A big move for "Downton Abbey," the return of "Breaking Bad," and new woman-centric shows make for an interesting year at the Emmys
Who will score Emmy nominations when they're announced Thursday? Plenty of past winners are likely to be nominated again, like "Breaking Bad" actor Bryan Cranston and "Good Wife" actress Julianna Margulies. But don't be surprised to see new names as well — perhaps "New Girl" star Zooey Deschanel or "Girls" creator Lena Dunham.
Here are TheWrap's projections of who will be nominated — and who'll likely win in September. We're also listing potential nominees who could score nods — and could be considered snubbed if they don't.
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Projected Nominees: "Modern Family," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Louie," "The Big Bang Theory," "Parks and Recreation," "30 Rock."
We're guessing NBC's "The Office" and Fox's "Glee," which don't have the heat they once did, won't get nominated again this year. And that HBO's "Curb," which didn't air in the eligibility period last time around, will return to the category. FX's "Louie" deserves its first nod and may get it, given the critical praise for the show and star Louis C.K.'s general popularity of late. HBO's "Girls" would be a deserving and worthy choice, but it may be hurt by the unfair controversy about why there aren't more women of color on the show. (Answer: Because it isn't about every woman on earth, but rather a small group of privileged white ones).
Possible Dark Horses/Snubs: Fox's "New Girl" could snag a nomination based on its popularity, but doesn't feel substantial enough to appeal to Emmy voters, who like to think of their medium as important.
Projected Winner: "Modern Family" has won for the last two consecutive years, making it a safe choice — as well as a worthy one. "Louie" and "Curb" are funnier, but both are much harder to like: "Curb" because of Larry David's deliberate unlikability and "Louie" because of its surreal sequences and willingness to get very weird.
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
Projected Nominees: "Boardwalk Empire," "Breaking Bad," "Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones," "Homeland," "Mad Men."
"Downton Abbey" is submitting in the category this time after winning six Emmys last season, including for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie. We expect the splashy new "Homeland" to displace another Showtime show, "Dexter," given that its last season wasn't its best.
Also read: The Man With the Most Emmy Nods Ever
The exit of "Friday Night Lights" from the airwaves opens up another slot, which we expect to go to "Breaking Bad," which wasn't eligible last year. That means one show has to be bumped to give "Downtown Abbey" a place, and we think that show — and we hate to say this — may be "The Good Wife."
Possible Dark Horses/Snubs: "The Good Wife" and "Dexter." Emmy voters seem too beholden to HBO to let the fantastic "Boardwalk Empire" or "Game of Thrones" lose their places. (The only way "Game of Thrones" could lose its place is if its voters start feeling an aversion to blood-filled fantasy.) Not nominating "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men," meanwhile, would be a travesty.
AMC's "The Walking Dead" could score a nod — it's definitely one of the most dramatic dramas on television — but it's goriness is probably a huge turnoff to many Emmy voters. Their loss.
Projected Winner: "Breaking Bad." The fourth season of the methamphetamine epic was unassailable. But we also think fans of serious, adult dramas — the kinds of serious adult dramas not set largely in a meth lab — will be split between "Mad Men" and "Downton Abbey." That may keep "Mad Men" from scoring a fifth consecutive win in the category, and create and opening for "Breaking Bad."
Emmy voters have overlooked brilliantly written modern-day drug stories before — the fact that "The Wire" never won tells you everything you need to know about how seriously to take Emmy voters' opinions. But we're trusting them to get it right this time.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
This will be a hard-fought category. And it's one of the toughest to predict. Last season was a very big one for women in comedy, with many thriving new shows that are led by women, star women, or both.
We predict Louis-Dreyfus (right), Deschanel and Dunham will join the category for their roles on three of those shows. We expect them to bump Laura Linney, star of the "Big C," Edie Falco, star of "Nurse Jackie" and Martha Plimpton, star of "Raising Hope." Why? Falco has won already in this category, as well as in drama. Linney has also won in other categories, and been nominated before for this role, which is as much dramatic as comedic. Plimpton, good as she is, anchors her ensemble show less than the other nominees.
Do we think Deschanel is a better actress than Linney? Not by a longshot. We think she and Dunham are largely playing versions of themselves. But Deschanel is popular. And voters realize that Dunham, like Fey, is the creative force behind her show. Nominating her isn't just about recognizing her acting.
