Thoughts, Surprises, and Snubs
Outstanding Animated Program
Hands down one of the most clever and hilarious animated programs out there, Archer has always retained its classy obscenity. The espionage is always fun and the quick, witting zingers never, ever get old. Nomination deserved.
Witty, mature, and hilarious, Bob’s Burgers has never gotten old. The writing is sharp, the animation fluid, and the voice work is brilliant all around. Deserved nomination here.
After several years on Comedy Central, Futurama is coming to an end. An unfortunate decision by the network, but the creators of the animated classic sent out the series in a wonderful swan song. Meanwhile was a great finale to an awesome season of a wonderful show that will remain a staple of animated wit and character for eons to come.
South Park is hilarious satire, even if it doesn’t necessarily always nab the satire itself. Recently the show has gotten into a habit of being too pointed about its satire and forgetting subtlety altogether. It’s not as brilliant as it was in its original outing, but it’s hard to argue that it still can nail some of the most biting political satire out there. Deserved nomination.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Manhattan Project
A surprisingly good show considering how easily it could have gone off the rails, TMNT delivered on blockbuster action sequences, strong writing, and excellent use of the original 1980s cast. The episode nominated, The Manhattan Project, stands as one of the best things to ever come out of this franchise. Well-deserved.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The Cartoon Network hit that met its untimely end because of the Disney merger with Lucasfilm won the Special Class Animated Program at the Daytime Emmys earlier this year, but I still wish that the Season 6 that premiered on Netflix in March had been nominated. The final arc with Jedi Master Yoda especially is some of the strongest storytelling in the entire Star Wars saga. Maybe I’m being a bit selfish here, but the show deserved to be here as well.
The Legend of Korra
Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the greatest television series of all time, hands down. There’s no disputing that – at all. The Legend of Korra is not as good as its predecessor, but it is still an electrifying animated show that never gives up. It has its fair share of problems, including awkward handling of romance, but darn if the show doesn’t at least try to tackle its problems. It’s ambitious, smart, and fun. It deserved a nomination.
Thoughts, Surprises, and Snubs
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Veep is downright hilarious. During Season 1, the show was still figuring out what it was going to be while relying too much on obscene jokes. But towards the end it gathered its strength and this stretch of 10 episodes for its third season were almost perfect. All the cast members got time to shine and with its best episode, Alicia, the show proved that it is as equally smart as it is condescending. The cast is phenomenal and Vice President Selina Meyer is easily one of the best characters around. It deserves its nomination and can easily win the gold.
Orange is the New Black
Netflix gets a lot of hype for House of Cards, but Orange is the New Black has stronger characterizations and is more meticulously written than the former Washington drama. Its explorations of a women’s prison is astonishingly addictive and we couldn’t have asked for a more talented cast. It deserves its place here.
Louie is one of the most intelligent comedies ever made, hands down. Often skirting the line between laugh-out-loud comedy and cringe-inducing reality drama (in a good way), Louie is refreshing in how blasé and blunt it can be. It also doesn’t hurt that Louis C. K. is so great in this role. It deserves its nomination and if it wins, Louie will deserve it.
HBO’s new comedy series is a good satire on the workings of the tech industry in the Silicon Valley. Much like it’s companion Veep, Silicon Valley‘s first season is a bit rough but towards the end it finds its place and firmly cements its place within it. It’s not necessarily a shoo-in for Emmy nominations, but it’s nice to see a freshman effort get some recognition. If it improves, the show will become a staunch member of HBO’s pantheon. If not, it’ll be forgotten quickly enough.
Why this series is nominated a fifth time to me is quite frankly baffling. It’s not that funny anymore and at this point it seems that Emmy voters just keep on nominating the series just for the sake of it. It’s not necessarily a bad show, it just doesn’t belong in this pantheon, let alone winning four times in a row when the landscape had 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Veep, et cetera. A fifth nomination was pointless.
The Big Bang Theory
Is not nearly as funny as it used to be. The Penny/Leonard relationship dragged on and undid a lot of the goodwill the couple had built up in the show’s early days. The storylines have wandered all over the place and despite good comedic performances (and the standout Mayim Bialik), the show just doesn’t resonate nearly as much. It should not be here.
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation is one of those shows that is great but gets very little Emmy love. Far superior to the overrated Modern Family, Parks deserves to be nominated every year and if it won every year, it would be equally as well deserved. The comedy is sharp and the characters are some of the most richly drawn on television. Add in one of the best ensemble casts ever, and Parks is one of those rare gems that just grows and grows and grows. It deserved a nomination, if not a win.
The Mindy Project
The Mindy Project is the brainchild of Mindy Kaling, famed for her work on The Office and her amazing book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? The romantic comedy series is brilliant and while it takes a little bit to truly get going, its acute understanding of what it is allows the series to shine far more brightly than other romantic comedies. Secondary plots are a problem with the show, but there is no denying that when Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina share the screen together, it’s crackling. Deserved a nomination, this series did.
Community has a cult following that is puzzling to some until you watch it. It’s also a series that, like Parks and Recreation, has had severe ratings issues although Community‘s issues have been far more troubling. Having been canceled by NBC after a fifth season, Yahoo! picked the series up, sending millions of fans into ecstasies of joy. Outside of logistical issues, Community fell into a slump but rejuvenated incredibly in its fifth season with the return of Joel McHale. Stronger than ever, this is a series that refuses to give up. And it deserved a nomination.
Amy Poehler’s produced series Broad City is oddly eccentric and incredibly brilliant. The leads Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson are absolutely phenomenal and the writing is wacky and sharp as well. Give it a shot. You’ll love it. and hopefully at some point the Emmys will too.
Thoughts, Snubs, and Surprises
Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series
Iain B. MacDonald (Episodes)
Episodes is hilarious, even though every single time I watch the show I’m reminded of Friends (I can’t help it). For a comedy to work, however, it cannot just be the writing and the acting. The director’s camera is key to capturing the right angles to make every shot count for the comedy. Iain B. McDonald along with James Griffiths and Jim Field Smith makes all those shots count. His camera angles are fantastic and his shots perfectly capture the subtle and loud moments of Episodes perfectly.
Paris Barclay, “100” (Glee)
Glee has fallen considerably from its early days and “100” was for all intents and purposes a fun episode of a show that has gone on for far too long. Gwyneth Paltrow is great as guest star Holly Holliday (that name for the character is ridiculous). Paris Barclay’s direction is arguably the best thing about the episode (especially for Gwyneth Paltrow’s song sequence) and a well-deserved nomination.
Louis C. K., “Elevator, Part 6” (Louie)
The long, complex 6-part Elevator arc reaches it conclusion in one of the best episodes the show has ever done. In part 6 Louie followed the Hurricane Sandy destruction and I really wish that the show had a much bigger budget to capture everything Louis C. K. so obviously wanted to do. But Louis followed the storms in real life and the storms in Louie’s own life with a breathtaking fanaticism. It’s wonderful.
Gail Mancuso, “Las Vegas” (Modern Family)
Modern Family has won 4 times for Best Comedy in a row, which is frankly ridiculous considering all of the golden comedy on television right now. Nevertheless, “Las Vegas” was one of the funniest episodes the show has ever done. It focuses primarily on the adults on the show, specifically the parent couples and that gives the show a focus it has more often than not forgotten. Gail Mancuso does wonderful work here, especially with her talent at capturing expressions. Great work here.
Jodie Foster, “Lesbian Request Denied” (Orange Is the New Black)
Besides having one of the best titles in all of comedy, “Lesbian Request Denied” is helmed by the fantastic Jodie Foster, who also helmed “Chapter 22” of House of Cards this year. In Orange Is the New Black, Foster balances two primary story lines relating to Piper and Sophia. Her camera is never focused squarely on judgment, it allows for the story and emotions to flow freely. It’s fantastic.
Mike Judge, “Minimum Viable Product” (Silicon Valley)
HBO’s freshman comedy was a good effort, with a strong premiere. Pilots are tricky and basically need everything to do well in oder to be considered viable (pun intended). Mike Judge’s direction is fantastic as grabbing onto the many inanities of tech life that aren’t as snazzy and sexy as the tech world can be perceived. His framing of camera shots is especially well-done.
Armando Iannucci, “Debate” (Veep)
The third season of Veep was fantastic. Every political show, whether a drama or a comedy, takes a shot at the debate format, with varying degress of success. Parks and Recreation‘s fourth season took a shot at it and took home the gold. Veep followed suit and the episode was absolutely fantastic. There are a few shots as die-hard hilarious as George Maddox completely losing it at the debate. But Armando is especially brilliant at capturing how primary contenders (as the characters themselves point out) pretend to like each other while secretly loathing them. Cue the laughs.
