DISCUSSION: Emmy Nominations 2014

Welcome to the first in many entries leading up to this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards! In this initial post, Nina (N) and myself (B) will go through each of the major categories on the big night and give our initial musings and opinions on Television’s highest “honor.”

B: Oh, the Emmys. An awards show filled with shows/actors being placed into strange categories, and mediocre shows (for the most part) rising up their critically-acclaimed brethren. Nina, is this the year where I finally pull my hair out when Modern Family wins Best Comedy for the 5th year in a row?

N: I hope so! I think you’ll look good bald. But I wouldn’t, and my hair would be on the floor too. At least the list of nominees this year includes a whole bunch of newcomers and strong contenders that might be exactly the shake-ups the Emmys need.

B: Well, let’s get right into it, shall we…

Writing and Directing

B: We’ve got a great big array of shows lined up in the respective Directing and Writing categories. In the Comedy Writing category, Louis C.K. is nominated for his divisive episode of Louie, “So Did the Fat Lady,” which competes against the Orange is the New Black pilot, an episode of Episodes, plus Veep, and the finale of Silicon Valley which contained the already legendary “Jerk-Off Algorithm.” For Directing for a Comedy, the category is almost identical, with the pilot episode of Silicon Valley nominated, plus Louie’s conclusion to it’s “Elevator” 6-part series, and the episode of OITNB directed by Jodie Foster. And then throw in some Episodes, Glee, and Modern Family to make it look nice. I’d have to say, in both categories, my edge goes to either Louie or Silicon Valley, mainly because both shows had very strong seasons from a technical standpoint.

N: So. Let’s just hope that Modern Family doesn’t reign supreme, like it has for the past few years, especially because between Louie, Silicon and OITNB, we have some STRONG choices here. “So Did the Fat Lady” had one of the best monologues in recent memory, but the OITNB pilot was such a great introduction to an even greater series – the moment where Piper has a mini-meltdown over missing out on new iPhones is just one example – so I’d like to see Jenji Kohan take home an Emmy for that, I guess.

B: Again, very strong contenders, so I wouldn’t be too disappointed with any of the nominees taking home the statue. The same applies to Drama as well, with two devastating episodes of Breaking Bad (“Ozymandias” and “Felina”) nominated for Writing alongside strong submissions from Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and True Detective. For Directing, we again get a nomination for Breaking Bad’s finale, plus entries from prestige dramas Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, and True Detective. Jesus, we seem to get the same damn nominees every year, don’t we?

N: We kind of do, but this just happened to be an extremely strong year for the Drama category, especially with True Detective showing up as a total game-changer. I finally, FINALLY caught up on Breaking Bad, and looking at the Writing category, those two episodes were masterful, but I have a special place in my heart for “The Children,” the season four finale of Game of Thrones that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss submitted BEFORE IT EVEN AIRED. They were confident, and they had good reason – it was far and away the best finale on Thrones so far, and one of the best episodes to date. Where I have to break away from Thrones, though, is in the Directing category – while “The Watchers on the Wall” was well-directed, it wasn’t a particularly great episode, and that category has “Felina” (Breaking Bad) and “Who Goes There” (True Detective), both of which were mind-blowingly excellent.

Supporting Actor

N: Hoo boy. Again, just finished Breaking Bad, so I’m just now realizing why Aaron Paul has so many Emmys that he’s running out of shelf space. But, BUT, for this absolutely magnificent season of Game of Thrones, I’m really rooting for my main man Peter Dinklage. (Just watch this if you’re not yet convinced.) Besides the two of them, we have plenty of other candidates for Supporting Actor in a Drama: Jon Voight, who I didn’t know was still acting; Josh Charles, for dying on The Good Wife; Jim Carter, for being British on Downton; and Mandy Patinkin, for being everybody’s grandpa on Homeland.

B: Patinkin is my favorite grandpa in general. I think you’re right, this is a race between Aaron Paul, with a triumphant final season on Breaking Bad, and fan-favorite Peter Dinklage. The race is on! For Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy, none of the other nominees matter because Andre Braugher needs to win this for Brooklyn Nine-NIne. Never mind my outrage that the show was snubbed in every other major character, Braugher’s performance on this show is one of the finest examples of understated comedy on television right now. It’s a master class in subtlety and timing. No other outcome is allowed. His wife was killed by a man in a yellow sweater!!!!!!!

