Tim Goodman's Wish List for the Emmy Nominations

Paul Schirald/HBO

What's likely to be singled out is anybody's guess, but THR's chief television critic offers his strong opinion on who and what he thinks should be recognized when noms are annouced July 14.

Most TV critics don't need much prompting to point out what's truly deserving on the small screen. Top-tier series and performers separate themselves from the merely good not long after a season begins. This year was no exception. Here's my list of drama actors and actresses who deserve an Emmy, followed by my list of drama series. I'm assuming AMC's Mad Men will be nominated again, and HBO's Boardwalk Empire should snag one for its first season. After that, all bets on rewarding quality are off.

DRAMA ACTORS/ACTRESSES

Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage
Game of Thrones (HBO)

Bean knows how to bring gravitas to a role, and he needed it as Lord Eddard Stark, the honest and loyal soldier of the realm. He's an actor so good, in fact, that a twist in the storyline has fans absolutely gutted. Meanwhile, in a cast littered with quality performances, Dinklage has managed to make his spoiled-but-tormented son of royalty be funny, poignant and compelling.

Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman
The Killing (AMC)
Enos' quiet power (and pain), combined with Kinnaman's bold swagger (hiding pain), has made The Killing riveting even in its slowest moments.

Walton Goggins
Justified (FX)
I'm worried that when (and it better not be if) Justified is feted at the Emmys, Goggins might get lost in the adoration that is likely to go to Timothy Olyphant and Margo Martindale. But Goggins has sunk himself into one of the most memorable TV characters. He's gone from outwardly defiant to an inner calm that's as gunpowder-dangerous as they come.

Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James
Terriers (FX)

So what if the series was canceled? That doesn't implicate the chops of these two actors, who gave the kind of best-buddy performances that masked the ambitious and literate goals of the series, which also deserves a nomination. They had a rare kind of chemistry, and it's a shame to look back on it and know we'll see it no more.

Holt McCallany
Lights Out (FX)

Just a wonderful performance all around as a damaged boxer, loving father and conflicted bad-ass. It's a shame that Lights Out didn't draw a bigger audience, but that takes nothing away from McCallany's incredible work.

Wendell Pierce and Khandi Alexander
Treme (HBO)

The whole of Treme is criminally underappreciated at the Emmys, but these actors especially are at the top of their craft (and have been for some time). Season two has allowed them to expand their impressive range (from vulnerability to pain), and it's time the Emmys took notice.

Ray Romano
Men of a Certain Age (TNT)

His could be the most underappreciated performance on this list. Few comedians have been able to go from comedy to convincing drama like Romano has done here, infusing his laconic character with existential malaise and tentative hopefulness. Yes, Ray Romano did that.

Emmy Rossum
Shameless (Showtime)

This was one of the most stunning seasonlong performances by an actress I witnessed this year. Rossum was the spark of humanity -- fierce pride and hidden vulnerability -- that held together the outrageous doings on Shameless.

Margo Martindale, Justified
It was impossible to take your eyes off of Martindale, and if, by some quirk of stupidity, she doesn't get nominated, my outrage is going to be loud and long. Martindale, in a tour de force that should be studied by all actors, played one of the most memorable small-screen villains ever.

DRAMA SERIES

Friday Night Lights (NBC)

It was one of the greatest shows in the past decade (save for season two), so why would anyone expect the Emmy voters to finally recognize the work done on the little show that could? FNL has quietly survived and has, with dignity, told numerous touching stories. It might be similarly touching to send it off with some hardware.

Game of Thrones

Epic, well-written, well-acted and densely involving, this series came to the screen fully formed. Outstanding.

Justified

Here's a series that went from very good to great this season as it deftly balanced drama and humor and one very riveting storyline.

The Killing

Atmospheric and absorbing, this series, despite drawing out the red herrings, put together a story arc that kept viewers coming back each week in anticipation. Fans' frustration with the finale shouldn't hurt its chances.

Lights Out

Series that are canceled stand little chance of being rewarded, but this is a deserving nominee nonetheless. Its tone was unique, the writing strong. The tragedy here is that, in its final episode, it blossomed into a show with even more potential for bittersweet storytelling.

Men of a Certain Age (TNT)

Age was ignored in its freshman season, though it was the most surprisingly adult, poignant and witty creation in ages. Season two hasn't flagged a bit and is deserving in several categories, including best series.

Southland (TNT)

In a landscape where the cop drama has been done so many times as to be cliche-ridden and done to perfection at least twice (The Wire, The Shield), who knew a series that failed on NBC could be saved and nurtured by TNT into something really marvelous?

Treme

Ignored in its first visceral and passionate season, Emmy voters could make up for that wrong by rewarding the even stronger, more personal and cathartic storytelling of season two.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

A short season and, well, the fact that zombies populated it might hurt the potential for this series to get nominated, but so few dramas had the kind of edge-of-the-seat worry that Dead cranked out each week.

Emmy, what say you?           

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