James Ponsoldt, “Iron City” (Shameless)
Shameless is a great example of how dramedy should perhaps be a category but never will be because the Emmys are already seen as being far longer than they need to be. James Ponsoldt’s direction inside the prison where Fiona is incarcerated is stuff of joy (well, not for Fiona anyway), but is outdone by the final shot of Fiona entering her home, finding herself home again. Ponsoldt is exceptional throughout the episode, especially when he captures Frank’s stubborn refusal to die despite the doctor telling him about his borrowed time. But with that final shot of Fiona, his camera tells so much more about so many characters at once. Brilliant work.
Michael Spiller, “Danny and Mindy” (The Mindy Project)
The season two finale of The Mindy Project was a brilliant compilation of some of the most timeless and wonderful romantic comedy moments, ending right on top of the Empire State Building. Michael Spiller doesn’t simply hold the camera and record everything. He clearly (or this is a very clever ruse) has studied the directorial framework of romantic comedies and turns it up a notch. He paces the episode’s direction perfectly, running and slowing with the characters. It feels real, it feels romantic, and Spiller’s camera has a lot to do with that success.
THOUGHTS, SNUBS, AND SURPRISES
Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series
Tim Van Patten, “Farewell Daddy Blues” (Boardwalk Empire)
Boardwalk Empire is not the most well-known of HBO properties nor the most boisterous. It is divisive but I for one come down hard on the side of those who love it and I will be very sad to see it wrap up with 8 episodes for Season 5. The Season 4 finale was by far one of the best episodes the show had ever done, each beautiful musical crescendo shattering with bloody panache and Tim Van Patten’s camera was there to capture it all.
Vince Gilligan, “Felina” (Breaking Bad)
Breaking Bad will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most memorable series of all time. The finale was as good as the ending to Walter White’s epic of evil could be and Felina brought the series to a beautiful close. Creator Vince Gilligan wrote and directed the show’s finale and what a swan song it was. Gilligan’s camera found tragedy in every shot and that in and of itself is worthy of incredible triumph.
David Evans, “Episode 1” (Downton Abbey)
Even though Downton Abbey‘s fourth season essentially jumped off the proverbial cliff, the first two episodes of Season 4 were surprisingly restrained, wallowing in the grief that Matthew’s passing had provided. David Evans’s camerawork was stunning in the premiere, the use of lighting was especially effective.
Neil Marshall, “The Watchers on the Wall” (Game of Thrones)
Thrones is no stranger to amazing direction for its episodes, and Neil Marshall is no exception. The go-to battle director for Thrones, Marshall previously helmed the Season 2 masterpiece Blackwater that depicted the Battle of King’s Landing. Here, the landscape has certainly changed, with the warm capital being traded for the Icy North. But Marshall’s camera keeps things moving in the most extraordinary of ways, with the shots of the giant archer, Jon holding Ygritte, and the 360 shot of the fighters all over Castle Black standouts in an episode teeming with gore and the Biggest Fire the North Had Ever Seen.
Carl Franklin, “Chapter 14” (House of Cards)
House of Cards had a very high-profile Season 2 opening and Carl Franklin shot each frame with aplomb. The final scene, with Frank throwing Zoe onto the tracks and in front a high-speeding train was brilliant filmed. Franklin through his camera deceptive, adding plenty to the shock of Zoe’s sudden death. Story wise, that was a stupid move, but brilliantly filmed.
Cary Joji Fukunaga, “Who Goes There” (True Detective)
True Detective became THE thing to watch on television this year, and Cary Joji Fukunaga was one of the key reasons why the show worked as well as it did. His camera captured every moment of all eight episodes and the six-minute tracking shot in the season’s 4th episode was a thing of absolute beauty.
Alik Sakharov, “Martial Eagle” (The Americans)
Alik Sakharov is most known for his work on Game of Thrones as cinematographer and director, but his work on FX’s The Americans is brilliant in and of itself. It is striking that an infiltration of a CIA camp by KGB agents is the least thematically exciting part of the episode, but Alik shoots the infiltratio superbly, with quick shots and edits readily establishing the threats around our beloved spies. But arguably the best shot is of Phillip entering the church, his small figure eclipsed by the massive statue of Jesus Christ and the dichotomy of light and dark lights hitting the frames of the camera in a brilliant display of chiaroscuro.
Michelle MacLaren, “Oathkeeper” (Game of Thrones)
While not the strongest episode of Season 4, Oathkeeper had Michelle MacLaren at the helm. The Breaking Bad veteran had previously helmed episodes 7 & 8 of Season 3 and her return was a display of just how damn good she is. The shot of Daenerys at the top of the Great Pyramid with the Targaryen banner flying behind her is incredible, with MacLaren positioning the camera to zoom from Khaleesi out into Meereen proper. Her dichotomous camera work of Cersei and Margaery seemingly dividing Tommen was equally sharp. The best scene of the episode in terms of direction, however, was when Margaery visited Tommen in the night. Not only is this scene incredible for introducing Ser Pounce as Tommen’s cat, but MacLaren’s framing of Margaery in the light, the glowing object of Tommen’s desires (even though he’s far too young to understand them) is astounding.
Matthew Weiner, “Waterloo” (Mad Men)
The finale of Season 7A was notable for killing off Bert Cooper after introducing Cooper in a musical number. The scene was bizarre but wonderful and Weiner’s framing was fantastic. And the scene with Peggy and Don watching TV was filled with so many layers and shot incredibly well by Matthew. The master and his prodigy sitting side by side, illuminated by a soft light glow and in more ways than one, equals. Cooper’s send-off was equally beautifully shot, a good-bye to one of the most colorful characters of the show. The past is indeed falling away.
Rain Johnson, “Ozymandias” (Breaking Bad)
Vince Gilligan created and nurtured Breaking Bad and even got a nomination for Best Direction in Drama for the series finale Felina. Arguably though, if the AMC hit were to get one directorial nominee (not a certainty, of course) then I would have to say Rain Johnson deserves a nomination more for the heartbreaking Ozymandias. Shot after shot, pun intended, was bursting with tension that been building for so, so long. And the moment where Hank died, Johnson’s camera seemed to be crying, too.
Michelle MacLaren, “To’hajiilee” (Breaking Bad)
Michelle MacLaren is a directing badass, pure and simple. That’s why she’s on this list twice. Yes, like Thrones, Breaking Bad has phenomenal direction. MacLaren directs the pivotal 13th episode of Season 5 with aplomb and when Hank reads Walt his Miranda Rights after Jesse betrays his former partner… Well, let’s just say there are very few shots from a director as stunning and shocking.
James Whitmore, Jr., “Hitting the Fan” (The Good Wife)
Hitting the Fan was described by creators Robert King and Michelle King as the Red Wedding of The Good Wife. That was not hyperbolic. The series in many ways, perhaps unknowingly in some, culminated in this episode. As the firm split apart and crashed arounds its own windows, the relationships fell apart in magnificent tatters. James’s camera was dizzying around Lockhart Gardner with a fury to capture each frame and we saw one of the best hours of television all year.
Lesli Linka Glatter, “The Star” (Homeland)
Homeland had an odd third season. There were elements that worked, there were elements that didn’t work, and unfortunately the season as a whole never really came together. Damian Lewis was exceptional as Sergeant Nicholas Brody, but the show became less about the story and more about keeping the Brody and Carrie relationship alive. That switch in priorities crippled the show’s excellence. The Star does what Homeland ought to have done at the end of Season 1 or at the very least in Season 2. The Season 3 finale killed off Brody in a brutal and shocking way. Lesli Linka Glatter’s direction was masterful in the scene where Brody was hung publicly by a crane and the final scene where Carrie touchingly draws a star on the wall of the CIA to commemorate Brody’s redemptive sacrifice. He will never be forgotten.
Alex Graves, “The Lion and the Rose” (Game of Thrones)
I realize that this is the third spot I have for Thrones on this list, but the show was exceptionally well directed this season, outside of the Jamie/Cersei rape scene. That was certainly an odd misstep for Alex Graves, who has directed some of the best Thrones moments, such as Dracarys and Tyrion killing Tywin. But The Lion and the Rose was exceptionally well done. The extravagance, the lighting, the plethora of major characters all converging upon one location and clashing was exquisite. And Joffrey died. As the terrible tyrant takes his last breaths, the camera is keen to focus on the pain he suffers as the poison overwhelms him. Alex Graves is careful to establish multiple shots of everyone who had reason to kill Joffrey. It’s a classic “Who dunnit?”, but extraordinary in almost every single way.
Thoughts, Surprises, and Snubs
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
The AMC hit had it’s final season air and arguably one of the finest story conclusions to any series. The episodes To’hajilee and Ozymandias especially deserve special recognition for the incredible hours of intense storytelling and performances. Often critically hit shows find it very difficult to land a proper last season, but damned if Vince Gilligan and his team didn’t deliver. Deserves its spot in the nominations.
This nomination mystifies me, frankly. Downton Abbey was good, really good in its early run. But starting in the third season, it become a melodramatic mess less interested in telling a class story and more interested in becoming a soap opera in British accents. The performances are there, the zingy one-liners courtesy of the amazing Dame Maggie Smith are there, but there is no strength in the storytelling. A beautiful facade, but an empty one and at times outright atrocious. This show should not be here. Or anywhere close, for that matter.