N: Peter Dinklage is so much more than a “fan-favorite” (and it’s not like Aaron Paul isn’t), but that’s another debate for another day. As for Supporting Actor in a Comedy, I’m with you with Braugher. His dry monotone is exactly the thing that a manic show like Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs, and he’s drop-dead hilarious – plus, he’s playing a gay character whose defining characteristic isn’t his sexuality, which is pretty fucking amazing. I don’t want to see a single dude from Modern Family take this home, and Tony Hale, as great as he always is, won last year. Adam Driver turned in some really excellent work on Girls’ third season, but I’ll stick with my mom’s crush, Braugher.

B: Shout out to Fred Armisen, who scored a nod in this category for Portlandia. For which he is co-creator. And shares half the screen time of. And he’s here in “Supporting Actor.” Keepin’ it classy, Emmys.

Supporting Actress

N: I don’t care about anybody else. Somebody give Kate McKinnon a Supporting Actress in a Comedy Emmy for her Bieber impression alone.

B: I’m super stoked for McKinnon’s nomination, for sure. But let’s please show some love for Kate Mulgrew, whose performance as Red in the 1st season of OITNB was definitely one of the stronger elements in a new series finding it’s way. Of all the nominees for Supporting Actress in a Comedy, she easily stands out the most.

N: That’s fair. She’s also excellent. No one else is standing out to me especially in this category – Julie Bowen had better not win AGAIN, and Allison Janney and Anna Chlumsky are both so great, but I don’t think I love them as much as the Kates. I can’t exactly speak to Mayim Bialik, since I can’t bring myself to watch more than five seconds of Big Bang without crying and wailing. The Drama category is a different story – we have our regulars (Anna Gunn, Christina Hendricks, Maggie Smith and Christine Baranski), someone from Downton with a funny last name, and a huge newcomer, Lena Headey. This season of Game of Thrones gave Cersei some of her toughest material yet, including the death of her oldest son and rape at the hands (uh, hand) of her twin brother, and though she tried to keep up her icy exterior, there was a huge crack in her shield this time around. I’d love to see Headey take this home, but my real money’s on Anna Gunn, for obvious reasons.

B: Sadly I don’t have the best frame of reference, having not seen a lot of these shows, so I’m gonna have to go with Anna Gunn as well. She rocked it this final season.

Lead Actor

B: Oh man, don’t even get me started on the powerhouse category that is Best Lead Actor in a Drama. Cranston, Spacey, Hamm, Daniels, McConaughey, Harrelson. Could you ask for a tougher category? This isn’t gonna be an easy one to predict, though my gut obviously wants me to go with Bryan Cranston’s last hurrah on Breaking Bad.

N: Here’s the interesting thing. Yes, this is the final time Bryan Cranston will be eligible for Breaking Bad, but McConaughey and Harrelson can only be rewarded once for their groundbreaking work on True Detective. I feel like the McConaissance might still be going strong, and with all due respect to Harrelson, if one of them takes it home, it’ll be McConaughey. Spacey is too hammy on House of Cards for my liking, and if Jeff Daniels manages to steal this one again, I’m done here. Vulture ran an article a little while ago basically asking which one of these people will beat my beloved Jon Hamm, which gives me sadface, but he’ll still be in the running next year for Mad Men’s actual final season, and won’t have Cranston or either of the True Detective men to deal with. So, Cranston or McConaughey (who would be halfway to an EGOT if he did win… just saying).

B: We can get into a whole discussion about the category fraud that is True Detective being considered a drama, but for what we’ve got, yes, it’s Cranston vs. McConaughey. Meanwhile, over in the Comedy side of things, God help us if we can get a winner whose name isn’t Jim Parsons. Seriously, he’s a fine man, but he cannot hold a candle to the work that Louis C.K. did this season on Louie. Though sadly, their fellow nominees aren’t the strongest, with William H. Macy as a potential dark horse with this being the first year that Shameless switched it’s eligibility from a Drama to a Comedy. And I’m probably the lone voice in the universe who wasn’t offended by the genuine nature of Ricky Gervais’ Derek.

