Emmys 2012 Predictions: Outstanding Supporting Actor for Comedy & Drama

Dan and I are continuing our picks for who should and will win Emmys on Sunday night with the comedy and drama supporting actor categories.

On the comedy side, this breaks down pretty easily: all four adult “Modern Family” men, and then two guys the voters picked because they didn’t want Nolan Gould and Rico Rodriguez to get big heads.

Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, “Modern Family”

Max Greenfield, “New Girl”

Bill Hader, “Saturday Night Live”

Ed O’Neill, “Modern Family”

Eric Stonestreet, “Modern Family”

Should win

Alan’s pick: I didn’t enjoy a lot of “Modern Family” this year, though that’s more on the writing than the acting. (And when I was enjoying the show, it was mainly because of Burrell.) So I’m going to choose between the two outsiders (neither of whom, unfortunately, is Nick Offerman or Chris Pratt), and much as I enjoyed Greenfield as Schmidt, I’m going to go with Hader, who’s long been the “SNL” MVP for me and occupies that Phil Hartman position where he does whatever is necessary to make a sketch work: lead or supporting, straight man or over the top, dead-on impression or strange original character (Stefon!), etc.

Dan’s pick: While these may not have been my six picks, it’s still a category of good performances, which is really all I ask. I think Burrell’s submission work for last season was better than in the year he won, while Bill Hader is the “SNL” castmember who most reliably cracks me up. But my vote here goes to Max Greenfield, not just because of his gung-ho approach to all of Schmidt’s eccentricities, but because of how his excellence helped force the producers on “New Girl” to open up the cast beyond just Zooey Deschanel. I’m giving Greenfield some of the credit, therefore, for how good the unnominated Jake Johnson was in the season’s second half. That’s very valuable.

Will win

Alan’s pick: When in doubt in this category, pick a guy from “Modern Family.” Either the voters are slowly but surely working their way through the cast, in which case I’d bet on O’Neill, or they’re simply going to pick the one who comes off best in their submission episode (and possibly in the others’, as well). I’ll lean that way and bet on Burrell to repeat.

Dan’s pick: While a Burrell repeat wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest, I’m taking Alan’s first theory. I think this is a “West Wing”-type thing where the voters are just going with a checklist and working their way down the “Modern Family” cast. This year? It’s Ed O’Neill’s turn. Maybe they’ll eventually get to Nolan Gould by 2016.

On the drama side, “Downton Abbey” takes up two slots as it moves over from the miniseries categories, and we have what are essentially two reigning champs: Peter Dinklage, who won last year, and Aaron Paul, who won two years ago when he was last eligible.

Jim Carter, “Downton Abbey”

Brendan Coyle, “Downton Abbey”

Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”

Giancarlo Esposito, “Breaking Bad”

Jared Harris, “Mad Men”

Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad”

Should win

Alan’s pick: Well, hell. Even if I exclude the two “Downton” men (Mr. Bates was a drag on season 2, though that’s a writing flaw more than anything Coyle did), this is a bear of a category. Dinklage was essentially the lead of “Thrones” this year, and has an incredible submission in “Blackwater,” and Harris’ own submission for his final episode is just as great. But for me, it comes down to the “Breaking Bad” men, and they were close enough in season 4 that I’ll go with Esposito, who deserves recognition for creating such an iconic character as Gus Fring.

Dan’s pick: Even including Jim Carter, whose “Downton Abbey” performance in the second season didn’t come close to justifying his inclusion in this category (PATINKIN!!!), there isn’t an actor in this category who I don’t respect to the highest degree. In terms of deserving winners, though, I strike the “Downton Abbey” men. They just didn’t have enough to do. With the other four, though, you could really flip a coin. Paul and Esposito have the body of work across a full season, but Harris and Dinklage both have submission episodes that make them every bit as worthy. Do I penalize Paul and Dinklage for effectively being leading men or co-leading men on their respect shows? If Emmy rules don’t, why should I? That’s why I’m taking Paul over Esposito, ultimately. Within the pure framework of the category, Esposito should be the recognized “supporting” actor winner from “Breaking Bad.” But Paul gave one of the two or three best lead performances on TV last season. He’s here. So he gets my vote.

Will win

Alan’s pick: Emmy fun fact: the last time this category had a repeat winner was in 1995-96, when Ray Walston won for “Picket Fences.” And the only other repeat winners since 1980 were Michael Conrad for “Hill Street Blues” and Larry Drake for “L.A. Law.” It’s a category where the voters like to share the wealth, which could work against Dinklage and Paul. Because of that trend, and because Esposito has a great submission episode himself (“Hermanos), I’ll go with the Chicken Man.

Dan’s pick: For the second time in these predictions galleries, I’m gonna reference Margo Martindale and “Justified.” As with Martindale, Esposito is an adored veteran character actor with dozens of memorable, but under-the-radar, performances on his resume. He isn’t old, but this is still a career-capping role for Esposito, full of iconic moments and effortless “cool.” I think that gives Esposito the advantage over former winners Paul and Dinklage. The garage scene from his submission episode is enough to make Harris a worthy spoiler, but I think Esposito will still get to straighten his tie and take the podium with his first Emmy.