Game of Thrones
HBO’s massive fantasy hit had a superlative fourth season that remained true to its tagline: “All Men Must Die”. There were a couple of missteps, but the strength of Westeros and Essos can hardly be denied. The fourth season, largely based on the second half of the third book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series: A Storm of Swords, bucked the trend of building up towards a big Episode 9 moment in favor of multiple climaxes as a result of the source material. Season 4 was not the show’s best (I would still give the honor to Season 3) but it was some of the most thrilling, brilliant storytelling ever told. This series deserves it nomination and Emmys, please give it a win at some point. Thrones deserves it.
House of Cards
The second season of Netflix’s drama darling was a good one, but not a great one. A triumph in dark storytelling, the second season introduced a weird romance plot for Molly Parker that went absolutely nowhere and cut her promising storyline short. Cards is thrilling in its dark noire take on Washington, D. C. but a complete lack of lightness is daunting and damaging. What’s truly sucking the complete ability of the show is the lack of truly damaging opponents to Frank Underwood. A protagonist can only win so much. Yet, despite these flaws, Cards is extravagant storytelling and the performances of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are some of the best on television. That’s saying something. Does it deserve a nomination? Yes. Does it deserve one in a 6-spot list for this year and in this competitive crowd? No.
Frankly, the first couple of episodes of Season 7A were a bit baffling and it was difficult to surmise exactly which direction Matthew Weiner’s 4-time Best Drama winner was going to go. But the last two episodes of the semi-season were simply sublime and brought the series closer to its inevitable end next year in a cathartic fashion. The oddness of the beginning in conjuncture with the 1960s radical change in American society makes sense upon a bit of reflection. The writing, acting, and directing as usual rank at the pantheon of television. Sublime, brilliant work. Deserves its nomination.
True Detective exploded onto the television scene as the best new thing from HBO and in many ways it was. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson have never been better, the writing was sharp and condensed, and it was visually stunning (Cary Fukanaga’s six-minute tracking shot comes to mind). Brilliant work all around, but with the news that next season will be completely different story-wise with new leads, why this is in the Drama and not Miniseries category is baffling. That’s where it belongs. Either way, deserved nomination and it has a chance to win.
I started watching Bryan Fuller’s creation a bit late. Hannibal Lecter is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time, but not one I watch on a regular basis (I had epic nightmares after Silence of the Lambs). I began Season 1 late and then boom, I’m hooked (as if I needed another series to keep me from other work). This series is incredibly well-written, the visuals are top-notch, and the chemistry between Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy is nearly unrivaled. Yes, it is gory and this series is not for the faint of heart. But for the Emmy voters to leave this out is an absolute disgrace.
Espionage is very difficult to pull off, plain and simple. A series where everything relies on Bond-like extravangance of action might be fun for a little while, but without high0-stakes characterization, it would become nothing. The Americans is held together by some of the best writing I’ve ever seen, stellar acting, and an impeccable ability for the audience to sympathize with two Soviet KGB spies. That a good chunk of the dialogue is in Russian only lends serious credibility to the authenticity of this drama and how it doesn’t hold back any punches in revealing the nitty gritty truths of a spy’s life. Deserved as many nominations as possible.
The Good Wife
The Good Wife is arguably the best show not on a cable network. The fifth season was a huge rejuvenation for the show, with the episodes Hitting the Fan and Dramatics, Your Honor creating twists and turns of the highest order. The show also has to produce 22 episodes a year, a tough task to ensure consistent quality. It also managed to kill off a lead (Josh Charles) in a way that was NOT sentimental melodrama (I’m looking at you, Downton Abbey). A show that can reinvent itself in a charged way in its fifth season deserves some love.
Masters of Sex
The series first caught my attention with its name. And then it cast Lizzy Caplan. So I had to watch it. Masters of Sex is one of the most mature tackling of sex ever on television. The performances are wrenching, especially that of Allison Janney. A riveting drama, Masters‘ ability to tackle sex in a nuanced and mature way deserves a nomination. The Emmys have amended rules to allows for 7 nominations in the Best Drama category, and it should have joined the club. Next year, maybe.
My Preferred List
Game of Thrones
The Good Wife
Masters of Sex
Thoughts, Surprises, and Snubs
Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series
Paul Giamatti (Downton Abbey)
Paul Giamatti is a great actor and his most recent turn in Downton Abbey is no exception. Even though the show itself fell off the cliff, Giamatti was perfect for his turn as Cora Crowley’s brother Harold. Giamatti has played many roles, but seeing him as a playboy was a rare gift. Well deserved nomination.
Dylan Baker (The Good Wife)
Dylan Baker’s Colin Sweeney has become a Good Wife staple, even though the character is, in my humble opinion, far removed from his previous greatness. Baker still manages to imbue Sweeney with enough nuance to avoid making him a purely one-note villain, which is noteworthy considering the character himself. However, if there were only 5 spots available in this category, Baker’s nomination should have gone to the snubbed actor below.
Reg E. Cathey (House of Cards)
Freddy’s ribs are as much of a staple on House of Cards as the conniving politics of Washington, D. C. Season 2 of Cards went to great lengths to humanize Freddy even further and make him an even more important character. It worked to a certain degree, but from time to time it felt as if the writers were trying to get to Point B without really getting to understand Freddy as an individual whose storyline weaved throughout the main plotlines in a meaningful way. Nevertheless, Reg E. Cathey is wonderful in the role and the scene where him and Frank reach their proverbial parting of the ways is wonderful. Deserved nomination.
Robert Morse (Mad Men)
Bert Cooper has been a staple of Mad Men from the very beginning and has often been seen as the more comical member of the cast. As the A.V. Club points out in its review of Season 7A’s Waterloo, where Bert Cooper meets his end, Cooper has always represented the past that the characters had always known, had always struggled with, but had begun to leave it behind. In his best and worst moments, Morse’s Bert has never failed to liven up the screen. Great nomination and his last for the role.
Beau Bridges (Masters of Sex)
The most impactful storyline arguably on the first season of Masters of Sex, Provost Barton Scully and his wife Margaret are locked in a loveless, sexless marriage as Barton is actually closeted gay. Beau Bridges plays the terrified Barton with absolute panache and amazing humanity. Well deserved nomination.
Joe Morton (Scandal)
Scandal was a complete mess in its third season. There was very little direction for the story to go and the whole “secret organization” plus “my mother is surprisingly a terrorist” was palpably ridiculous. The Defiance arc of Season 2 was propulsive because it actually managed to shade many of our favorite characters in further shades of grey. Season 3 didn’t seem to know where to go except for twist after twist after twist. And frankly, most of those twists and turns were completely undeserved. Nevertheless, Joe Morton gave a fantastic performance (second only to Bellamy Young) as Olivia Pope’s father and his steely demeanor has been fun to watch as well as his attempts to humanize an arguably abominable character. Nomination deserved.
Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones)
There are very few actors who are able to take a phenomenal character on the page and elevate that character into something else entirely. Pedro Pascal did so. He completely fell into the role of Prince Oberyn Martell, a.k.a. the Red Viper. He became Prince Oberyn and made him into the hero we all love and want to be. That’s impressive. Every line of dialogue, the body language, the eyes that spoke volumes. Absolute brilliance and his demise was one of the most depressing things Thrones has ever done, and that’s saying something. That Pedro Pascal isn’t nominated her is absolutely shameful.
Thoughts, Snubs, and Surprises
Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series
Margo Martindale (The Americans)
The only acting nomination for FX’s The Americans (shameful), Margo Martindale was simply sublime as the KGB handler Claudia, who showed up far too less in the second season only to appear in the finale with the most shocking information yet on what Moscow wants. Margo imbues Claudia with an incredible complexity rarely found in how Hollywood generally handles Soviet characters. Well deserved nomination and if she took home the gold, it’ll be fantastic.
Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones)
Dame Diana Rigg is possible the best actress on the HBO fantasy hit and considering the ensemble they have created, that’s saying something. Every line uttered is perfection and her expressions, especially throughout the hour of The Lion and the Rose, are magnificent. Sharp and quick-witted, Dame Diana personifies the absolute perfect player of the Game of Thrones. Incredibly well-deserved and she can easily take home the gold as well.
Kate Mara (House of Cards)
Kate Mara’s Zoe Barnes was one of the few characters who had the cajones to stand up to Frank Underwood and question his role in all of the shady dealings in Season One. But she was unceremoniously killed off in the pilot, which frankly was a wasteful exit for the character and another win for Frank, as if he was loosing too heavily or something. Kate did a wonderful job embodying her character’s struggle with her place in a corrupt political system and she deserved a lot better than what the show’s team gave her.
