Citing a dramatic rise in series production, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has increased the number of nominees in the Best Drama Series category from six to seven for the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards. It’s an exciting prospect for the TV fanatics out there. With the nominations set to be announced bright and early on July 16, this year’s Emmys will offer up even more contenders to squabble over.
(For our Comedy predictions, click here.)
Another smart rule change this year also has tightened the reins on which shows can compete in the comedy and drama categories, by noting that any series with episodes of 30 minutes or less should be considered a comedy while those 30 minutes or longer will automatically compete as a drama. That means Orange is the New Black, a massive Emmy player last year in the comedy categories, will now square off against full-on dramas like Mad Men and House of Cards.
What impact will OITNB’s category switcheroo mean for all of your old and new favorites? Let’s find out! Here are our predictions for this year’s Emmy nominations in the drama categories:
Best Drama Series
There are a few absolute guarantees here. There’s no way the final season of long-running, award-hoarding hit Mad Men is not going to be a (if not the) major player in this year’s awards. Game of Thrones, too, with its better-than-ever ratings and eternal place in the cultural conversation, seems a pretty sure bet. And even when it is off its game, as many believe it was in its third season, House of Cards screams “award-winning prestige drama” in a way that cannot be denied.
Now, here’s where things get tricky. Though it scored 10 (!) nominations as a comedy last year and enjoyed series best reviews for its competing season, the more snooty among the Emmys’ voters may look down on Orange is the New Black as being too light to compete as a drama against heavier fare like Mad Men or Better Call Saul. We think both will make the cut, but OITNB could be vulnerable.
That leaves just two spots, and one of them almost certainly will go, inexplicably, to Downton Abbey, a show that hasn’t been truly great since sometime in its third season. That Downton will likely edge out more deserving shows like The Good Wife is a crime against good television.
With plenty of critics sounding the alarm that The Americans may well be the best show on TV, you’d think it would be a lock for a nomination as well, but you’d be wrong. The breakout TV story of the year was the massive success of FOX’s new music drama Empire. That the show was quite good, in addition to being very popular, likely will be enough to push it past FX’s spy thriller for the final spot in this crowded field.
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Orange is the New Black
Better Call Saul
Dark Horse: The Americans
Best Actress in a Drama Series
This may well be one of the easier categories to predict across either the comedy or drama fields. Last year’s winner, Julianna Margulies, is assured a nomination; her stately drama, The Good Wife, remains one of network TV’s best and most engaging shows. Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson, too, seem destined for the race. How to Get Away With Murder and Empire are simply too big to fail, and their respective leading ladies’ performances too talked about and towering to be denied. It’s similarly impossible to imagine five-time Mad Men contender Elisabeth Moss not getting a nod for the show’s ballyhooed final season, and Robin Wright remains the icy blood that runs through House of Cards’ veins. Finally, Taylor Schilling, a contender last year for OITNB in the Best Actress in a Comedy Series category, is the glue that holds one of the most acclaimed series around together, regardless of genre.
There is, however, a breath of deserving contenders looking to spoil at least one of these ladies’ fun. Claire Danes was as strong as ever on a resurgent Homeland; Caitriona Balfe proved to be the tough-but-vulnerable anchor holding Starz’s lavish Outlander adaptation together; and previous nominees Lizzy Caplan and Kerry Washington knocked it out of the park each week on, respectively, Masters of Sex and Scandal. But it’s more likely that Ruth Wilson will be the one to take down Schilling or perhaps even Henson (depending on how the Emmys treat Empire overall), with her Golden Globe-winning turn on The Affair. The acclaimed Showtime drama proved a major Globes player, and while we don’t expect it to repeat that performance at the Emmys, it would be strange for it to be shut out entirely. (Unless, of course, the Academy gets its wits about it and nominates either Keri Russell for The Americans or Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black, but that seems least likely of all.)
