Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2014 Emmy nominations post-mortem: Ugh, Emmys, go wait in the car until we're done TV-ing

     Mindy Kaling of "The Mindy Project" and Carson Daly of
     "The Voice" announce the nominations for The 66th
     Primetime Emmy Awards in North Hollywood on Thursday
     (July 10) morning.

The most wonderful time of the year in television is that special Thursday morning in July when reporters and critics on the TV beat (at least the ones located on the west coast, where most television is produced) are awoken at 5 o'clock in the morning to hear two semi-famous television people read off most of the major nominations for the Primetime Emmy Awards. Some of these nominations are downright infuriating. Some of them are completely unexpected and pleasant delights. And the rest are somewhere in between, the recognition you'd expect to see but aren't jumping up and down about (partly because you're so tired).

But after about an hour, you start to realize that those three categories don't really exist simultaneously - rather, they are the sort of "Five Stages of Emmy Grief" that one goes through when they are forced to process a prestigious voting body showering recognition on works of art they feel passionate about on a very limited amount of sleep. On Thursday I found myself turning into Comic Book Guy from "The Simpsons" and tweeting things like "Worst. Nominations. Ever." and "Really Emmys? Really," but with time to really take it all in I've realized that the nominations this year aren't really any worse than other years, nor should I continue to react with such haste in future years. The Emmys are at best a compromise, often paying dues to the quality programs that are simultaneously popular while tragically ignoring the ones that are not. Such is life. The process for nominating and organizing categories is so very, very broken, but this is not the place to suggest alternatives, nor am I the person to suggest them. What I am the person for is being annoyed and complaining or using too many exclamation points when I like things. Oh, and of course, what I hope is at least a vaguely knowledgable sense of the history, voting patterns, and other weird tics of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

So if you're down with that, let's go category by category for opinions, predictions, and other crap. And if you missed my hypothetical ballot from Wednesday, click here.

Outstanding Comedy Series
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Louie (FX)
Modern Family (ABC)
Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Veep (HBO)

Defending champion: Modern Family

This will really be the race to watch come August 25. Because there's a very important question that will dominate pundit predictions from now until the envelopes are opened not just in this category, but in a number of other major comedy categories as well: which show do Emmy voters like more - old favourite "Veep," or "Orange is the New Black," the buzziest new comedy to enter awards season since the debut year for "Modern Family" and "Glee"? At this point, I still don't feel entirely comfortable making an educated guess on this one, nor do I really care which one will actually emerge victorious since they're easily my two favourite shows in this category. But gun to my head, I'm picking "Orange," based pretty much entirely on the fact that "Veep" didn't add as many significant nominations this year as they could have. While they picked up a writing nod and Gary Cole entered the guest actor category, two nominations (in combination with a half dozen first time technical nods) that are nothing to sneeze at, "Orange" nabbed pretty much every nomination it could have in major categories save for Danielle Brooks (one of the most shameful snubs of Thursday morning, might I add). It got its easy nominations for Taylor Schilling and Kate Mulgrew, but with Uzo Aduba, Laverne Cox, and Natahsa Lyonne all getting nominated in the guest actress category, "Orange" feels like it's reached something resembling minor juggernaut status right out of the gate. And to me that feels even more significant than the impressive growth that "Veep" has shown over the last three years.

Elsewhere, I'm not seeing any show with a shot at winning. Every year I try to argue that the "Modern Family" domination period is over, and while it hasn't proven true yet, this year I believe it more than ever: third consecutive year without a writing nomination, Ed O'Neill and Sofia Vergara falling out of their respective categories, etc. In the past it became easy to vote "Modern Family" on reflex because there were no new comedies premiering with any buzz, but "Orange" is definitely now that buzzier show. The peak of Louis C.K.-mania has passed, and if "Louie" couldn't win last year it won't win this year. Same story for "The Big Bang Theory": every year GoldDerby expresses utter bafflement that the show doesn't pick up nominations for writing or directing or for Simon Helberg (and by extension, their confusing of mainstream taste vs. quality) and when they get those nominations, roughly at the same time when Cleveland will get that Ikea, I'll consider the show to have a fighting chance.

