Will Walter White shatter yet more dreams?
"Mad Men" can set an Emmys record tonight by winning its fifth consecutive award for Outstanding Drama Series. But its biggest competition may come from fellow AMC series "Breaking Bad," starring Bryan Cranston as meth mastermind Walt, who tends to spoil other people's lovely notions. Its fourth season was a meth-addiction-sized beast.
"Mad Men" also faces competition from another period drama, PBS's "Downton Abbey," competing in the drama category for the first time, as well as HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" and "Game of Thrones," and the new Showtime series "Homeland," which will likely win an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series prize for Claire Danes.
Cranston, meanwhile, returns to the drama-actor race after "Breaking Bad" sat out the Emmys last year because it didn't air during the eligibility period. He's a near-lock to score his fourth win in the category, and perform his dream-shattering routine for fellow nominees including "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm and "Homeland" star Damian Lewis.
ABC's "Modern Family," meanwhile, looks like a lock to wins its third consecutive win in the Outstanding Comedy Series category. Its cast mates all submit in the supporting categories out of an abundance of professional courtesy to one another, and whoever wins those categories is likely to be one of the actors on the show. Ty Burrell won the Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series race last year and Eric Stonestreet did the year before. Julie Bowen won last year in the Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series category and could easily win again, unless she's bested by castmate Sofia Vergara.
The "Modern Family" decision to compete as supporting actors also makes the Lead Actor and Actress in a Comedy Series categories a bit easier for actors on other shows. Jim Parsons is going for his third consecutive comedy-actor win for his work on CBS's "Big Bang Theory," but will have to hold off newcomer Don Cheadle, star of new Showtime series "House of Lies." Louis C.K. also turned in an outstanding season on FX's "Louie."
The Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category is one of the closest. Melissa McCarthy is looking for a repeat for CBS's "Mike & Molly," but that will be tough against Julia Louis-Dreyfus (HBO's "Veep") and Amy Poehler (NBC's "Parks and Recreation.") And those are only the favorites.
"Breaking Bad" throws around almost as much weight in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series category as "Modern Family" does in the comedic ones. If Aaron Paul doesn't repeat and Giancarlo Esposito doesn't take his place, it will only be because the two "Breaking Bad" actors canceled each other out. (Always a risk for "Modern Family" as well.)
Whoever wins, they deserve it: This is a tough category. It also includes last year's winner, Peter Dinklage, who plays essentially the lead character on "Game of Thrones," as well as Brendan Coyle and Jim Carter ("Downton Abbey") and Jared Harris, coming off a devastating turn on "Mad Men."
There may also be a cancel-out danger for "The Good Wife" and "Downton Abbey" in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama category. Maggie Smith and Joanne Froggatt are both nominated for "Downton," as are both Archie Panjabi and Christine Baranski on "The Good Wife." That could help Anna Gunn ("Breaking Bad") or Christina Hendricks ("Mad Men.")
It should also be a big night for FX's "American Horror Story," which tied "Mad Men" for most total nominations with 17. The freshman series made the crafty decision to enter as a miniseries rather than a drama. The move gives it a better chance of dominating the movies-or-miniseries categories -- though even with last year's winner, "Downton Abbey," now safely ensconsed in drama, "AHS" faces stiff competition from the likes of HBO's "Game Change" with Julianne Moore, the BBC miniseries "Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia" and History's surprise hit "Hatfields & McCoys."