Emmy Nomination Advice - Drama Categories

We are nearing the end of the two-week period in which voting members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences choose nominees for this year’s Emmy Awards. The nominations will be processed during the next three weeks and announced on the morning of July 10. The awards themselves will be televised by NBC on Monday, August 25, during the dog days of summer -- ensuring that they won’t interfere with the network’s Sunday night NFL football franchise and also that there will be minimal interest in the awards this year.

Even if the Emmys are likely to be an anticlimax of sorts because of their scheduling, that won’t compromise the excitement leading up to and immediately following the announcement of the nominations. All of that hinges on the choices voting members are making this week. So here’s a handy guide designed to help them (and all interested parties) recall the shows and performances from May 31, 2013 through May 31, 2014 that deserve recognition. (Note: A series must have telecast more than half of its current season episodes prior to the May 31 cutoff date for it to qualify for nominations. That’s why FX’s “Fargo” is included below, while Fox’s “24: Live Another Day” is not.)

Today’s column calls attention to worthwhile drama series and dramatic performances that should not be overlooked. Advice about comedy series will follow tomorrow.

Outstanding Drama Series

“Breaking Bad” (AMC), “Game of Thrones” (HBO), “The Good Wife” (CBS), “Mad Men” (AMC), “Masters of Sex” (Showtime), “True Detective” (HBO)

These are the most deserving nominees in this category, even if the inclusion of half of them doesn’t feel quite right. For example, “Breaking Bad” was honored last year for the first half of its final season, which some people feel should be recognition enough for that season as a whole. Similarly, a nod for “Mad Men” only acknowledges the recently seen first half of its final season. Who knows what the second half will bring? Maybe the Academy should consider imposing limits on how many times a series can be nominated in the same categories for the same season, even if those seasons are split.

Meanwhile, “True Detective,” arguably the most mesmerizing miniseries of the year, has been handily reclassified by HBO as a drama series for award consideration -- and also, one presumes, to keep its very talented cast from competing with the stars of its Emmy-magnet movie “The Normal Heart.” “Detective” certainly deserves recognition, but it should be competing in the miniseries category where it belongs.

The other three shows listed above -- “Game of Thrones,” “The Good Wife” and “Masters of Sex” -- are honest to goodness drama series presented in their entirety during the nomination period. In my opinion “Good Wife” stands above the rest, not simply because it offered one of the most riveting seasons of any drama series ever, but because it did so with a full run of 22 episodes, way more than any of the other shows listed here.

If a miniseries and two half-runs weren’t filling up this category there might have been room for FX’s “The Americans,” NBC’s “Hannibal” and/or AMC’s “The Walking Dead” -- three more legitimate, full-season dramas that were simply outstanding.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad” (AMC); Freddie Highmore, “Bates Motel” (A&E); Matthew McConaughey, “True Detective” (HBO); Matthew Rhys, “The Americans” (FX); Michael Sheen, “Masters of Sex” (Showtime); James Spader, “The Blacklist” (NBC)

I suspect that Highmore and Rhys might be passed over in favor of Kevin Spacey of Netflix’s “House of Cards” and Woody Harrelson of “True Detective.” They shouldn’t be, but that’s the likely reality. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be room here for Hugh Dancy of “Hannibal.”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Lizzy Caplan, “Masters of Sex” (Showtime); Claire Danes, “Homeland” (Showtime); Vera Farmiga, “Bates Motel” (A&E); Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife” (CBS); Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black” (BBC America); Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men” (AMC)

This category is as impossible to nail down as the one above. It’s hard not to include Keri Russell of “The Americans” or Robin Wright of “House of Cards” on this list, but I will.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Jim Carter, “Downton Abbey” (PBS); Reg E. Cathey, “House of Cards” (Netflix); Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones” (HBO); Michael Kelly, “House of Cards” (Netflix); Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad” (AMC); Jon Voight, “Ray Donovan” (Showtime)

None of these six men should be overlooked, not even in favor of Noah Emmerich of “The Americans” and Walton Goggins of FX’s “Justified,” who also had great seasons.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Christine Baranski, “The Good Wife” (CBS); Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey” (PBS); Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad” (AMC); Phyllis Logan, “Downton Abbey” (PBS); Annet Mahendru, “The Americans” (FX); Melissa McBride, “The Walking Dead” (AMC)

With apologies to Betsy Brandt of “Breaking Bad” and the ever-sensational Maggie Smith of “Downton Abbey,” these are the six women who should make the final cut in this category. (Note: Allison Janney, a seemingly certain nominee for her work in “Masters of Sex,” has submitted herself for consideration in the category Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.)

And just to complete the drama:

Outstanding Miniseries 

“American Horror Story” (FX), “Bonnie & Clyde” (A&E, History, Lifetime), “Dancing on the Edge” (Starz), “Fargo” (FX), “The Hollow Crown” (PBS), “Luther” (BBC America)

Outstanding Made for Television Movie

“An Adventure in Space and Time” (BBC America), “Killing Kennedy” (National Geographic Channel), “The Normal Heart” (HBO), “Return to Zero” (Lifetime), “Sherlock: His Last Vow” (PBS), “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Movie or Miniseries

Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock: His Last Vow” (PBS); Chiwetel Ejiofor, “Dancing on the Edge” (Starz); Idris Elba, “Luther” (BBC America); Martin Freeman, “Fargo” (FX); Mark Ruffalo, “The Normal Heart” (HBO); Billy Bob Thornton, “Fargo” (FX)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Movie or Miniseries

Helena Bonham Carter, “Burton and Taylor” (BBC America); Minnie Driver, “Return to Zero” (Lifetime); Whoopi Goldberg, “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime); Holliday Grainger, “Bonnie & Clyde” (A&E/History/Lifetime); Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Coven” (FX); Cicely Tyson, “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Movie or Miniseries

Matt Bomer, “The Normal Heart” (HBO); Martin Freeman, “Sherlock: His Last Vow” (PBS); Colin Hanks, “Fargo” (FX); Joe Mantello, “The Normal Heart” (HBO); Will Rothhaar, “Killing Kennedy” (National Geographic Channel); Blair Underwood, “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Movie or Miniseries

Amanda Abbington, “Sherlock: His Last Vow” (PBS); Kathy Bates, “American Horror Story: Coven” (FX); Ellen Burstyn, “Flowers in the Attic” (Lifetime); Jessica Raine, “An Adventure in Space and Time” (BBC America); Julia Roberts, “The Normal Heart” (HBO); Allison Tolman, “Fargo” (FX)

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