I’ve joked in the past that this is the post-Breaking Bad era, though it doesn’t totally feel like it thanks to Better Call Saul. You could say it’s more of the post-Mad Men era, after Jon Hamm rode off into the sunset with as many Best Actor awards as he could grab. Come July 14th, we’ll see which of our favorite shows, actors and actresses are getting the credit that we know their due.
Emmy voting will begin June 13th, as the networks and streaming services had from March 28th until May 2nd to make submissions. To qualify for this year’s Emmys, a show had to air from June 1st of 2015 to May 31st, 2016. This is why it feels weird when shows from last summer (forever ago) are nominated or may feel looked over from this past year. That’s why Mr. Robot Season 1 will be considered as well as HBO’s Show Me A Hero miniseries.
To prepare for the announcements coming in the middle of July, let’s speculate on which titles and whose names will be called as 2016 Emmy Nominees. Since there are 18 different categories, we’ll break the predictions up into 3 different “Parts” – Drama, Comedy, and Limited Series/TV Movies/Variety Shows. We’ll also determine the number of nominees based on last year’s total per category.
Beginning with the Drama Categories…
Outstanding Drama Series
Game of Thrones (HBO)
Last year’s winner has put together a very good follow up season. It’s filled with the twists and heartache that you’ve come to know Game of Thrones by, but also many more “wins” that viewers don’t normally get. HBO’s most popular show is just a few more years from wrapping up, there are more answers than questions and that’s been very satisfying.
Better Call Saul (AMC)
The sophomore season of the Breaking Bad spinoff has established itself as something completely different from its predecessor, and it’s even better than the first. Whereas Breaking Bad was a suspenseful crime thriller, Better Call Saul is a slower paced Law Dramedy with some elements of the original series. Who knew such a hit show could be developed around a smaller supporting character like Saul, carried by comedic actors (Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean)?
The fourth season of House of Cards felt like a much needed rebound from the third. Part of the suspense of this show is that you always fear the worst for anyone who gets in Frank Underwood’s way. The tearing down and rebuilding of his relationship with Claire, plus the relevance of an election campaign were especially compelling.
Mr. Robot (USA)
Mr. Robot’s pilot episode was one of the best in recent years. It was an honest look into the world of hacking, not the superficial “CW spin” or goth look with a strand of hair dyed a different color. The show remained suspenseful and worth watching thanks to the performance of Rami Malek as the ultimate introvert protagonist, which cut through many of the pretentious themes and the blatantly “Fight Club” ripoff. It was still very refreshing and helped legitimize a network that really needed a hit.
Narcos was one of the big surprises of 2015 and had similar storytelling that you’d find in a Scorsese film. Even if most of the dialogue was in subtitles, you could argue that the action and acting helped make this take on the life of Pablo Escobar one of the most suspenseful show’s of the year.
The Americans (FX)
For years, The Americans has been one of the most critically acclaimed shows on television but has only received two Emmy nominations, one for writing and a win for Margo Martindale’s guest appearance. With Mad Men finally ineligible and Homeland having a weak season (in my opinion), it seems to be now or never for the Russian Spy/Cold War thriller.
Downton Abbey (PBS)
It was the farewell season. Has to be nominated, right?
A personal favorite with some of the best writing this year.
Horace and Pete
Louis C.K.’s web-drama. He didn’t feel he needed to promote it until he noticed nobody was watching it. You’ll be glad if you do.
If so, it’ll be by reputation and not merit. Last year was not a good followup to a great 4th season.
Outstanding Lead Actress
Robin Wright, ‘House of Cards’ (Netflix)
Every year I try to predict this category, I go with Robin Wright (and usually lose). You could make an argument that her character shined even more than the iconic Frank Underwood this season.
Julianna Margulies, ‘The Good Wife’ (CBS)
One of network television’s biggest hits in recent years also said farewell, The Good Wife, and their leading lady literally got slapped in the face (on the show). Hopefully the 12-time nominee will get some love from the Emmys make that feel better.
