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Bright and early this Thursday, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will reveal the official nominees for the 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards. In preparation for this momentous occasion, we've already compiled a few observations about the ballots and detailed our dream selections for all the major categories, and now it’s time to try to get into the mind of a real Emmy voter. Who has a chance of being nominated? Who deserves to be nominated? And, for better or for worse, who actually will be nominated?

Just like last year, we'll be running through the big categories (apologies to those of you really into cinematography) and making predictions based on the official Emmy nomination ballots that all voters received (read: potential nominees that seem out of place aren't our doing). Yesterday, we tackled the comedy side, and today, it's drama's turn.

This year’s drama categories are hard to predict. There are a slew of returning shows (Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Mad Men) and performers (Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, and Anna Gunn) that could continue their successful runs, but there are also so many newbies (from True Detective and Masters of Sex to James Spader and Diane Kruger) that have a chance to make some noise. Will Breaking Bad go out on top, or is this all about True Detective? Can The Good Wife make it back into the running? Do people still care about Mad Men? So many questions!


SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES 

The recent history: A bloodbath. This is probably the toughest race of all the major categories thanks to the glut of high-profile performances for men in dramas. Nobody has won here two years in a row since Ray Walston in 1995-1996. Aaron Paul, winner in 2010 and 2012, looked like the man to break that streak last year, but he was topped by Boardwalk Empire’s Bobby Cannavale of all people. There’s been some consistency though. Paul has been here the last four years that he’s been eligible (2009-2010, 2012-2013), Peter Dinklage won in 2011 and scored nominations in 2012 and 2013, and Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter has been nominated in back-to-back years as well. A final key thing to remember: one show has had two nominees in this category every year since 2007.

The probable repeats: Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and Downton Abbey are all still on the voters radar, so there’s absolutely no reason to believe that Paul, Dinklage, and Carter will get snubbed this year. Paul and Dinklage are the closest thing to locks this nutty category has and Carter is pretty close (for whatever reason). The other actor eligible to make a return here is Homeland’s Mandy Patinkin, who you’d think would have a great shot--unless the voters actually watched Season 3 of Homeland. Maybe a little bit of a toss-up there.

The most deserving candidates (in alphabetical order): Josh Charles (The Good Wife), Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), Henry Czerny (Revenge), Matt Czuchry (The Good Wife), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy), Noah Emmerich (The Americans), Dann Florek (Law & Order: SVU), Rupert Friend (Homeland), Jordan Gavaris (Orphan Black), Walton Goggins (Justified), Tony Goldwyn (Scandal), Matthew Goode (The Good Wife), Stephen Graham (Boardwalk Empire), Christopher Heyerdahl (Hell on Wheels), Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire), Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men), Michael Kelly (House of Cards), Peter Krause (Parenthood), Matthew Lillard (The Bridge), Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad), Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy), Jeff Perry (Scandal), Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), Peter Sarsgaard (The Killing), Teddy Sears (Masters of Sex), Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire), John Slattery (Mad Men), Jon Voight (Ray Donovan), Shea Whigham (Boardwalk Empire), Michael K. Williams (Boardwalk Empire), and Jeffrey Wright (Boardwalk Empire).

The possible breakthroughs: In a category this difficult, picking 2-3 new entrants isn’t easy. Nevertheless, there are three names to pay attention to: Dean Norris, Josh Charles, and Jon Voight. The last two years, Aaron Paul has been joined by a fellow Breaking Bad co-star (Giancarlo Esposito in 2012, Jonathan Banks last year) and the final season was Norris’ time to shine. Charles is a former nominee (2011) for his work on The Good Wife and he had an amazing/much-discussed run for a show that one heck of a season. Ray Donovan isn’t what we hoped it could be, but Showtime continues to get its shows and performers nominated. Plus, Voight is a beloved, recognizable figure doing pretty good work. Other names to consider: Jeffrey Wright (if voters truly love flashy Boardwalk supporting performances), Tony Goldwyn (Scandal!), and Noah Emmerich (maybe FX convinces voters of The Americans’ greatness).

The picks: Paul, Dinklage, Carter, Norris, Voight, and Patinkin. I'm confident about the top four. It’s understandable why people want Josh Charles to earn some regocnition, and he deserves it, but it’ll be tough for him to break in.


SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

The recent history: Less of a bloodbath than on the men’s side, but fairly cutthroat. Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn triumphed last year in her second nomination, making her the seventh different winner in as many years. A couple of women (The Good Wife’s Christine Baranski and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks) have been nominated four years in a row, but neither have won; that’s tough. Last year was the first in eight years where one show didn’t have at least two nominees.

