Who Should Win vs. Who'll Actually Win

Ali Goldstein/NBC

Can Hamm really beat Buscemi? Will Linney follow in Falco's unfunny footsteps? THR's Tim Goodman offers his wishes/predictions for TV's big night.

Don't blame critics for second-guessing Emmy voters. They brought it on themselves through a history of mystery. As in: "What? How did Show X not get nominated?" But I've already written my annual and ever-more-contemptuous Emmy rant column, so let's move on (with only a brief flare-up here and there). While it's common practice to hedge your bets, even as a critic, perhaps no awards show is more tailor-made for the "should win/will win" backhanded compliment. Here, then, are my picks for some of the Emmys' most important categories.


Both Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire are intriguing nominees -- and certainly a credit to Emmy voters. But Thrones is perhaps too new and unproven to get the nod, and Boardwalk, while lush and amazing, is still seeking its level of greatness.

Should and Will Win: Mad Men, a series that knows all about greatness. The only way Mad Men loses is if voters feel a need to share the riches. (They shouldn't.)


I would love to see 30 Rock get recognized yet again, despite its uneven year. Here's why: It's more brilliant than not and works, knowingly, on several different levels of comedy. However, if it's going to lose, I have a replacement handy.

Should Win: Parks and Recreation. Like 30 Rock (and many other comedies), it took a handful of episodes before Parks found its stride, but since then -- from season two onward -- it has done a fantastic job of fleshing out minor characters and finding humor in fresh places.

Will Win: Of all the sitcoms in this category, Modern Family seems right in the wheelhouse of Emmy's voting bloc. It's funny but safer than Louie and less aggressively immersed in sarcasm than 30 Rock.


Oh Lord, talk about a category that could really go sideways and end up all kinds of wrong. (And, yes, it needs to be said again: The lack of Katey Sagal and Khandi Alexander here is criminal.) Mireille Enos' understated performance on The Killing will get unfairly lost, and years of fantastic work probably won't do much for Connie Britton on Friday Night Lights, a series Emmy voters ignored for years.

Should Win: Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss. She has been nailing this nuanced performance for years.

Will Win: Julianna Margulies. I'm guessing Emmy voters are leaning toward the mainstream this year, and Margulies' fine performance on The Good Wife will be rewarded.


Any nominee could win, and an argument could be made to support that win.

Should and Will Win: Jon Hamm. This is the right pick. Three consecutive wins for Bryan Cranston were certainly deserved, but Hamm is long overdue. Let it be.


Uh-oh, I'm trying to tamp down the urge to rant. Let's just say it's unfair to have supremely talented actresses from non-comedy series entered here. (On the plus side, none of those shows turned up in the outstanding comedy category, so that's progress.)

Should Win: Tina Fey. I would be perfectly happy with Parks' Amy Poehler or Raising Hope's Martha Plimpton getting the nod, but there's already enough hedging in this format. Fey consistently finds the funny in any scenario. That can't be overstated.

Will Win: Laura Linney. She's an astonishing actress who can do drama and comedy. Unfortunately, like Showtime winner Edie Falco before her, the material she's given on The Big C is not that funny.


Again, not a category where there would be egregious oversight picking one nominee over another. They all do fine work in various formats of funny.

Should Win: Louis C.K. It won't happen, but wouldn't it be phenomenal if it did? He does everything on Louie; his fearlessness and willingness to go anywhere give the show a welcome originality.

Will Win: Steve Carell, whose farewell episodes of The Office were funny and touching -- that's catnip to Emmy voters.


What an excellent and varied allotment (finally!): Starz got in with The Pillars of the Earth; PBS got in with Downton Abbey; ReelzChannel got in with The Kennedys, even though it shouldn't have -- but still, ReelzChannel at the Emmys! How strange and fresh. And, of course, category-dominant HBO got in with Cinema Verite, Mildred Pierce and Too Big to Fail.

Should Win: Downton Abbey. Duh. Is there even a doubt?

Will Win: Mildred Pierce. In many ways, it's too big to fail. Voters are unlikely to sidestep the all-star cast, even though the entire affair was as flawed as it was lovely.


Television is a writer's medium. What that means is these are very important races, the backbone of what makes a great series. Seems a shame only one statuette gets handed out in each genre.

Should and Will Win: Mad Men. Nothing against Friday Night Lights and especially the superb Thrones, but Mad Men is nominated twice in this category for a reason. Mad Men is ethereal, which belies the visual reasons people tune in -- lots of people don't realize they're hooked on an existential drama.


An argument could be made (and won) that finding brilliance in drama writing is easier than finding it in comedic writing. Comedy is simply more subjective. Physical humor, standard setup/punch-line affairs, nuanced callbacks, absurdism -- it just comes down to what makes you laugh. But look at this wonderfully diverse gamut of shows: Louie, Modern Family, Episodes, Office (well, that spot should have gone to Parks).

Should Win: 30 Rock. You can't just dismiss genius.

Will Win: Modern Family. A safer bet, but not as ambitious as 30 Rock or Louie.