Emmys Kickoff: 6 Burning Questions

 

This story first appeared in the May 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Barely three months after the Oscars put their red carpet in storage, Hollywood is girding for an equally crazy awards season for television. With Primetime Emmy nominations looming July 10 and a one-month-earlier ceremony telecast slated for Aug. 25 on NBC, campaigning is in full swing, with a few scenarios emerging as potentially record-setting.

1. Can Matthew McConaughey make history by winning an Oscar and an Emmy in the same year?

The hotter-than-hot Dallas Buyers Club actor, 44, could see his 2014 get even more all right-all right-all right by becoming the first actor to win an Emmy during the same year as his Oscar for his work on HBO's hit drama contender True Detective. Jeff Bridges and Forest Whitaker earned Emmy nominations months after their Oscar wins (for 2009's Crazy Heart and 2006's The Last King of Scotland, respectively). Only the Helens have pulled off this feat: Helen Mirren completed half her EGOT during a 12-month period, scoring an Oscar for The Queen in 2007 between consecutive Emmys for Elizabeth I and Prime Suspect. And Helen Hunt won her Oscar for As Good as It Gets in 1998, the same year she won lead actress in a comedy for NBC's Mad About You. McConaughey will need his Oscar boost because he faces serious competition: Newcomers Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex) and Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) join heavies Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey and 2013 winner Jeff Daniels in the most crowded lead actor race in a while. Also complicating matters? McConaughey's buddy and Detective co-star Woody Harrelson is being submitted in the same category, making them the only actors slotted as co-leads.

2. Will The Big Bang Theory -- and Chuck Lorre -- finally make it to the podium?

Television's No. 1 comedy in total viewers -- it peaked in April with 18 million -- seems a lock for a fourth consecutive series Emmy nomination and maybe even a win. History says four-time winner Modern Family is unlikely to score again (only Frasier has managed five consecutive victories in the category), and 30 Rock is out of the game, putting Big Bang -- a 2013 Critics' Choice winner -- in its best position yet. That also is great news for superproducer Lorre, 61 (he recently saw his new hit series Mom re-upped for season two), who has waited 30 years for a trip to the podium.

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3. Is it finally time for Amy Poehler, Emmy's perennial bridesmaid, to say "I do"?

After 10 nominations, a final season of Parks and Recreation on the horizon, two hot Golden Globes hosting stints and, finally, a Globe win in January for her intrepid Leslie Knope, Poehler, 42, never has entered Emmy season as a stronger contender. She has eschewed campaigning because of a vigorous producing slate (including Comedy Central's Broad City and NBC's upcoming Old Soul and Welcome to Sweden) but no longer is up against pal Tina Fey, affording the stalwart (and lovable) Poehler a bump she has earned. 

4. Will darker-than-dark comedy contenders make a showing among more traditional series?

 

Emmy's most consistent conundrum -- what is a comedy? -- reached new heights when two one-hour series, Orange Is the New Black (Netflix) and Shameless (Showtime), were submitted in the category. With 30 Rock gone, it is not a bad strategy: Prison-set dramedy Orange's second season premieres in June, giving the show a rare tune-in boost during voting, and Shameless' extremely unfunny recent season (episodes included scenes showing a toddler nearly overdosing on cocaine and a gay son being beaten up by his father) has given executive producer John Wells' Emmy move an air of controversy while giving voters something about which to buzz.

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5. Can a glut of (seriously funny) sketch-comedy series threaten Fallon's killer Tonight Show?

 

It has been nearly two decades since The Tonight Show took home variety series gold, and there would seem no better year than this -- given Jimmy Fallon's impossibly perfect Tonight inauguration -- for NBC to score again. However, aside from his usual competition (Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Kimmel, Bill Maher), Fallon must battle such buzzy sketch series as Comedy Central's Key & Peele (a 2014 Peabody honoree) and Inside Amy Schumer and IFC's Portlandia, the latter of which eclipsed Fallon for a variety writing nom in 2013. 

6. Can Breaking Bad triumph again (and beat True Detective) after an entire year off the air?

 

In what is becoming the longest goodbye in television history, AMC's departed drama and 2013 winner is eligible for one last round of Emmy consideration. (Its final season was split into two installments of eight episodes, the second of which aired in August and September.) Universally loved creator Vince Gilligan now is shooting the spinoff Better Call Saul, and three-time Emmy-winning star Cranston is up for a Tony for Broadway's All the Way, giving Bad the edge it needs to come back from the dead -- that is, unless voters decide drama's cool-kid newcomer, True Detective, deserves a more arresting Emmy debut.

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