Allison Janney (Masters of Sex)
Allison Janney gave the best performance on Masters of Sex hands down and I cannot wait to see her role hopefully expanded in the upcoming season. Her troubled portrait of a woman struggling intimately with her repressed sexuality was heartbreaking and stirring. It’s criminal Allison Janney isn’t in pretty much everything. Well deserved and she can win. This is a tough Guest Actress category this year.
Jane Fonda (The Newsroom)
Jane Fonda arrived with a necessary fire to breathe some life into Aaron Sorkin’s oddly stilted The Newsroom. Her guest role as CEO Leona Lansing was brilliant and a wonderful self-empowered female professional on a show where a Pulitzer-Prize winning female reporter couldn’t properly send a text. She wonderfully creates a ton of energy into a show that is far more boring than it really ought to be. It’s Sorkin, after all. But Jane Fonda is great in the role and it’s wonderful to see her nominated here.
Kate Burton (Scandal)
Scandal has more than its fair share of narrative problems and in many ways its lone saving grace is its cast. Conservative politicians in the realm of television (much like their more infamous counterparts in real-life) are made into laughingstocks that border on the side of absurdity. But Kate Burton’s Sally Langston is not one of them. Personally I find her extreme politics reprehensible, but there is something refreshing to see a conservative character not turn into a ridiculous caricature. Plus Kate Burton is a blast in the role.
Indira Varma (Game of Thrones)
In an overshadowed role, Indira Varma stepped into the shoes of Ellaria Sand, the paramour of Pedro Pascal’s Prince Oberyn Martell. Ellaria was in only 4 episodes, which is sad, but we got a truly passionate, fierce, and independent female character who treats sexuality like it is and nothing more. Indira’s finest performance on the HBO fantasy hit came in the episode The Mountain and the Viper. Her expressions throughout the fight as her beloved fought between life and death sold every moment of the thrilling clash. And her screams as her beloved died are some of the most haunting memories from the entire series. Now that’s an achievement.
THOUGHTS, SNUBS, AND SURPRISES
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Jim Parson’s Sheldon Cooper is one of the key reasons that The Big Bang Theory became as popular as it is now. While the show now can swing wildly on the quality scale, Jim manages to find new corners in Sheldon and that is worthy in and of itself. Bazinga!
Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)
Matt LeBlanc in Episodes proves he’s as funny as he was when everyone fell in love with during his tenure on Friends. His portrayal of a fictionalized version of himself is absolute gold, and he took some home with a previous win at the Golden Globes.
Don Cheadle (House of Lies)
Many of you may remember Don Cheadle from the average Iron Man movie series, but the man is absolutely hilarious Marty Kaan, described by the House of Lies Wiki as “manipulative”, “driven”, “immoral”, and “cold”. Cheadle’s Kaan is anything but deadpan, however. His manipulative ways are cold indeed, but the dark comedy surrounding it is a wonderful result of Cheadle’s performance.
Louis C.K. (Louie)
Louis C. K. is one of the funniest men on Earth, there can be little doubt about that. But with Louie, Louis avoids cliched hilarity with his episodes and instead relies on nuanced depth and emotional context to give his comedy even more weight. If he takes home the gold, it will be worth it.
William H. Macy (Shameless)
As an alcoholic suffering from liver problems, Frank Gallagher is played with aplomb by William H. Macy. Eschewing a purely dramatic performance, William manages to imbue Frank with moments of frank (pun intended) hilarity that make his acting transcendent. A well-deserved nomination after too many snubs.
Ricky Gervais (Derek)
This was expected by nobody. Not that Derek is necessarily terrible or that Ricky Gervais isn’t good (he’s fantastic). It’s just that Netflix’s Derek wasn’t particularly on anyone’s awards radar. Gervais is excellent in the role, providing the appropriate nuance and comedy.
Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation)
Adam Scott turned what could have been an empty performance into a wonderfully nuanced one. His Ben Wyatt is the perfect companion for Leslie. He’s political, sweet, and nerdy (remember his expression when Leslie gave him the Iron Throne?) but not perfect. Adam is so sincere in the role it’s hard not to root for him and Leslie at every turn.
Joel McHale (Community)
Joel McHale’s return took a Community that was struggling immensely back towards an upswing. And Hale’s Jeff Winger has provided a lot of that stability. His wise cracks are always delivered with the best of comedic timing and without him, the show wouldn’t be a community at all.
Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine became the surprise comedy hit of awards season, nabbing multiple Golden Globes to boot. Its wonderful hilarity is heightened with Andy Samberg’s hilariously authentic performance. It’s a treat to see him on screen.
THOUGHTS, SNUBS, AND SURPRISES
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
The man who brought one of the most incredible characters to life, Bryan Cranston could have so easily turned Walter White into a caricature but he didn’t, and that alone deserves accolades. But Cranston turned the meth-obsessed anti-hero into something else and as terrifying as he becomes, the audience can’t help but love him. This is his last chance to win for the role.
Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom)
Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom was frankly an enormous disappointment and is meeting its end after a third season. The main problem with HBO’s media study show is that it lacked what made The West Wing and The Social Network great: solid writing. A Pulitzer-Prize winning female journalist played by Emily Mortimer, for example, couldn’t handle a simple text message. Yep, you read that right. But despite the lack of solid writing, Jeff Daniels gives a good performance and won an Emmy for his opening scene in which he describes how America is not the greatest country in the world. His performance in Season 2 was good, but his spot could have been given to someone else in the snubs below.
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
There isn’t an actor so born to play a role like Jon Hamm is for Don Draper (in the words of The Young Turks’ Cenk Uyger). Season 6 had Don falling down like no one else, but Season 7A had the even tougher job of having Don navigate his lesser position. And Jon Hamm navigated it like no one else. His dance with his ambitious protégé, Peggy Olson, is one of the most touching scenes of the series. And considering how despicable Don can be, that we empathize with him at all is a testament to Jon Hamm’s powerhouse performance.
Woody Harrelson (True Detective)
The breakout star of the 2013-2014 television season, HBO’s True Detective is an anthology much in the vein of American Horror Story, but it’s in drama, so there we are. Woody Harrelson as Detective Martin Eric Hart is one of the best the actor has ever given. He imbues his characters with enough rust and toughness mixed in with just the right amount of emotion, a tough acting feat to pull off. In the duo lead, Woody had the more rigid character of the two and he avoided turning Martin into a more “serious” cliché. True Detective will return with a second season with a new story and cast, but the news leads have a tough, tough act to follow.
Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)
Matthew McConaughey can do a comeback, can’t he? The actor who had become engrossed in romantic comedies came back with a phenomenal tour de force performance as Detective Rustin Spencer Cohle. The odder of the two leads arguably, Cohle is an oddball whose character can be so tough to follow, it would have fallen apart in the hands of another actor. If there is one actor who has the chance to wrestle the trophy away from Bryan Cranston this year, it’s Matthew.
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
House of Cards is thrilling and fun, even though it isn’t quite the prestige drama it thinks it is. One of the major reasons it works, however, is because of Kevin Spacey’s pitch-perfect performance as Vice President Frank Underwood. His plots against his enemy are entertaining and thrilling and the closing shot of Season 2 had us extremely excited for what was coming next. For Season 3, however, I would love for President Underwood to face his toughest enemies yet, a challenge Mr. Spacey is more than capable of fulfilling.
Matthew Rhys (The Americans)
The underrated espionage drama, The Americans‘ Matthew Rhys is one of the most terrifying men when faced with a religious teenager. He is calm, terrifying, deadly, ruthless, and incredibly warm-hearted. You almost forget he works for the KGB, that’s how good Matthew is in the role. And besides, who can say “You respect Jesus, but not us?!” with more terror? No one.
Damian Lewis (Homeland)
Homeland had a less than stellar third season, that’s the simple reality of it. It felt as if the show just needed to get rid of a good number of things to correct itself and in the masterful finale, it did. Damian Lewis’s Nicholas Brody became a noose for the show in many ways but his performance was so mesmerizing it became hard to stay annoyed at some of the more out-there plot developments. As Brody approached his painful death by hanging in the middle of a public square in Tehran, Damian Lewis let Nicholas Brody go and it was a perfectly acted goodbye. We’ll miss Damian’s beautiful performance, even though it was time for the character to go.
Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal)
Hannibal is another show that has been underrated during its run. It’s sleek, gory, and oddly enough on NBC out of all places. The character of Hannibal Lecter has undergone a plethora of transformations on screen, most famously by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, however, puts his own stamp on the character. His performance is absolutely chilling but enthralling at the same time. Mads simply doesn’t play Hannibal, he comes Hannibal on screen and it is as mesmerizing as it is disturbing.
THOUGHTS, SNUBS, AND SURPRISES
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dancing on the Edge)
The BBC 1930s British jazz drama is an utter delight to watch, not just because it reminds me of The Great Gatsby but with British accents. As the band leader, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Louis Lester is one of the most humanized character on television. He knows who he is and he is sure of who he wants to be. Many of us see the wealthiest in society, aspiring to be them and Louis is no different. Life charts him on different paths, but Louis never lets that ambition, that goal go. And Chiwetel never lets us forget.