One of the biggest surprises of all the nominations was "Silicon Valley" turning up here, a show that never really clicked with me until the season finale. They got two other major nominations - a writing nod for that aforementioned finale, which I won't quibble with, and a directing nod for their premiere that I probably would take issue with - but I'd be shocked if that's enough to leap past two of the most nominated shows this year.

Should Win: Veep
Will Win: Orange is the New Black

Outstanding Drama Series
Breaking Bad (AMC)
Downton Abbey (PBS)
Game of Thrones (HBO)
House of Cards (Netflix)
Mad Men (AMC)
True Detective (HBO)

Defending champion: Breaking Bad

There's a similar two-way race in this category. The "Mad Men" domination period is in the rear-view mirror, as is the sheen of "House of Cards" being the first series produced for web television to get nominations last year. Weakened seasons certainly won't help the perennially nominated but win-less "Game of Thrones" and "Downton Abbey". That leaves "Breaking Bad" and "True Detective" the only real shows with any shot at the trophy. It's possible that the latter could get a surprise win, but I feel like it needed a supporting actress nomination for Michelle Monaghan or something else significant like that to bring it to the "1" level of "Bad" rather than the "1a" slot it currently sits in. It's a strange category because it has both the biggest chance of an upset occurring but is also probably one of the biggest locks of the night. I mean, "Breaking Bad" can't be beaten...can it?

Should Win: Mad Men
Will Win: Breaking Bad

Outstanding Variety Series
The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)
Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)
Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)
Saturday Night Live (NBC)
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC)

Defending champion: The Colbert Report

Zzzzzz. If it weren't for "SNL," they could rename this category "Outstanding Talk Show". Don't get me wrong, I still love Stewart and Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon is probably hosting the best of all the boring late-night talk shows. But I'm impatiently waiting for the day that the Emmys remember that the category is not just called "Outstanding Talk Show," and maybe they should check out some of the other fine programs that submitted in this category like "Key and Peele," "Kroll Show," and "Inside Amy Schumer".

And otherwise? Not an impressive field of nominees in the slightest. I still find it kind of strange and amusing that formerly irrelevant Jimmy Kimmel clawed and scraped his way over the last decade to the level of "Oh yeah I watch his viral clips online sometimes" with the best of 'em, but he's not doing anything on the level of Stewart, Colbert, and certainly not John Oliver (whose "Last Week Tonight" will be eligible next year and will absolutely be getting my much-coveted hypothetical vote). And I have no reaction other than bafflement at the Television Academy once again nominating "SNL," an incredibly hit and miss show (albeit by design), and "Real Time with Bill Maher," a show that I'm embarrassed I used to get enjoyment out of.

Colbert broke 10 years of "Daily Show" domination last year, and with the Report about to end as the real Colbert moves into a bigger chair, I'd expect another win come Emmy night.

Should Win: The Colbert Report
Will Win: The Colbert Report

Outstanding Miniseries
American Horror Story: Coven (FX)
Bonnie and Clyde (A&E)
Fargo (FX)
Luther (BBC America)
Treme (HBO)
The White Queen (Starz)

Last won by: Behind the Candelabra, from combined "Movie/Miniseries" category that was split this year

In case you're not aware of how broken the Emmy nomination process is, especially when it comes to the miniseries and movie categories, three of the "miniseries" in this category are or were continuing shows. Yes, "American Horror Story" rebrands with a new storyline and new characters every season - but every fall, FX still airs a season of television whose title is partially "American Horror Story" and is produced by the same creative team and stars mostly the same cast. And because the fourth and final season of "Treme" only produced five episodes, they weren't eligible to enter themselves in the drama category as they've done in years past.

And I mean...obviously that works out better for them...nominated is better than not being nominated. But it's just ridiculous that there's no consistency for the rules of eligibility in these categories. Networks cheat by submitting one season duds here all the time and sometimes pick up nominations (like Ashley Judd for playing a woman who was NOT CIA, she was a MOTHER, LOOKING FOR HER SON in the classic cancelled ABC drama "Missing") and even infrequent wins (Emmy mascot Andre Braugher for "Thief," a rare FX failure in the mid-Aughts). From its debut on BBC One, "Luther" has always been intended as an ongoing series. So why is it that to the Academy, "miniseries" can be used interchangeably with "British series" whenever it so chooses? Former Outstanding Miniseries winner "Downton Abbey" fraudulently won in 2011, but at least had the decency and common sense to move to the drama category with its second season. And if "AHS" wants to continue to cheat here, it's frustrating that "True Detective" is submitted as a drama when it's using an identical format. There really needs to be a position within the Academy akin to slap bet commissioner, enforcing a fair playing field and issuing rulings on categorization.

