We've covered who should be nominated for the Emmys come next Thursday's nominations. Now it's time to settle in for grim reality. How much will Modern Family continue to dominate TV's best comedies?
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy
Joe Reid: I have three locks for the Guest Actreess in a Comedy category, even though "lock" should be taken with a grain of salt since these guest categories are such a crap-shoot. There are so many old TV veterans, none of whom Emmy voters have ever been able to resist! But I'm settled on three nominees who fit very defined Emmy types: 1) The veteran with huge industry respect: Ellen Burstyn in Louie, which is one of those spoonful-of-sugar nominees where the voters can look cool when really all they're doing is honoring one of their tried and true faves. 2) Joan Cusack in Shameless, because she's been nominated three times before, and now that Shameless is in the comedy category, her performance makes even more sense here. 3) Melissa McCarthy for Saturday Night Live, because an SNL host always ends up here, and McCarthy is both an Emmy winner and a huge star.
David Sims: Agreed on McCarthy and Burstyn; had not considered Cusack, but maybe that's just because the category switch is throwing me off with Shameless. The only other actress I feel solid on is Dot-Marie Jones from Glee, who was nominated last year and has a killer tape this year (the episode that deals with Finn's death). So I could see her getting in, or perhaps Tina Fey for her hosting performance on SNL, because the Emmys will struggle with not nominating her after years of multiple nods.
Reid: Agreed on Dot-Marie Jones, good call. Fey may well get edged out by McCarthy, but I wouldn't be shocked to see her show up, either instead of or in addition to. Other wild cards in this category: basically anybody older and respected in the industry — Candice Bergen on The Michael J. Fox Show; Julia Duffy on Looking; Shirley MacLaine on Glee. Kathy Bates got a nomination for Harry's Law, for Pete's sake; is a Mike and Molly nomination so out of the question? If we're making a plea for quality, there's always Julie White's showy, welcome performance on Nurse Jackie. Some of the younger performers I think might stand a chance are Sarah Baker for Louie (just because her episode got so much attention), Linda Cardellini for New Girl (she was nominated for Mad Men last year and her arc on New Girl gave her a lot of material), or Laverne Cox for Orange Is the New Black (because she dominates the episode she submitted). Who are your wild cards?
Sims: To me, it's just Orange is the New Black, because it has tons of those tricky guest actors who were in the whole season. If the show's buzz is as big with the Emmys as we're told (and I believe that it is), Uzo Aduba, Laverne Cox or Natasha Lyonne could all get a look-in. And of course, watch out for vets as you say: Jane Kaczmarek on Playing House is another, MacLaine for sure, June Squibb on Girls coming off her Oscar nomination. I thought Cardellini's arc on New Girl was the show's low point to date, but like you say, once you're nominated, it's much easier to return.
The Hot in Cleveland Factor: The Hot In Cleveland Factor here is strong: basically half of the Guest Actress ballot is made up of whatever well-known former sitcom stars the TV Land show drew to its set this season. Cloris Leachman, who the Emmys will nominate for just about anything, has to be a threat. Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper, Shirley Jones, Susan Lucci, Jennifer Love Hewitt (wait, what?) ... the list goes on, and it's a list of actresses who already have a lot of Emmy gold in their trophy cabinets. And Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Predicted Nominees: Ellen Burstyn, Louie; Laverne Cox, Orange Is the New Black; Valerie Harper, Hot in Cleveland; Dot-Marie Jones, Glee; Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live; June Squibb, Girls.
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
Sims: The Guest Actor category is similarly crowded with supporting performances masquerading as special guests (Jonathan Banks on Community, Pablo Schreiber on Orange is the New Black, Gary Cole on Veep) that could slip in because of their increased exposure. There's also the same batch of perennial contenders, like Nathan Lane's Pepper Dennis character in Modern Family, or Bob Newhart's Professor Proton on The Big Bang Theory, for which he won his first ever Emmy last year. Both of those strike me as locks to return. An SNL host is usually nominated — Louis C.K. was there last year, and could return, or perhaps Jimmy Fallon or Andy Samberg.