Martin Freeman (Fargo)
Martin Freeman is a fantastic actor and he’s on a roll, isn’t he? The Hobbit franchise, Sherlock, and now his performance as Lester Nygaard. Lester can go from being despicable to sympathetic and every fluctuation is sold solidly by Freeman’s complete embodiment of the character. Just watch the first scene alone.
Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo)
Fargo was a beautiful delight and has a shot at taking home Best Miniseries considering that HBO submitted True Detective in the drama category (even though I find Fargo to be the better of the two by a slim margin). The writing was sharp and tight but what really sold the series was the phenomenal acting, not a single casting was off by even a bit. Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo is full of malice, menace, and an exquisite way of delivering his dialogue that is as biting as the frigid air around him.
Idris Elba (Luther)
Luther has always worked more as a character study than a procedural detective story. Thank goodness the imposing Idris Elba is there to take the reigns and make the cliched cop-with-a-dark-past refreshing and brilliant. His emotional arc is powerful and Elba makes everyone believe why those who are loyal to him remain so. It’s a tour de force.
Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart)
The definitive TV movie of the year, The Normal Heart tackled the tricky issue of HIV/AIDS and how it adversely affected the LGBTQ community. The film from HBO harbors more shining performances than shining writing. Mark Ruffalo gives a great performance as he’s kind of been on a roll since The Avengers. The best thing about The Normal Heart is that it avoids largely the trappings of LGBTQ stereotypes that are still annoyingly everywhere in Hollywood and Mark’s heartfelt performance is a large part of that.
Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock)
Sherlock was kind of a mess in its third season, but an enjoyable one (the third episode corrected the entire season, almost). Even in the average middle episode, Benedict Cumberbatch’s delivery of Sherlock Holmes’ best man speech is simply one of the greatest things done in the history of all television ever. Sherlock Holmes in many ways is easy to play as a one-note character, but Benedict finds humor, kindness, ruthlessness, and sociopathic wonder in a brilliant character. His Sherlock has become THE definitive Sherlock for me, and that’s quite an accomplishment.
Thoughts, Surprises, and Snubs
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Lena Dunham (Girls)
HBO’S comedy hit, Girls is the brainchild of Lena Dunham, whose Hannah Horvath is an aspiring writer whose parents no longer support her. But beyond her circumstances, Hannah is in many ways a child who must suddenly go through maturity and adulthood at an age when many are already well on that path. Growing up can be difficult, but Hannah makes it relatable. We’ve all been on our own, we’ve all navigated through the difficult paths of life, we’ve all been mistakes, and yet we all move on.
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
Edie Falco came to prominence for her role in HBO’s phenomenal drama The Sopranos, but her comedic turn in Showtime’s Nurse Jackie proved that Edie is capable of anything. As a nurse that relies on prescription pills, Nurse Jackie is dark, light, hilarious, and every bit as human. It’s a tour de force performance.
Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
There is no politician more lovable than Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope of Pawnee, Indiana. She’s hilarious, genuine, hard-working, a steamroller, and refers to her best friend as a beautiful tropical fish. Amy Poehler has been terribly underserved by the Emmys – she hasn’t one a single one for her role as Leslie and neither has the show nabbed Best Comedy. It’s tough to play someone funny. It’s even tougher to be extraordinarily endearing while doing so. Give Amy and Parks and Rec all the awards now and forever. Season 7 will be the last, Emmy voters. Keep that in mind.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus has 15 Emmy nominations and frankly it’s not that hard to understand why. As Vice President Selina Meyer, a role she has already won multiple Emmys for, Julia delivers obscenity and sarcasm like no one else on television. She’s the quintessential politician who puts on a great face to the public and screams insults with the sharpest of tones. And she uttered the line of the year: “If men could get pregnant, you could get an abortion at an ATM.” Bam, Man.
Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly)
Melissa McCarthy is hilarious and anyone who doubts that needs to see Bridesmaids stat. Mike & Molly is a solid comedy sitcom, but it isn’t a behemoth of endearing comic power that should be in Emmy conversations in a field this crowded. Melissa works her ass off in this comedy and she makes it look effortless, but this spot on the nominations belonged to Mindy Kaling.
Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project)
Mindy Kaling is absolutely hilarious and her understanding of romantic comedies makes The Mindy Project a refreshingly sharp take on the genre. Her dialogue is brilliant and the way she delivers it is just spot-on. Her chase up the stairs of the Empire State Building is one of the best things I’ve ever seen in a comedy. But Mindy isn’t just hilarious. She manages to make her character sarcastic, biting, and absolutely endearing. She’s the friend we all really want and frankly, need.
Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer)
Amy Schumer’s show has kind of been all over the place awards-wise simply because of weird Emmy rules but her performance not being nominated is an Emmy crime for the ages. Just watch her spoof of The Newsroom with Josh Charles.
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson (Broad City)
There have never been two funnier stoners in a comedy that are so different from each other and yet three-dimensional in their own right. Period.
Thoughts, Surprises, and Snubs
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES:
Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex)
Even though Showtime’s sexy new drama didn’t get a best drama nod, Lizzy Caplan received one for her role as Virginia Johnson. And she’s brilliant, so this was perfectly well-deserved. Lizzy Caplan hasn’t received many roles that are worthy of her absolute talent, but she was born to play Virginia. She’s absolutely pitch-perfect as the smart, sassy, liberated woman who does not allow the constrictive traditions of her society to keep her in bondage (pun intended). She knows what she wants and it is frankly refreshing to see a strong female character take charge of her own sexuality with confidence and intelligence to match.
Claire Danes (Homeland)
Two-time defending champion, Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison had a tougher, more manic season (which is saying something). There were spots in the middle of the season where the writers forgot how to write Carrie as a character, but damn if Claire Danes didn’t act the hell out of it. Her best performance of the season came at the very close in The Star, and when Carrie drew that star on the wall to commemorate Brody, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Perfection.
Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey)
Even though Downton Abbey has devolved from high prestige drama to irritating soap opera, Michelle Dockery’s Lady Mary remains a joy to watch. Her grief-fueled performance at the beginning of Series 4 was fantastic. With every snippy line, glare of the eyes, and haughty expression, Michelle Dockery owns her scenes. If only the creators give her material worthy of her performance.
Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
Even though the show didn’t get nominated for best drama, Julianna Margulies’ performance as Alicia Florrick went to new heights in the CBS drama’s fifth season. Her fiery resolution as she started her own firm was fantastic and her emotional breakdown after Will’s death was the stuff of wonders. And when she stood her own against Chris Noth, you could hear nothing but cheers. She’s brilliant.
Kerry Washington (Scandal)
Scandal‘s third season was preposterous in almost every single way possible. The writers forgot who basically everyone is (even though Bellamy Young garnered fantastic material) and Olivia Pope went from Gladiator to… what, exactly? Even though Olivia Pope as a character went into the clouds somewhere, Kerry Washington’s performance has remained steady. She manages to imbue her character with a sense of urgency and realism that the writers just do not have.
Robin Wright (House of Cards)
Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood is cold, calculative, and ambitious beyond most people’s expectations. But there’s a softness to her character that Claire hides so far beneath her it might as well be nonexistent to many. When Claire puts ambition above everything else, she’s frightening as all hell. When she breaks apart emotionally, she’s human. And Robin Wright sells both sides beautifully.
Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)
Tatiana Maslany plays something like a dozen different characters on the BBC sci-fi drama Orphan Black and you can hardly tell that they’re all played by the same actress. Her rob of nomination is shameful. Period.
Keri Russell (The Americans)
Keri Russell kicks ass on The Americans as a spy working for the Soviet-era KGB. But more than kicking ass, she’s a tough woman with real fears and insecurities inside of her. Is she Russian, American, a mother, a wife, a woman, or just a plain spy? It is astonishing that we can see all of her cracks and resolve without a farce and as much as the writing exists to sell the character, it’s Keri Russell who sells the performance.
Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
Peggy Olson has had a rough half-season, considering that she was sitting in Don’s chair at the end of Season 6. But towards the end of Season 7A, Peggy began to relax a little, but without losing a single ounce of her ferocity and ambition. Man landed on the moon and we seriously hope that Peggy lands something worthy of her ambitions by the end of the series. Not only because the character deserves it, but because I can’t wait for Elisabeth Moss to act the hell out of it.
Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU)
Mariska Hargitay is the backbone of Low & Order: SVU. Throughout the grim nature of the series, Mariska’s sex crime Detective Olivia Benson remains a steadfast beacon of hope. She’s strong, emotional, cracked, and can always be counted upon to try and do the right thing. In her own words, Olivia is a role model for teenage girls. But she’s not a role model just because of the writing for her character, Mariska’s performance is a huge part in why the character works nearly as well as it does.
