Emmy picks from a guy who watches enough TV to make an educated guess, but refuses to watch anything on CBS.
A May article in The New York Times asked: “Is TV Stronger Than Ever, Or Becoming Obsolete?”
Major networks are losing their audiences, digital media is picking up steam and the quality of the biggest-budget shows continue to disappoint.
But how can you say TV isn’t better than ever when you see the list of the nominees for best drama series? When shows like Girls invigorate cross-cultural discussions? And when actors like Bryan Cranston, Claire Danes and Glenn Close are getting nominated not for Oscars, but for Emmys?
It’s a golden age for television; the wealth is just getting spread around more.
So, without further ado, breakdowns for the five most intriguing categories of the 2012 Emmy Awards.
Best Drama Series:
|Boardwalk Empire||Mad Men, but about guys in a better profession (gangsters > white collar execs) and a better decade (20s>60s). But has wayyyyy more Steve Buscemi sex scenes.||10/1|
|Breaking Bad||The best show on television… ever? Worth a discussion when it wraps. Easily top-five already.||10/3|
|Downton Abbey||Fact: I have never seen this show. Second fact: I had no idea what network this show is on until I looked it up (PBS). Third fact: This show’s working title was “The King’s Speech Two.” (That’s not true, but you believed me!)||5/1|
|Game of Thrones||WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?! I love this goddamn crazy show.||10/1|
|Homeland||Think 24, but with no commercials, nudity, relevancy and great acting. The best show you’ve never seen.||9/2|
|Mad Men||It’s my website so I can say what I want… Here goes. The most overrated show I’ve ever seen. “It was the 60s! Someone was… GAY?! Women wanted to … work?! WHAT!?!?!” We get it, they wore nice clothes and drank during the day. Calm down.||10/3|
Front-Runner: Mad Men has won four years in a row. I know, just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not amazing.
Dark Horse: Homeland, which won the Golden Globe for Best Drama (though neither Breaking Bad nor Mad Men were nominated due to their shows’ timing). In my opinion, the second-best show of this list.
Perfect World: Breaking Bad. The opposite of Mad Men, it picks up the acting awards every year, but not the series awards. Season Four of Breaking Bad was the best season yet. Right, Hector?
Matt’s Pick: Breaking Bad. Simple: It’s unpredictable, brilliantly acted, and has already forever changed viewers’ expectations of the dramas they watch on television. Then again, perhaps the best TV show in history never won this Emmy either.
Best Comedy Series:
|30 Rock||A popular show, yes, but here’s the rub: Is this anyone’s favorite show?||9/1|
|The Big Bang Theory||A show about smart people for dumb people! #FuckCBSComedies||11/2|
|Curb Your Enthusiasm||The only show since Arrested Development to make me scream in laughter by myself. The ”Palestinian Chicken” episode deserves an Emmy of its own.||6/1|
|Girls||Nothing fires up a generational disagreement than a conversation about this show, which leads me to believe crusty Emmy voters might vote for this show just to feel cool.||11/2|
|Modern Family||The best comedy on TV two seasons ago. Note: every single adult cast member is nominated this season. ALL OF THEM!||9/5|
|Veep||This show cleverly riffed on the getting-stale mockumentary form and has some great actors. But rightfully, is getting the longest odds.||13/2|
(Aside: Half of the comedy series nominations are HBO shows. Impressive, considering only one HBO show has ever won Best Comedy Series (Sex and the City, ’01).)
Front-Runner: Modern Family. As (surprisingly?) unpredictable as this show was in Season One, it has become much less fresh over time. Still a good show, but third-best of this list.
Dark Horse: Girls. The most talked-about comedy show of 2012; perhaps over the past several years. Might be an “Eff You Hollywood, We Love Funny Young Women” pick.
Perfect World: Curb Your Enthusiasm is the funniest show of this year’s contenders. But it won’t win for three reasons. First: You either love Curb or you hate it. Second: It’s not a perfect show — it’s highly improvised and sometimes poorly edited. Third: This category isn’t called “Funniest Show.” It’s called “Best Comedy Series.”
But hey, the Car Periscope episode? Juicing? Redemption for Bill Buckner? This show has almost as many classic episodes as Seinfeld does, and is the longest-running show on premium cable. (Eight seasons!) Legitimately an all-time great, love it or hate it.
Matt’s Pick: Modern Family. Everyone’s mom’s favorite show; that’s who wins these things.
Best Actor: Drama
|Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)||He’s three-for-three as Walter White; one more and he’s closing in on GOAT status.||2/1|
|Damian Lewis (Homeland)||An incredibly complex character — a returning POW who believably vacillates between patriotism and terrorism. Yet, perhaps the third-most complex character of this list.||4/1|
|Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey)||Thanks for playing, Hugh. Seriously, look at the other guys.||9/1|
|Jon Hamm (Mad Men)||Wait, he’s never won an Emmy as Don Draper? Hamm running into Cranston four times is like Roddick running into Federer in four Slam finals.||9/2|
|Michael C. Hall (Dexter)||At some point, Hall deserves an Emmy for making one of the most complicated characters in TV history so believable and likable. (In fact, so does Jennifer Carpenter.) But this is an increasingly tough group to compete with, and Season Six of Dexter didn’t blow anyone away until the last minute.||12/1|
|Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire)||Two questions: First, is that a picture of John Clayton or Sam Cassell? Second, is that really the same guy who played these two roles?||10/1|
Front-Runner: Bryan Cranston. He’s never not won the Emmy since he’s played Walter White.