Reid: Totally with you on Nathan Lane and Bob Newhart. Write those names in with magic marker. The "SNL host slot" is somewhat tricky. A Louis C.K. nod could be yet another "We really like Louie, honest! Stop yelling at us for not voting for it to win Best Comedy!" attempt. But something tells me Fallon's rise to Tonight Show prominence gives him the edge. I've got my eye on one of those Tim Conway performances to show up here, too — Two and a Half Men, I suppose? Otherwise, I've got my other eye on dead-show nominations for The Crazy Ones (Ed Asner and Brad Garrett, both Emmy faves) or How I Met Your Mother (John Lithgow), or else just a complete Modern Family sweep (they've got strong contenders in Fred Willard, John Benjamin Hickey, and Jesse Eisenberg). But how about these two for consideration as actors playing themselves: Jerry Seinfeld for Louie or James Earl Jones for The Big Bang Theory. Both likely Best Comedy nominees. Both Emmy favorites.
Sims: The one argument against Seinfeld: he's never been nominated for playing himself. I would have called him a lock for 30 Rock way back when and he didn't get in then either, nor for Louie last year. But he's definitely on my list of possibles from that show, as is Charles Grodin (a respected actor whose work on Louie was devastatingly memorable) and Jeremy Renner (a big star whose work on Louie was also pretty memorable!). And maybe five-time nominee Scott Bakula will sneak in for his wonderful work on Looking.
The Hot in Cleveland Factor: Once again, Cleveland is flooding the ballot with potential nominees, so many of them Emmy faves, from one-time nominee Max Greenfield to recurring faves like John Mahoney and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. The big dogs in the yard? Tim Conway (who we should just predict for four nominations and let the chips fall where they may) and William Shatner, whose six nominations and two wins for Boston Legal defied all laws of logic or good taste.
Predicted Nominees: Gary Cole, Veep, Tim Conway, Two and a Half Men; Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live; Nathan Lane, Modern Family; Bob Newhart, The Big Bang Theory; William Shatner, Hot in Cleveland.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Reid: The interesting thing is that you would assume, from the buzz, that this category would be fixing to overflow with Orange Is the New Black women. But since so many supporting performers were submitted as guests, and since the Emmys hold on to old favorites with the grip of a vise, I think I'm predicting only Kate Mulgrew as a lock to get an Orange nomination. Otherwise, I think we'll be seeing Julie Bowen AGAIN and Mayim Bialik AGAIN. God willing, last year's winner Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie) will return. She ended the last season very strong, though her work in the season finale aired after ballots were due, so cross those fingers.
Sims: Yeah, this category is unfortunately crowded with enough returning nominees that only Mulgrew seems like an Orange possibility. Last year, the Emmys nominated seven actresses here, and only one of them (Jane Krakowski in 30 Rock) isn't still on the air. Agreed on Bowen and Bialik, who are permanent locks until one day they aren't; I also think Wever will make it back again after winning last year.
Reid: What do we think of a possible Allison Janney nomination for Mom? Big hit show, yes, but the Emmys are weirdly fickle about CBS comedies, even the hit ones. I do wonder if all the ink about Amy Schumer's weird category placement might get her a few votes, but I'm not putting money on it. Betty White's Hot in Cleveland nomination didn't happen last year, so maybe they're done with her. Who else? Anna Chlumsky was nominated last year for Veep but I could see her being the odd woman out. I feel like a Brooklyn Nine-Nine woman could show up, but Stephanie Beatriz or Chelsea Perretti? I'm not lucky enough to see Trophy Wife get some bon-voyage nods for Marcia Gay Harden or Michaela Watkins. More likely, I'll get hit with a Zosia Mamet nod for Girls, at which point I'm walking into the sea.
Sims: Mamet might have a better shot if she's had more of an arc this year, but this was Shosh's least prominent season on Girls. I think Chlumsky and Jane Lynch both get excised, although neither can be fully counted out, and I agree that the Emmys are done with the grand Betty White experiment. Mulgrew, like we've said, gets one of those slots; to me, Allison Janney is definitely the favorite for the other one. There's no SNL performer yet ready to step up here, and while Schumer's buzz has grown (what with the Apatow movie and all) Janney is a perennial fave playing a big, brassy role in a CBS sitcom. She'll be the final nominee, I think.
