By Alison Willmore | Indiewire September 20, 2013 at 4:49PM
The 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards face some steep competition themselves this week -- they're airing on CBS on Sunday, September 22 at 8pm ET, forcing a good chunk of the country to choose between tuning into the ceremony or watching "Breaking Bad" live. As lovable as host Neil Patrick Harris is bound to be, he's going to have to charm viewers away from the penultimate episode of one of the best television shows of all time -- and how can a goofy song and dance number beat that? Still, with many excellent series (including "Breaking Bad") up for awards this weekend, we're offering up a wishlist for the major categories. Here's who we'd like to see win and why.
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series: Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
Cranston's won this award three times for playing Walter White, but the first half of season five featured him making a turn that was truly impressive -- from anti-hero to flat out bad guy. Whether telling Skyler about how he'll have her committed if she tries to take the kids away from him to shooting another character, then apologizing as he dies for realizing the murder was unnecessary, Walt pushed past the previous boundaries of protagonist bad behavior into territory that felt new and daring, and Cranston's commitment to not softening Walt while keeping that layer of humanity has been astounding. Last year's winner, Damian Lewis, is coming off the weaker second season of "Homeland," while Jon Hamm had to steer Don Draper through a (intentionally) frustratingly mopey year on "Mad Men." And while a win for Kevin Spacey's deliciously silky turn in "House of Cards" would be a historic moment, neither his performance nor the show can compete with the AMC meth drama.
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series: Robin Wright, "House of Cards"
Spacey had the showiest role in "House of Cards," but Robin Wright was coolly terrific as Claire Underwood, Francis Underwood's perfect partner in crime. Besides offering a refreshing change of pace from the usual protesting, out of the loop spouse of the morally questionable hero, Claire offered a more contemplative, relatable look at the sacrifices the Underwoods made in choosing their calculated, political power couple lives, as she considered a different path with her lover and punished her husband for treating her career as secondary to his. As old school movie star as Kerry Washington's turn as Olivia Pope is in "Scandal" and as good as Elisabeth Moss always is on "Mad Men," the only performance that rivaled Wright's in its power was last year's winner Claire Danes in "Homeland," and it'd be nice to see the subtlety of Wright's acting be rewarded over Dane's raw and impressive but showy work.
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Matt Damon, "Behind the Candelabra"
This is a star-filled all-HBO category that puts Matt Damon up against his "Behind the Candelabra" co-star Michael Douglas, but while the latter is a hoot in his outsized and eventually poignant role as Liberace, it's Damon's journey from naive newcomer in the performer's glittery world to drug-addicted, cast-out lover that formed the film's emotional core.
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story: Asylum"
As good as "Top of the Lake" is, Elisabeth Moss was outshone by some of her other cast members in an excellent ensemble, particularly Peter Mullan. This category is otherwise packed with great actresses in roles that were often just okay -- Laura Linney in "The Big C," Helen Mirren in "Phil Spector," Sigourney Weaver in "Political Animals." It's only Lange as the fiery Sister Jude Martin in the second season of "American Horror Story" who had a part that matched her presence, as the campy, outsized and utterly compelling horror series finally came into its own.
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series: Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
It was the last season of "30 Rock," and it feels like Alec Baldwin might as well get one more award for playing Jack Donaghy, the perfect platonic partner to Liz Lemon all these years, a mentor, friend and boss who in the last season got exactly what he wanted, only to realize he wasn't happy. Jack dealt with attempts to tank the network, the death of his mother and battled Tracy Jordan over whether or not he served as the inspiration for the villain in Tracy's "Aunt Phatso" film, with both graceful aplomb and silliness when the role called for it. Baldwin could do with a nod for the consistently good work he's done on the NBC sitcom over the years. As much as it was great to see Jason Bateman back as Michael Bluth, his work in the Netflix season of "Arrested Development" wasn't up to what he did before, and while Louis C.K. has yet to win an acting award for "Louie," this past season doesn't feel like the right one.
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series: Laura Dern, "Enlightened"
It wasn't until it was essentially already canceled in the second half of its second season that Mike White's "Enlightened" received an avalanche of critical adoration, but Laura Dern has been phenomenal throughout the run of the HBO comedic drama as a woman who can be completely grating while never been less than sympathetic. Dern and White together made Amy Jellicoe's search for meaning into something sublime, and even if the series was cut short, Dern should get recognition for the delicate dedication with which she brought the character to memorable life.
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series: Jonathan Banks, "Breaking Bad"
The exasperated resignation on Jonathan Banks' face at the end of his last scene with Bryan Cranston in "Say My Name" alone should win Banks a dozen awards, and that's without even considering the arc of his complex performance in a half season that found him reluctantly pulled into business with Walt despite concerns that turn out to be absolutely justified. Mike Ehrmantraut was competent, pragmatic and just desperate enough to allow himself to partner up with Walt and Jesse (Aaron Paul) while knowing they weren't career criminals and were far more dangerous because of it -- a great character made possible by Banks' great performance. Paul's already gotten deserved recognition for playing Jesse, and Peter Dinklage, whose won in this category once before, is likely to get nominated every year for as long as "Game of Thrones" runs and his character survives. It'd be nice to see Banks get a moment in the sun.