Emmys: He's got 'em

Our TV critic is feeling unusually lucky this year. Here are his major-award picks.

It's a sad commentary on the Emmy Awards, given how much time I spend in front of the TV set, that I'm far more successful at picking the winners of the Academy Awards year after year.

But not surprising. The Oscars are by and large based on merit. The Emmys take their cues from a volatile mix of whimsy and folly.

Yet this time around, I'm unusually confident about my predictions. (I'm contractually obligated by the TV Critics Guild to say that every year.) So here's what to expect Sunday night (8 o'clock, CBS3) in the major categories.


Mini-series or movie

American Horror Story: Asylum

Behind the Candelabra

Phil Spector

Political Animals

The Bible

Top of the Lake

Having just mocked the capriciousness of the Emmys, I should point out that there is one absolute lock on Sunday: Steven Soderbergh's gloriously gaudy Liberace orgy, Behind the Candelabra. The coronation that began at last week's Creative Arts Emmys (with eight wins for Candelebra) continues.


Lead actor in a mini-series or movie

Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra

Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra

Benedict Cumberbatch, Parade's End

Toby Jones, The Girl

Al Pacino, Phil Spector

It's Douglas. Book it, Dano. And deservedly so for his towering, no-net portrayal of the discordant maestro. It's a shame, though, because I would give anything to see Pacino put on that fright wig one more time.

Lead actress in a mini-series or movie

Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Asylum

Helen Mirren, Phil Spector

Sigourney Weaver, Political Animals

Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter

Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake

The consensus among pundits is that Lange can't lose. But I'm predicting that Weaver takes home the statue for her rich and galvanizing performance. Just as important, singling her out for playing a courageous Hillary Clinton figure is Hollywood's way of thumbing its nose at Fox News.


Drama series

House of Cards

Breaking Bad

Downton Abbey

Game of Thrones


Mad Men

It seems preordained, right? Hand the award to Breaking Bad, the show with all the buzz and momentum as a final benediction the week before this supernal series concludes. The logic is irrefutable - which is why there'll be no joy in Albuquerque on Sunday night. Instead, look for a dark-horse winner, either House of Cards or (my personal pick) Game of Thrones.

Lead actor in a drama series

Bryan Cranston,

Breaking Bad


Hugh Bonneville,  

Downton Abbey

Damian Lewis, Homeland

Kevin Spacey,  

House of Cards

Jon Hamm, Mad Men

Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom

Another no-brainer. Another upset. Cranston for one of the most consistent and crafty performances in TV history? Nope, it's Spacey, trailing Oscar cachet, for his exuberant, scenery-chomping turn as the Machiavellian Francis Underwood.

Lead actress in a drama series

Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel

Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey

Claire Danes, Homeland

Robin Wright, House of Cards

Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

Connie Britton, Nashville

Kerry Washington, Scandal

The smart money is on a Danes repeat. But Kerry Washington wins for two reasons: Without her spell-binding performance as Beltway fixer Olivia Pope, Scandal is a ludicrous and unwatchable mess. And during the ceremony, Washington is scheduled to present alongside Diahann Carroll (Julia) as a way for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to celebrate its long-standing and imaginary support of African American actresses - a tradition that starts Sunday. Don't bother to go back to your seat, Kerry. The gilded eunuch is yours.


Comedy series

The Big Bang Theory



Modern Family

30 Rock


Can Modern Family win for a fourth year in a row, a streak previously attained only by Frasier? You bet. This dependable charmer flatters the voters' insular fantasy that the whole world looks like the more affluent sections of Los Angeles.

Lead actor in a comedy series

Jason Bateman, Arrested Development

Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Matt LeBlanc, Episodes

Don Cheadle, House of Lies

Louis C.K., Louie

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock

My peers are convinced that Mr. C.K. is the top dog in this strong pack. One problem: Not since Jerry Seinfeld has a TV comic been so awful at playing himself in an eponymous sitcom. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to call this one for Parsons. Seven seasons in and his performance is still miraculous.

Lead actress in a comedy series

Laura Dern, Enlightened

Lena Dunham, Girls

Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie

Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Tina Fey, 30 Rock

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Just so you know, there is no prestige category the academy voters care less about than this one. If Louis-Dreyfus doesn't repeat out of sheer inertia, look for the most random choice: Falco. Her series isn't even a comedy.







Contact David Hiltbrand at dhiltbrand@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @daveondemand_TV. Read his blog at www.inquirer.com/daveondemand.