The probable repeats: This group of six could look very similar to last year. Gunn, Baranski, and Hendricks are all likely to return, as is Downton’s Maggie Smith, the 2012 winner. The other two nominees from 2013, Thrones’ Emilia Clarke and Homeland’s Morena Baccarin, are bigger question marks. Clarke could easily benefit from seniority and make it in again, but Baccarin doesn’t have much of a chance because she didn’t have much to do in S3 of Homeland.

The deserving candidates: Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad), Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Erika Christensen (Parenthood), Caroline Dhavernas (Hannibal), Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones), Frances Fisher (Resurrection), Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey), Lauren Graham (Parenthood), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Taraji P. Henson (Person of Interest), Annet Mahendru (The Americans), Melissa McBride (The Walking Dead), Ivana Milicevic (Banshee), Gretchen Mol (Boardwalk Empire), Michelle Monaghan (True Detective), Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy), Hayden Panettiere (Nashville), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Jessica Paré (Mad Men), Lana Parrilla (Once Upon a Time), Monica Potter (Parenthood), Monica Raymund (Chicago Fire), Emily Bett Rickards (Arrow), Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men), Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy), Madeleine Stowe (Revenge), Bex Taylor-Klaus (The Killing), Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy), and Bellamy Young (Scandal). 

The possible breakthroughs: Two names are at the top of this list. First, Downton’s Joanne Froggatt was nominated here in 2012 and had the kind of juicy storyline that could easily bring her back into the race. Second, True Detective’s Michelle Monaghan might have been stuck in a somewhat thankless role, but the show’s big profile and the ability to submit just one episode where she had more to do than usual should help her challenge for the top six. After that, there are a slew of deserving women who could get into the race if things break right: Archie Panjabi (former multi-time nominee), Sandra Oh (former winner, goodbye season), Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad love stretches even further), and Bellamy Young (Scandal!).

My predictions: Gunn, Smith, Baranski, Hendricks, Clarke, and Monaghan. Again, the top four are probably locked in. Froggatt could easily unseat Clarke or keep Monaghan out, but I’m hoping voters stop paying attention to Downton sooner rather than later.  

 

LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

The recent history: The voters went full-on troll mode last year, giving the award to The Newsroom’s Jeff Daniels over the murderer’s row of Bryan Cranston, Damian Lewis, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, and Hugh Bonneville. This has been one of the most competitive races for a long time now, with Hamm (six straight) and Cranston (five straight when eligible) serving as our big constants. Hamm has somehow never won and while people like to think of Cranston as the dominating force here, but he hasn’t won since 2010. Bonneville and Lewis have been here for the last two years. No leading man from a broadcast show has made it into the race since 2011; cable is now a dominating force. 

The probable repeats: We could simply run this six back. The Bonneville-Cranston-Hamm-Lewis quartet dominated the race the last two years. Of those four, Cranston is our one clear lock. People seem generally disinterested in Mad Men as a real threat so Hamm could drop out, but you’d think if anyone scored a nomination from the show, it’d be him. While Bonneville isn’t necessarily deserving to be here given the competition, I would have said that in 2012 and 2013 as well. Lewis is the most likely to say goodbye, especially since he didn’t do much this season. But the fact that he can submit just one episode is perhaps in his favor. Spacey was the favorite last year and Daniels won, so it would be weird for them not to be back.

The deserving candidates: Demian Bichir (The Bridge), Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Jim Caviezel (Person of Interest), Hugh Dancy (Hannibal), Michael Emerson (Person of Interest), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Woody Harrelson (True Detective), Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Joel Kinnaman (The Killing), Matthew McConaughey (True Detective), Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal), Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary), Tom Mison (Sleepy Hollow), Timothy Olyphant (Justified), Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan), Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex), James Spader (The Blacklist), Antony Starr (Banshee), and Robert Taylor (Longmire). 

The possible breakthroughs: Man, True Detective entering the drama races just mucks everything up, doesn’t it? Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are the two primary challengers to last year’s six nominees and the former is a lock to make it into the race. James Spader is a multi-time winner for his work on The Practice/Boston Legal and the voters love his brand of showy acting. Liev Schreiber, Michael Sheen, Demian Bichir, and Tom Mison are newbies that would typically make noise in a less crowded race, while Matthew Rhys and Joel Kinnaman are very deserving in their own right. And the Hannibal dudes. The poor, poor Hannibal dudes.

