Because it's NBC's turn to air the Primetime Emmy Awards this year, and because the Peacock would understandably rather air its lucrative Sunday night NFL package in September, the ceremony will take place in late August again. And as an added wrinkle, this year's ceremony will actually happen on a Monday, August 25 at 8 p.m., with Seth Meyers hosting.
Between now and then, Dan and I will be making our picks for both who should and will win many of the major categories – if you're wagering, keep in mind that Dan tends to be much better at predicting the winners than I am, but also that he was just as flummoxed as I by last year's winners like Jeff Daniels, Merritt Wever and Bobby Cannavale – continuing as we shift into the acting categories with comedy and drama supporting actress.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory”
Julie Bowen, “Modern Family”
Anna Chlumsky, “Veep”
Allison Janney, “Mom”
Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”
Kate Mulgrew, “Orange Is the New Black”
Alan's pick: A pretty solid group of nominees, even without last year's winner Merritt Wever. I didn't see a ton of “Mom” but was always impressed with how easily Janney slid between multi-cam sitcom jokes and some hardcore dramatic material. (It's the rare multi-cam that's actually at its best when it's just being serious.) Happy as I'll be if she can pull off the rare double acting victory for both this and “Masters of Sex,” though, I'm leaning towards Mulgrew, who did perhaps the best job in the “Orange” cast – especially early in the series, when we were still getting used to this strange world and its many new faces – of balancing the series' many disparate tones. Whatever kind of show “Orange” was being in a given moment, Mulgrew's Red belonged on that show, and by extension made the other characters belong with her.
Dan's pick: I'm writing this blurb before I know if Allison Janney won the guest actress Emmy that she deserves for “Masters of Sex” but she is, to me, TV's supporting actress MVP for this Emmy calendar year (especially if you accept that Anna Gunn is a lead on “Breaking Bad”). The reason why “Mom” was such a pleasant surprise is because the writers found a way to make Janney's character equally effective with both the multi-cam friendly laughs, but also with the genre-defying drama. At times “Mom” doesn't live up to Janney's high standard, but she's the reason the show is always watchable. But really, I like all six actresses in this category quite a bit, even if Kate Mulgrew is maybe my sixth or seventh favorite “Orange” supporting actress and even if Anna Chlumsky got more to do in Season 2.
Alan's pick: Bowen has won twice, but Wever's surprise victory last year was one of several signs that voters are starting to tire of “Modern Family.” Mulgrew could win as both part of an “Orange” groundswell and as a sign of respect for a veteran actress getting her first nomination after decades of solid work. But I'd lay better odds on five-time winner Janney to pull off the rare feat of winning two different acting Emmys in the same year – having already pulled down a trophy on Saturday night for “Masters of Sex” – and she gets something of an edge over most of the nominees (if not Mulgrew) by doing dramatic work in a comic context.
Dan's pick: Allison Janney chose “Estrogen and a Hearty Breakfast” as her submission episode over the more broadly comedic “Corned Beef and Handcuffs” and the more grounded and dramatic “Zombies and Cobb Salad.” I'm not sure I endorse that choice. But there were a lot of odd episode selections in this category. Like why did Mayim Bialik go with “The Indecision Amalgamation” over “The Locomotive Manipulation”? Why did Anna Chlumsky go with “Detroit”? Etc. I actually think Julie Bowen might have made the smartest submission episode choice with “The Feud,” which featured lice. She's won before and she could do it again. And Mayim Bialik is going to win an Emmy eventually, but maybe the voters are thinking they'll wait for Sheldon and Amy's Very Awkward Wedding. For now, I'm thinking this is Allison Janney's year to win everything.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Christine Baranski, “The Good Wife”
Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey”
Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad”
Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones”
Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men”
Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey
Alan's pick: This is an impressive group of nominees. Baranski finally got a wealth of material to match her talent this season on “The Good Wife,” Headey continues to find amazing nuance within the overwhelming awfulness of Cersei, and Hendricks is (like the rest of her “Mad Men” co-stars) long overdue for a trip to the stage. That said, the work Anna Gunn did throughout the final “Breaking Bad” season – and particularly during her submitted episode, “Ozymandias” – was a level above everyone else in the category: a performer taking the best material possible and finding a way to elevate it to even greater heights.
Dan's pick: Anna Gunn. Can we not engage in further debate? “Ozymandias” is just about the best showcase episode any actress in this category has had for years. From the showdown with Marie, to the fight with Walt that extends into the street to that final phone conversation with Walt? Every second of the performance is fraught with tension, except for those moments when Gunn released some of the most authentic anguish I've seen on TV. It's a good category and each of the actresses chose a viable submission episode, even if I'd have gone with “Hitting the Fan” over “The Last Call” for Christine Baranski. It's amazing that after years of being the least deserving nominee in this category, Baranski would be my second choice this year. But there's still a vast gap between Gunn and the rest of the field.
Alan's pick: Anna Gunn has “Ozymandias,” the acting submission episode to end all acting submission episodes. That said, Baranski, Frogatt and Headey all have episodes where their characters deal with tremendous loss of their own, and Emmy voters love Dame Maggie Smith. But Gunn seems a safe bet to repeat.
Dan's pick: By the time Gunn won her first Emmy last September, “Ozymandias” had already aired, so it was almost like a bonus Emmy because there she was accepting her trophy, but fans of the show knew that she could just as easily give two speeches and have them mail her the prize next year. I suppose I'll be able to come up with explanations for a win by anybody else, but there's a degree of annoyance that I'll feel if Gunn doesn't win that won't be rivaled by any other upset in any other category. Wait. I take that back. If Jeff Daniels wins Best Actor in a Drama, I'll go legitimately insane. But let's just assume Anna Gunn wins here, eh? It's better for everybody if that happens.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com