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The Gold Standard: Actors in drama series

Homeland (tv program)Mad Men (tv program)Downton Abbey (tv program)The Good Wife (tv program)House of Cards (tv program)Breaking Bad (tv program)The Newsroom (tv program)

"Homeland" swept the two lead acting drama categories last year. Could another first-year series be poised to duplicate the feat? Let's look at the four drama acting races to see if it might be in the cards.

LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA

Kevin Spacey, "House of Cards"

Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"

Damian Lewis, "Homeland"

Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"

Jeff Daniels, "The Newsroom"

Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"

FULL COVERAGE: Emmys 2013

Prime contenders: Hugh Bonneville, "Downton Abbey"; Timothy Olyphant, "Justified"; Kevin Bacon, "The Following"; Matthew Rhys, "The Americans"; Andrew Lincoln, "The Walking Dead"; Michael C. Hall, "Dexter"

Bubbling under: Aden Young, "Rectify"; Jonny Lee Miller, "Elementary"; William H. Macy, "Shameless"; Jeremy Irons, "The Borgias"; Jeremy Piven, "Mr. Selfridge"; Tom Selleck, "Blue Bloods"; Gabriel Byrne, "Vikings"; Travis Fimmel, "Vikings"

For your consideration: Timothy Olyphant, "Justified." If a series regular hasn't been nominated by the show's fourth season, odds are it won't ever happen. And, in Olyphant's case, that would be a shame. "Justified's" beautifully constructed procedural arc this season took Olyphant's marshal to some deep, dark places that tested his serene-cool charm. Olyphant's laconic work must look too easy to some, but it's mighty tough to pull it off this convincingly. It's not too late to nominate him.

Analysis: The arrival of Spacey and Daniels, along with Rhys and Bacon, could bring seismic changes to the category, though you'd have to believe that vets Cranston, Lewis and Hamm aren't going anywhere. Of last year's class, five-time nominee Hall would seem ready to step aside, as "Dexter" has seen better days. And though Bonneville's a fine actor, nobody really watches "Downton" for Robert Crawley, do they? Even though "The Newsroom" had an army of detractors, few found fault with Daniels' turn as the show's truth-telling anchorman. Count him in.

WATCH: The Envelope Emmy Round Table | Drama

LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA

Claire Danes, "Homeland"

Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"

Kerry Washington, "Scandal"

Michelle Dockery, "Downton Abbey"

Robin Wright, "House of Cards"

Keri Russell, "The Americans"

Prime contenders: Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men"; Connie Britton, "Nashville"; Vera Farmiga, "Bates Motel"; Glenn Close, "Damages"

Bubbling under: Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: SVU"; Lucy Liu, "Elementary"; Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer"; Anna Paquin, "True Blood"; Frances O'Connor, "Mr. Selfridge"; Emmy Rossum, "Shameless"; Tatiana Maslany, "Orphan Black"

For your consideration: Tatiana Maslany, "Orphan Black." The marvel of her work in BBC America's sci-fi thriller is that you could put Maslany here and in supporting actress for the fully realized way she brought her many different characters to life on the show. It's brilliant work, arguably the best of the year, and hopefully enough voters caught this show after "Doctor Who" to put her on the ballot.

Analysis: Danes won last year, and she, Margulies and Dockery seem safe bets to return as nominees. We're less sold on past stalwarts Close (too small an audience) and Moss (too small a role), mostly because the challengers this year are so strong. Wright wowed as the regal wife in "House of Cards," while Russell reinvented herself as the steely Soviet spy in "The Americans." As for Washington, her work in "Scandal" has caught fire in such a way that she could well be the likely victor. Hey, if Barbara Bel Geddes could win for "Dallas," why not?

TIMELINE: Emmy winners through the years

SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA

Mandy Patinkin, "Homeland"

Aaron Paul, "Breaking Bad"

Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones"

Jonathan Banks, "Breaking Bad"

Sam Waterston, "The Newsroom"

Corey Stoll, "House of Cards"

Prime contenders: Alan Cumming, "The Good Wife"; Jim Carter, "Downton Abbey"; Noah Emmerich, "The Americans"; David Morrissey, "The Walking Dead"; Walton Goggins, "Justified"

Bubbling under: Larry Hagman, "Dallas"; Guillermo Diaz, "Scandal"; John Slattery, "Mad Men"; Bobby Cannavale, "Boardwalk Empire"; Josh Charles, "The Good Wife"; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, "Game of Thrones"; James Purefoy, "The Following"

For your consideration: David Morrissey, "The Walking Dead." Fans of the graphic novel had long been waiting for the Governor to turn up on the show. Morrissey fulfilled everyone's expectations and then some, bringing a moving complexity to one of the year's best villains.

Analysis: Remarkably, Patinkin was not even nominated last year. He's a sure bet now — he might have been the best thing about "Homeland" this season. Newcomers this season Stoll and Waterston should find their way in too, as should Banks, "Breaking Bad's" supernaturally calm tough guy. It's a deep category, and several deserving candidates (how do you leave out Goggins?) won't make the final cut.

BUZZMETER: Pundits make their awards picks

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA

Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey"

Anna Gunn, "Breaking Bad"

Christina Hendricks, "Mad Men"

Christine Baranski, "The Good Wife"

Monica Potter, "Parenthood"

Morena Baccarin, "Homeland"

Prime contenders: Archie Panjabi, "The Good Wife"; Joanne Froggatt, "Downton Abbey"; Elizabeth McGovern, "Downton Abbey"; Emily Mortimer, "The Newsroom"

Bubbling under: Jessica Pare, "Mad Men"; Hayden Panettiere, "Nashville"; Kate Mara, "House of Cards"; Kelly Macdonald, "Boardwalk Empire"; Abigail Spencer, "Rectify"; January Jones, "Mad Men"; Jennifer Carpenter, "Dexter"; Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley and Lena Headey, "Game of Thrones"

For your consideration: Abigail Spencer, "Rectify." In a series distinguished by fantastic acting, Spencer stood out, if only because her firecracker energy was such a marked contrast to the show's languid pacing. (The way she rocked those cowboy boots didn't hurt, either.) Equally convincing playing headstrong and vulnerable, Spencer stands as one of the year's rising stars.

Analysis: Of the four drama acting categories, this could be the most stable with all six of last year's nominees conceivably returning. But that would be dullsville, right? Sub in Potter for her moving work as a mother and wife battling breast cancer on "Parenthood" along with Baccarin, who had to deal with just about everything but cancer on "Homeland."

glenn.whipp@latimes.com

Countdown: Emmys 2013

TIMELINE: Emmy winners through the years

Creative Arts Emmy winners

PHOTOS: Top nominees


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