Anyway, end rant. Like I said in my hypothetical ballot post, I dropped the ball in terms of keeping up with the miniseries and movies of the last TV season. But I sure loved the hell out of "Fargo"!

Should Win: Fargo
Will Win: Fargo

Outstanding Television Movie
Killing Kennedy (National Geographic)
Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight (HBO)
The Normal Heart (HBO)
Sherlock: His Last Vow (PBS)
The Trip To Bountiful (Lifetime)

Last won by: Behind the Candelabra

Sorry, one addendum to the minis/movies rant: remember that whole "Treme couldn't submit as a drama with 5 episodes" thing? Well a similar rule applies to "Sherlock," which only produces three 90 minute episodes per year. So the Academy allows them to submit individual episodes as television movies because ????? Anyway, still nothing much to say. "The Normal Heart" will win and that's frustrating to this writer, who is in no way a Ryan Murphy fan.

Should Win: Sherlock
Will Win: The Normal Heart

Outstanding Reality Competition Program
The Amazing Race (CBS)
Dancing with the Stars (ABC)
Project Runway (Lifetime)
So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)
Top Chef (Bravo)
The Voice (NBC)

Defending champion: The Voice

The usual suspects, although this has strangely become one of the harder categories to predict after so many years of "Amazing Race" domination. After seven straight wins, it was finally beaten by (what is to my understanding, the vastly superior) "Top Chef". It could have signalled a new day in Emmy reality land, but instead the award went back to "The Amazing Race" in the following two years. Then last year, Mark Burnett presumably lobbied hard enough to get them to vote for "The Voice". But I'm reluctant to once again try and usher in a new era because voters could just up and give the Emmy back to "TAR" out of their own amusement. In the words of Tracy Jordan, you've put me in a quandary, Jack Donaghy. A quandary.

Should Win: So You Think You Can Dance
Will Win: The Voice

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Louis C.K. for playing Louie on Louie (FX)
Don Cheadle for playing Marty Kaan on House of Lies (Showtime)
Ricky Gervais for playing Derek Noakes on Derek (Netflix)
Matt LeBlanc for playing Matt LeBlanc on Episodes (Showtime)
William H. Macy for playing Frank Gallagher on Shameless (Showtime)
Jim Parsons for playing Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

Defending champion: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

I'm not gonna sugarcoat this one: this is far and away the least impressive category of the entire show and one of the worst comedy lead actor fields I can ever remember (albeit, a fourth grader has been alive longer than I've been closely following these awards). You've got Cheadle and LeBlanc still hanging around, giving okay performances on bad shows, riding the pedigrees of their Oscar/former TV hit respectively. You have William H. Macy, the only "Shameless" cast member to benefit from the show's move from the drama categories to the comedy ones and easily one of the least impressive actors on the show (and often the center of the program's most annoying and unfunny storylines). You have respected Emmy favourite Ricky Gervais playing a pretty offensive caricature of a mentally handicapped man. And you have Jim Parsons, whose strange tics and fill-in-the-blanks style of performing I've grown tired of (and if you saw his awful hosting turn on "SNL" this year, you know that there's not much acting happening when Parsons is playing Sheldon). Emmy voters, however, don't agree. And I wouldn't dare have the audacity to bet against him.

Should Win: Louis C.K.
Will Win: Jim Parsons

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Lena Dunham for playing Hannah Horvath on Girls (HBO)
Edie Falco for playing Jackie Peyton on Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus for playing Selina Meyer on Veep (HBO)
Melissa McCarthy for playing Molly Flynn on Mike and Molly (CBS)
Amy Poehler for playing Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Taylor Schilling for playing Piper Chapman on Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

Defending champion: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

A much strong category for the leading women of comedy, however, even if several of my personal preferences are missing - cough, Emmy freaking Rossum. I think it's a bit of a shame that Melissa McCarthy's movie success gets her auto-pilot nominations here, especially when it means her "Bridesmaids" co-star Wendi McClendon-Covey is snubbed for her outstanding performance on the debut season of "The Goldbergs". And that's after being booted from the category last year for Laura Dern (totally deservedly, HAVE I MENTIONED I LOVED ENLIGHTENED I DON'T THINK I MADE THAT CLEAR YET GUYS).