Possible Dark Horses/Snubs: We wouldn't be surprised at all to see Linney, Falco or Plimpton stay in the category. And it's very possible that Dunham will be penalized for her willingness to play a sometimes very unlikable character.
Projected Winner: In May, we predicted Louis-Dreyfus. But now that we've seen the entire first season of her show, we think it's an absolute toss-up between her and Poehler (left, with Louis-Dreyfus). Louis-Dreyfus is hilarious on "Veep," but her character may be too arch for some voters.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Projected Nominees: Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory"; Johnny Galecki, "The Big Bang Theory," Louis C.K., "Louie"; Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"; Ed Helms, "The Office"; Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
This looks like one of the more stable categories. We expect all of last year's nominees to return, except for Matt LeBlanc, whose Showtime series "Episodes" didn't air in the eligibility period, and Steve Carell, who left "The Office."
Helms could easily slide into Carell's spot, and David, whose show didn't air in the eligibility period last year, can take LeBlanc's spot.
Projected winner: Parsons (left), even though C.K. should. Parsons is an incredibly affable actor, and his show has only gotten more successful in its most recent season. But he's won twice and that's enough.
C.K., like David, is the brilliant mind behind his show. But between the two of them, C.K. is the better actor. Both play versions of themselves, but C.K. is much more vulnerable. His character goes to more challenging places, and not just emotionally. An Afghanistan-set episode called "Ducking," in which Louie goes on a USO tour, is as good an hour of TV as you'll ever watch.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Projected Nominees: Claire Danes, "Homeland"; Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"; Elizabeth McGovern, “Downton Abbey”; Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: SVU"; Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men"; Glenn Close; "Damages."
Of last year's nominees, we expect Margulies, last year's winner, to return, along with Hargitay and Moss. (Connie Britton of the canceled "Friday Night Lights," is no longer in the running, though likely will be nominated in the miniseries category for her turn on FX's "American Horror Story.") Danes is also certain to join the list, along with Close, a two-time past winner for "Damages." Voters' "Downton" love should ensure McGovern a spot as well.
Potential Dark Horses/Snubs: Kathy Bates (above left), previously nominated for the canceled "Harry's Law," could find her way back into the category. So could Mireille Enos of "The Killing," who was also nominated last year. (We think she'll be bumped because "The Killing" tested viewers' patience last season, but that wasn't her fault.) Debra Messing could also join the category because Emmy voters like nominating her, and it would be a way to acknowledge NBC's "Smash." She's been nominated six times before and won for "Will & Grace." And Jessica Paré could score her first nomination for "Mad Men."
Projected Winner: Danes (above right, with Bates). She was one of the two most crucial characters on "Homeland," and got to play a hard-drinking, manic-depressive genius CIA analyst who falls in love with the possible terrorist she's trying to stop. It's hard to picture a more Emmy-friendly role, and Emmy voters liked Danes already: She won last year for HBO's "Temple Grandin."
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA
We expect this category to look exactly like it did last year, except with three-time winner Cranston (right) returning after a year of his show being off the air in the eligibility period. He'll take the place of "Friday Night Lights" star Kyle Chandler, who won last year.
Projected Dark Horses/Snubs: Multi-Emmy winner Kelsey Grammer (left) could score a nomination for Starz' "Boss," possibly bumping Laurie or Hall. Voters will probably want to nominate Laurie to recognize the last season of "House." Hall could be bumped because the last season of "Dexter" arguably has him in less of an emotional arc than past seasons, as Jennifer Carpenter's character underwent the bigger change. And voters will have more chances to recognize Hall.
Projected Winner: Cranston. Because he's always won for "Breaking Bad" before, and last season was the show's best.
Giancarlo Esposito and Aaron Paul will both be nominated in the supporting dramatic actor category for "Breaking Bad," setting up a dogfight of a race with Peter Dinklage, last year's winner for "Game of Thrones." Michael Pitt also deserves to be nominated in the category for "Boardwalk Empire."
"American Horror Story" will have a big showing in the movie or miniseries categories after opting not to compete as a drama series.
And, finally, the move to the drama category for "Downton Abbey" will almost certainly mean a supporting actress nod for Maggie Smith.