By The Associated Press
The prime-time Emmys, with all their weirdness, arrive Sunday night, scheduled as a sort of unofficial launch of the new television season.
It’s the right time. The vagaries of the network rotation brought the awards ceremony into August last year because NBC didn’t want to preempt its highest-rated show, “Sunday Night Football.” And the Emmys can’t go later, because the new TV season officially starts Monday, and nobody wants to preempt new and returning series.
The Emmys are supposed to be this big TV deal, but nobody wants to risk a lot of money or ratings points on the show. So the networks pass it around, paying the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences about $7.5 million annually. This Sunday, it’s on Fox, beginning at 8 p.m. EDT.
By contrast, ABC was so intent on wrapping up the Oscars, it signed a contract last winter to pay $300 million, according to the Hollywood Reporter, to keep the Academy Awards show through 2020.
The Oscars ceremony is traditionally TV’s second-highest-rated show every year after the Super Bowl. The Emmys’ ratings, on the other hand, can’t compete with a mediocre episode of “NCIS.”
That’s because the show is usually dull, and the awards are so peculiar. Critics try every year to predict the winners, but it’s a losing game. When somebody does guess right, it’s generally for reasons that do not bring glory on the Emmy voters (see Kathy Bates or Chris Colfer below).
Still, it’s time to try once again, and hope springs eternal because, each year, one or two of the awards create surprise by hitting the nail on the head.
Here are the nominees in the major categories, with some speculation about who should win and who will win.
—Outstanding drama series: “Mad Men,” ”Dexter,” ”The Good Wife,” ”Game of Thrones,” ”Friday Night Lights,” ”Boardwalk Empire.”
This is a marvelous list that demonstrates that television, on its good end, is better today than it has ever been and that Emmy nominations have gotten more innovative in recent years.
Alas, the winners are frequently the same old thing, which means that “Mad Men” will knock off the daring choices, “Thrones” and “Lights,” and that the best one of them all, “Boardwalk Empire,” will get overlooked, too.
—Outstanding comedy series: “Glee,” ”Modern Family, “The Big Bang Theory,” ”Parks and Recreation,” ”The Office,” ”30 Rock.”
Even though every academy member who works at Comcast will line up behind whichever NBC show the company is backing, “Modern Family” is just too warm and fuzzy to ignore. It has set a new sitcom standard and should and will win its second consecutive Emmy.
—Outstanding lead actor in a drama series: Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”), Kyle Chandler (“Friday Night Lights”), Hugh Laurie (“House”), Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”), Timothy Olyphant (“Justified”), Steve Buscemi (“Boardwalk Empire”).
“Breaking Bad” and its shockingly accomplished star, Bryan Cranston, weren’t on TV last season, which gives Emmy a chance to bless Jon Hamm with an award, just as it has given his show the best-drama prize for three years. Six-time nominee Hugh Laurie was his same super self last season, even if his show wasn’t. He deserves a little love.
—Outstanding lead actress in a drama series: Nominees: Connie Britton (“Friday Night Lights”), Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”), Mariska Hargitay (“Law & Order: SVU”), Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”), Mireille Enos (“The Killing”), Kathy Bates (“Harry’s Law”).
Last year, January Jones was the lead actress in “Mad Men.” This year, it’s Moss. That’s because producers get to decide where to place their entries. No matter, Enos was better than any of them in “The Killing,” even if the show disappointed some observers.
But I’m betting Kathy Bates, perhaps the worst entry in this crowd, will win. Just look at how well James Spader did, confounding even himself with three Emmys for work in a very similar role.
—Outstanding lead actor in a comedy series: Nominees: Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki (“The Big Bang Theory”), Steve Carell (“The Office”), Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”), Louis C.K. (“Louie”), Matt LeBlanc (“Episodes”).
Last chance to give Carell an Emmy after six straight nominations, and Emmy loves last chances. Louis C.K. is plenty funny in FX’s Louie, but I was more surprised at the hilarious, nuanced performance of Matt LeBlanc playing a heightened version of himself.
—Outstanding lead actress in a comedy series: Nominees: Laura Linney (“The Big C”), Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie”), Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”), Tina Fey (“30 Rock”), Martha Plimpton (“Raising Hope”), Melissa McCarthy (“Mike & Molly”).
Laura Linney, star of stage, big screen, and TV, is several steps ahead of this pack, and Emmy, despite the wonderment that TV has become at its higher levels, still has a bit of an inferiority complex. It will pick the deserving winner — for the wrong reason.
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A look at the list of nominated supporting dramatic actors and actresses demonstrates that TV can be the premiere proving ground for the craft: Margo Martindale and Walton Goggins (“Justified”); Christine Baranski, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles and Alan Cumming (“The Good Wife”); Michelle Forbes (“The Killing”); Christina Hendricks and John Slattery (“Mad Men”); Kelly Macdonald (“Boardwalk Empire”); Andre Braugher (“Men of a Certain Age”); Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”).
Charles is the only one that would be a disappointment. Macdonald, the soul of “Boardwalk Empire,” should and will win, among the women. Goggins was sorely overlooked in “The Shield” and deserves a nod here, but it will be hard to complain when Emmy picks Braugher.
Nominated for support in comedy are Jane Lynch and Chris Colfer (“Glee”); Betty White (“Hot in Cleveland”); Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O’Neill, Eric Stonestreet and Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”); Kristen Wiig (“Saturday Night Live”); Jane Krakowski (“30 Rock”); and Jon Cryer (“Two and a Half Men”).
Colfer will win, not because he’s a laugh riot (“Glee” isn’t even a comedy), but because Emmy judges only one episode when it honors actors, and it much prefers range to laughter. How can it ignore a kid playing — very well — a gay atheist coming to grips with the near-death of his father, and singing a remarkable version that brought new meaning to a nearly 50-year-old Beatles song “I Want to Hold Your Hand”?
Wiig’s silly “Saturday Night Live” stylings have nothing in common with the subtlety of Bowen, who plays the most normal “Modern Family” character, and in many ways is the glue that holds the show together. No matter. Does anybody really think Betty White won’t win?
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63RD ANNUAL PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS
8 p.m. EDT Sunday