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This story first appeared in the Sept. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
It’s the final showdown before the show (Sept. 20) as THR awards analyst Scott Feinberg and chief TV critic Tim Goodman share their respective preferences and predictions.
Will Win: Mad Men (AMC)
Game of Thrones and Better Call Saul can’t be written off, but Mad Men, which won from 2008 to 2011, had an acclaimed final season and once again will be rewarded — putting it in sole possession of the record for most wins in this category.
Should Win: Mad Men (AMC)
Mad Men is one of the top five greatest dramas in television history, and the only series this year that could have challenged it quality-wise was The Americans, which inexplicably and insanely was not nominated. Easy pick.
Will Win: Transparent (Amazon)
Louie, Silicon Valley and Veep again are destined to be bridesmaids — not for Modern Family, which won the past five times, but for Transparent, which feels as edgy as Modern used to (and will be the first streaming series to win).
Should Win: Louie (FX)
So many strong picks here, but Louie arguably had its best season — which is truly something, given the game-changing nature of that show. That said, Transparent is powerful and lovely as well, so it’s a win-win.
Will Win: Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
American Horror Story landed more noms than any show except Thrones, but its earlier, arguably better incarnations lost — so this looks to be between Olive Kitteridge and American Crime, with the edge going to the literary adaptation.
Should Win: The Honorable Woman (SundanceTV)
I know, Olive Kitteridge was excellent and has the HBO pedigree. But the writing, acting and directing on the gloriously intricate British political thriller The Honorable Woman was top-notch.
Will Win: Bessie (HBO)
In a thin category, this perfectly cast biopic of a blues singer is the clear favorite, having landed more nominations than any other TV movie. Moreover, 10 of the past 11 TV movie Emmy winners were HBO productions.
Should Win: Bessie (HBO)
An underwhelming category. You’ve got a comedy (Hello Ladies), a floundering franchise entry (Agatha Christie’s Poirot), a dark horse (Nightingale), a few inferior offerings — and then the respectable, obvious choice.
VARIETY TALK SERIES
Will Win: Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)
Half the nominees have gone off the air — The Colbert Report, The Daily Show and Late Show — and it’s a safe bet one will win. Letterman’s win was the nom; Colbert will be back on TV soon. So edge to Stewart.
Should Win: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
The Academy is faced with two deserving, departing icons in Stewart and Letterman. But the standout was the searingly funny, spot-on John Oliver, whose show is like The Daily Show with more velocity.
VARIETY SKETCH SERIES
Will Win: Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)
Just Saturday Night Live‘s luck: The 40-year-old perennial, which has lost to late-night talkers 12 times since its last win in 1993, now gets to compete only against other sketch shows — in The Year of Amy Schumer.
Should Win: Key & Peele (Comedy Central)
I worry that Amy Schumer’s ascension will eclipse the fact that Key & Peele is the industry standard in sketch comedy. Schumer does amazing work. But for consistency, no one touches Key & Peele.
ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES
Will Win: Jon Hamm, Mad Men
No one on Mad Men has ever won for acting, but that ends now: Nominated for the eighth straight year, Hamm was great in the final season, and voters want to rectify the situation. Also, there’s no irresistible alternative.
Should Win: Jon Hamm, Mad Men
I can’t fathom a scenario in which Mad Men‘s leading man doesn’t finally win. Like the best drama category, this is a strong field, but there is one — and only one — absolutely essential pick.
ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES
Will Win: Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson are on hit new shows (either would be the category’s first black winner), and Elisabeth Moss has sentiment in her favor. But Tatiana Maslany has TV’s toughest job: She plays roughly a dozen characters.
Should Win: Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss is superb, so if she wins, I won’t protest. But in all honesty, Orphan Black‘s exceptional, finally recognized Tatiana Maslany is the brightest light here.
ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES
Will Win: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Jeffrey Tambor’s portrayal of an L.A. dad coming out as transgender not only captured the zeitgeist but also many hearts. With Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice wins already under his belt, this should be no contest.
Should Win: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
I think that if you ask the other nominees in this category, even they’d be disappointed and shocked if Jeffrey Tambor didn’t get it. It’s a career-defining role in a very strong career. There is no other way.
ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES
Will Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler and Edie Falco’s shows are over, Lisa Kudrow mounted a comeback, Amy Schumer broke through and Lily Tomlin is a legend. But how do you bet against Emmy’s all-time favorite comedienne?
Should Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
I am a fierce, longtime, vocal opponent of Academy rubber-stamping. But every nomination and win for Julia Louis-Dreyfus resists all arguments. You’re watching a legend — you know that, right?
ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Will Win: David Oyelowo, Nightingale
There are a lot of options here, but the standout is the Selma actor, snubbed by Oscar, as a veteran who commits a crime and then spends the entire riveting movie alone onscreen.
Should Win: Richard Jenkins, Olive Kitteridge
If Olive Kitteridge‘s Richard Jenkins doesn’t walk home with the trophy, Wolf Hall‘s Mark Rylance would be a credible alternative. But Jenkins’ nuanced portrayal is most richly deserving.
ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Will Win: Frances McDormand, Olive Kitteridge
Don’t discount Jessica Lange for AHS: Freak Show or Queen Latifah for Bessie, but Frances McDormand’s portrayal of a depressed woman over the span of 25 years made her series, which she also produced, a must-see.
Should Win: Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Honorable Woman
Frances McDormand and Maggie Gyllenhaal both gave passionate performances. But so much was asked of Gyllenhaal in The Honorable Woman. It was one of the rawest turns of the year.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES
Will Win: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Here’s an instance where the new voting procedure (letting the full peer group vote instead of a select committee) should tip a close contest. Many more people watch Game of Thrones than Better Call Saul or Bloodline, for example.
Should Win: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Jonathan Banks undeniably was excellent on Better Call Saul. And a lot of people will be outraged if Ben Mendelsohn doesn’t win for Bloodline. But Peter Dinklage hasn’t won since 2011, and this feels like his year.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES
Will Win: Uzo Aduba, Orange Is the New Black
Things might be different if only one Thrones woman was nominated. My hunch is “Crazy Eyes” will win, as she did at this year’s SAG Awards. Still, beware of Christina Hendricks.
Should Win: Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
If Mad Men gets the last-chance/sentimental nods, and the actors benefit, I’m in. It’s deserved, including for Christina Hendricks, who gave us seven glorious seasons of Joan.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES
Will Win: Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Look for the 2011 and 2014 winner to get a third invite to the podium for playing a likable everydad on a hit show. Boding well: He appeared in more episodes than any other nominee and for the first time isn’t competing against a co-star.
Should Win: Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele
Veep‘s Tony Hale is brilliant. And everybody here brings something to the table. But wow, does Keegan-Michael Key do a lot of varied, intense, award-worthy work each episode.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES
Will Win: Allison Janney, Mom
It’s hard to bet against a Modern Family star (Julie Bowen) or a perennial nominee (Jane Krakowski), but it’s harder to bet against a TV Academy fave who is a double nominee for the second year in a row (she won both last year).
Should Win: Anna Chlumsky, Veep
This is a classic case of a lot of nominees (eight, yikes!) coming mostly from obscure cable shows and opening the door for a big network win (Janney). But boy is Anna Chlumsky good at playing the high-octane Veep game.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Will Win: Bill Murray, Olive Kitteridge
The more democratic system of voting introduced this year should play to the advantage of this beloved character actor, who makes a poignant appearance late in this series as a lonely widower.
Should Win: Kenneth Williams, Bessie
Wolf Hall‘s Damian Lewis was strong, as was Olive Kitteridge‘s Bill Murray. All in all, this is a very fine category. But most impressive of all was Michael Kenneth Williams’ supercharged performance in Bessie.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Will Win: Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Freak Show
The AHS regular should be a slam-dunk; she’s never won, and this season she tackled the challenge of playing a two-headed woman. But being nominated alongside two co-stars could cost her votes.
Should Win: Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Freak Show
Sarah Paulson was asked to do the impossible, and she pulled it off yet again. If the multiple AHS nominees divide the vote, though, American Crime‘s Regina King or Bessie‘s Mo’Nique would be worthy.
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