The 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented on Sunday, Sept. 22, starting at 8 Eastern on CBS, with Neil Patrick Harris as host. From now until Sunday (sometimes multiple times a day), Dan Fienberg and I will be making our usual picks for the major categories – for both what should win and what will (and keep in mind that Dan is much better historically at predictions than I am).
Next up, we’re dealing with the comedy and drama lead actor categories. The former has a pair of two-time winners for their nominated roles, plus Jason Bateman’s return to a category for which he was last nominated in 2005. The latter pits last year’s winner Damian Lewis against three-timer Bryan Cranston, two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey and the Emmy-less Jon Hamm, among others.
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”
Jason Bateman, “Arrested Development”
Louis C.K., “Louie”
Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”
Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes”
Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”
Alan’s pick: Season three of “Louie” was a marvelous piece of work for C.K. the writer and C.K. the director, but C.K. the actor was pretty great in his own right, particularly in the “Late Show” arc near season’s end and in the season finale. Weirdly, C.K. also chose the slight-ish “Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 1” as his submission for this category, but if you look at him over the whole of the year (which we should, even if Emmy voters aren’t asked to), the work he did on camera was as funny and moving as the work he did off it.
Dan’s pick: If Garret Dillahunt doesn’t get to be nominated and submit “Burt-Mitzvah” and win all of the awards, then I guess I’ll have to pick Louis C.K. for continuing to embody a tremendous array of human emotions and often being hilarious, while we all-the-while underrate him and pretend that he’s just playing himself. He’s not. He’s an actor. And a good one.
Alan’s pick: Jon Cryer won a year ago in a mild surprise after winning a few years earlier as a supporting actor. He’s not here now, bumped by Jason Bateman. That would seem to make it a two-man contest between Parsons, who won two times straight before Cryer, and Baldwin, who won two times straight before Parsons. I’ve been suggesting a nostalgic push for “30 Rock” could happen, and Baldwin’s submission (“A Goon’s Deed in A Weary World,” in which Jack gets everything he wanted in life and hates it) is a good one, but Parsons has recency and popularity on his side (and a funny submission as well, where Sheldon has to choose between Amy and Wil Wheaton).
Dan’s pick: To me, honoring Alec Baldwin seems like a clean, obvious and perfectly justifiable way to recognize the final season of “30 Rock.” I think it’s interesting how much weaker this category is than the Lead Actress category. I don’t have an aggressive preference, so I’m erring on the side of nostalgia. [For whatever it’s worth, I thought Jim Parsons did some of his best work on “The Big Bang Theory,” but he shined most for me in subtler episodes for the character and he went with “The Habitation Configuration,” a broader episode, as his submission.]
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
Hugh Bonneville, “Downton Abbey”
Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”
Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom”
Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”
Damian Lewis, “Homeland”
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”
Alan’s pick: Look. Lewis is very probably going to win this thing, because he’s spectacular in “Q&A,” and he will not be undeserving if he does (though I had some issues with his work later in the season when Brody was being blackmailed by Nazir). That said, Jon Hamm still doesn’t have an Emmy for playing Don Draper, and he did some of his best work ever in the sixth season, especially in his submission episode, “In Care Of.” Watch the Hershey confession scene and tell me it’s not ridiculous that this man doesn’t have at least one Emmy for this role.
Dan’s pick: Thinking of Jon Hamm as an underdog is absolutely absurd. You can’t pity a man who looks like Jon Hamm. But Jon Hamm is becoming the Amy Poehler or Steve Carell or Hugh Laurie of this category. With “In Care Of,” Hamm has his best submission episode since “The Suitcase” and he’s probably just as unlikely to win this Emmy as that one. But who’s gonna be outraged if Damian Lewis or Bryan Cranston win? Not this guy. [Hugh Bonneville is great in his submission episode, which focused on the aftermath of That Bad Thing That Happened. It remains fashionable to deride “Downton Abbey” for its Emmy attention. I don’t buy into that. He still shouldn’t win.]
Alan’s pick: Lewis has to be a heavy favorite, with an outside chance of Spacey, who gets to entertainingly chew scenery in the “Cards” pilot and has the movie star factor on his side (plus two Oscars on his shelf), or perhaps the return of Cranston, who has a very versatile submission episode in “Say My Name” (which opens with him as badass Heisenberg and closes with him as panicky Walter White).
Dan’s pick: Either Alan’s underestimating the Emmy hopes for “House of Cards” or I’m overestimating. Last year, I went all-in on “Homeland” and got to look smart, so this year I’m going all-in on “House of Cards” and I’m prepared to look dumb. I think Kevin Spacey pulls off an upset-which-isn’t-an-upset here and knocks off the category heavyweights, who all have fewer Oscars than he does, so it’s not like he isn’t a heavyweight as well.
Previously: Outstanding Miniseries or Movie | Outstanding Directing for Comedy & Drama | Outstanding Writing for Comedy & Drama | Outstanding Supporting Actress for Comedy & Drama | Outstanding Supporting Actor for Comedy & Drama | Outstanding Lead Actress for Comedy & Drama