There is clearly a queen of the castle here, and that's Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I have trouble seeing any scenario where she would be nominated in this category and not win. Taylor Schilling, the only newcomer and thus really the only other actress with a shot to beat her, is just fine (much better in the second season, however) but is she anybody's favourite part of "Orange"? That would be an enormous upset the likes of which I haven't seen before from the Emmys. This is a no-brainer pick if there ever was one.

Should Win: JLD
Will Win: JLD

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Bryan Cranston for playing Walter White on Breaking Bad (AMC)
Jeff Daniels for playing Great Man Will McAvoy, King of the Universe on The Newsroom (HBO)
Jon Hamm for playing Don Draper on Mad Men (AMC)
Woody Harrelson for playing Marty Hart on True Detective (HBO)
Matthew McConaughey for playing Rust Cohle on True Detective (HBO)
Kevin Spacey for playing Frank Underwood on House of Cards (Netflix)

Defending champion: Don't make me relive it...Google it if you want.

The year is 2014. Jon Hamm has still never won an Emmy for playing Don Draper.

Sadly that's not Rod Serling's opening narration from a "Twilight Zone" episode. This is the most ridiculous shafting of such a terrific performer and will be an absurdly large black mark on the Television Academy if he never wins (which is looking increasingly likely). I'm not sure he did anything spectacular in the seven episodes that aired this year, but like that even matters - he deserves a freaking award for the sum total of that performance over the last eight years.

Some people are pretending there's an actual competition between Cranston and McConaughey and that's just not happening, folks. McConaughey will win this in one of the biggest walks in awards history. In fact, I'm gonna go ahead and make this my annual "the other nominees should just stay home" pick for 2014. Cranston has three Emmys, but hasn't been on the stage since 2010. McConaughey is an Oscar winning movie star, and an idiotic feeling of inferiority to the movie industry is one of the reasons I hate so much about the things the Emmys choose to be. Also, did you see "True Detective"? That Matty McConaughey is good. Like, really good. #McConnaissance

Should Win: Hamm and Buble
Will Win: All right, all right, all right

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Lizzy Caplan for playing Virginia Johnson on Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Claire Danes for playing Carrie Mathison on Homeland (Showtime)
Michelle Dockery for playing Lady Mary Crawley on Downton Abbey (PBS)
Julianna Margulies for playing Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife (CBS)
Kerry Washington for playing Olivia Pope on Scandal (ABC)
Robin Wright for playing Claire Underwood on House of Cards (Netflix)

Defending champion: Claire Danes, Homeland

Let's get right to the scolding - where the fuck is Elisabeth Moss? Again, the Academy turning on "Mad Men" in the last couple years is just so bizarre and wrong. And then there are the usual things to be annoyed about here - why is TV's best actress, Tatiana Maslany of "Orphan Black," not nominated? Why are Michelle Dockery and Robin Wright considered two of the six best actresses in television dramas? All strange stuff. But Julianna Margulies is back, so they got that right! And how strangely perceptive of the Academy to recognize that Lizzy Caplan absolutely belongs here. Go Emmys, in this one fleeting instance!

I think that the Emmys are done with Claire Danes even though she has nothing to do with why "Homeland" sucks now. So who's the new queen of icy glaring? Probably Robin Wright - I didn't watch season two of "House of Cards" due to a lack of caring, but I hear she has a virtually unbeatable submission episode. Some think maybe it's Kerry Washington's time to shine, but I kinda feel like the "Scandal" buzz has gone in the opposite direction (that show's only other significant nomination last year, drama guest actor winner Dan Bucatinsky, didn't repeat). The only tough call for me now is...who do I want to win?

Should Win: Lizzy Caplan (only because Margulies has a "Good Wife" Emmy already)
Will Win: Robin Wright

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Benedict Cumberbatch for playing Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock: His Last Vow (PBS)
Chiwetel Ejiofor for playing Louis Lester in Dancing on the Edge (Starz)
Idris Elba for playing John Luther in Luther (BBC America)
Martin Freeman for playing Lester Nygaard in Fargo (FX)
Mark Ruffalo for playing Ned Weeks in The Normal Heart (HBO)
Billy Bob Thornton for playing Lorne Malvo in Fargo (FX)

Last won by: Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra

Time to blow through all these acting nominations I forgot to familiarize myself with. Thankfully, I saw the only performance in this category whose win I will recognize and tolerate. And I have to think the Emmys will feel the same way.

