When Uzo Aduba (“Orange is the New Black”) and Cat Deeley (“So You Think You Can Dance”) announce the nominees for the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards this Thursday, at the remarkably humane hour of 8:30am PT, I’ll be observing my annual tradition: tasting the bitter ash of disappointment.
If my predictions for the 2015 nominations are any indication, the TV Academy is as unlikely as ever to show much love for the likes of “The Americans” (FX), “Rectify” (Sundance), “Broad City” (Comedy Central), and “Looking” (HBO), a few of the idiosyncratic, artful series regularly squeezed out of the Emmys by more mainstream fare. In a way, it’s a win-win: either I’ll be right, or I’ll be celebrating being wrong.
“The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
“Modern Family” (ABC)
“Silicon Valley” (HBO)
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)
Perennial favorites tend to dominate this category—no series except the late “30 Rock” (NBC) and “Modern Family” have won since 2006 (!)—but recent rule changes allowing the full TV Academy to vote promise an infusion of new blood this year. With seven slots, “Orange is the New Black” shunted to drama, and “Girls” (HBO) on the wane, acclaimed newcomer “Transparent” and Emmy-favorite Tina Fey’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” are both strong contenders for their first nominations. Looking for a potential upset? After a relatively quiet season, two-time nominee “Louie” could lose out to the CW’s warmhearted telenovela, “Jane the Virgin.”
“Better Call Saul” (AMC)
“Downton Abbey” (PBS)
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“House of Cards” (Netflix)
“Mad Men” (AMC)
“Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
With blockbuster ratings and critical support for its debut season, “Empire” seems a sure bet to join Outstanding Drama regulars “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards,” and “Mad Men,” and I suspect “Breaking Bad” (AMC) spinoff “Better Call Saul” will parlay the former’s Emmy popularity into a nomination as well. That leaves “OITNB” to sneak past “The Americans,” “The Affair” (Showtime), “Bloodline” (Netflix), “The Good Wife” (CBS), and the resurgent “Homeland” (Showtime)—all of which would be more deserving than the moribund “Downton Abbey,” likely to nab its fourth consecutive nomination in this category. :(
“American Crime” (ABC)
“American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
“The Honorable Woman” (Sundance)
“The Missing” (Starz)
“Olive Kitteridge” (HBO)
“Wolf Hall” (PBS)
The Limited Series category is more or less clear-cut, with critics’ darling “Olive Kitteridge” and masterly historical drama “Wolf Hall” leading the pack. Assuming the TV Academy’s “two-percent rule” once again expands the field from five nominees to six, “The Missing” is the one on the bubble, and if voters deem it necessary to throw a wrench in the works, watch for History Channel’s “Texas Rising” or FOX’s “24: Live Another Day” to nab the final spot.
“Derek: The Final Chapter” (Netflix)
“Killing Jesus” (National Geographic Channel)
“Stockholm, Pennsylvania” (Lifetime)
The eligible made-for-television movies are an awfully weak bunch, so it’s reasonable to expect that we’ll see a repeat of last year’s five-nominee slate, with HBO’s “Bessie” and “Nightingale” rising to the top on the strength of performances by Mo’Nique and David Oyelowo, respectively. The final installment of WWII crime saga “Foyle’s War” deserves to compete for the top prize more than the remaining contenders, but predicting the category to exhibit such class is foolhardy indeed.
Louis C.K., “Louie” (FX)
Billy Crystal, “The Comedians” (FX)
Will Forte, “The Last Man on Earth” (FOX)
William H. Macy, “Shameless” (Showtime)
Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent” (Amazon)
Frontrunner Tambor, two-time defending champion Parsons, and four-time nominee C.K. all qualify as immovable forces in this year’s race, but the rest of the category is a toss-up. Showtime’s three former nominees—Macy, Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”), and Matt LeBlanc (“Episodes”)—are up against two newcomers—Forte and Anthony Anderson (ABC’s “black-ish”)—and one comedy legend (Crystal). I split the difference and chose one of each.
Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie” (Showtime)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” (HBO)
Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation” (NBC)
Gina Rodriguez, “Jane the Virgin” (The CW)
Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer” (Comedy Central)
Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie” (Netflix)
The likely winner? Louis-Dreyfus. The sentimental favorite? Poehler. The woman of the moment? Schumer. The rising star? Rodriguez. The legend? Tomlin. The farewell tour? Falco. But it’s the names not on the list—potential spoilers all—that prove just how incredibly competitive this category’s become: Jane Fonda (“Grace and Frankie”), Melissa McCarthy (CBS’ “Mike & Molly”), Lena Dunham (HBO’s “Girls”), Ellie Kemper (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), and Lisa Kudrow (HBO’s “The Comeback”). To anyone who claims women aren’t funny, I give you American television.
Supporting Actor (Comedy)
Fred Armisen, “Portlandia” (IFC)
Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (FOX)
Ty Burrell, “Modern Family” (ABC)
Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, “Modern Family” (ABC)
Tony Hale, “Veep” (HBO)
Sigh. To think of all the qualified candidates the Emmys might honor were the TV Academy not contractually obligated to reserve at least two slots for “Modern Family.” (And don’t count out Eric Stonestreet, who could easily bump Armisen or Burgess.) Otherwise, this category’s a tough call. Popular enough with Emmy voters to have earned 25 nominations between them, it may be daft of me to leave out Hugh Laurie (“Veep”), Martin Sheen (“Grace and Frankie”), and Sam Waterston (“Grace and Frankie”), but I trust my choices’ comic chops to overcome the name-recognition factor.
Supporting Actress (Comedy)
Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
Julie Bowen, “Modern Family” (ABC)
Anna Chlumsky, “Veep” (HBO)
Alison Janney, “Mom” (CBS)
Jane Krakowski, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)
Judith Light, “Transparent” (Amazon)
While Janney readies the polish for yet another Emmy, the real competition features former winner Merritt Wever (“Nurse Jackie”), Eden Sher (ABC’s “The Middle”), Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”), and Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”) snapping at Light’s heels. The expected “Transparent” wave should carry Light into the top six, as will the echoes of Jenna Maroney in Krakowski’s most recent performance—after all, playing the “30 Rock” diva propelled her to four prior nominations.
Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline” (Netflix)
Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom” (HBO)
Jon Hamm, “Mad Men” (AMC)
Terrence Howard, “Empire” (FOX)
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul” (AMC)
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards” (Netflix)
Hamm has earned seven consecutive nominations for his performance as dashing ad man Don Draper, and with the bow of AMC’s beloved series, he’s the man to beat. Spacey’s tiresome Frank Underwood and Daniels’ smarmy Will McAvoy are also safely in the fold, much to my chagrin—each actor’s third consecutive nod pretty much ensures the exclusion of Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”), Aden Young (“Rectify”), and Michael Sheen (Showtime’s “Masters of Sex”), unless Emmy voters have a major surprise in store. Let’s hope they do.
Claire Danes, “Homeland” (Showtime)
Viola Davis, “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
Taraji P. Henson, “Empire” (FOX)
Julianna Marguiles, “The Good Wife” (CBS)
Kerry Washington, “Scandal” (ABC)
Robin Wright, “House of Cards” (Netflix)
Though I’ve listed only six names here, this is the acting category with the greatest potential for the two-percent rule to add a seventh (it happened in 2013), and indeed it’s hard to stomach the notion of Elisabeth Moss being snubbed for the final season of “Mad Men.” It’s also potentially historic. If Washington, who’s most at risk to be bumped by the likes of Ruth Wilson (Showtime’s “The Affair”) or Vera Farmiga (A&E’s “Bates Motel”), manages to nab her third straight nomination, she’ll join sure things Davis and Henson as the third woman of color in the category—the most in Emmy history.
Supporting Actor (Drama)
Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul” (AMC)
Jim Carter, “Downton Abbey” (PBS)
Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)
Mandy Patinkin, “Homeland” (Showtime)
John Slattery, “Mad Men” (AMC)
Jon Voight, “Ray Donovan” (Showtime)
Jim Carter seems like a nice fellow, so I don’t say this lightly: if the unutterably boring Mr. Carson beats out Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline”), Walton Goggins (FX’s “Justified”), and Christopher Eccleston (HBO’s “The Leftovers”), as expected, I may have to picket the ceremony. (The same goes for Jon Voight, of Showtime’s crime drama, though he’s, uh, less nice.) The rest seem more or less set in stone, with Dinklage the likely victor.
