The Primetime Emmy Awards love repeats, but this year the ceremony may be primed for a shakeup.
AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” which won the last two years for Outstanding Drama Series and delivered a combined six acting trophies to stars Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn and Aaron Paul over its five-season run, has been retired to the TV version of Cooperstown. On the comedy side, perennial winner “Modern Family” from ABC is trying to do that which has never been done–win a sixth consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. The retirement of one genre champ and the graying of another could lead to a 2015 Primetime Emmys with more change than we’re accustomed to seeing from TV’s top honors.
With that in mind, TheWrap looks at who will and who should win at Sunday’s annual ceremony.
Outstanding Drama Series
“Better Call Saul”
“Game of Thrones”
“House of Cards”
“Orange Is The New Black”
Will Win: “Mad Men”
Should Win: “Mad Men
“Mad Men” entered the race recently removed from a finale that was intellectually satisfying and kind of, sort of happy-ish. Riding a goodwill wave, the show faces a field of previous nominees –“Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones,” “Homeland,” “House of Cards”– that have not aged well. The only new entries in the field are “Orange Is the New Black,” which lost last year in the comedy series category, and “Breaking Bad” prequel “Better Call Saul,” which has not surpassed its parent.
“Mad Men” has not won an Emmy since 2011, when it took top honors in drama series and hairstyling. (The lack of subsequent hairstyling wins constitutes perhaps the most egregious of all “Mad Men” Emmy snubs.) But this year the Television Academy will send off the show with a proper brass-band funeral.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”
Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom”
Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
Hamm’s 13 nominations without a win is an embarrassment — not to the actor but to the Academy, which appears to be punishing him for work that is too subtle. Despite stiff competition from previous winner Daniels as well as Chandler and Odenkirk, look for Hamm to finally walk away with the win.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”
Claire Danes, “Homeland”
Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”
Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”
Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”
Robin Wright, “House of Cards”
Viola Davis has been nominated twice for the Academy Award, and was considered by many a favorite when she lost in 2011 to Meryl Streep after being nominated for “The Help.” She goes into the Emmys this year with similar frontrunner status, but this time will come out on top. But watch out for “Empire’s” Taraji P. Henson, who could, like Streep in 2012, play the spoiler.
Tatiana Maslany of BBC America’s Orphan Black finally received an overdue nomination for playing four lead and multiple supporting characters, but that will have to be recognition enough.
Outstanding Comedy Series
“Parks & Recreation”
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Will Win: “Transparent”
Should Win: “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
“Modern Family” will not win a record-breaking sixth straight best-comedy-series Emmy. When the ABC sitcom tied “Frasier” last season for the most consecutive wins in the category, grumbling that the show was past its prime had already begun. This year, its momentum will carry it into a collision with “Transparent,” the deftly written, beautifully acted Amazon series that benefits from and has been a major contributor to the cultural conversation about transgender rights.
“Transparent” is great television, but it’s not a comedy — the category it finds itself in thanks to new Emmy rules defining genres by running time. (It probably would have ended up there anyway, in a category that’s less competitive than drama.) Another freshman, Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” is the weirder, funnier, more deserving show.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”
Louis C.K., “Louie”
Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”
Will Forte, “Last Man on Earth”
Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes”
William H. Macy, “Shameless”
Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”
Remember earlier in this piece, when you read that “Transparent” shouldn’t win for best comedy series because it’s not a comedy? Forget that. Tambor is too good to be denied, no matter the category.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie
“Veep” is a great show and Julia Louis-Dreyfus is great in it, which is reason enough for her to take home the comedy actress Emmy. In addition, the Academy loves few performers as much as it loves Dreyfus, to whom it even gave an Emmy for “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” Expect her to seize her fourth straight statuette for “Veep,” despite the emergence of Amy Schumer, whose chances aren’t hurt by having a recent hit movie, “Trainwreck.” But the Academy favors honoring comedy auteurs like Schumer with non-performing awards such as writing. (See Louis C.K.)
Outstanding Limited Series
“American Horror Story: Freak Show”
“The Honorable Woman”
Will Win: “Olive Kitteridge”
Should Win: “Wolf Hall”
It’s almost impossible to argue that “Olive Kitteridge” doesn’t deserve to win for best limited series. Such arguments would be wasted effort anyway: It’s going to win.
But pour one out for “Wolf Hall,” a political drama smarter than “House of Cards,” a period piece more lavish than “Downton Abbey” and as good a way as any to spend six hours watching television from last season.