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 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). We'll start with the comedy categories.
This year's comedy races might have less influx and intrigue than those on the drama side, but there's still a lot to ponder. While a trio of bright and shiny new contenders (Orange Is the New Black, Silicon Valley, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine) could disrupt the equilibrium, veterans like Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory aren't likely to suddenly fade away. Will new trump old, or will we be sighing our way through the nomination ceremony on Thursday?
SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
The recent history: Veep's Tony Hale toppled the three-year Modern Family monopoly last year and had to defeat three Modern Family actors (Ty Burrell, Ed O'Neill, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson) to do it. Oddly, Eric Stonestreet, a two-time winner (in 2010 and 2012) for his work on the show, wasn't even nominated last year. Outside of the pure domination by the ABC comedy, there hasn't been a whole lot of consistency. Girls' Adam Driver and SNL's Bill Hader rounded out the race in 2013, and New Girl's Max Greenfield made a surprising appearance in 2012. No one has won in this category in back-to-back years since Jeremy Piven's three-peat for Entourage in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
The probable repeats: Of last year's nominees, everybody but Hader is still in play, and recent events tell us that we shouldn't bet against Modern Family's continued prominence. Hale's win was surprising but very much deserved, and voters seem to like Veep; he'll be back. Driver is a bit of wildcard. Is he now entrenched in the category, or he a one-year wonder just like Max Greenfield?
The deserving candidates (in alphabetical order): Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation), Fred Armisen (Portlandia), Scott Aukerman (Comedy Bang! Bang!), Murray Bartlett (Looking), Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Hannibal Buress (Broad City), Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Charlie Day (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Noel Fisher (Shameless), Nolan Gould (Modern Family), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Alex Karpovsky (Girls), Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele), Taran Killam (SNL), Joe Lo Truglio (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley), Cameron Monaghan (Shameless), Lamorne Morris (New Girl), Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Adam Pally (The Mindy Project), Jordan Peele (Key & Peele), Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation), Danny Pudi (Community), Reid Scott (Veep), Atticus Shaffer (The Middle), Timothy C. Simons (Veep), Albert Tsai (Trophy Wife), Matt Walsh (Veep), Christopher Evan Welch (Silicon Valley), Jeremy Allen White (Shameless), Zach Woods (Silicon Valley), and Parker Young (Enlisted).
The possible breakthroughs: Although there are so many deserving dudes in this category, very few of them are going to bust out of the Modern Family chokehold. Stonestreet wasn't nominated last year, but he's a two-time winner with a submission that could work wonders for him—though I still wouldn't consider him a breakthrough. If we assume that Modern Family gets its four nomination spots back and Hale sticks around, there's just one slot left. The man most likely to take that spot? Andre Braugher. He's a multi-time Emmy nominee who's delivered a great performance in an out-of-the-ordinary role (at least for him). Otherwise, we're dealing with a lot of ifs. If voters really get wrapped up in their love for Silicon Valley, T.J. Miller or Christopher Evan Welch could sneak in; if voters loved the final season of How I Met Your Mother, they could honor NPH one more time; and if they wanted to keep at least one SNL representative in the category, Taran Killam is an option.
My predictions: Hale, Braugher, Burrell, Stonestreet, Ferguson, and O'Neill. You could talk me into swapping out one of those last two Modern Family men for Driver, but it's hard to bet against recent history.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
The recent history: Nurse Jackie's Merritt Wever took home the 2013 trophy in an extremely tough seven-person race, breaking up a possible three-peat for Julie Bowen of Modern Family. Nevertheless, the last few years have been somewhat consistent. Six of the seven women nominated last year were multi-time nominees: Bowen and Vergara have earned a nod four years in a row, Wever and The Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik have each been present for two years in a row, and Glee's Jane Lynch has made the cut three out of the last four years. SNL has had a nominee in this race for six straight years.
The probable repeats: If everything breaks right, six of the seven nominees from 2013 could return (everyone except Jane Krakowski, who's no longer eligible now that 30 Rock is over). As usual, it's hard to imagine much upheaval when this race has been relatively consistent. Bowen, Lynch, and Wever have won the last four trophies, and there's not much reason for Vergara to disappear from the race now. Bialik and Veep's Anna Chlumsky are maybe a little less safe than Wever and the Modern Family duo, but "a little less" than stone-cold lock is still good odds. If anyone's run is going to an end, it has to be Lynch's right?
