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2011 Emmy Predictions: Drama

Allegra Tepper |
September 15, 2011 | 3:14 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

It’s been quite a year for television, and even more so for television drama.  The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences weighed out some returning champs with promising fresh meat. It’s no surprise that AMC’s Mad Men is splattered all over the bill—this year’s 10 nominations are bringing their tally to 35 over the last 4 years (and that’s excluding a comparable number of Creative Arts Emmy nods). 

Though perhaps Primetime Emmy newcomers Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones will steal the show.  The dramas may be full of hustlers and gamesmen, but hopefully tonight, you’ll be the one reigning victorious. Before you place your bets, take a gander at these predictions for the winning talent at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards.  


Should win: John Slattery, Mad Men 

Will win: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

Other nominees: Alan Cumming, The Good Wife; Andre Braugher, Men of a Certain Age; Walton Goggins, Justified; Josh Charles, The Good Wife

John Slattery has been patient, and so have we.  The silver fox, who is nominated in this category for the fourth consecutive year, has always been a much-needed comic presence in what can sometimes be a bleak Mad Men abyss.  

In the fourth season of the period-piece powerhouse, though, Slattery has added a layer of dramatic acumen with brilliant results.  He’s given a womanizing executive with little ambition and even less tact a sympathetic quality, and for that he ought to (finally) be recognized. 

But in its first season, Game of Thrones has presented a threat to the Mad Men supremacy, and that’s thanks in great part to Peter Dinklage.  The 4-foot-5 actor boasts novelty, sure, but his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister is also one that balances wit and sympathy.  If the deserving Game of Thrones is going to earn the prize anywhere, it’s here.   


Should win: Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire

Will win: Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife

Other nominees: Christina Hendricks, Mad Men; Michelle Forbes, The Killing; Margo Martindale, Justified; Christine Baranski, The Good Wife

As per usual, HBO is churning out the awards show bait, and the Academy is eating it up.  The network has likely been kicking themselves in the shins at the last few Emmys—they turned down the Mad Men script, only to watch it soar over their programming with the critics. 

This season, though, HBO brought the heat with not just one but two fresh contenders.  Along with Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire is also giving the AMC hit series a run for its money.  While Steve Buscemi is a deserving vet, the series’ leading lady Kelly Macdonald is the one besting her category.  Macdonald won an Emmy in 2006 for her performance in the HBO movie The Girl in the Café, and she’s worthy of number two.  

That said, Archie Panjabi scored the statue last year for her role in The Good Wife.  This season, her character’s plot line has grown evermore complicated, and Panjabi has risen to the challenge accordingly.  She’s definitely the safest choice, and that very well might be what the Academy is looking for. 


Should and will win: Jon Hamm, Mad Men

Other nominees: Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire; Michael C. Hall, Dexter; Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights; Timothy Olyphant, Justified

Like his costar Slattery, Jon Hamm has come close three times over, but still no cigar.  But if he’s anything like his character, the broken and private ad man with the ultimate suave exterior, he’s ultimately going to get what he wants.  

While the show is busting at the seams of Christina Hendricks’ bodacious sixties getups with talent, Mad Men wouldn’t be the force it is today without Hamm.  He gives Draper a soft and complex quality, which isn’t an easy feat given the skeletons in that man’s closet.

Members of the Academy considered an episode called “The Suitcase” for Hamm’s nomination, in which he gives a subtle but heart wrenching performance.  It's safe to say that every nominee is thanking their lucky stars that Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston isn't a contender (he's won for lead actor the last three years). While this category isn’t short of other talent, the 2011 prize definitely belongs to Hamm. 


Should win: Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

Will win: Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife

Other nominees: Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights; Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; Mireille Enos, The Killing; Kathy Bates, Harry’s Law

This marks Elisabeth Moss’ third nomination for her role as Peggy Olson on Mad Men, but not always in this category.  The Academy has disputed over whether she’s a lead actress or a supporting cast member.  This season, she definitely stole the limelight from both Christina Hendricks and January Jones in this nuanced role, but it likely won’t work in her favor come Sunday night.  If she were in the supporting actress category, there’d be no contest.  She too gave a stellar performance in “The Suitcase,” but it probably won’t be enough to beat out Juliana Margulies. 

Margulies was controversially beat out by Kyra Sedgwick for her role on The Closer at last year’s awards, but lately she’s been better than ever. She’s been around the Emmy block a couple of times—she got six nods and one win during her tenure on ER—and will be a safe and popular choice for voters.  


Should and will win: Mad Men 

Other nominees: Boardwalk Empire; The Good Wife; Game of Thrones; Friday Night Lights; Dexter

Mad Men is the kind of show you hunger for like a 12 oz. New York steak.  It’s rich and juicy, and goes great with a martini. Contract negotiations have kept the show’s fifth season off the air until 2012, a heartbreaking development that happened to remind fans just how much they’re going to miss Don and the crew while they’re gone. 

No matter how many times we hear announcers call out a Mad Men win, it just won’t ever get old.  It’s the show that keeps on giving; individual actors with star power manage to make a totally symbiotic ensemble, and the writing remains sharp and fresh.  Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire are both excellent contenders, but they’ll get their days in the sun.  For now, it’s hats off to Mad Men for always serving up perfection on the rocks, and with a twist. 

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