Dark Horse: Damian Lewis. Homeland got nominated for all five major categories (lead actors, directing, writing, best show). Claire Danes is the favorite in her category, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Homeland picks up another Emmy somewhere.
Perfect World: Bryan Cranston. This is the deepest group of “Best Actor” candidates I’ve ever seen. Think about how much TV has changed in the last 10 years. Keifer Sutherland won this award in 2006 for screaming “CHLOE, THERE’S NO TIME!” 24 times. Would he even get nominated this year?
Matt’s Pick: Bryan Cranston. If Cranston doesn’t win, it would be a bigger upset than if Lindsay Lohan lived to be 75. Seriously, watch this scene and tell me someone else deserves this award. Watch it right now.
Best Actress, Comedy Series
|Amy Poehler (Parks and Rec)||Does she also get nominated for “Ruining My Confidence In Marriage” Award?||11/2|
|Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)||The most impressive thing about Falco’s nomination is that it means someone actually has watched Nurse Jackie.||9/1|
|Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)||What a career. The only cast member to be successful after Seinfeld has been nominated for Emmys for three different shows, AND she was on SNL once.||10/3|
|Lena Dunham (Girls)||Her acting was so underrated it’s now overrated. That’s the only way to describe it. I think this is more of a holistic “Lena Dunham Appreciation” nomination than an appropriate homage to her acting skills, but she might just pull out the W anyway.||13/2|
|Melissa McCarthy (Mike and Molly)||Last year’s winner (and Academy Award nominee) in one of those CBS shows no one who reads this site ever watches.||9/1|
|Tina Fey (30 Rock)||
Betting against Tina Fey feels a little like betting against the Patriots at home against the Cardinals in your survival pools. One of those bets that, even if you’re wrong, you’d make it again.
(F*** you, Patriots! The one game I needed you to win! Come on!)
|Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)||The reason New Girl is a legitimately solid and underrated network comedy.||9/2|
Front-Runner: Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the favorite according to the oddsmakers. Might she win the “Denzel Washington Wins For Training Day Slash Lifetime Achievement Award” here?
Dark Horse: Lena Dunham. Girls either wins a ton of awards or none at these Emmys.
Perfect World: Zooey Deschanel. You might not believe it but I watched the entire first season of New Girl. Not the most complex character out there, but the first of her kind I’ve seen on network TV.
Matt’s Pick: Tina Fey. Yup, I’ve learned nothing, and am picking the Patriots against the Cardinals.
Best Variety Series (no odds available):
|The Daily Show|
|The Colbert Report|
|Jimmy Kimmel Live|
|Late Night With Jimmy Fallon|
|Real Time With Bill Maher|
|Saturday Night Live|
Front-runner: The Daily Show. A Poynter Institute study shows people who watch The Daily Show for their news are more likely to know what’s going on than people who watch CNN.
Note: If you had NO exposure to news AT ALL, you know more about the news than Fox viewers! –>
Moral of the story: The Daily Show is important.
Dark Horse: SNL just wrapped one of its best seasons in years. In a few years, we will look back at the 2011 cast of Wiig, Hader, Samberg, Sudeikis, Armisen and Thompson with reverence. And SNL hasn’t won since 1993!
Perfect world: The Colbert Report. If Jon Stewart breathes fire, Stephen Colbert breathes satire. Colbert is unequivocally funnier than The Daily Show, but it will always be the kid brother.
Matt’s Pick: The Daily Show. It’s won every year since 2003. One of these years, Colbert has to take down Stewart, but it’s not this year.
Best Actress, Drama: Claire Danes should pick up the W for Homeland, but she’s going against Kathy Bates and Glenn Close.
Best Actor, Comedy: Fucking Alec Baldwin will win, making me enraged after he beats Louis CK, Larry David, Don Cheadle and two guys on CBS.
Best Supporting Actor, Drama: Aaron Paul/Jesse Pinkman edges Tyrion Lannister and Gus Fring.
Supporting Actress, Comedy: Kristen Wiig beats Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara in an upset.
Supporting Actor, Comedy: Ty Burrell wins another loaded category, which includes every adult Modern Family cast member, Bill Hader and Schmidt from New Girl.
Most Likely To Get Drunk And Scream To His Roommate About Mad Men Then Angrily Tweet About Breaking Bad: The Author.
Matt Ford is the Editor in Chief of Hire Me Grantland. He thanks you for still checking in on our site even though it’s been slow lately. We’ll be moving in full force soon again, promise!