2014 Emmy Winner Predictions

Glancing over this year’s Emmy nominations is to marvel again at just how much the television landscape has changed in 20 years.

Orange Is the New Black
Photo: Netflix

Glancing over this year’s Emmy nominations is to marvel again at just how much the television landscape has changed in 20 years. Back in 1993, The Larry Sanders Show became the first cable TV program to be nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. Only one non-network sitcom has ever claimed that award (Sex and the City in 2001), but the sheer number of nominations and wins that cable programs garner each year continues to signal the future of television programming. And one of the more pressing questions that will be answered this year is whether the Emmys are ready to embrace online TV creators such as Netflix with prizes in its top two categories for either House of Cards, nominated for 13 awards, or Orange Is the New Black, nominated for 12, more than any other comedy. Elsewhere, the sense of “importance” with which Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart has been greeted by critics and audiences has made nearly ever miniseries or movie category a no-brainer to predict. And while the Emmys, unlike the Oscars, have never been known to drive pundits and viewers alike to fits of nail-biting anxiety, at least a few of this year’s drama races have been turned upside down by the recent plagiarism claims that have plagued Nic Pizzolatto, possibly exposing True Detective as the emperor who’ll arrive at the Nokia Theatre on August 25 with the least amount of clothes.

Below are Slant Magazine’s official Emmy predictions.

Outstanding Drama Series
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Mad Men
True Detective

Will Win: With Mad Men having aged into a vintage far worthier of a Peabody, Game of Thrones adored, if not exactly venerated, for its delectable pulp, and Downton Abbey appearing flushed over having knocked The Americans and Hannibal out of the way in order to gain entrance into the party, this becomes a spectacular tussle between the three remaining nominees. Naysayers be damned, the second season of House of Cards felt like a corrective to the first season’s pat satire, as the series began to complement its relentlessly poison-tipped jabs at D.C. politicos with a metaphoric frisson that was often haunting. Three months ago, when few had come to understand that Breaking Bad didn’t actually win last year for its final season, and the much-heralded True Detective felt to some like the second coming of Twin Peaks, if more self-serious and possibly more incomprehensible, I might have considered giving the edge to HBO’s addictive crime drama. But two months later, with True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto dogged by hardly specious accusations of plagiarism, the question becomes not whether the series can win over Breaking Bad’s incredible swan song, but whether it will even return for a second season.


Could Win: House of Cards or True Detective.

Should Win: Breaking Bad.

Should Have Been Here: Hannibal and The Americans.

Outstanding Comedy Series
The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
Orange Is the New Black
Silicon Valley


Will Win: A five-peat for Modern Family would tie the ABC program with Frasier for the most wins in this category, but its competition this year is stiffer than ever. Only Silicon Valley and Louie, a series that’s seemingly written about more than it’s actually seen, can be safely discounted. More palatable to the masses, as Nielsen will attest, The Big Bang Theory also seems unlikely given that the Emmys have been ringing the death knell for comedies with laugh tracks ever since Everybody Loves Raymond went off the air. And while Emmy’s esteem for Veep continues to grow, it’s hard to shake the impression that the insanely popular Julia Louis Dreyfus’s coattails were largely responsible for its nine nominations this year. The most interesting narrative belongs, of course, to the refreshingly female-centric Orange Is the New Black, the little Netflix program that could and did this year with 12 nominations for its freshman season—this in spite of it being little more than a live-action cartoon whose lack of character consistency from scene to scene and risible trading in racial stereotypes immediately announces it as the work of Weeds creator Jenji Kohan. Given that its structural sophistication in its second season is so profound as to be, again, Peabody-worthy, this may be Orange Is the New Black’s only chance to ever cop this award, but when one considers that only one non-network show has ever won in this category (Sex in the City in 2001), Emmy seems likely to banally stick with what it knows best: Modern Family.

Could Win: Orange Is the New Black or Veep.

Should Win: Louie.

Should Have Been Here: Bob’s Burgers, Looking, Broad City, Girls.


Outstanding Miniseries
American Horror Story: Coven
Bonnie & Clyde
The White Queen

Will Win: Maybe the true Supreme of American Horror Story: Coven is Ryan Murphy, for understanding very early on that Emmy’s grudging respect for genre fare would do him no favors in the Outstanding Drama Series category. Entering this year’s race with 17 nominations, Coven might have sealed the deal had it flourished like American Horror Story: Asylum did in its spectacular home stretch. But then it would have still had to contend with one of year’s great success stories, Fargo, a benchmark on how to adapt one of the most iconic and unique motion pictures in recent history for the small screen without seeming like a craven carbon copy.

Could Win: American Horror Story: Coven.

Should Win: Fargo.


Outstanding TV Movie
Killing Kennedy
Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight
The Normal Heart
Sherlock: His Last Vow
The Trip to Bountiful

Will Win: American Horror Story: AIDS The Normal Heart.