Should Win: Billy Bob Thornton
Will Win: Billy Bob Thornton

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
Helena Bonham Carter for playing Elizabeth Taylor in Burton and Taylor (BBC America)
Minnie Driver for playing Maggie Royal in Return to Zero (Lifetime)
Jessica Lange for playing Fiona Goode in American Horror Story: Coven (FX)
Sarah Paulson for playing Cordelia Foxx in American Horror Story: Coven (FX)
Cicely Tyson for playing Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful (Lifetime)
Kristen Wiig for playing Cynthia Morehouse in The Spoils of Babylon (IFC)

Last won by: Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter

"Hey! Kristen Wiig! She's in a miniseries? A comedic parody of soap operas that we have no familiarity with with and got very little attention from mainstream audiences, critics, or any other demographic that might influence our voting decisions? Well who cares, we remember her from all those "SNL" nominations! Let's vote for her her!"

And that's how most actors get Emmy nominations.

Should Win: Jessica Lange
Will Win: Jessica Lange

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Fred Armisen for playing various characters on Portlandia (IFC)
Andre Braugher for playing Ray Holt on Brooklyn Nine Nine (Fox)
Ty Burrell for playing Phil Dunphy on Modern Family (ABC)
Adam Driver for playing Adam Sackler on Girls (HBO)
Jesse Tyler Ferguson for playing Mitchell Pritchett on Modern Family (ABC)
Tony Hale for playing Gary Walsh on Veep (HBO)

Defending champion: Tony Hale, Veep

Another "Modern Family" man down as Ed O'Neill falls out (about time - you're next, Ferguson!) This is another tough call - there is perhaps no category with so many legitimate contenders to win. Burrell and Hale are previous winners, and Hale has a very strong submission episode that could allow him to hold down the fort here. Braugher getting the lone nomination for "Brooklyn Nine Nine" is disappointing, but not all that surprising. The Emmys always find him, even recognizing him for shows without any real fanfare like TNT's pretty great/wildly off-brand "Men of a Certain Age" a few years back. Could Adam Driver, who somewhat surprisingly entered the category last year, conceivably get a "Star Wars" bump? Of course he could. Conceivably. But there won't be an actual completed film to get him that bump, so I'm a little skeptical. Also, what up with Fred Armisen, yo? I mean I don't watch "Portlandia," a context in which I assume his comedic stylings make more sense. But still, slightly odd for him to get singled out (even after the show got a variety writing nod last year).

Should Win: Andre Braugher
Will Win: Tony Hale

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik for playing Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Julie Bowen for playing Claire Dunphy on Modern Family (ABC)
Anna Chlumsky for playing Amy Brookheimer on Veep (HBO)
Allison Janney for playing Bonnie Plunkett on Mom (CBS)
Kate McKinnon for playing various characters on Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Kate Mulgrew for playing Galina "Red" Reznikov on Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

Last won by: Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie

This is another category with a few potential winners, unhelped by the fact that 2013 champion Merritt Wever is gone (fucking Emmys, she is the only part of the show still worth recognizing). I think I can say with some confidence that Bowen won't win, even with two awards under her belt. I also don't think that Chlumsky had a spectacular year on "Veep," and even with that show's slow upward trajectory she shouldn't have much of a shot. McKinnon is a slight wild card that I don't think was on anyone's radar for a real chance at getting nominated, and I would be surprised if she became the first "SNL" cast member to win in the modern era (I believe Phil Hartman once won a category that doesn't exist anymore for individual performers in variety shows).

And then you have the three real contenders: Allison Janney of "Mom" (which people I trust assure me is better than I'd expect a CBS multi-cam sitcom to be) has four previous Emmy wins for "The West Wing" in both lead and supporting categories, and will also be up for her guest role on "Masters of Sex" at the Creative Arts Emmys. That's just a breadth of support nobody else in the category has and will make her really difficult to beat. Kate Mulgrew comes kind of close, in that she's a known Hollywood actress giving a great performance on a buzzy show. I'm not sure her "Voyager" days will necessarily qualify as a nostalgia boost, but it certainly won't hurt her.