Tatiana Maslany, ‘Orphan Black’ (SyFy)
There’s a lot to be said for an actress who plays as many characters as you can count on your hand, and you forget that each one is the same person…and also clones. I just recently jumped on the Orphan Black bandwagon and I get the hype now.
Krysten Ritter, ‘Jessica Jones’ (Netflix)
In a world (movie trailer guy voice) where superheroes dominate the box office, they also have begun taking over the small screen as well. Netflix expanded the Marvel universe and is doing it the best on television with Daredevil and Jessica Jones. The latter has received more acclaim and credibility because of Krysten Ritter’s performance as the whiskey drinking, super-strength wielding private eye.
Eva Green, ‘Penny Dreadful’ (Showtime)
I am unsure if there is an actress on television right now as scary as Eva Green in Penny Dreadful. She has this unbelievable ability to be so warm and then so terrifying in a blink of an eye. It’s about time she got some love for it.
Viola Davis, ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ (ABC)
Last year’s winner has clearly brought her Oscar nominated acting chops to TV and could be carrying the mantle for network representatives as Margulies seems to be putting it down…for now.
Claire Danes, ‘Homeland’
I have no doubt she will snag one of the nominations from my predictions above, since she’s been nominated each of the last 4 years. Carrie Mathieson needs some new life, and thankfully the series is taking a year off to find it.
Taraji P. Henson, ‘Empire’
Nobody puts Cookie in the corner.
Olivia Wilde, ‘Vinyl’
Olivia Wilde really did the best she could with a script that didn’t give her character enough credit. Hope they right that wrong in Season 2.
Outstanding Lead Actor
Bob Odenkirk, ‘Better Call Saul’ (AMC)
I love that Bob Odenkirk is where he is now. Comedy is one of the hardest things to do for an actor, and he’s a master of that. So it’s no surprise he’s turned the creation of Saul Goodman into something we all can’t seem to get enough of.
Kevin Spacey, ‘House of Cards’ (Netflix)
You can imagine Spacey will be a staple in this category for as long as House of Cards is running. It’s very interesting how the character has aged in such a short span, but that may be the point the show is making with the “reality of being president”.
Rami Malek, ‘Mr. Robot’ (USA)
Rami Malek makes Mr. Robot worth watching. He plays the role perfectly and keeps the viewer at edge with what will happen to him next.
Kyle Chandler, ‘Bloodline’ (Netflix)
I’ll be honest, I didn’t like the newest season of Bloodline. It was too miserable for my taste, but Kyle Chandler’s acting was something worth rooting for. He presents John Rayburn’s fall from grace perfectly and it’s just so damn heartbreaking.
Liev Schreiber, ‘Ray Donovan’ (Showtime)
Ray Donovan has one of the best casts on television, but the title character is why you watch it. Schreiber was nominated last year for the role, but his best acting was certainly executed in the most recent…I’ll reference the Season 3 finale as enough evidence to earn Schreiber a surprise win.
Damien Lewis, ‘Billions’ (Showtime)
Both leads in Billions, including Paul Giamatti, deserve nominations. They played off each other perfectly but if one of them has to be named, it should be Lewis. In a day and age where Wall Street is the Big Bad Wolf (another Scorsese reference), Lewis portrays a hedge fund antihero of sorts…or villain you can’t help but cheer for because he is so well written.
Paul Giamatti, ‘Billions’
For the reasons above, but as a Federal Attorney.
Bobby Cannavale, ‘Vinyl’
I didn’t really like Vinyl as a show but Cannavale’s performance alone is enough to watch all 10 episodes of the first season…so is the music.
Wagner Moura, ‘Narcos’
His performance as Pablo Escobar is so unpredictable, just the slightest movement makes you jumpy over what will happen next.
