what made his portrayal of William Masters fascinating was the icy, controlled mystery of it, and how hard it was for even a gregarious, seductive type like Virginia Johnson to crack that shell.
What does everybody else think? What would be your ideal six in the category?
Previously: Outstanding Drama Series | Outstanding Comedy Series | Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series | Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series | Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series | Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
Let Streaming Genie help you.