Supporting Actress (Drama)
Christine Baranski, “The Good Wife” (CBS)
Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey” (PBS)
Lena Headley, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)
Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men” (AMC)
Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey” (PBS)
Sissy Spacek, “Bloodline” (Netflix)
With “Breaking Bad” stalwart and two-time winner Anna Gunn out of the running, Supporting Actress (Drama) is primed for a multiple nominee to pull through for the first time: Baranski, Froggatt, Headley, and Hendricks have all been here before, with no trophies to their name. If “Bloodline” exhibits any strength, Spacek should score her first nomination in this category, and fourth overall; as the barbed wit of “Downton,” Smith is always a threat. The real question is whether the fistful of “OITNB” contenders (Uzo Aduba, Lorraine Toussaint, Kate Mulgrew, and Laverne Cox, to name four) can avoid a vote split that leaves them all on the outside looking in. My personal choice to win the whole damn thing, Carrie Coon (“The Leftovers”) needs nothing short of miracle even to make the final six.
Actor (Limited Series/TV Movie)
Timothy Hutton, “American Crime” (ABC)
Richard Jenkins, “Olive Kitteridge” (HBO)
David Oyelowo, “Nightingale” (HBO)
Bill Paxton, “Texas Rising” (History)
Mark Rylance, “Wolf Hall” (PBS)
Kiefer Sutherland, “24: Live Another Day” (FOX)
The combination of limited series and TV movies in this category sets up a showdown between Oyelowo and Jenkins, with Rylance the dark horse and Hutton solidly in the middle of the pack. That leaves the more subdued James Nesbitt (“The Missing,” Starz) and Michael Kitchen (“Foyle’s War”) to vie for the final two spots with Paxton and Sutherland, the latter of whom I expect to snarl his way to his eighth nomination as American torturer Jack Bauer.
Actress (Limited Series/TV Movie)
Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Honorable Woman” (Sundance)
Felicity Huffman, “American Crime” (ABC)
Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
Queen Latifah, “Bessie” (HBO)
Frances McDormand, “Olive Kitteridge” (HBO)
Frances O’Connor, “The Missing” (Starz)
The only category that replicates my wish list exactly, and the one with the least chance of an upset: only relative unknown Aunjanue Ellis, of BET’s “The Book of Negroes,” or Brit Marling, of Sundance TV’s “Babylon,” have even the slimmest of hopes to break through here.
Supporting Actor (Limited Series/TV Movie)
Michael Chiklis, “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
Michael Gambon, “The Casual Vacancy” (HBO)
Damian Lewis, “Wolf Hall” (PBS)
Bill Murray, “Olive Kitteridge” (HBO)
Michael K. Williams, “Bessie” (HBO)
Finn Wittrock, “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
It seems inconceivable that Bill Murray should be able to sleepwalk his way to a nomination and likely win here, but in a relatively weak field, the flash of familiar names—and, in Wittrock’s case, a shapely ass—can make all the difference. Jonathan Pryce, with a strong but small performance in “Wolf Hall,” could make a run at knocking out Williams, and Stephen Rea is in the mix for “The Honorable Woman,” but this category is like Murray’s performance: a snooze.
Supporting Actress (Limited Series/TV Movie)
Kathy Bates, “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
Angela Bassett, “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
Claire Foy, “Wolf Hall” (PBS)
Janet McTeer, “The Honorable Woman” (Sundance)
Mo’Nique, “Bessie” (HBO)
Sarah Paulson, “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
It’s a measure of Ryan Murphy’s cottage industry for talented actresses that the best supporting performance in “Freak Show”—Frances Conroy’s deliciously fastidious turn as Gloria Mott—is the one in danger of being left out. Though the Lifetime duo of Susan Sarandon (“Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe”) and Cynthia Nixon (“Stockholm, Pennsylvania”) may pose a threat to McTeer or the lesser-known Foy, this is a race between surprise Critics’ Choice winner Paulson and Mo’Nique. If there’s any justice in this world, the latter’s towering performance as Ma Rainey will win going away.
The 2015 Emmy nominations will be announced live at 11:30am ET/8:30 am PT on Thursday, July 16. The 67th Primetime Emmy Awards will air Sunday, Sept. 20 at 8pm ET/5pm PT on FOX.