My predictions: Cranston, McConaughey, Spacey, Spader, Hamm, and Harrelson. It’s difficult not to include Daniels after he won last year, but A) someone has to go and B) that win was a fluke anyway. Regardless, after the top three, this is a crapshoot.

 

LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

The recent history: Claire Danes is your two-time returning champion for her work on Homeland. Behind Danes, last year’s group was nuts: seven total nominees instead of six and somehow without multi-time nominee and 2011 winner Julianna Margulies. The most consistent nominee here is Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss, who’s been nominated three straight years. Downton’s Michelle Dockery made into the race two years in a row and Connie Britton has somehow been here three out of the last four and she was nominated in the Lead Actress in a Miniseries category during her “off” year in 2012. 

The probable repeats: Oh boy. In theory, all seven women could return. However, you could also build out a category of 6-7 women that doesn’t include any of last year’s nominees and still have a great race. This race has become more jam-packed than the Lead Actor competition, and that’s pretty cool. Despite Homeland’s down year, it would be insane for Danes to get snubbed now; she’ll be back. Robin Wright submitted a great episode and she’s damn good in it, so she’ll be back too. Kerry Washington and Elisabeth Moss are also likely to return. Britton, Dockery, and Farmiga are the three I’ve seen other pundits leave out more regularly, but they have the pedigree and/or the history to come back. Again: this is nuts.

The deserving candidates: Nicole Beharie (Sleepy Hollow), Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries), Mireille Enos (The Killing), Ginnifer Goodwin (Once Upon a Time), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU), Diane Kruger (the Bridge), Lucy Liu (Elementary), Vanessa Marano (Switched at Birth), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Ellen Pompeo (Grey’s Anatomy), Maggie Q (Nikita), Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife), Keri Russell (The Americans), Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy), Gabrielle Union (Being Mary Jane), and Emily VanCamp (Revenge).

The possible breakthroughs: The biggie here is obviously Julianna Margulies, who didn’t deserve to be booted out of the race last year and should absolutely return after turning in great work on The Good Wife’s best season. But as I said, you could make a case for all sorts of people. Mariska Hargitay is an eight-time nominee in this category and brought the heat with the kind of material that gets people nominated. Keri Russell is tremendous on The Americans and some think that show could score all sorts of nominations this year. Nicole Beharie, Lizzy Caplan, and Diane Kruger all have the fresh look that in a less competitive year would go a long way. And of course, Tatiana Maslany. We all know what she’s done and of course she’s worthy.

My predictions: Danes, Wright, Washington, Moss, Margulies, and Farmiga. Who knows, though. I’ve learned not to discount Downton Abbey, so Dockery could easily be in the fold. Hargitay, Britton, and Russell could sneak in, too. What a race.

 

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

The recent history: After Mad Men’s four-peat from 2008-2011, Homeland and Breaking Bad took up the biggest prize of the night the last two years. Five nominees (Mad Men, Homeland, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, and Game of Thrones) have been here the last two years. No broadcast show has been nominated since 2011 or won since 2006 and the category has been more than half cable nominees since 2008. HBO has had at least one nominee here every year since 1999 but hasn’t won since The Sopranos in 2007, while Showtime has had at least one nominee since 2008.

The probable repeats: How about all of them? The sixth nominee last year was House of Cards and there’s little reason to believe it couldn’t join Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, and Homeland in the top six again in 2014. Homeland is the most in danger of fading away after a mostly maligned third season, but if the Mad Men malaise really takes hold, it could drop out too. 

The deserving candidates: The Americans, Arrow, Banshee, Boardwalk Empire, The Bridge, The Good Wife, Hannibal, Justified, Masters of Sex, Person of Interest, Scandal, Sleepy Hollow, and True Detective.

The possible breakthroughs: Heard of a show called True Detective? It’s in the top six, no doubt. After that, it gets dicey. The Americans, The Good Wife, Hannibal, and Scandal all have some kind of buzz and Good Wife has at least been nominated in this race before. Masters of Sex and The Bridge are brand new, which helps, but it’s unlikely to be enough.

My predictions: Breaking Bad, True Detective, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, and Mad Men. I would personally select a dozen other shows over Downton, but it made it into this race during its supposedly crappy seasons; why wouldn’t it continue to be here with a stretch of episodes that people appeared to enjoy quite a bit?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 8/25/2014

Season 66 : Episode 1

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