Emmy nominations arrive next week and, with them, the very real possibility that voters might dodge the same-old same-old and include some of the season's fantastic freshman class. Who might make the cut? And who should? We gathered The Envelope's Buzzmeter panelists — USA Today's Robert Bianco, TV Guide's Matt Roush, The A.V. Club's Todd VanDerWerff, the Los Angeles Times' Mary McNamara and Glenn Whipp and, when the focus is on predictions, Gold Derby's Tom O'Neil — to glean a little widsom.
With the drama series category filled to the brim with returning favorites, which first-year show most deserves a place at the table: "House of Cards," "The Americans" or "Rectify"?
Roush: All three are worthy, but "The Americans" came closest to having a truly complete, rounded first season. "Rectify," for all of its qualities, felt a bit incomplete, and "House of Cards" ended on a whimper, unlike the British original.
Bianco: It's close, but I'd choose "The Americans" over "Rectify," if only because, at six episodes, "Rectify" seems closer to a miniseries than a series.
VanDerWerff: Of those, I'd pick "The Americans" and "Rectify" (and easily nominate either over the stodgy, staid "Downton Abbey"), but I'd also love to see either "Hannibal" or "Orphan Black" make a run on nominations. Any of those four is preferable to "House of Cards," which was largely mediocre.
McNamara: "Rectify" should; "House of Cards" will. With its hypnotic cadence and exquisite attention to detail, "Rectify" wasn't just a new show, it was a whole new kind of show, broadening the parameters of the genre in ways that will affect it in years to come. Despite its newfangled delivery system, "House of Cards" was a cable show, but it was a good cable show and put Netflix in the running.
Whipp: The hypnotic storytelling in "Rectify" makes it my favorite of the three, but "The Americans" deserves a place here too. Its spy games were every bit as absorbing as the action in "Homeland" this season.
On a scale of Emmy worthiness, with a 1 being "2 Broke Girls" and a 10 being "The Sopranos," where does the reboot of "Arrested Development" rank?
McNamara: 5. Over-hyped and underwhelming. The second might not have been so noticeable if the former had not been true.
Whipp: I'm going to err on the high side, say, an 8 because I suspect that with repeat viewings, I'll appreciate the intricacy of the season's construction even more than I did the first go-around. And, just for its sharp social satire, the show deserves to be in the conversation.
VanDerWerff: I'd place the reboot at about a 7. Very good, and if it's nominated, I won't be upset, but it wouldn't make my personal ballot.
Roush: I gave the disappointing Netflix season a 6 score in the magazine and, with time, am thinking it's more of a 5.
Bianco: Netflix seems to go out of its way to insist it's not "TV" and not bound by TV rules. Were I the TV academy, I would have taken the company at its word. But as the shows are eligible, give "Arrested" a 5.
"Homeland" won Emmys last year for series and lead actors Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. Of those three categories, how many will it win this year?
Roush: Chances are good we'll see a three-peat, but I'll go out on a limb and say two (show and Lewis), because of the next question.
O'Neil: One Emmy. I'm leaning toward "Homeland" to win best drama again, but it's no slam dunk. Lewis and Danes don't have such powerhouse episodes to submit to Emmy judges as they did last year, but they do have strong ones.
Whipp: I can't see "Homeland" repeating for a season that prompted a fair amount of derision over perceived leaps of logic. Danes could well win again, though. Kevin Spacey or Bryan Cranston probably have the edge for lead actor.
VanDerWerff: I suspect Danes is a lock, and I wouldn't be surprised by Lewis winning again (particularly if he submits "Q&A"), but I think the show will fall this year, either to "Game of Thrones" or "Breaking Bad."
McNamara: None. Well, maybe Danes. The fields are so crowded this year and the second season had a lot more bumps in the road than the first.
Which series or actor would you most like to see win a nomination?
VanDerWerff: "Enlightened" needs to be nominated. It was the best show I watched on TV last season. And Tatiana Maslany of "Orphan Black" similarly needs to be nominated, because she gave the best performance I saw on TV last season.
McNamara: Vera Farmiga. "Bates Motel" could have (and probably should have) been terrible, and it's great. A lot of that is due to the smart writing, but Farmiga is the center of the maelstrom, reinventing motherhood and delivering a mesmerizing performance.
Bianco: FX's "Justified," a great drama and an entertaining TV show — two qualities that don't always go together.
Roush: Comedy: The grievously overlooked "The Middle," plus Patricia Heaton and Eden Sher. Drama: "Orphan Black's" Tatiana Maslany. If she breaks through into the nominations, she could win for that bravura performance.
Whipp: "Orphan Black's" Maslany gave the performance of the year. Fingers crossed that enough people saw it on BBC America.
Which series or performer do voters need to get over already?
Bianco: It's too harsh to say voters need to "get over" "Mad Men" — it's a wonderful show, and many of its actors deserve to be nominated. But the series itself doesn't, not for a stuttering, disappointing season. A few better episodes at the end are not enough to redeem the entire run, not when so many of its competitors had stronger seasons.
Whipp: "Modern Family" has won the Emmy for its first three seasons. To put it in perspective, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "All in the Family," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Taxi" and "30 Rock" all won three straight Emmys but were denied a fourth. Few would argue that "Modern Family" is better than those shows.
VanDerWerff: In almost all cases (maybe not Ty Burrell), "Modern Family" is well past its peak, and this is coming from someone who thought Season 4 was an improvement over Season 3.
McNamara: Is it just me, or is "Modern Family" getting smug?
Most deserving swan song: "30 Rock" or "The Office"?
VanDerWerff: "30 Rock" had one of the best seasons of a comedy last season. "The Office" ... did not, though it had some very nice episodes and moments (and nominations for its cast would be appropriate). So ... "30 Rock."
McNamara: "30 Rock."
Whipp: I loved "30 Rock's" final season and that final episode ranks as one of the great farewells in TV history. Just perfect.