Thoughts, Surprises, and Snubs
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
American Horror Story: Coven
In the highest critically acclaimed season yet (81% on Rotten Tomatoes versus 64% and 77% for the first and second seasons, respectively), American Horror Story continues to excel at putting its excellent performers through some of the most outlandish and gruesome circumstances possible. If only the writing was as solid as the performances. It deserves a nomination but it should not win.
Taking on a classic of whichever format is a tricky thing to do. The Coen brothers’ 1996 film is so beloved that even the sheer idea of remaking it into a TV series seemed beyond the verge of blasphemy. But my oh my, Fargo is one of the best productions to come out of anywhere this past year. The writing is sharp, the production value is great, and the performances are brilliant. It should win.
The White Queen
Before Starz had Outlander as its major book adaptation, it had The White Queen from author Philippa Gregory. Based on the real-life Wars of the Roses that inspired in part George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, The White Queen does not belong in a 10-part miniseries. The show did well enough, but perhaps not good enough for a second season. If what Starz said about the show always being planned as a miniseries of 10 episodes is true, than that is remarkably poor planning. There is a ton of story and The White Queen always feels like it’s under pressure to tell as much story as possible. The series needed room to breathe and it deserved it. I mean, just look at the image above.
Bonnie and Clyde
Proving once again that the History Channel is interested in everything but actual history, this reimagining of the classic crime duo was perhaps better off not existing in the first place. Holliday Grainger is a delight to watch as Bonnie, but the series overall is not.
HBO’s dramedy about New Orleanians rebuilding their lives after Hurricane Katrina is perhaps the best representation of that city ever filmed. There is debate about whether this should be here or in the drama category, but the quality of the production, acting, and storytelling cannot be denied.
This one is covered under “Best Drama Series”, although it really should be a miniseries in its nomination. Why it’s brilliant is covered under the Drama Series tab.
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Thoughts, Snubs, and Surprises
Tony Hale (Veep)
Find the scene in Season 3, Episode 9 “Crate” where Tony Hale and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are cracking up in a bathroom. What Tony Hale does with Gary is superb – a man created to be ridiculed but at the same time the one most valued by the woman he would follow to the end of the Earth.
Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Andre Braugher is absolutely hilarious in the new FX comedy series and he makes it look absolutely effortless – which is far, far more difficult than it looks.
Adam Driver (Girls)
In a show titled Girls, Adam Driver has carved a niche for himself. His performance is wonderfully endearing and sometimes all-too-human. The scene at the end of Season 3 between him and Lena Denham was simply sensational.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
Modern Family is a show whose performances save it from being completely dull and ridiculous. Jesse Tyler Ferguson is half of the show’s protagonist gay couple and he builds a fantastic performance without being unnecessarily over-the-top. He’s calm, subdued, and not stereotypically gay – something that would have been truly easy to do.
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Ty Burrell is absolutely hilarious on Modern Family and coupled with Julie Bowen, they just might be the most hilarious couple on television. The stressed out parent is a stereotype often found in comedy, but Ty makes Phil Dunphy a lot more nuanced and complicated. In this scope of comedy, that’s quite an achievement.
Fred Armisen (Portlandia)
As someone who lives in Portland for a good chunk of time, Portlandia is often an intriguing portrait of how Portland is perceived by Portlanders themselves and people outside of the city. Fred Armisen is one of the most talented people in comedic show business, and his work on Portlandia is an incredibly showcase of how talented he truly is.
Thoughts, Snubs, and Surprises
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman was one of television’s greatest triumphs in complexities of characterizations. As the series dwindled to a close, the tension ratcheted beyond what anyone could expect to reasonably handle. And when he confronts Walt – goosebumps. This is his last chance tow in in this category for the role and there’s a strong chance he’ll take home the trophy.
Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)
Even as Downton Abbey goes off the deep-end, Jim Carter’s Mr. Carson remains one of the most richly-drawn characters on television. Watching his scenes with Lady Mary almost make you look over the series’ other flaws, almost.
Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
“I demand a trial by combat.” = Emmy. That is all.
Josh Charles (The Good Wife)
In a year of a plethora of dramatic deaths, Josh Charles’ courtroom exit by gunfire took viewers completely by surprise. Charles felt it was time to move on and The Good Wife took the extremely dramatic route of essentially killing off its arguably main storyline. It was thrilling and it is a testament to how good Josh Charles was in the role that despite being kind of an ass or an outright one that we felt this gaping hole in the series long after he was gone.
Mandy Patinkin (Homeland)
Homeland had a rough third season, there is little doubt. But Mandy Patinkin’s Saul Berenson remains one of the most complex, thrilling characters to watch. He is fierce, fair, kind, and downright terrifying. He can sell anything in any scene and that’s a compliment. Plus, that beard. Come on.
Jon Voight (Ray Donovan)
The Showtime series is frankly dull in my opinion, but Jon Voight does pull off a powerful performance. And you have to admit, he can pull off that leather jacket look like few else. Although I truly wish this spot had gone to Charles Dance or Jack Gleeson.
Charles Dance (Game of Thrones)
Charles Dance was never nominated for his role as Tywin Lannister and now he never will be as his character became victim of patricide. His performance was arguably the best in one of the most amazing casting ensembles in all of television history. He WAS Tywin Lannister and very few actors have embodied a character to such an extent. He will be missed in the role.
Jack Gleeson (Game of Thrones)
For playing one of television’s most notorious villains, Jack Gleeson is remarkably underrated. His despicable King Joffrey Baratheon was executed perfectly in every frame. Jack went to the core of such a despotic psyche and created one of the most memorable performances in history. He is reportedly tiring from acting after his character’s demise by poison and that is a shame. Best of luck to him.
Hugh Dancy (Hannibal)
Hugh Dancy is remarkable in his Hannibal role, arguably his best performance yet. His struggle against the ominous Hannibal Lecter was orchestrated beautifully and the final shots between him and Mads Mikkelsen in Season 2’s “Mizumono” solidified the terrifying, mesmerizing chemistry the two share. Phenomenal.
Thoughts, Snubs, and Surprises
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie
Colin Hanks (Fargo)
One of the two non-The Normal Heart related nominations, Colin Hanks is perfect in FX’s Fargo. As Officer Gus Grimly, his performance leaves us as anything but grim. His scenes with Allison Tolman as they solve a murder are absolute gold and Colin is perfectly lovable as the well-meaning but slightly bumbling cop.
Jim Parsons (The Normal Heart)
As Tommy Boatwright, Jim Parsons moves far away from Dr. Sheldon Cooper and proves he has dramatic chops to match his comedic ones. It’s a breakthrough performance even though his role is relatively small.
Joe Mantello (The Normal Heart)
Joe Mantello has a small part as Mickey Marcus, a man who helped found the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a community organization that was created to provide outreach towards those suffering from AIDS and rejected by society. It’s a small part but Joe makes it count.
Alfred Molina (The Normal Heart)
The third of The Normal Heart‘s supporting nominations in this single category, Alfred Molina plays the older brother to Mark Ruffalo and the character that represents how so many people are completely ignorant about homosexuality. Molina avoids playing the character like a stereotype and the film is stronger with it.
Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart)
The annual HBO film is represented this year by The Normal Heart and like Game Change and Temple Grandin, the film has made quite a splash at award ceremonies even though Fargo looks to sweep. Matt Bomer’s performance as closeted New York Times reporter Felix Turner is solid and he wonderfully conveys the horrors of how the LGBTQ community was crushed under the weight of the refusal to see AIDS as a real threat to society.
Martin Freeman (Sherlock)
A lot of the credit for Sherlock goes to Benedict Cumberbatch as it rightfully should. But imagine a single moment of the series without Martin Freeman’s Dr. John Watson. You can’t. He’s on screen even when he isn’t. To Martin!
Thoughts, Snubs, and Surprises
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory)
The Big Bang Theory isn’t as funny as it used to be and frankly just drags at points. But as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, the real life neurologist Mayim Bialik is pitch-perfect as the love match to Dr. Sheldon Cooper who challenges him on every level. It’s a treat to watch.
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Like The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family isn’t that funny anymore and frankly is beyond overrated. But Julie Bowen’s comedic timing is perfect. Watch “Las Vegas” alone and you’ll be convinced that the show would be unbearable without her.
Allison Janney (Mom)
Allison Janney can do anything. Period.
Kate Mulgrew (Orange is the New Black)
Netflix’s breakout dramedy has arguably one of the best female ensembles in history. Kate Mulgrew as Galina “Red” Reznikov, the prison’s Master Chef. She’s hilarious, she’s tough, and she takes crap from nobody. It’s fantastic to watch her in action.
Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)
In the recent lackluster Saturday Night Live, Kate McKinnon is a bright spot who never fails to make the audience laugh. In an ensemble of skits, that is incredibly admirable.
Anna Chlumsky (Veep)
Veep is hilarious and watching Amy struggle over the loss of her phone in the premiere and then avenging her position against Dan in “Special Relationships” is brilliant. “It’s like I lost a limb” became one of the most hilarious things ever uttered.
Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation)
Just look at the image above. But April isn’t just a government employee and full-time misanthrope. She’s a kind, determined soul masked behind hilarious, deadpan one-liners. Her lack of a nomination is a crime.
Zosia Mamet (Girls)
In a talented cast, Zosia Mamet often gets overlooked by Lena Denham and Adam Driver. But her comedic talents are brilliant and the show without her would be dry and a whole lot less fun.
Thoughts, Snubs, and Surprises
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad)
Wives of anti-heroes are always treated harshly and it’s ridiculous. In one of Breaking Bad‘s few glaring flaws, the writers haven’t always treated Skyler well but that has never hindered Anna Gunn’s performance. Her “I’m waiting. For the cancer to come back.” and knife attacks followed by her crying in the street are all phenomenal moments from a great actress.
Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
I love Dame Maggie Smith, a.k.a. Professor Minerva McGonagall. Her performance in a now standard soap opera is wonderful but it was perhaps time to give the spot to someone else.
Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey)
Joanne Froggatt has always provided an extraordinary humanity to Downton Abbey. Her storyline was wretched in many ways but Joanne acted it beautifully. I’m glad she’s getting a nod. Just perhaps not this year. It’s quite the crowded field.
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Thrones has one of the most talented casts in all of television and it’s nice to see some Emmy love be spread beyond the wonderful Peter Dinklage. Lena Headey’s Cersei is wonderfully complicated, evil, good, twisted, and conflicted. Her performance in the second episode of Season 4, “The Lion and the Rose”, is a phenomenon in and of itself. “Every breath you draw in my presence annoys me.” Wonderful.
Christine Baranski (The Good Wife)
Dianne. Lockhart. Is. A. Badass. But Christine Baranski goes beyond that badassery. When she opens up emotionally, it’s phenomenal to watch. The reality that she can dig into Dianne’s emotions as well as she can terrify an entire room of people is a testament to how tough and brilliant Christine is in the role.
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
Joan Harris is one of the best characters on AMC’s dramatic hit Mad Men. As the recaps of the show on What the Flick from The Young Turks mentioned, Christina Hendricks ability to covey her character’s emotions through her eyes alone is exceptionally brilliant. An Emmy for Joan soon, please. Emmy voters, next year is your last chance.
Annet Mahendru (The Americans)
Annet Mahendru’s Nina Sergeevna was one of the most complex, brilliantly written characters on television. Her intricate espionage story was written beautifully and to the very end of Season 2 Annet kept us guessing as to where her character would go. It also helps that she speaks fluent Russian and English, going back and forth with incredible ease. It seems that Nina is going back to the Soviet Union to stand trial for treason and I can’t wait to see what Annet will do with the character.
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
As noted, everyone on Thrones is brilliant. But Natalie Dormer had a tough job with Margaery Tyrell, a character who is not a point-of-view character in the books and thus had to be crafted in much greater detail in the series. Natalie brings much of her experience as Anne Boleyn on Showtime’s The Tudors, her masterful cunning and genuine sympathy crafting a brilliantly ambitious character. Her looks of disgust when Joffrey was torturing Tyrion at the wedding were golden. Plus, “Look! The pie!” has never been uttered better.
Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
The writers have recently forgotten how to straddle Kalinda Sharma as a character but in Season 5 she began to come back in a great way. But even when the writing was off, Archie’s performance never was. Her toughness, sarcasm, and emotion was all handled brilliantly.
Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men)
Kiernan Shipka’s Sally Draper is one of the true stars of Mad Men and she has never let the story down or the character. Her sass alone should win her a nomination, but her relationship with her father Don is where Kiernan truly shines.
Bellamy Young (Scandal)
The third season of Scandal destroyed many characters’ credibility but made Mellie one of the truly nuanced characters of the show. Bellamy Young took a character that was initially just a selfish power-climber and made her so much more.
Kelly MacDonald (Boardwalk Empire)
Kelly MacDonald has always been under appreciated for Margaret Thompson, often facing the same level of anger as Skylar. Anti-heroes are often seen as cool while their wives often come across as opportunistic and bitter, which is ridiculous. But the decisions Margaret has always made make sense, as flawed as they may be from time to time. She’s wrong and she’s right – she’s human, after all. While she didn’t appear for roughly the first half of Season 4, her struggles as a single mother were incredibly powerful.
Thoughts, Snubs, and Surprises
Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries/Movie
Frances Conroy (American Horror Story: Coven)
The dominant show in the category, American Horror Story is one of those shows that is good but without its performances would be completely dull. Frances Conroy is an absolute powerhouse as the old Myrtle Snow. Her eccentricity is conveyed brilliantly and did I mention she has telekinesis? Because that’s a whole other level of badassery.
Kathy Bates (American Horror Story: Coven)
Kathy Bates is one of my favorite all-time actresses and her performance here is absolutely spellbinding. Kathy has an incredible range and rarely have we seen her be so despicable. As the socialite Delphine LaLaurie, Bates tortures and kills her slaves in the most gruesome way possible. Her punishment is quite fitting. Talk about poetic justice.
Angela Bassett (American Horror Story: Coven)
As the Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, Angela Bassett is thrilling, cold, and absolutely deadly. Her tale of vengeance is chilling and Marie in the afterlife is one of the most haunting sequences in the show’s history.
Allison Tolman (Fargo)
This is Allison Tolman’s first role in a major production. That reality makes her blockbuster performance as Deputy Molly Solverson that much more incredible. She is sharp, intelligent, and tough. You do not want to cross her. Yet she is not all toughness. Allison allows Molly’s emotions to show just enough. Her performance in Episode 9, “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage”, is phenomenal and should win her the gold in this category.
Ellen Burstyn (Flowers in the Attic)
The Lifetime adaptation Flowers in the Attic was frankly average and never really rose to being anything beyond a typical fare for the network known for such emotional traps. But Kiernan Shipka and Ellen Burstyn salvaged the film. Ellen in particular chilled the screen with her cold brutality and the expressions she wore on her visage were electrifying.
Julia Roberts (The Normal Heart)
The HBO film The Normal Heart tackles an enormously difficult subject that is still spurned as a subject of conversation despite how far we’ve come in our knowledge about HIV/AIDS. Julia Roberts’ Dr. Emma Brookner is a phenomenal performance, full of resolve and understanding in a time where she could have been everything but.
Thoughts, Snubs, and Surprises
Outstanding Television Movie
The adaptation of Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s terrible book boasted a good script from Kelly Masterson and several decent performances. But ultimately the film was dull, boisterous, and extremely haughty in its own presumption about its masterful superiority on the subject. It’s not a decent take on the subject matter nor is it a historical documentary, even though it really loves to pretend that it is one. There weren’t enough television movies this year, I guess.
Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight
One of HBO’s two entries in this category, Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight covers the events surrounding the 1971 Supreme court case Clay v. United States. It is brilliantly acted, sharply written, and unlike most films about the boxer, focuses specially on one of the most fascinating yet underrepresented parts of his life.
The Normal Heart
HIV/AIDS remains a phenomenally difficult subject, not just in its relations to its medical history and the sheer difficulty of finding a cure. Society still treats it with suspicion, a sort of wariness that suggests no one wants the subject to come near them. HBO’s adaptation of the play is not the sharpest display of writing, but the emotions are so poignant it almost doesn’t matter. Almost.
Sherlock: His Last Vow
The best episode of Series 3. The first two episodes were good, but phenomenally messy. The finale gave Lars Mikkelsen a delectable villainous role and gave Molly a twist we will never forget. And there was palpable tension in every frame. As soon as the wrap-up begins, another bombshell is dropped. Moriarty is alive – or at the very least his image is. How?
The Trip To Bountiful
Incredible. The tale of a woman who yearns so much to return home is absolutely breathtaking. The plot isn’t overtly complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. The writing, the performances, and the emotions are more than enough.
Thoughts, Snubs, and Surprises
Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series
David Crane, “Episode 305” (Episodes)
Sean and Beverly decide they need a marriage counselor to help out with their struggling relationship. They end up with a sex therapist and the result is some of the most sharply written, nuanced comedy about relationships ever.
Louis C.K., “So Did the Fat Lady” (Louie)
Just watch this:
Liz Friedman, Jenji Kohan, “I Wasn’t Ready” (Orange is the New Black)
I say it again, Netflix’s Orange is the New Black is really a dramedy rather than a flat-out comedy. The series premiere, “I Wasn’t Ready” is sharp, emotional, and driven. The world we would come to love is introduced brilliantly. Pilots are tough to pull off, but Liz and Jenji’s script makes a phenomenal run that’s great.
Alec Berg, “Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency” (Silicon Valley)
Alec Berg’s Silicon Valley script is one of it’s better ones. That’s not to say the show is bad, it’s good, it just hasn’t found its complete rhythm yet. But if the creators want to look at what episodes truly worked, “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency” provides the laugh, the story, and the characterizations that just make everything click.
Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche, Armando Iannucci, “Special Relationship” (Veep)
Veep‘s “Special Relationship” takes a great jab at how Americans and Britons understand each other in the political spectrum and it’s a master in how to write a script. The bit with the hat is fantastic and the Harry Potter in a Pub references were beautiful (I’m biased). “Daniwah!”
Mindy Kaling, “Danny and Mindy” (The Mindy Project)
A writer when making a homage to a specific genre really needs to understand the genre itself first and really comprehend its roots. Perhaps no one on television knows romantic comedies better than Mindy Kaling, who gets to run with them full-fledged on her own FX comedy. It’s a masterful final script and the sharpness with which she takes the genre she understands so well is absolutely brilliant.
Armando Iannucci & Sean Gray & Ian Martin, “Alicia” (Veep)
In my humble opinion, this was the smartest, strongest script in Veep‘s great third season. “Alicia” ultimately was about how politicians often sacrifice the causes that are near and dear to their own hearts for the sake of political advancement. And you get to watch Julia Louis-Dreyfus tear apart a ton of balloons while doing so.
Thoughts, Snubs, and Surprises
Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series
Moira Walley-Beckett , “Ozymandias” (Breaking Bad)
One of the finest episodes from all of drama ever, “Ozymandias” represented the absolute nadir of Walter White’s existence. From the flashback at the beginning of the episode to the final shot of Walt riding off, “Ozymandias” was a 47-minute ode to perfection. Walley-Beckett’s pen ushers in some of the most dramatically powerful moments of the entire series. Hank’s death, Holly’s abduction, Skyler’s anguish, everything was captured perfectly. “Ozymandias” is a reference to the English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley that is a poetic analysis of greatness and the crumbling from grace. As Walter drives off into the horizon, there is no greatness left. Perhaps there never was.
Vince Gilligan, “Felina” (Breaking Bad)
A solid finale considering the best episode happened just a couple of weeks before this one and series finales are notorious for being ****** episodes. A solid cap to an amazing yet flawed series, “Felina” was the final breath of Walter White. And the journey towards that very final breath was chock full of nostalgia and a surprise that we cared so much – despite all that Walter had done. Hats off.
David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, “The Children” (Game of Thrones)
The series’ longest hour, it was billed by Benioff and Weiss being “the best hour they’ve produced.” While that is disputable considering the behemoth of storytelling power that was Season 4, Episode 8: “The Mountain and the Viper”, “The Children” was a magnificent hour that shocked and saddened scene after scene. That Benioff and Weiss managed to put so much story into 66 minutes is astounding and one only wishes they had an additional ten minutes to breathe. Yet the finale, arguably the series’ best yet, ended on a quiet, awakening note that was almost brimming with hope (ironic, considering that this was the bleakest season yet). The story of the old power hierarchy is gone – the children have taken the reign, for better or for worse.
Beau Willimon, “Chapter 14” (House of Cards)
The opening chapter of the Netflix drama’s second season ended on a shocking note that had me screaming at the television screen. But the second season, despite having many standout moments felt in retrospect like a long march towards an inevitable ending. The introduction of Molly Parker’s Jacqueline Sharp was welcome as was the ghost of Adam Russo’s murder at the hands of Frank Underwood. Claire is given an expanded storyline and it works. Yet despite all of the clever writing, the death of Zoe Barnes was a frustrating move that took one of the biggest thorns in Frank’s side and threw it literally in front of a train. Shock value: great. Story value: not so much.
Nic Pizzolatto, “The Secret Fate of All Life” (True Detective)
The best episode of the season arguably, even though the show’s a miniseries and not a drama. Niz Pizzolatto’s HBO breakout drama’s fifth episode began the halfway mark by accusing Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle of being associated with the murder that had spun the entire story in the first place. The episode juggles 1995, 2002, and 2012 absolutely perfectly, leaving behind as many questions as it answers.
Matthew Weiner, “Waterloo” (Mad Men)
AMC’s decision to break Mad Men‘s final 7th Season into two follows in the steps of Breaking Bad, but the two shows are fundamentally different. Mad Men, arguably more so than Breaking Bad is character-driven over plot. But “Waterloo” is as good of a mid-season finale as the show was going to get. The death of Bert Cooper was beautifully written, and we will miss his odd presence. Don and Megan’s good-bye was perfect and the writing was absolute perfection. That marriage is over. And the scene between Peggy and Don was wonderful. Man has landed on the moon and the revolution of society has in many ways just begun.
Steve Lightfoot and Bryan Fuller, “Mizumono” (Hannibal)
Hannibal is absolutely brilliant and one of the most underrated shows on television. The finale of the second season was bat**** insane and in all the best ways possible. The dangerous tug of war games between Hannibal and Graham came to a shocking and bloody conclusion. That none of the twists and turns came across as thematically untrue to the narrative is a massive testament to the writing skills of Steve and Bryan. Awards need to come this show’s way now.
Joel Fields & Joe Weisberg, “Echo” (The Americans)
Another underrated prestige drama, The Americans tackles espionage in perhaps the most human and nuanced way on television. The season finale on this brilliant FX drama are not built to shock, they’re built to serve the story. Each thread, each detail that seemingly was building up to nothing or even something comes together in a brilliant and deadly fashion. And in the best written scene of the entire series, Nina is taken away, juxtaposed in front of Vladimir Lenin’s thrust forward to the future. There is no need for words here, the quiet script between Nina and Oleg says it all. In the most thunderous twist, a murder mystery at the beginning of the season twists and folds itself into a narrative shocker that leaves Elizabeth and Phillip in the worst position they’ve ever been in, and that’s saying something.
Robert King and Michelle King, “Hitting the Fan” (The Good Wife)
The Good Wife had an astounding fifth season, which is astounding considering the series on CBS has to juggle 22 episodes a year. Rarely do broadcast dramas hold up in the fifth season, but a ton of well-written dramatic shocks propelled The Good Wife forward and arguably the most important episode of that propulsion was “Hitting the Fan”. The long-simmering tensions in Lockhart Gardner spilled over as a series of Machiavellian crosses led to characters facing truths and lies in a brilliant fashion.
Amy Lippman, “Phallic Victories” (Masters of Sex)
The eleventh episode of Masters of Sex was about victories for the characters that in turn revealed themselves to be phallic, hence the title of the episode (even though it serves as kind of an obvious double entendre). The scenes between Virginia and Dr. DePaul are some of the best writing all year, period. Their night at the motel serves as an incredible illumination of how deep the sexism of the era tipped the scales in the favor of men, work ethic, dedication, and ambition all be damned. Brilliance.
Outstanding Writing – Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special
Thoughts, Snubs, and Surprises
Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk, “Bitchcraft” (American Horror Story: Coven)
The Season 3 premiere of the horror anthology from the creators of Glee (what an odd beginning to a sentence) was for some reason the show’s writing submission. It was the highest rated episode of the series, but “Fearful Pranks Resume”, “Burn, Witch, Burn”, and “The Magician Delights Of Stevie Nicks” were better. Anyhow, this was a good episode of the season with a strong focus on its characters, but it is not strong enough to win.
Noah Hawley, “The Crocodile’s Dilemma” (Fargo)
Noah Hawley’s series premiere script is very strong for a pilot and has enough oomph to win, even though I loved Episode 9, “A Fox, A Rabbit, And A Cabbage” more. A pilot is always difficult but Noah handled the matter perfectly. The writing is sharp and tense and the characters are brought fully to life. The dialogue is wonderful, too.
Neil Cross (Luther)
The BBC crime miniseries had its best series yet in the wrap-up for the television rendition for Detective Luther’s story (a film is following, apparently). The most consistent thing about the series has been the central protagonist’s characterization and his relationship with Alice. It’s a tour de force of a central storyline, even if you ignore some of the silliness that happens in the sidelines. Luther’s quest for justice in all cases reaches a terrifying crescendo and it’s thrilling to watch.
Larry Kramer (The Normal Heart)
HBO has an annual film of the year that nearly always has a great shot at taking the top prize in television film categories, although Fargo looks good to take the gold. Larry Kramer’s script is not as good as his original play, but it still is emotionally packed as it takes the audience through some of the most shunned narratives in American societal history.
Steve Moffat, “His Last Vow”, (Sherlock)
The first two episodes of Sherlock‘s Series 3 were messy even though they had their moments. The finale was nearly pitch-perfect, however. Steve Moffat’s script weaved through an effective villain and tied together the various story traits in tantalizingly thrilling fashion. And that final shot? What the hell? It’ll be resolved in December of 2015 somewhat, right?
David Simon & Eric Overmeyer, “…To Miss New Orleans” (Treme)
The series finale of the HBO drama, “…To Miss New Orleans” was not a loud finale nor did it need to be. It was quiet, contemplative, and perfect. Treme as a drama was never truly one of HBO’s biggest hits, but it was certainly one of the most expertly crafted.
Image Courtesy: Portable TV