Outstanding Supporting Actress
Uzo Aduba, ‘Orange is the New Black’ (Netflix)
Last year, Uzo Aduba shifted categories, from comedy to drama, and won again. If you ask me, she’s the best thing Orange is the New Black has going and I probably wouldn’t be looking forward to the next season if it weren’t for her. The erotic novelist arc of “Crazy Eyes” in season 3 was the most entertaining part of the most recent season.
Lena Headey, ‘Game of Thrones’ (HBO)
Mark my my words, Lena Headey is going to get a win before Game of Thrones is over. She gives some of most powerful performances and scenes on TV’s most talked about show, and her character has gone from hatable to fan favorite in just a year’s span.
Christine Baranski, ‘The Good Wife’ (CBS)
Christine Baranski has been nominated for each of the last six years and hasn’t come away with a win. She actually has 14 total and hasn’t won since 1995. Her character delivers the aforementioned “slap heard around the world” and is rumored to be getting a spinoff, so she must be doing something right.
Maggie Siff, ‘Billions’ (Showtime)
Maggie Siff was an absolute scene stealer in the first season of Billions and went toe-to-toe with both of the leads. If there was a “hero” type character on the show, it’s hers and she deserves all the acclaim she gets for her performance.
Constance Zimmer, ‘UnReal’ (Lifetime)
UnReal is Lifetime’s saving grace from the victim formula movies and bad “Real Story” biopics. Constance Zimmer is a big reason for that, showing you the reality of producing reality television. She could be the breakout that the network needs to be taken seriously.
Regina King, ‘The Leftovers’ (HBO)
Regina King is one of my favorite actresses, who will likely be nominated again for her role in the American Crime anthology miniseries. She was a great addition to The Leftovers and represents a whole bunch of actresses who could easily fill this category if needed.
Joanne Froggatt, ‘Downton Abbey’
It’s Downton victory lap.
Maggie Smith, ‘Downton Abbey’
Sissy Spacek, ‘Bloodline’
The story is not much to write home about but there are multiple times you almost expect the Carrie hellfire to rain down on those opposite her. Great acting.
Outstanding Supporting Actor
Peter Dinklage, ‘Game of Thrones’ (HBO)
Dinklage’s role hasn’t been prevalent as it was in the latest season, but the performance has still been nomination worthy (6 episodes in). Actually, the scene he has taming the dragons could put him over the top again, when push comes to shove. It was everything we’ve come to love about Tyrion Lannister as a character and more.
Jonathan Banks, ‘Better Call Saul’ (AMC)
The Mike storyline in Better Call Saul has the familiar suspense and danger that we knew and loved from Breaking Bad. Jonathan Banks may be the biggest reason some fans love the show, and I wouldn’t blame them.
Jim Carter, ‘Downton Alley’ (PBS)
Like many of the other Downton Emmy contenders I’ve mentioned, it’s victory lap time for the show. It would just feel wrong to leave the 4-time nominee out.
Joel Kinnaman, ‘House of Cards’ (Netflix)
The Killing alum Joel Kinnaman deserved more credit for his performance on that show, and he proved to have even more range after joining House of Cards. He should be nominated alone for making a Republican candidate seem…*gulp*…relatable. Even if it is for a short time.
Alan Alda, ‘Horace and Pete’ (LouisCKNet)
The role may have originally been written for Joe Pesci (as Louis C.K. has admitted) but what ISN’T Alan Alda good in? It’s kinda funny seeing Hawkeye from M.A.S.H. play a character who represents almost everything he hates.
Michael Kelly, ‘House of Cards’
If Kinnaman isn’t nominated, Doug Stamper totally will be.
Christian Slater, ‘Mr. Robot’
He’s riding a lot of momentum after winning a Golden Globe for the award.
Ben Mendelsohn, ‘Bloodline’
Mendelsohn is turning out to be one of my favorite actors as of late. He may get nominated based on reputation but his character does nowhere near enough as he had in the first season. He’s more of a symbol than a player.