The deserving candidates: Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Lake Bell (Childrens Hospital), Carrie Brownstein (Portlandia), Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory), Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory), Allie Grant (Suburgatory), Marcia Gay Harden (Trophy Wife), Gillian Jacobs (Community), Allison Janney (Mom), Jemima Kirke (Girls), Margo Martindale (The Millers), Kate McKinnon (SNL), Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother), Kate Mulgrew (Orange is the New Black), Niecy Nash (Getting On), Chelsea Peretti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Busy Philipps (Cougar Town), Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), Laura Prepon (Orange Is the New Black), Retta (Parks and Recreation), Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer), Eden Sher (The Middle), Cecily Strong (SNL), Michaela Watkins (Trophy Wife), Samira Wiley (Orange Is the New Black), and Allison Williams (Girls).
The possible breakthroughs: There isn't going to be much movement in this category, unfortunately. The three actresses who have a legitimate shot to make into the top six (or seven, if the voters are split again) are Allison Janney, Margo Martindale, and Kate Mulgrew. Janney and Martindale are voter favorites and former winners on the drama side, as well as the best part of their respective freshman CBS sitcoms. Mulgrew might just be Orange Is the New Black's best shot of scoring a nomination in one of the big acting categories and of course, she's fantastic as Red. Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong have an outside chance given the consistent run of SNL performers in the category.
My predictions: Janney, Wever, Bowen, Bialik, Vergara, and Mulgrew. If the list expands to seven again, Chlumsky will be on it.
LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
The recent history: 2013 saw America's sitcom star, The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons, take home his third trophy in four years, defeating some stiff competition including Alec Baldwin in his final year of 30 Rock eligibility and Jason Bateman in his big Arrested Development return. Parsons—like Tony Shalhoub, John Lithgow, and Kelsey Grammer before him—is the dominant force in this category. Meanwhile, Louis C.K. is somehow the other senior member after scoring a nomination for three years straight. It's Parsons and C.K., and then everyone else.
The probable repeats: Parsons and C.K. are joined by Don Cheadle (House of Lies) and Matt LeBlanc (Episodes) as the potential returnees. Neither Cheadle or LeBlanc is particularly great in his role, but that's also been the case in past years where they've been nominated. As I always say, why go against recent history? That's especially true when the competition isn't as stacked as it was in the last couple of years.
The deserving candidates: Andy Daly (Review), Neil Flynn (The Middle), Michael J. Fox (The Michael J. Fox Show), Jeff Garlin (The Goldbergs), John Goodman (Alpha House), Jonathan Groff (Looking), Jake Johnson (New Girl), William H. Macy (Shameless), Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down), Joel McHale (Community), Christopher Meloni (Surviving Jack), Chris Messina (The Mindy Project), Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), David Walton (About a Boy), Bradley Whitford (Trophy Wife), Robin Williams (The Crazy Ones), and Elijah Wood (Wilfred).
The possible breakthroughs: We always have to be on alert that Jon Cryer (inexplicably the one person to stop a Parsons four-peat) and Johnny Galecki (a former nominee) could jump back into the race and snag a spot from some real upstart. Elsewhere, this category is all about big names with big question marks. John Goodman, Michael J. Fox, and Robin Williams have a distinct advantage over their fellow hopefuls because the voters know them very well. Goodman is a seven-time nominee (who's never won), and Michael J. Fox has won four of these suckers—he's tied for the most wins of all time. Robin Williams was only nominated once, nearly 40 years ago for Mork & Mindy, but he's Robin Williams. However, all three men have obstacles to overcome. For Goodman, it's the fact that very few people watched Alpha House; for the other two, it's that their shows were canceled. Chances are that at least one of them is hobbled by these circumstances, which could open up a slot for some new blood like Andy Samberg or Thomas Middleditch.
My predictions: Parsons, C.K., LeBlanc, Samberg, Cheadle, and Galecki. Having your show get axed isn't a positive indicator of a nomination. But beware Cryer; he's looming.
LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
The recent history: Veep's Julia Louis-Dreyfus picked up her second win in a row in 2013, becoming the first woman to win this award in back-to-back years since Patricia Heaton in 2000 and 2001. Behind JLD, the category is somewhat stable. Amy Poehler (four straight nominations), Edie Falco (three straight), and Lena Dunham (two straight) are relatively ensconced here. Melissa McCarthy's 2011 win for Mike & Molly is the only victory by a multi-camera comedy performer in this category in the last decade.
The probable repeats: Only four of the six nominees from last year are eligible with the end of 30 Rock and Enlightened, but it's pretty likely that those four (Dreyfus, Poehler, Falco, and Dunham) will return yet again. Louis-Dreyfus is a two-time winner on a great show, so she'll definitely be back. In theory, Poehler might be the most in danger because Parks and Rec is old and she's never won, but it seems like the voters simply love nominating her (if you combine her Parks and Rec and SNL runs, she's been nominated in a major acting category every year since 2008). While Falco and Dunham aren't likely to win anything, they, like Poehler, are serial nominees.
The deserving candidates: Malin Akerman (Trophy Wife), Rachel Bilson (Hart of Dixie), Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Anna Faris (Mom), Ilana Glazer (Broad City), Abbi Jacobson (Broad City), Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), Jane Levy (Suburgatory), Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs), Laurie Metcalf (Getting On), Lennon Parham (Playing House), Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope), Emmy Rossum (Shameless), Taylor Schilling (Orange Is the New Black), and Jessica St. Clair (Playing House).
The possible breakthroughs: The competition for the final two spots might not be that fierce. Anna Faris and Taylor Schilling are clearly positioned to make it into the race, and deservedly so. You could make a great case for all the women listed above, but they all face significant uphill battles when it comes to actually getting nominated. Zooey D and Martha Plimpton are former nominees in this category who can't get back into it, while internet buzz probably isn't enough for Mindy Kaling and Emmy Rossum.
My predictions: Louis-Dreyfus, Falco, Dunham, Faris, Schilling, and Poehler. Of all the major categories, this is the one I'm most confident about. (So half of these are almost certainly wrong, then.)
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
The recent history: Modern Family won its fourth straight title in 2013, inducing a nationwide groan. The ABC juggernaut is joined by The Big Bang Theory in scoring four nominations in a row, while Girls and Veep have each been here for two years. Despite the rise of cable (and now internet) programming, broadcast has kept a nice grip on this category. Sex and the City's victory in 2001 is the only non-broadcast winner ever, and FX and Showtime have a grand total of merely three nominations between them. Really, it's NBC, CBS, and ABC that've historically dominated. Fox's last winner was Arrested Development in 2004, and Family Guy (2009) and Glee (2010-11) are its only nominees since.
The probable repeats: 30 Rock is the only departing show from last year's group of six, leaving Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, Veep, Girls, and Louie to make an attempt to repeat. And why would any of them be left out? Girls is the only option if you really want to take one of last year's contenders out of the race. Maybe you talk yourself into the idea that voters are over the show.
The deserving candidates: Broad City, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Community, Eastbound & Down, Enlisted, The Goldbergs, Looking, Maron, The Mindy Project, Mom, New Girl, Orange Is the New Black, Parks and Recreation, Playing House, Raising Hope, Review, Shameless, Silicon Valley, and Trophy Wife.
The possible breakthroughs: It's Orange Is the New Black, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Silicon Valley, and then everything else. Brooklyn Nine-Nine won the Golden Globe earlier this year, but of course that's not necessarily a signifier of anything. HBO usually finds a way to get its big comedies nominated somewhere, and people like Silicon Valley. But Orange Is the New Black is the most likely of the three to jump into the race. People have been waiting for it to win a bunch of Emmys for a whole year; it's time, and the buzz from Season 2 can only help. There are other great comedies out there—Enlisted, Review, Broad City, and Shameless, most notably—but it's nearly impossible for them to make real noise. That's too bad.
My predictions: Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, Veep, Louie, Orange Is the New Black, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I guess I've talked myself into the voters disliking Girls, huh? Frankly, I'd love to see this one go to seven nominees. If not, something big is going to get left out.