Emmy Picks: "Mad Men," "30 Rock," Tina Fey and More

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Who will take home all those Emmys on Sunday night? Who knows? There have been so many surprise wins in recent years that the time honored ritual of making predictions seems almost pointless. Rather, let’s take a moment to note the extraordinary quality of television overall. Even during a season that was largely gutted by the Writers Guild of America strike, there were so many outstanding series and performances that many award-worthy programs and performers weren’t even nominated. Consider: The Wire and Friday Night Lights were once again excluded from all major categories, and the talented female stars of Mad Men and Desperate Housewives were totally overlooked. (On a brighter note, the invaluable Kathryn Joosten took home a second Emmy last weekend for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her recurring role as Mrs. McCluskey on the latter.)
 
On that note, I’ll avoid making impossible predictions and simply state my preferences, and we’ll see how they all play out.
 
Outstanding Drama Series
 
The nominees are: Boston Legal, Damages, Dexter, House, Lost and Mad Men.
 
The much-praised Mad Men would seem to be the clear choice, and it is certainly mine. But I won’t complain if Lostis singled out for a second win. After a rambling second season and a very weak third, this show came roaring back, at times surpassing the greatness of its fabulous freshman year.
 
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
 
The nominees are: James Spader (Boston Legal), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Hugh Laurie (House), Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment) and Jon Hamm (Mad Men).
 
This is an impossible category, stuffed as it is with extraordinary performances. Critics’ fave Jon Hamm is the sturdy center of the formidable Mad Men. Gabriel Byrne was on screen for almost every minute in all 43 episodes of the quietly demanding In Treatment. Hugh Laurie is grievously overdue for Emmy recognition. The scary good Michael C. Hall makes viewers care about a serial killer!
 
The potential spoiler here, once again, is James Spader in Boston Legal. Nobody expected him to take home a third Emmy for his portrayal of passionate Atty. Alan Shore last year, least of all Spader himself – and he had far better material to work with this season than the one before. Indeed, I don’t think there was a finer sequence written for an actor in a drama series last season than the one in which Shore took on the Supreme Court – unless it was the one in which Shore argued for the mercy killing of Shirley Schmidt’s ailing, Alzheimer’s-ravaged father. (A side note: William Shatner, as Atty. Denny Crane, and Candice Bergen, as Atty. Schmidt, also delivered award-worthy performances in the Alzheimer’s episode, though I don’t believe either one will be honored for it.)
 
My choice in this category is Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad. My readers may recall that in a February column about the Academy Awards I declared that an Emmy wasn’t good enough for Cranston’s portrayal of a terminally ill small town science teacher who starts making and dealing meth to finance his cancer treatments and build a nest egg for his family. I said he deserves an Oscarfor his performance and I stand by that. (Lord knows his work in Bad is far superior to that of virtually any leading man in any mainstream movie released in 2008 to date. Shit, the same can be said of all the nominees in this category, and even a few who didn’t make the cut, including Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights, John Barrowman of Torchwood, David Tennant of Doctor Who and Edward James Olmos of Battlestar Galactica.
 
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
 
The nominees are: Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), Glenn Close (Damages), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and Holly Hunter (Saving Grace).
 
Glenn Close seems to be the critics’ collective choice here for her bone-chilling portrayal of a decidedly lethal lawyer in Damages. I’m good with that. But my pick would be Kyra Sedgwick. Her consistently quirky portrayal of headstrong, mildly neurotic LAPD Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson is a source of pure joy, even during the series’ darkest storylines. I have little time for rerun TV, but I find myself watching Closer repeats just to savor her performance.
 
A win for Close or Sedgwick means that Holly Hunter will not be honored for her ferocious portrayal of a self-loathing Oklahoma City police detective in Saving Grace. That is somehow unthinkable, but it is what it is. I can’t imagine either Field or Hargitay being chosen over the other three actresses in this category; then again, they have both taken home the Emmy before for their work in the same roles.
 
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
 
The nominees are: William Shatner (Boston Legal), Ted Danson (Damages), Zeljko Ivanek (Damages), Michael Emerson (Lost) and John Slattery (Mad Men).
 
Mad Men’sJohn Slattery knocked me over when his character, agency boss Roger Sterling, partied to the point of cardiac arrest, but Ted Danson made my skin crawl throughout the entire season of Damages. I’ll go with Ted.
 
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
 
The nominees are: Candice Bergen (Boston Legal), Rachel Griffiths (Brothers & Sisters), Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy), Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) and Dianne Wiest (Grey’s Anatomy).
 
I would still like to know why January Jones, Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks of Mad Men weren’t nominated here. I’m going with Dianne Wiest of In Treatment, because I grew tired of the many episodes in which Gabriel Byrne’s angst-ridden therapist Dr. Paul Weston worked with his patients, but I was always absorbed by those in which he was analyzed by Wiest’s no-nonsense Dr. Gina Toll.
 
Outstanding Comedy Series
 
The nominees are: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, The Office, 30 Rock and Two and a Half Men.
 
I would have picked Pushing Daisies over any of the above. Out of these five it would seem that industry darling 30 Rock is the obvious choice.
 
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
 
The nominees are: Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Steve Carell (The Office), Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies), Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) and Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men).
 
I’m going with Alec Baldwin, although the very charming Lee Pace would be a very nice surprise.
 
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
 
The nominees are: Julia Louis-Dreyfus(The New Adventures of Old Christine), Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?), Tina Fey (30 Rock), America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) and Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds).
 
I’m still blinded by 30 Rock-star Tina Fey’s sensational impersonation of Gov. Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live last weekend. She deserves an Emmy for that! Certainly she’ll take home the award for this. Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Old Christine is the spoiler of choice among critics. From where I sit, a come from behind win for Weeds’ Mary-Louise Parker would liven up the proceedings and it would not be undeserved. Parker currently has the toughest job in scripted entertainment television: She makes a drug-dealer who puts her children in perpetual peril while contributing to the poisoning of hundreds of young people a likeable character that viewers can’t help but root for. Brava!
 
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
 
The nominees are: Jeremy Piven (Entourage), Kevin Dillon (Entourage), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Rainn Wilson (The Office) and Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men).
 
My fear: Jeremy Piven. My hope: Neil Patrick Harris. My second choice: Kevin Dillon.
 
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
 
The nominees are: Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies), Jean Smart (Samantha Who?), Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live), Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men) and Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty).
 
Desperate Housewivesnewcomer Dana Delany deserved the award in this category, but she wasn’t even nominated! So let’s go with Amy Poehler, whose fast-approaching departure from Saturday Night Live is going to hurt that show more than anyone realizes.

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