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TV Feature: ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Modern Family’ Top 2011 Emmy Predictions

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CHICAGO – With the Emmy Awards very nearly upon us (Sunday, September 18th, 2011), it seems the right time to take one last look at the Academy’s 2011 nominees before they turn into winners and runner-ups. Who will win? Who should win? And who should have been invited to the party?

There are more than a few interesting races this year, most notably in the major drama categories. “Breaking Bad” didn’t have an eligible season this year, “Lost” is gone, and two new HBO shows hope to strike gold in their rookie seasons. It’s created some intriguing match-ups. Will the Emmys continue or even enhance their love for “Mad Men” or look elsewhere? Will anyone repeat from last year? Will anyone surprise? Here are our well-informed predictions for an awards show that almost always defies well-informed predictions more than a few times. Consider these our best guesses.

BEST DRAMA
“Boardwalk Empire”
“Dexter”
“Friday Night Lights”
“Game of Thrones”
“The Good Wife”
“Mad Men”

Will Win: “Mad Men”
Should Win: “Game of Thrones”
Should Have Been Nominated: “Justified”

Mad Men
Mad Men
Photo credit: AMC

One of the most interesting categories of the night likely boils down to a heated battle between AMC and HBO as the three-time winner “Mad Men” faces its stiffest competition to date in “Boardwalk Empire.” From 2000-03, “The West Wing” won four in a row and “Mad Men” hopes to match that streak this weekend. This has always been a voting body that has embraced patterns, often awarding the same shows and performers year after year. What breaks that pattern is not typically a great new show but a notable decline in quality for the recurring winner (and, even then, it’s usually a year later when the Emmy wins stop). It’s doubtful that there’s a single voter out there that would argue that “Mad Men” declined in season four, meaning that it should squeak out the win against the new competition. Now, if its quality goes down in season five and “Boardwalk” maintains or even improves, we could see the start of a new era next year. Of course, that is if “Breaking Bad” doesn’t finally win the award it deserves. (For the record, no program in Emmy history has won five years in a row.)

BEST COMEDY
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Glee”
“Modern Family”
“The Office”
“Parks and Recreation”
“30 Rock”

Will Win: “Modern Family”
Should Win: “Parks and Recreation”
Should Have Been Nominated: “Community”

Modern Family
Modern Family
Photo credit: ABC

Once again, we have to go with the familiar with last year’s victor in the heated “Modern Family vs. Glee” battle. And it doesn’t hurt that “Modern Family” delivered a second season arguably as strong as the first while “Glee” has taken a notable dip in quality. “30 Rock” and “The Big Bang Theory” simply didn’t have strong enough seasons to be considered (and both should feel bad they were nominated over superior comeies like “Community”). That would leave the NBC sitcoms “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” as the only possible competition for ABC’s biggest critical darling. The former had a rollercoaster season and feels like an unlikely choice while the lack of supporting nods for the latter hints at a lack of overall support. I know that the Emmys often throw curveballs but I would be stunned if “Modern Family” didn’t take this prize. It might be the biggest lock of the night (outside of Kate Winslet for “Mildred Pierce”).

BEST ACTOR, DRAMA
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Hugh Laurie, House
Timothy Olyphant, Justified

Will Win: Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Should Win: Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Should Have Been Nominated: Jeremy Irons, The Borgias

Jon Hamm in Mad Men
Jon Hamm in Mad Men
Photo credit: AMC

Do you think Michael C. Hall and Jon Hamm called each other with congratulations when they found out that Bryan Cranston wouldn’t have an eligible season for this year’s awards? It’s like when baseball teams find out that the Yankees won’t be in the Playoffs. It just gives them a bit more hope for the big win. Cranston won the Emmy for Best Actor the last three years and so his absence leaves us with a lack of history with which to predict a winner here. The overall support and the prediction of a win for “Mad Men” points strongly at a deserving win for Jon Hamm. Just like Drama, the strongest competition for a “Mad Men” win would be Buscemi’s work in “Boardwalk Empire,” but the reports are that Hamm submitted a stronger episode. It would be stunning to see any of the other four nominees win and I might even go a step further and say whoever wins here — Buscemi vs. Hamm — will tell us the winner for Best Drama later in the broadcast. Both categories couldn’t be closer.

BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA
Kathy Bates, Harry’s Law
Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights
Mireille Enos, The Killing
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU
Juliana Margulies, The Good Wife
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

Will Win: Juliana Margulies, The Good Wife
Should Win: Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights
Should Have Been Nominated: Katey Sagal, Sons of Anarchy

Juliana Margulies in The Good Wife
Juliana Margulies in The Good Wife
Photo credit: CBS

Once again, this category disappoints overall with several nominees who I can’t imagine winning (although, like most people, I never imagined that Kyra Sedgwick would win last year…and then, in great evidence of the Academy’s inconsistency, not even get nominated the next year) — Kathy Bates, Mariska Hargitay, even Elisabeth Moss, who I believe many voters will agree should have been in Supporting (if SHE wins, Hamm & Drama will do so as well in a pure series sweep). That leaves the great Connie Britton, who could be the most lovely surprise of the night, Mireille Enos, who will be hurt by the controversial season finale for her series, and the woman I expected to win last year and so will predict again — Juliana Margulies. There’s clearly a lot of love for “The Good Wife” and this talented actress carries the show. I thought she was a lock last year and those wacky Emmy voters proved me wrong, so I guess I can’t call her a lock this year. But she’s certainly close to one.

BEST ACTOR, COMEDY
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Louis C.K., Louie
Steve Carell, The Office
Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Will/Should Win: Steve Carell, The Office
Should Have Been Nominated: Joel McHale, Community

Steve Carell in The Office
Steve Carell in The Office
Photo credit: NBC

Steve Carell has never won for the well-liked-by-the-Academy show that has arguably been one of the biggest influences on TV comedy in the last decade. I’ll be truly shocked if they don’t take the last chance to give him a trophy, especially after the strength of his final episode. It’s certainly his to lose. Who could upset? Jim Parsons seems to be the strongest possibility here given his win last year, although I certainly feel that this past season wasn’t his best and can’t believe I’m alone. There are very few TV actors with the current buzz of Louis C.K. and while the vote is technically for season one, you can’t restrain voters from taking into consideration the stellar, just-concluded second season of “Louie.” The first installment of that FX hit was good but the second was amazing and if Louis C.K. pulls off the most glorious upset of the evening, it will be more for what just aired than for what did so over a year ago. One final note — if Johnny Galecki wins, we should all boycott the rest of the show and its sponsors. He’s not bad on “TBBT” but he’s number six here for sure and beat out several more-deserving candidates, most notably Mr. McHale of timeslot-competition “Community.” Yes, I’m bitter.

BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Laura Linney, The Big C
Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Will Win: Laura Linney, The Big C
Should Win: Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Should Have Been Nominated: Toni Collette, United States of Tara

Laura Linney in The Big C
Laura Linney in The Big C
Photo credit: Showtime

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Academy has given this prize to a Showtime actress two years running now, awarding Toni Collette and Edie Falco, back-to-back. Falco could take it again — I really wouldn’t be surprised at all — but I suspect that the darker, more dramatic turn by Academy Award nominee Laura Linney will be too enticing to avoid. This is the kind of win that people who haven’t even seen the show vote for on their ballot. “Ooh, Laura Linney, I love her.” And I don’t mean that to suggest she doesn’t deserve it. She’s great. However, Amy Poehler and Martha Plimpton are better — and if either win, you’ll hear an audible scream of joy on the north side of Chicago. I’m sure Linney will give a great speech.

Click on to page two for the supporting predictions…

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