And strangely enough I wouldn't want to count out Mayim Bialik, nominated now for a third year running. This is the kind of performance I could easily dismiss as having no chance, but a lot of the story arcs on "Big Bang" this season were about the progression of both the emotional and physical relationship between Sheldon and Amy, much of which Bialik played really wonderfully.

Also, the best part of researching this category? For years I believed that Janney was nominated for being the guest host in that "disaster show" episode of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip", and thankfully I've been wrong all along. I mean that was the clear best episode of a very bad show, but the less awards attention it got, the better.

Should Win: Kate Mulgrew
Will Win: Allison Janney

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Jim Carter for playing Charles Carson on Downton Abbey (PBS)
Josh Charles for playing Will Gardner on The Good Wife (CBS)
Peter Dinklage for playing Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones (HBO)
Mandy Patinkin for playing Saul Berenson on Homeland (Showtime)
Aaron Paul for playing Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad (AMC)
Jon Voight for playing Mickey Donovan on Ray Donovan (Showtime)

Last won by: Bobby Canavale, Boardwalk Empire

Okay let's start with a variety of protests. First off, go away Jim Carter. This is the most difficult category to break into and you're taking up a space for being British and having good posture. Also, if a nomination did have to go to a "Downton Abbey" butler to keep the earth from exploding, the obvious choice is Brendan Coyle. And while we're at it, go away Mandy Patinkin too. I have no desire to vote for an actor even as good as him for a season of television that randomly decided the character he played was now stupid.

Then on the other end of the spectrum: I know this will make me sound terrible but I really don't like Aaron Paul's nomination here. He's of course always great on "Breaking Bad" but he got so little to do. He got so little to do even in the series finale, and I barely remember he was in the last eight episodes at all. "Breaking Bad" fell into a bad rut in the latter half of the series where the show would do something terrible to Jesse at the end of a season, and then we'd have to spend two to three episodes at the start of the next one getting him out of a catatonic state. In an eight episode stretch of episodes, that's not very much time to allow Paul to do things, and especially not when "things" are being chained in a Nazi dungeon until the last 20 minutes of the series.

But Paul could still win, even after losing to Canavale last year. As could Peter Dinklage and Jon Voight. Dinklage feels the obvious right choice, delivering that great speech at the end of the episode where he requests a trial by combat. But then you have Golden Globe winner Jon Voight doing his Voight-y thing on the pretty awful "Ray Donovan". But eh. He's a legend of sorts. Also, I'm fairly certain he won't win, but I'm glad Josh Charles very deservedly returned to the category after a terrific season of "The Good Wife," in which [spoiler] and [spoiler] [spoiler] to [spoiler] their own [spoiler]. Also, he [spoiler] this season, which is obvious Emmy bait.

Should Win: Josh Charles
Will Win: Jon Voight

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Christine Baranski for playing Diane Lockhart on The Good Wife (CBS)
Joanne Froggatt for playing Anna Bates on Downton Abbey (PBS)
Anna Gunn for playing Skyler White on Breaking Bad (AMC)
Christina Hendricks for playing Joan Holloway on Mad Men (AMC)
Lena Headey for playing Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones (HBO)
Maggie Smith for playing Violet Crawley on Downton Abbey (PBS)

Defending champion: Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad

Interesting mix of people here. Smith, Hendricks, and Baranski are perennial nominees, although Baranski was the only one to really get a good amount of material this year (and oh, did she get material). I obviously still love Hendricks and am still baffled as to how "Mad Men" is entering its seventh year of eligibility without one of its actors winning an Emmy, but this won't be her year sadly. Nor should it be Smith's, who is fine on "Downton" but this is also a nomination with roughly the same amount of thought put into it as the one for Betty White as reality host for "Off Their Rockers" (still a television program in the year 2014 - thanks, Lifetime!)

Elsewhere, reigning champion Anna Gunn should be a lock to win again provided she submits "Ozymandias" (and I have a hard time imagining a scenario where either she or Cranston pick a different episode). Joanne Froggatt returns after falling out of the field last year, though this is at least understandable since a very bad thing happened to Anna this season which she and Brendan Coyle's Bates had to deal with. And then you have newcomer Lena Headey taking Emilia Clarke's slot, which I think makes sense for their respective bodies of work this season. "Game of Thrones" got 19 nominations, the most of any show, so I can't rule out that she has a shot to win. She's certainly a more dynamic presence than Clarke, but I'd still be a little surprised if she managed to beat Anna Gunn.