Could Win: The Trip to Bountiful.

Should Win: Sherlock: His Last Vow.


Outstanding Lead 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

Will Win: The near-inexplicable critical acclaim for True Detective this year has in no small part been informed by Matthew McConaughey’s fierce, alternately self-aware and self-serious, commitment to Rust Cohle’s philosophical ramblings. Regardless of who actually wrote the character’s sophomoric diatribes, the actor, who enters this race on the heels of having won an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club, has and will escape the show’s plagiarism-gate completely unscathed.

Could Win: Bryan Cranston or Kevin Spacey.

Should Win: Jon Hamm.


Should Have Been Here: Matthew Rhys.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Lazzy Caplan, Masters of Sex
Claire Danes, Homeland
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Will Win: Robin Wright, who won a Golden Globe in January for the first season of House of Cards, has momentum on her side, but is it the right kind of momentum? This category has rewarded its fair share of monsters in the past, prime among them Glenn Close’s Patty Hewes, but Wright’s Claire Underwood, even on a series as unsubtle as House of Cards, is both a study in restraint by comparison and a pale imitation of Edie Falco’s ever-conflicted Carmela Soprano. Claire Danes, for the far more complex and infinite shades of gray that she continues to bring to her Carrie Mathison on Homeland, is a stronger contender, but if she’s at all been dented by her show’s near-hysteric plunge in popularity, that leaves the door open for Julianna Margulies, after shockingly failing to be nominated last year, to win her second Emmy for her performance as Alicia Florrick on what is said to be The Good Wife’s strongest season to date.

Could Win: Claire Danes or Robin Wright


Should Win: Claire Danes.

Should Have Been Here: Tatiana Maslany and Keri Russell.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge
Idris Elba, Luther
Martin Freeman, Fargo
Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart
Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo

Will Win: Mark Ruffalo, for his rich—and by typical award-show standards, “important”—performance in the egregiously, almost offensively over-stylized The Normal Heart, just barely perseveres over Billy Bob Thornton’s more intriguing articulation of the dark and seductive evil coursing through Fargo’s ice-cold veins.


Could Win: Billy Bob Thornton.

Should Win: Billy Bob Thornton or Benedict Cumberbatch.

Outstanding Lead 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

Will Win: Cicely Tyson in a walk, for reprising the role that won her a Tony last year and, before her, won Geraldine Page an Oscar in 1985.


Could Win: Jessica Lange.

Should Win: Jessica Lange, with the caveat that Tyson’s performance is, sadly, a blind spot for me.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Louie C.K., Louie
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Ricky Gervais, Derek
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
William H. Macy, Shamless
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Will Win: I didn’t call Jim Parsons’s third Emmy last year simply because I thought Emmy wouldn’t be able to resist handing Alec Baldwin a second on his way out of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. This year, voters may feel cautious about giving the The Big Bang Theory lead a fourth, especially if they’d rather reward him for The Normal Heart. Or they may feel that the beloved Ricky Gervais’s prickly humanism is a preferable and natural alternative to Parsons’s toothless amiability.


Could Win: Jim Parsons.

Should Win: Louie C.K..

Outstanding Lead 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

Will Win: The unsinkable Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Could Win: Melissa McCarthy or Taylor Schilling.

Should Win: Lena Dunham.

Outstanding 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

Will Win: Josh Charles had an ostensibly great season on The Good Wife, and while Peter Dinklage’s performance in episode six of Game of Thrones’s fourth season is, by most accounts, one of the great highlights of the year in television, Aaron Paul is likely to win his third Emmy for exposing Jesse Pinkman’s tortured soul more fully and richly across the final batch of Breaking Bad episodes.

Could Win: Peter Dinklage or Josh Charles.

Should Win: Aaron Paul.

Outstanding 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

Will Win: Last year I said that Anna Gunn’s articulation of her character’s conflictions in the first half of Breaking Bad’s final season was possibly the show’s shining light. And that more strongly applies throughout the second half, wherein the actress’s Skyler White, at least in her submitted episode, “Ozymandias,” lays bare the full scope of her regrets like a supernova of discovery.

Could Win: Maggie Smith.

Should Win: Anna Gun.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Fred Armisen, Portlandia
Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Adam Driver, Girls
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Tony Hale, Veep

Will Win: Having lost four times before for his role on Modern Family, Jesse Tyler Ferguson may have sentiment on his side, but he still has to contend with last year’s winner, Tony Hale, and his own esteemed co-star, Ty Burrell. And with Fred Armisen and Adam Driver, the two most deserving nominees, as your two odd men out, that leaves Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Andre Braugher, possibly the most acclaimed nominee, to squeak his way to what will be described on Tuesday morning by everyone who never saw Homicide and Thief as a surprise victory.

Could Win: Tony Hale or Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

Should Win: Adam Driver.