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder
Taraji P. Henson, Empire
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black
Dark Horse: Ruth Wilson, The Affair
Best Actor in a Drama Series
We should probably get real here and admit there is only really one contender for this prize, and that is Jon Hamm for Mad Men. Though his show has won Best Drama Series four times and he has been nominated for every single season, Hamm has never won the Best Actor Drama prize, having been blocked from it several times in the past by Bryan Cranston’s remarkable work on Breaking Bad. With Cranston and 2012 winner Damian Lewis (Homeland) out of the race and surprise 2013 victor Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) seeming like a non-starter, though he remains a potential spoiler (the Academy loves it some Sorkin), this is Hamm’s to lose.
So who is most likely to be sitting in the audience, applauding politely, while Hamm collects his prize? Kevin Spacey seems a sure bet, even if House of Cards had an off-peak season; Bob Odenkirk may well pick up the Breaking Bad mantle for Better Call Saul; Terrence Howard should ride Empire’s popularity wave to a nod; and Kyle Chandler may be able to translate his own popularity with Emmy voters (he won in 2011 for the much-loved Friday Night Lights) into a nod for Bloodline. That leaves room for Timothy Olyphant to pick up a long-overdue second Emmy nomination for Justified. which concluded its series run with a superior run of episodes in April.
Best Actor – Drama is always a stacked category, so we’d be remiss to not mention that Matthew Rhys of The Americans and Mads Mikkelsen for Hannibal are both deserving-but-unlikely contenders. If there’s going to be a spoiler here, it’ll be Daniels or, more likely (and deserving), Clive Owen for The Knick.
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Terrence Howard, Empire
Kyle Chandler, Bloodline
Timothy Olyphant, Justified
Dark Horse: Clive Owen, The Knick
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
While we may lament the better-used space Downton will likely take up in the Best Drama Series category, it remains a vehicle for stellar acting, so nods for world treasure Maggie Smith and Joanne Froggatt, who proves more and more with each passing season to be the show’s rock, seem assured. The same can be said for both Christina Hendricks of Mad Men and Uzo Aduba for Orange is the New Black. Both actresses are scene-stealing standouts in large, uniformly strong casts, and both will be rewarded with nominations.
Hendricks, who has tallied five nods for Mad Men, may likely be the eventual winner here, which is a shame for Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey, whose Cersei Lannister cranked up the volume on her vengeful ambition this season only to have it backfire and burn down around her. It was a big arc to play and she tore into it like a pro, conveying more spite and fear in a single glance while she wallowed in the squalor of the Black Cell dungeons of the Red Keep than many actors can pull off in a monologue from a Shakespearean tragedy.
That leaves three great performances by three legendary actresses vying for the lone remaining spot. Oscar winner Sissy Spacek was a standout on Bloodline, Christine Baranski has deservedly landed five consecutive nominations in this category for The Good Wife and Kate Mulgrew, a nominee last year, was given a big good versus evil (in the form of a perfect Lorraine Toussaint) story to play on OITNB. We’re going with Baranski, but only because of residual Emmy love for The Good Wife.
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Dark Horse: Sissy Spacek, Bloodline
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
While this hasn’t been our personal favorite season for his character, Peter Dinklage is ever a contender for Game of Thrones. Similarly, four-time Mad Men nominee John Slattery seems assured a spot for the show’s final season. An obligatory Downton nod would again go to the deserving Jim Carter, who has competed in this category for three consecutive years. And Mandy Patinkin is always in the conversation for Homeland.
Assuming the Academy wants to inject a little new blood into this category, the obvious choice is Jonathan Banks for likely multi-category player Better Call Saul, though Ben Mendelsohn’s Bloodline performance makes for some stiff competition. Still, 2014 Ray Donovan nominee Jon Voight seems a safer bet — after all, prestigious industry awards of this sort love nothing more than a veteran performer 50 years deep into a storied career who is still offering up the goods.
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
John Slattery, Mad Men
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan
Dark Horse: Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline
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