Should Win: Christine Baranski
Will Win: Anna Gunn

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Matt Bomer for playing Felix Turner in The Normal Heart (HBO)
Martin Freeman for playing John Watson in Sherlock: His Last Vow (PBS)
Colin Hanks for playing Gus Grimly in Fargo (FX)
Joe Mantello for playing Mickey Marcus in The Normal Heart (HBO)
Alfred Molina for playing Ben Weeks in The Normal Heart (HBO)
Jim Parsons for playing Tommy Boatwright in The Normal Heart (HBO)

Last won by: James Cromwell, American Horror Story: Asylum

Which "Normal Heart" actor will take the prize? It's going to be one of them, and Parsons seems to be the obvious choice since Emmy voters will never not vote for him. Again, this is a film I skipped because I'm really done with Ryan Murphy, but it's probably Parsons in front with Bomer as the possible spoiler. I expect "Fargo" to win a couple acting awards, but Hanks won't be one of them unfortunately.

Should Win: Colin Hanks
Will Win: Jim Parsons

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
Angela Bassett for playing Marie Laveau in American Horror Story: Coven (FX)
Kathy Bates for playing Delphine LaLaurie in American Horror Story: Coven (FX)
Ellen Burstyn for playing Olivia Foxworth in Flowers in the Attic (Lifetime)
Frances Conroy for playing Myrtle Snow in American Horror Story: Coven (FX)
Julia Roberts for playing Emma Brookner in The Normal Heart (HBO)
Allison Tolman for playing Molly Solverson in Fargo (FX)

Defending champion: Ellen Burstyn, Political Animals

Lord, how the hell should I know? Could there be more movie stars in a single category than this one? Obviously not all movie stars are equal, though there is definitely a scenario where the highest-profile actresses like Bates and Roberts attract a good deal of votes but essentially cancel each other out. And in that scenario, could Allison Tolman - the least recognizable nominee but easily the best performance in the category, even if fraudulently considered "supporting" - actually come out on top? I certainly hope so, but it's a prediction I'd feel risky making with all the obvious star power in the category to distract voters. It will probably depend heavily on how she submits.

Should Win: Allison Tolman
Will Win: No guts, no glory - Allison Tolman

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
Iain B. MacDonald for "Episode Nine" of Episodes (Showtime)
Paris Barclay for the "100" episode of Glee (Fox)
Louis C.K. for the "Elevator Part 6" episode of Louie (FX)
Gail Mancuso for the "Las Vegas" episode of Modern Family (ABC)
Jodie Foster for the "Lesbian Request Denied" episode of Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Mike Judge for the "Minimum Viable Product" episode of Silicon Valley (HBO)

Defending champion: Another travesty you can look up should you feel so inclined (please don't)

These are not the six episodes I would have nominated, but I think I at least understand each nomination. Emmy voters love the cringeworthy "Episodes". Paris Barclay is a previous nominee. Apparently there's just something so spectacular about the way Gail Mancuso directs "Modern Family" episodes that she's able to beat Louis C.K. for a work of art that (deep breath, will not rage about that again). Anyway, Jodie Foster will win because she's a movie star and "Orange" is popular. And it's the great Sophia episode from season one, so there ain't nothin' wrong with that.

Should Win: Louis C.K.
Will Win: Jodie Foster

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
Tim Van Patten for the "Farewell Daddy Blues" episode of Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Vince Gilligan for the "Felina" episode of Breaking Bad (AMC)
David Evans for "Episode One" of Downton Abbey (PBS)
Neil Marshall for "The Watchers on the Wall" episode of Game of Thrones (HBO)
Carl Franklin for the "Chapter 14" episode of House of Cards (Netflix)
Cary Joji Fukunaga for the "Who Goes There" episode of True Detective (HBO)

Last won by: David Fincher, House of Cards

Just like last year, the drama directing category could go any which way really. Tim Van Patten winning in 2011 might be an anomaly, but it means he can never be ruled out from winning ever again. If there was an episode of "Thrones" whose pure direction could hold up here, it would be "The Watchers on the Wall," though it's no "Rains of Castamere". Gilligan and Fukunaga got deserving nominations for the genre's flashiest shows, but I have a hard time really seeing anyone but Gilligan winning in this big, final juggernaut year for "Breaking Bad". Meanwhile, Evans got the courtesy nomination for "Downton" and I guess they felt they needed to nominate "House of Cards" here as well. Whatever.