Should Have Been Here: Raúl Castillo.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Allison Janney, Mom
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Kate Mulgrew, Orange Is the New Black
Anna Chlumsky, Veep

Will Win: Because rewarding Julie Bowen a third time for insisting on not playing against type seems positively unfathomable, this would appear to be an open field. Except a consensus has formed among awards gurus who’ve probably never even watched Mom that this is Allison Janney’s award to lose. The actress is the biggest name in the category and, with four Emmys for The West Wing under her belt, a win for a comic performance follows the precedent set by Edie Falco in 2010 when she followed her three Emmy wins for The Sopranos with a victory for her role on Nurse Jackie.

Could Win: Julie Bowen or Kate Mulgrew.

Should Win: Kate Mulgrew.

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
“Ozymandias,” Breaking Bad
“Felina,” Breaking Bad
“The Children,” Game of Thrones
“Chapter 14,” House of Cards
“The Secret Fate of All Bad,” True Detective

Will Win: If Rian Johnson’s remarkable direction of “Ozymandias” hadn’t been inexplicably snubbed, I might be singing a different tune, but even the title of Breaking Bad’s last episode, “Felina,” would suggest that this is a done deal.

Could Win: “Ozymandias,” Breaking Bad.

Should Win: “Ozymandias,” Breaking Bad.

Should Have Been Here: “Waterloo,” Mad Men and “Echo,” The Americans.

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
“Farewell Daddy Blues,” Boardwalk Empire
“Felina,” Breaking Bad
“Episode 1,” Downton Abbey
“The Watchers on the Wall,” Game of Thrones
“Chapter 14,” House of Cards
“Who Goes There,” True Detective

Will Win: It’s still unfathomable to me that Walter Hill won an Emmy for the premiere episode of Deadwood, but filmmakers, most recently David Fincher and Martin Scorsese, are often rewarded here for launching the most acclaimed new shows on the TV block. Cary Joji Fukunaga may not be in the league of any of those men as an artist, but you may be tempted to think otherwise given all the ink that was spilt this year over a certain long take from True Detective’s fourth episode.

Could Win: “Felina,” Breaking Bad.

Should Win: “Felina,” Breaking Bad.

Should Have Been Here: “Arpanet,” The Americans and “Sakizuki,” Hannibal.

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
“Episode 305,” Episodes
“So Did the Fat Lady,” Louie
“I Wasn’t Ready (Pilot),” Orange Is the New Black
“Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency,” Silicon Valley
“Special Relationship,” Veep

Will Win: Louie’s “So Did the Fat Lady,” the one episode from a comedy series this year that launched more think pieces than any other.

Could Win: “I Wasn’t Ready (Pilot),” Orange Is the New Black.

Should Win: “So Did the Fat Lady,” Louie

Should Have Been Here: “Christmas in the Car,” Bob’s Burgers and “The Gang Broke Dee,” It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
“Episode 309,” Episodes
“100,” Glee
“Elevator, Part 6,” Louie
“Vegas,” Modern Family
“Lesbian Request Denied,” Orange Is the New Black
“Minimum Viable Product,” Silicon Valley

Will Win: “Lesbian Request Denied,” Orange Is the New Black.

Could Win: “Las Vegas,” Modern Family.

Should Win: “Elevator, Part 6,” Louie

Should Have Been Here: “Looking in the Mirror,” Looking.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Matt Bomer, The Normal Heart
Martin Freeman, Sherlock: His Last Vow
Colin Hanks, Deputy Gus Grimly
Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart
Alfred Molina, The Normal Heart
Jim Parsons, The Normal Heart

Will Win: Matt Bomer.

Could Win: Jim Parsons.

Should Win: Martin Freeman.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
Angela Bassett, American Horror Story: Coven
Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Coven
Ellen Burstyn, Flowers in the Attic
Frances Conroy, American Horror Story: Coven
Allison Tolman, Fargo
Julia Roberts, The Normal Heart

Will Win: Julia Roberts, in spite of being done no favors by Ryan Murphy’s erratic direction and cutting of The Normal Heart, should be able to successfully ride the show’s bandwagon to her first Emmy win.

Could Win: Allison Tolman.

Should Win: Allison Tolman or Frances Conroy.

Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special
“Bitchcraft,” American Horror Story: Coven
“The Crocodile’s Dilemma,” Fargo
Sherlock: His Last Vow
The Normal Heart
“…To Miss New Orleans,” Treme

Will Win: The Normal Heart.

Could Win: “The Crocodile’s Dilemma,” Fargo.

Should Win: Sherlock: His Last Vow

Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special
“Bitchcraft,” American Horror Story: Coven
“Buridan’s Ass,” Fargo
“The Crocodile’s Dilemma,” Fargo
Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight
Sherlock: His Last Vow
The Normal Heart

Will Win: The Normal Heart.

Could Win: “The Crocodile’s Dilemma,” Fargo.

Should Win: Sherlock: His Last Vow.

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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