Choosing who deserves an Emmy is, of course, a tad more complicated than other award shows. Music and theater get to start with a clean slate every year, while only TV rolls out the same faces and shows again and again, which brings career-achievement and past-due-account considerations into the process.
Practically speaking, it's nice to see the voters spread the wealth, which has a way of encouraging networks to keep mounting prestigious shows, hoping the effort will pay off in a smidgeon of the glory so ostentatiously showered on HBO through the years.
So with those disclaimers -- and the admission I think people who profess to have a strong rooting interest, unless they represent the talent, really need to get out more -- how would I like to see this year's ceremony play out? Here's a rundown of key categories:
Comedy series: OK, enough with "Modern Family." Great show, but it's time to acknowledge someone else before little Lily gets replaced by an actress old enough to drive. That would seem to boil it down to "Louie," FX's moodily brilliant Louis C.K. vehicle; and "The Big Bang Theory," an old-fashioned, rip-snorting hit.
Sorry, "Louie" fans, but it should be "Big Bang's" year. The show has been consistently funny, improved with its development of a female trio to augment the male quartet and even proved strangely touching at times last season. Besides, series co-creator Chuck Lorre appears determined to single-handedly keep multi-camera comedy alive, and given his penchant for complaining on his show-ending vanity cards, it would be sort of fun to see how he deals with "You like me" validation.
Drama series: Scheduling "Breaking Bad's" final run leading up to and overlapping the Emmy telecast has underscored what an astonishing program it's been, even if those episodes aren't the ones being considered for this year's awards. Amid a very worthy field, it's the show the industry collectively seems to love the most right now, and rightfully so.
Lead actor, drama: Although Kevin Spacey will likely win, Jon Hamm should -- not just because Bryan Cranston has already had several moments in the sun, but because it would be a crime if Hamm's career-launching portrayal of Don Draper was never feted, and the clock, as they say, is ticking.
Lead actress, drama: It's always easy to mark "Claire Danes" on a ballot, because she's terrific in everything she does. But "Homeland's" second season was wildly uneven, and honoring Danes again would be a bit like choosing an MVP from a team with a mediocre win-loss record.
Using that criteria weeds out other contenders (a la "Bates Motel's" Vera Farmiga), but there's another problem: "Mad Men" and "Downton Abbey" are such sprawling ensembles that other than Hamm it's hard to single anyone out. If push comes to shove, give it to "Downton's" Michelle Dockery, although Kerry Washington would certainly look great at the podium, provide welcome diversity and give broadcasters something to crow about, even if it's strange to think of "Scandal" and "Emmy" in the same sentence.
Lead actor, comedy: Yes, he's won before, but Jim Parsons is just too damn good.
Lead actress, comedy: Much like the drama side, the there are no bad choices here, but hardly a fully satisfying one or clear standout either, and a lot of previous winners. Given that, it would be interesting, somewhat perversely, to see Laura Dern win for her wonderful if irritating work in the second season of "Enlightened," since the Emmys should always leave room for at least one series almost nobody watched, if only for the groans it unleashes in network circles.
Supporting actor/actress, comedy: Yet-to-win Ed O'Neill is a sentimental choice over his "Modern Family" castmates, and "Big Bang's" Mayim Bialik steals every scene she's in.
Supporting actor/actress, drama: Again, no bad options. But since Aaron Paul and Peter Dinklage have won before, it's hard to go wrong with "Downton's" Jim Carter, who has one of the best voices ever; and "Game of Thrones'" Emilia Clarke, who sounds (and looks) good no matter what nonsense language she's speaking. Besides, "Thrones" merits something for another splendid season.
Directing, drama: For the same reason, Tim Van Patten for "Boardwalk Empire," which was unfortunately omitted from the best-series category.
Writing, drama: Hugely tough call. Two "Breaking Bad" episodes, Julian Fellowes for "Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones," and the late Henry Bromell for "Homeland." Best choice: A five-way tie, and send everyone home happy.
Directing and writing, comedy: Louis C.K. Not that it will make his disposition any sunnier. Or at least, for the show's sake, let's hope not.
Reality-competition program: Someone should probably throw "The Voice" a bone for keeping NBC's pulse beating, in a category that could use a little new blood.
Lead actor/actress, movie/miniseries: Assuming she doesn't win for "Mad Men," Elisabeth Moss for "Top of the Lake." And in the battle of "famous old guys with weird obsessive streaks in HBO movies," Toby Jones ("The Girl") over Michael Douglas ("Behind the Candelabra"), just barely, although the voting will almost surely go the other way.
Movie/miniseries and variety series: "Behind the Candelabra" and "The Daily Show" will win, so let's just try to be happy for them. Still, the former category is such a disjointed mess it would be amusing to see "The Bible" crowned, if only because of the shock elicited among those who see Hollywood as a haven for godless pagans unaware Mark Burnett's 10-hour epic was based on a book.
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