Should Win: Vince Gilligan
Will Win: Vince Gilligan

Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon for the "Bitchcraft" episode of American Horror Story: Coven (FX)
Colin Bucksey for the "Buridan's Ass" episode of Fargo (FX)
Adam Bernstein for "The Crocodile's Dilemma" episode of Fargo (FX)
Stephen Frears for Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight (HBO)
Ryan Murphy for The Normal Heart (HBO)
Nick Hurran for Sherlock: His Last Vow (PBS)

Last won by: Steven Soderbergh, Behind the Candelabra

I've run out of worthwhile thoughts about miniseries and movie categories. To the predictions!

Should Win: Adam Bernstein
Will Win: Ryan Murphy

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik for "Episode Five" of Episodes (Showtime)
Louis C.K. for the "So Did the Fat Lady" episode of Louie (FX)
Liz Friedman and Jenji Kohan for the "I Wasn't Ready" episode of Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Alec Berg for the "Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency" episode of Silicon Valley (HBO)
Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, & Tony Roche for the "Special Relationship" episode of Veep (HBO)

Last won by: Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield, 30 Rock

Crane and Klarik, roar grr rage.gif. Okay now that that's out of the way, really good category, as is usually the case for comedy writing. "So Did the Fat Lady" is a pretty tremendous episode of television, as is the kind of obscene brilliance behind what exactly the title "Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency" is referring to. The "Orange" pilot isn't my favourite episode of the first season (I put the finale, "Can't Fix Crazy," on my fake ballot instead), and on the whole I think they could have submitted better in this category, but I'm glad the show is at least rightfully represented here. And it seems my opinion on the writing of "Veep" has finally coalesced with those of Emmy voters, with the show picking up a first nomination here that couldn't be more deserved. So long as "Episodes" doesn't win, there's no winner here that will disappoint me in the slightest. Strive for this more in the future, Academy.

Should Win: Louis C.K.
Will Win: Blackwell, Iannucci, and Roche

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Vince Gilligan for the "Felina" episode of Breaking Bad (AMC)
Moira Walley-Beckett for the "Ozymandias" episode of Breaking Bad (AMC)
David Benioff & D.B. Weiss for "The Children" episode of Game of Thrones (HBO)
Beau Willimon for the "Chapter 14" episode of House of Cards (Netflix)
Nic Pizzolatto for "The Secret Fate of All Life" episode of True Detective (HBO)

Last won by: Henry Bromell, Homeland

Nearly as solid as its comedy counterpart, with "Cards" the "Episodes" parallel qualitatively. I'm not sure why Benioff and Weiss chose to submit the "Thrones" finale, which I think they thought would be received as cooler and more shocking than it actually was (the potential flaw in submitting few episodes, especially ones that haven't aired at the time the ballots are posted, but no flaw here - a nomination is a nomination). Those are really my only thoughts on this category, which Moira Walley-Beckett shouldn't have any problem winning. "Ozymandias" is one of the finest dramatic hours of television ever produced. Even the Emmy voters shouldn't be able to miss this one.

Should Win: Moira Walley-Beckett
Will Win: Moira Walley-Beckett

Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk for the "Bitchcraft" episode of American Horror Story: Coven (FX)
Noah Hawley for "The Crocodile's Dilemma" episode of Fargo (FX)
Neil Cross for Luther (BBC America)
Larry Kramer for The Normal Heart (HBO)
Steven Moffatt for Sherlock: His Last Vow (PBS)
David Simon and Eric Overmyer for the "...To Miss New Orleans" episode of Treme (HBO)

Last won by: Abi Morgan, The Hour

Yeah, cause I can totally pretend to have informed opinion on this one too. "Fargo" or "Treme" or GTFO.

Should Win: Noah Hawley
Will Win: Noah Hawley

Per tradition, The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards will render my predictions laughable in a live NBC telecast on Monday, August 25 at 8pm Eastern.