Emmys 2011: The Dramas
Not too long after the nominees for the 2011 Primetime Emmy Awards were announced, we finally discovered what episodes all of the recognized actors submitted as evidence of their best work from the past year.
As usual, some submitted wisely, and others did not. If you're interested in nailing down who's the most likely to win, but you don't have time to sift through each of the submitted episodes, no worries, I've done all the research for you.
Below is a list of the nominees in ten categories, ranked according to their likelihood of actually winning. And of course, I didn't leave you hanging with the details: each decision is backed by evidence.
While this is not an official guess at the winners (which won't be announced until September 18), it's also unlikely that the majority of these picks are going to change by that time.
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
- BOARDWALK EMPIRE
- MAD MEN
- THE GOOD WIFE
- GAME OF THRONES
- FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Of the six nominated series, HBO's Boardwalk Empire was the most refreshing to watch. It has a similar old-fashioned polish to it that Mad Men had when it first premiered (although it's a touch more violent), and it's already racked up some key wins from prestigious awards venues (the Golden Globes, the SAGs). Additionally, unlike Mad Men (which wasn't as consistently excellent this time around) and The Good Wife, Boardwalk is nominated (twice) for directing. When's the last time a series won the top prize without at least a mention in that category? 1999. Game of Thrones definitely delivered an impressive first season, but Drama Series has always been a race between the aforementioned three. Dexter was better when John Lithgow was killing people in bathtubs, and, while it's nice to see Emmy voters finally recognize the greatness that is Friday Night Lights, it doesn't have a shot.
LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA
- Jon Hamm - MAD MEN
- Steve Buscemi - BOARDWALK EMPIRE
- Hugh Laurie - HOUSE
- Kyle Chandler - FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
- Michael C. Hall - DEXTER
- Timothy Olyphant - JUSTIFIED
Jon Hamm's submitted episode ("The Suitcase") puts him firmly in frontrunner status. Don Draper has a great back-and-forth with Peggy, where he viciously cuts her down to size. They later make up, and he delivers his other key scene: breaking down after losing a close friend. With "A Return To Normalcy," Steve Buscemi's "Nucky" Thompson is able to open himself up to Margaret, but he probably should have submitted the pilot episode (mostly for the scene where he kisses up to the Women's Temperance League). The Emmy will likely elude Hugh Laurie again, although he has a nice freakout in the bathtub. The fact that "After Hours" isn't all about his character, however, works against him. Kyle Chandler's intense eye-acting works wonders once again when he places himself in a standoff with Matt Saracen in the FNL finale "Always," but competition from actors who are already household names isn't doing him any favors. Both Michael C. Hall and Timothy Olyphant are fine, as usual, in their submitted episodes ("Teenage Wasteland" and "Reckoning," respectively,) but neither has that "wow" moment they need to claim a victory.
LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
- Julianna Margulies - THE GOOD WIFE
- Elisabeth Moss - MAD MEN
- Mireille Enos - THE KILLING
- Kathy Bates - HARRY'S LAW
- Connie Britton - FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
- Mariska Hargitay - LAW & ORDER: SVU
With her submission ("In Sickness"), Julianna Margulies is likely to win the trophy many felt would be hers last year. She's terrific throughout the entire second season, but in this episode, Alicia has an emotional talk with her kids that all but seals up the award for her this time around. Her biggest competition is Elisabeth Moss, who goes toe-to-toe with Jon Hamm in Mad Men's best episode from season four ("The Suitcase"). The Killing's Mireille Enos is relatively dry throughout most of "Missing," until Linden starts to grow more and more frantic over the whereabouts of her son. Kathy Bates is a force to be reckoned with on name recognition alone, although guest star Steve Harris all but steals the spotlight from her in "Innocent Man." Connie Britton's performance is so understated and nuanced in "Always", it's probably too lacking in the flashy department to register with enough Emmy voters. And the annual favorite, Mariska Hargitay, gets to show how matronly Benson can be in "Rescue," but it's only when she's roughing up rapists and degenerates that she's a threat for the prize, and we don't get any of that here.
SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
- John Slattery - MAD MEN
- Andre Braugher - MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE
- Walton Goggins - JUSTIFIED
- Peter Dinklage - GAME OF THRONES
- Alan Cumming - THE GOOD WIFE
- Josh Charles - THE GOOD WIFE
Three-time also-ran John Slattery is the most likely to succeed in a category that doesn't have a sure-fire winner. The actor had a lot of great material in Mad Men's fourth season (particularly in "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword"), and in "Hands and Knees," he channels his character's severe desperation when he begs Lee Garner, Jr. for more time. Industry respect (as well as sympathy for his show's untimely demise) could help Andre Braugher here, whose character really starts to come undone towards the end of "Let the Sunshine In." Speaking of which, Justified's Walton Goggins plays it pretty quiet for the majority of "The I of the Storm," until he snaps at the conclusion of the episode. Any of the aforementioned gentlemen could very well win. Peter Dinklage has an outside chance with "Baelor," but his character has funnier, more memorable moments in other episodes. Both men from The Good Wife (Alan Cumming in "Silver Bullet"; Josh Charles in "Closing Arguments") submitted picks that don't really showcase how great they are on the show.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
- Margo Martindale - JUSTIFIED
- Kelly Macdonald - BOARDWALK EMPIRE
- Archie Panjabi - THE GOOD WIFE
- Michelle Forbes - THE KILLING
- Christina Hendricks - MAD MEN
- Christine Baranski - THE GOOD WIFE
In the beginning of "Brother's Keeper," we get a glimpse at how much of a bulldog Margo Martindale's character Mags can be towards her sons, and in the end, she shows how she can go from helpless and vulnerable to heartless and uncaring in an instant. Range like that for a character who's a lot of fun to watch screams for awards attention. Kelly Macdonald's Margaret finally stands up to her foe in "Family Limitation," making her a viable threat for the prize. Last year's winner Archie Panjabi is fine in "Getting Off," but the better performance goes to her co-star (Margulies). Michelle Forbes has a haunting crying scene in the pilot for The Killing, and Mad Men's Christina Hendricks, once again, submitted the best episode for herself ("The Summer Man"), but both ladies are likely to lose out for the simple fact that the competition is heavy this time around. Christine Baranski does anything but stand out in "Silver Bullet."
GUEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA
- Paul McCrane - HARRY'S LAW
- Jeremy Davies - JUSTIFIED
- Michael J. Fox - THE GOOD WIFE
- Beau Bridges - BROTHERS & SISTERS
- Robert Morse - MAD MEN
- Bruce Dern - BIG LOVE
ER alum Paul McCrane may not have gotten much notoriety during his time on the NBC medical drama, but with a character as fast-talking and, ultimately, layered, as "Puck," he's far and away the best choice to win for the episode "With Friends Like These." A worthy upset, however, would be Justified's Jeremy Davies, who gives redneck Dickie Bennett some depth in "Reckoning." Michael J. Fox ("Real Deal") seems to always be a threat whenever his name is in the ring, but this feels like it's more of a fight between McCrane and Davies. The remaining three should be content with their nominations: Beau Bridges is his usual, charming self in "Brody," although "Walker Down the Aisle" was a better choice; Robert Morse is okay as Bertram Cooper in "Blowing Smoke," but he doesn't get to do much; and Bruce Dern doesn't bring the crazy we're used to seeing embodied in Frank in "D.I.V.O.R.C.E."
GUEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
- Joan Cusack - SHAMELESS
- Julia Stiles - DEXTER
- Loretta Devine - GREY'S ANATOMY
- Randee Heller - MAD MEN
- Alfre Woodard - TRUE BLOOD
- Cara Buono - MAD MEN
- Mary McDonnell - THE CLOSER
There's a scene where Joan Cusack's character from Shameless holds up a baby and a Barbie doll for a child, then asks whether they'd rather play with the former, or "the whore." That, along with the character's fear of leaving her house, pretty much puts Cusack in the driver's seat. To her credit, however, Julia Stiles is surprisingly good in "In the Beginning," which provides her with two key moments: reliving her torture, and getting closer to Dexter. Loretta Devine is heartbreaking as Adele in "This Is How We Do It," particularly when she comes to the realization that she may, in fact, have Alzheimer's. Mad Men's Randee Heller almost stole the spotlight away from the principal cast when her character, Ms. Blankenship, was first introduced. In "The Beautiful Girls," she doesn't get to put enough of her comedic personality on display, although she does make the most of her short screen time for the episode. Speaking of which, Alfre Woodard essentially has one scene in "Night on the Sun," where she brandishes a knife and talks badly about television. It's a little over-the-top, and even if it wasn't, it's a blink-and-you'll-miss-her type of moment. Cara Buono's selection ("Chinese Wall") wasn't the best choice; she isn't given much to do in the episode. It's good to see Mary McDonnell finally nominated for her guest spot on The Closer, although the recently snubbed Kyra Sedgwick is the bigger standout in "Help Wanted."
DIRECTING FOR A DRAMA
- BOARDWALK EMPIRE ("Boardwalk Empire"/ Martin Scorsese)
- GAME OF THRONES ("Winter is Coming" / Tim Van Patten)
- BOARDWALK EMPIRE ("Anastasia" / Jeremy Podeswa)
- THE KILLING ("Pilot" / Patty Jenkins)
- THE BORGIAS ("The Poisoned Chalice - The Assassin" / Neil Jordan)
Even before we knew who the nominees were, this race seemed to be pretty much over. With his name all over the pilot episode for Boardwalk Empire, Martin Scorsese can expect to add "Emmy winner" to his resume. In the event that there is an upset, however, directing is likely the one category where Game of Thrones has a chance, and Tim Van Patten did a great job with the first episode, opening with an enthralling chase in the woods, and closing with what appeared to be an unexpectedly early death of a character. Boardwalk's other entry, "Anastasia," is likewise in capable hands with Pacific-nominated director Jeremy Podeswa behind the lens. His biggest obstacle, of course, is that his name isn't Martin Scorsese. The lone female of the group, Patty Jenkins did a good job with the pilot episode for The Killing. Neil Jordan also impressed with his episode from Showtime's The Borgias. All are worthy nominees, but in the end, Scorsese's name keeps this from being a true competition.
WRITING FOR A DRAMA
- MAD MEN ("The Suitcase")
- GAME OF THRONES ("Baelor")
- THE KILLING ("Pilot")
- FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS ("Always")
- MAD MEN ("Blowing Smoke")
It would be a surprise if The Suitcase failed to win here. It was the highlight from Mad Men's fourth season, and it's the episode that could very well be responsible for earning Jon Hamm his first Emmy (if not Elisabeth Moss, too!). Baelor should be in serious contention for the way it ended alone, and it would be a welcomed upset. New shows' pilot episodes always have good odds, which is why The Killing is next in line. A nice surprise here would be Always from Friday Night Lights, which is probably the only chance the series has of taking anything home (particularly since it was curiously snubbed in the casting category). Blowing Smoke is a fine enough episode, but it won't win.
CASTING FOR A DRAMA
- BOARDWALK EMPIRE
- THE GOOD WIFE
- MAD MEN
- GAME OF THRONES
- THE KILLING
New shows always seem to be the first to benefit from winning for their casts (Six Feet Under, Lost, Deadwood, Damages, True Blood), and when you factor in just how impressive the performers are, Boardwalk Empire is the one to beat. If The Good Wife upsets here, it could mean it's in for a successful night. Although it won last year in this field, it's not expected for Mad Men to repeat. If it does, however, the series could be on its way to going four-for-four when it comes to Outstanding Drama Series. Both Game of Thrones and The Killing will have to make due as nominees.
FINAL TALLY: 5/10 [50%]
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