This story first appeared in the June 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
It's that time of year when critics begin the labor of debating which talent deserve Emmy noms. The reason this is difficult is a good thing -- there's more brilliant television than ever before.
I'm a believer that the voters are unpredictable; they're not looking for predictors or influences. I've been a member of the Television Critics Association for years, and we've made some surprising choices along the way. (I'd say we're most on point with new series and emerging stars.)
I've chosen not to be a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association but am doubtful that nominees and winners for its 3-year-old Critics' Choice TV Awards ultimately will hold much sway with Emmy voters (though I agreed with many of those honored June 10). And the Golden Globes? They treat TV like Oscar's ugly stepchild -- an outdated slight given how many more people watch TV than movies.
All of this means good luck to Emmy voters because it will be nearly impossible to "get it right" this year. That said, a few peers have been weighing in on supposed slam dunks and dark horses.
Alan Sepinwall of HitFix.com echoed a sentiment I share about how previously ignored (and Critics' Choice winner) Southland actor Michael Cudlitz is in need of a supporting drama actor nom. "No acting win would feel more deserving," wrote Sepinwall. "The work he did [on] the five seasons of Southland -- particularly in this last season, as his Officer John Cooper was put through hell in a way he ultimately couldn't survive -- was astonishing."
In writing about his "Emmy dream ballot," USA Today critic Robert Bianco said that three slots for lead actor in a comedy series would go to Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K. and Jim Parsons (all nominated last year), with Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) and Matt LeBlanc (Episodes) getting another two. "I'm hoping the last spot goes to Neil Flynn (The Middle), but I can live with it going to Don Cheadle (House of Lies), Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory), Garret Dillahunt (Raising Hope) or Jake Johnson (New Girl)."
Bianco said Arrested and Mad Men shouldn't be lauded for comedy or drama, saying of the latter: "It's a great show, but this has not been a great -- or maybe even a good -- season. If the Emmys are to maintain their integrity, they have to acknowledge such downturns."
Elsewhere, Matt Zoller Seitz of New York magazine and Vulture.com called Noah Emmerich of FX's The Americans "the best dramatic performer of the year" in a recent "Best of TV" column. Matt Roush, from TVGuide.com (he has an uncanny ability to pick Emmy winners), called Sundance's Top of the Lake a "frontrunner" in the movies/miniseries category. Roush also predicted that Arrested and House of Cards would be nominated for best comedy and drama.
There are also some dark horses whom critics love, including Laura Dern (Enlightened) and Critics' Choice winner Monica Potter of Parenthood. Said Sepinwall: "The cancer arc Potter's Kristina went through is pretty standard awards-show bait, but [they] made it into great awards-show bait. … I knew tissues would be required, and welcome, for viewing of any Kristina/Adam scene."
No doubt you'll read all manner of Emmy guesses and wishes before nominees are announced, including a list from yours truly.