N: Yeah, now that actors like Alec Baldwin are long gone, I’m kind of uninterested in this category other than Louie. I’m okay with Andy Samberg not showing up here, since he’s really just being Andy Samberg on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Andre Braugher got his own nod, but I’m sad to see, say, Chris Messina from The Mindy Project left out in the cold. But, just like Harry Potter once asked, “not Slytherin,” I ask the Emmy gods, “NOT JIM PARSONS.”

Lead Actress

B: Could this be the year Amy Poehler finally FINALLy gets her Lead Actress in a Comedy Emmy? Nina, I know you wish this to be true, even with her tough competition as always.

N: IF ONLY! But probably not. If Julia Louis-Dreyfus keeps her streak up, I won’t be mad about it. She never disappoints for a single second on Veep, and she’s basically the greatest working female comedian of the past 25 years. As for the other ladies – Lena Dunham did some REALLY good and very funny work on Girls this season, particularly with the death of her editor, but I don’t think she can go up against Poehler or JLD. Taylor Schilling is so, so good on OITNB, but she’s not really the funniest. As for Melissa McCarthy, everyone knows Mike & Molly is the worst, but they just keep nominating her because she’s amazing and great. And… Edie Falco, what are you still doing here?!

B: Again, I can’t really speak for the Leading Actresses in Drama, so I’m gonna say Claire Danes is good on that show of hers and call it a day.

N: UGH. I like Claire Danes as much as the next person, but her Homeland schtick is wearing thin – yelling about medication can and should only take you so far. I was thrilled to see the excellent Lizzy Caplan make an appearance for her wonderful performance on season 1 of Masters of Sex, and as much as I’d love to see her win, can somebody shoot an Emmy Kerry Washington’s way for Scandal?! She’s amazing, and holds her own on the soapiest show ever. Robin Wright is literally the only good thing about House of Cards, and Julianna Marguiles has always been great on The Good Wife, but please, let Kerry have her moment. (Sorry, Michelle Dockery, I’m not paying as much attention to you, mostly because Downton is awful and has no place here.)

Drama

B: So now we’re in the Big League Categories. And boy, if it ain’t a doozie. Leaving off favorites like The Good Wife and Hannibal (which neither of us are caught up on), we’re left with Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Mad Men, and True Detective. After their win last year, is it possible for Breaking Bad to take the crown one last time? Will new-show-in-town True Detective win in a category it shouldn’t even be eligible for? Or will an old favorite rise to the occasion?

N: I’m kind of biased, but I really, deeply want Game of Thrones to win for its twisted and stellar fourth season – by far, its best yet. Breaking Bad may just take it home, but I think True Detective will win in the acting categories if anything, since it’s just too young. As for the rest… meh. (Except for Mad Men, but that’s not finished winding up, and the second half of its final season should be a doozy.)

Comedy

B: Oh, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Your absence here is not unlike a mystery you would solve on your own show. But you will rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes in years to come, and some day, this Emmy will be yours. Now that my eulogy’s done, fuck it, Modern Family will just win here for no good reason and then I’ll cry myself to sleep again. BUT, in all seriousness, Modern Family is up against The Big Bang Theory (I don’t even know), one of the most ambitious seasons of Louie to date, a stellar Veep season, OITNB’s noteworthy 1st season, and the equally-as-strong first season of Silicon Valley. Could the appearances of newcomes like OITNB and Silicon Valley topple the ABC sitcom’s throne? My bet is on, it fucking better.

N: I have little to nothing to say about this that you haven’t already said, because if Modern Family wins I’m going to burn this mother down. I would really love to see OITNB take this Emmy home – not because Louie and Silicon Valley and Veep aren’t all amazing, but because OITNB is so different from any other show on TV, and represents actual humans who don’t look like alien supermodels. Maybe The Big Bang Theory will be the one to beat Modern Family, and then we can just kill ourselves! (PS: Ben, if your first few lines up there were a Facebook status, I would like the shit out of that. Hashtag millennials.)


We’re not covering miniseries (because Jessica Lange had better fucking win) or any of the smaller awards for the time being, mostly because I think we’ve written quite enough already, but keep an eye out for continuing Emmy coverage! Much like the Best Picture Profiles series we ran to prepare for the Oscars, we’ll be debuting a new series called Make Your Case this week, as it pertains to Emmy nominees. Obviously, we’ll also be covering the ceremony live on August 25. Keep checking back!

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