The Envelope’s Gold Standard columnist Glenn Whipp is sweeping through Emmy categories this week, predicting the winners in the top categories. Having already looked at drama and comedy series, he turns his attention here to the lead actor races.
LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA
Hugh Bonneville, “Downton Abbey”
Steve Buscemi, “Boardwalk Empire”
Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”
Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”
Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”
Damian Lewis, “Homeland”
And the winner is … Cranston. After sitting out last year’s race, Cranston should sail to a fourth Emmy, which would tie him with Dennis Franz for most wins in the category. His season-long chess game with Giancarlo Esposito’s stone cold Gus Fring gave Cranston room to move from subservient to subversive, terrified to terrifying (“I am the one who knocks!”) and just about every other shade on the Color Wheel o’ Emotions. Just summoning that mad-man cackle at the end of his Emmy-submitted episode “Crawl Space” earns Cranston the trophy in our eyes.
Unless … Frankly, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario that doesn’t have Cranston at the winner’s podium. That’s not to say the other nominees are undeserving. In fact, we feel just as comfortable stumping for Lewis, whose raw, nerve-jangling acting in “Homeland’s” season finale (the episode Lewis submitted) covers its own wide swath of emotional ground. And then there’s Hamm’s tender, heart-rending work with fellow nominees Christina Hendricks and Elisabeth Moss in “The Other Woman.” It’s hard not to feel, though, that the episode really belongs more to the women.
LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY
Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”
Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”
Louis C.K., “Louie”
Jon Cryer, “Two and a Half Men”
Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”
And the winner is … Louis C.K. It’s his moment. C.K. received seven Emmy nominations – three (writing, directing, acting) for his FX series and four for his Beacon stand-up special. He’s on such a roll that even his outtakes (a five-minute scene where he teaches his kids the importance of saying “I’m sorry” briefly surfaced on the Internet before Fox pulled it) brim with style, intelligence and expert comic timing. Plus, even with all the love, “Louie” somehow failed to earn a series nod, an oversight that brought even more attention to C.K. via assorted cries of outrage and puzzlement.
Unless … There’s this: Actors who started out in stand-up have won this Emmy exactly once. (Ray Romano, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” 2002.) Voters prefer to go with name-brand “actors” like John Lithgow and Alec Baldwin and, yes, Burt Reynolds. Now, it feels like Baldwin and Cryer have already received enough reward for their shows. Parsons too. He’s good, but not three-peat good. And if voters wanted to give the Emmy to David, they would have done so by now. That leaves Cheadle. He has made movies. He has won some awards. His show had a bumpy ride in its uneven debut season but, if past patterns hold (see “Third Rock from the Sun”), voters might go for the performer over the program itself.