Handicapping the Emmys, so you don't have to

"Orange Ìs the New Black" is amusing to Emmy nominators - the show set in a prison is up for best comedy series. Also nominated: Taylor Schilling (above in orange), for best actress, and Kate Mulgrew, for best supporting actress. (Netflix)

It's not you. The prime-time Emmys really have gotten harder to follow than a swarm of fruit flies.

A multiverse of 800 channels wasn't enough; now there's a slew of streaming services eligible for the awards. Netflix? Hulu? Amazon? Sounds like the third race at Monmouth Park.

The categories have become meaningless. Orange Is the New Black, the prison saga on Netflix, which many people are projecting to be the belle of the Emmy ball, is up for best comedy series. Really?

Guess this means we were supposed to be laughing, not wincing, the whole time we were watching HBO's Oz. Next you'll be telling me Lena Dunham's Girls is supposed to be humorous.

And how do we make sense of True Detective and Breaking Bad, two heavy Emmy favorites, being entered as drama series? Both had eight episodes, yet American Horror Story: Coven, with 13 episodes, is classified as a miniseries. Game of Thrones is a series, while Fargo is a miniseries. Huh? The seasons for both of these much-nominated shows consisted of 10 installments.

Adding to the confusion, NBC has arbitrarily bumped the ceremony to Monday night (8 p.m. until whenever) from its ancestral Sunday home.

Luckily for you, I've come up with this guide to the night's 14 essential awards. It's organized around a new system I call Woulda Coulda Shoulda.

Woulda is made up of my predictions for who will walk away with the Emmy (as in "If I had only bet on Jim Parsons, I woulda won a pile.") Coulda encompasses the selections that deserved nominations but were foolishly not included. And Shoulda identifies the winner in a far more logical TV realm, far, far from here.


Best drama series

Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Mad Men, True Detective

Woulda: Breaking Bad, capping its spellbinding run.

Coulda: The Walking Dead, The Good Wife, The Americans.

Shoulda: House of Cards, sharper than ever.


Best actress in a drama series

Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex; Claire Danes, Homeland; Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey; Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife; Kerry Washington, Scandal; Robin Wright, House of Cards

Woulda: Washington, rectifying last year's oversight.

Coulda: Stana Katic, Castle; Mireille Enos, The Killing.

Shoulda: Wright, shiveringly good.


Best actor in a drama series

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad; Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom; Jon Hamm, Mad Men; Woody Harrelson, True Detective; Matthew McConaughey, True Detective; Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Woulda: McConaughey, the night's surest lock.

Coulda: Damian Bichir, The Bridge; Robert Taylor, Longmire; Tom Mison, Sleepy Hollow.

Shoulda: Cranston, towering to the bitter end.


Best supporting actor in a drama series

Jim Carter, Downton Abbey; Josh Charles, The Good Wife; Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones; Mandy Patinkin, Homeland; Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad; Jon Voight, Ray Donovan

Woulda: Charles, what an exit.

Coulda: Rick Hoffman, Suits; Charles Dance, Game of Thrones; Norman Reedus, The Walking Dead.

Shoulda: Dinklage, bravo.


Best 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

Woulda: Baranski, upset win for this sophisticate.

Coulda: Melissa McBride, The Walking Dead; Bellamy Young, Scandal.

Shoulda: Froggatt, profoundly moving.


Best miniseries

American Horror Story: Coven; Bonnie & Clyde; Fargo; Luther; Treme; The White Queen

Woulda: Fargo, big in Los Angeles.

Coulda: Rosemary's Baby; Under the Dome; The Red Road.

Shoulda: The White Queen, transporting.


Best TV movie

Killing Kennedy; Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight; The Normal Heart; Sherlock: His Last Vow; The Trip to Bountiful

Woulda: The Normal Heart.

Coulda: Flowers in the Attic.

Shoulda: Sherlock, elementary, my dear reader.


Best actress in a miniseries or movie

Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor; Minnie Driver, Return to Zero; Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven; Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Coven; Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful; Kristen Wiig, The Spoils of Babylon

Woulda: Tyson, by any measure.

Coulda: Eva Green, Penny Dreadful; Abbie Cornish, Klondike.

Shoulda: Wiig, just for getting nominated.


Best actor in a miniseries or movie

Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: His Last Vow; Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge; Idris Elba, Luther; Martin Freeman, Fargo; Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart; Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo

Woulda: Ruffalo, for deigning to do TV.

Coulda: Clarke Peters, Treme.

Shoulda: Elba, palpably brooding.


Best comedy series

The Big Bang Theory; Louie; Modern Family; Orange is the New Black; Silicon Valley; Veep

Woulda: Orange is the New Black, the fashionable choice.

Coulda: Portlandia; Brooklyn Nine-Nine; The League.

Shoulda: Veep, for hitting below the Beltway.


Best actress in a comedy series

Lena Dunham, Girls; Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep; Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly; Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation; Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black

Woulda: Louis-Dreyfus, Emmy catnip.

Coulda: Chris Lilley, Ja'mie: Private School Girl (can't a 39-year-old man playing an Australian teen get some respect?)

Shoulda: Poehler, perfectly loopy.


Best actor in a comedy series

Don Cheadle, House of Lies; Louis C.K., Louie; Ricky Gervais, Derek; Matt LeBlanc, Episodes; William H. Macy, Shameless; Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Woulda: Parsons, the TV academy has a serious crush on him.

Coulda: Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley; Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Shoulda: LeBlanc, uniquely superb at playing himself.


Best supporting actor in a comedy series

Fred Armisen, Portlandia; Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Ty Burrell, Modern Family; Adam Driver, Girls; Tony Hale, Veep; Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family

Woulda: Braugher, for slumming.

Coulda: Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele; T.J. Miller, Silicon Valley

Shoulda: Hale, convulsively funny.


Best supporting actress in a comedy series

Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory; Julie Bowen, Modern Family; Anna Chlumsky, Veep; Allison Janney, Mom; Kate Mulgrew, Orange Is the New Black; Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live

Woulda: Janney, dripping with technique.

Coulda: Carrie Brownstein, Portlandia; Chelsea Peretti, Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Kaitlyn Dever, Last Man Standing; Cloris Leachman, Raising Hope.

Shoulda: McKinnon, for her Ellen impersonation alone.



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