Reid: Thanks for talking me down off of my Mamet ledge. If she submitted her big blow-up in "Beach House," though ...
The Modern Family Factor: Pretty sure Sofia Vergara isn't going anywhere either. She was picked as a guaranteed winner last year, and might have some sympathy after her big pregnancy arc got snubbed.
Predicted Nominees: Julie Bowen, Modern Family; Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory; Allison Janney, Mom; Kate Mulgrew, Orange Is the New Black; Sofia Vergara, Modern Family; Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Sims: Bill Hader is the only nominee from last year not on the air anymore. Tony Hale, last year's winner for Veep, will definitely be back for the nosebleed alone.
Reid: Tony Hale for sure, yes. I could even see him winning again, but that's getting ahead of ourselves. One new nominee that I'm sure of is Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Andre Braugher, who has been nominated for nearly every TV show he's been on for the last two decades (sorry, Last Resort!). He's also the highlight of the Fox comedy, so there's that. Otherwise, I think Adam Driver is an easy call to get nominated again. Neil Patrick Harris might squeeze back in for a Megan Mullally-style last hurrah nomination for How I Met Your Mother. Is it Taran Killam's turn to take up the SNL mantle? There's been at least one cast member nominated in one of the supporting categories for the past six years. I also would not be wholly shocked to see Zach Woods nominated for Silicon Valley. He's worked with seemingly everyone in the TV industry in the last three years. Also ... I hesitate to even say it ... but if I see a rash of "Jason BIGGS nominated for Orange Is the New Black???" tweets on Thursday, don't say I didn't see it coming.
Sims: Sadly, I do think that Biggs is a possibility for Orange, just because of his name recognition and the amount of screen-time he got on that show (of course, the amount of screen-time he got was that show's biggest problem). Harris is enough of an industry fave to sneak back in, but I think the Emmys have soured on How I Met Your Mother enough to make that a longshot, and while I agree that Killam is now the most consistent male performer on SNL, I don't know if he has the kind of zeitgeisty clout that Hader built up over the years just quite yet. I'm with you — I think Braugher is a lock and that Driver will grab that sixth spot, considering his stock has only risen since his semi-surprise nom last year.
The Modern Family Factor: This one has become an increasing crapshoot because of the four Modern Family actors (Ed O'Neill, Eric Stonestreet, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson) that are always contenders. Burrell and Ferguson are four-time nominees who seem like the safest bets; but then, two-time winner Stonestreet seemed like the biggest lock until last year, when he was inexplicably snubbed. I'd say Stonestreet and Ferguson make it in alongside Burrell, since this season had an arc focusing on them getting married that gave them a lot to do.
Predicted Nominees: Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Ty Burrell, Modern Family; Adam Driver, Girls; Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family; Tony Hale, Veep; Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Outstanding Actress in a Comedy
Reid: Lead Actress in a Comedy feels very cut-and-dried to me, and I'd be very surprised if last year's eligible nominees don't repeat exactly. Lena Dunham (Girls), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), and Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) seem rock solid. Tina Fey and Laura Dern's shows are sadly no longer with us, so theirs are the two vacancies looking to be filled. One of those vacancies will almost certainly be occupied by Taylor Schilling, so get ready for a whole lot of Comedy People to start bitching about how she's not funny. Are we in agreement on these five? And what do you make of the scramble for slot number six?
Sims: Agreed on those five. If anyone's missing out, it's Falco, since the buzz for that show has completely died away, but the Emmys love her and she's great, so I don't see that happening. Shameless' switch to the Comedy category might help Emmy Rossum a little, but not really. CBS has two movie stars it can push — Anna Faris in Mom and Melissa McCarthy in Mike & Molly, and neither of their names would surprise me on nomination day. And Zooey Deschanel could always reappear after her baffling snub for New Girl season two, but that show had a bit of a down season. Personally, though, my gutsy call is for Laurie Metcalf to sneak in for Getting On, where she is the sole submitted lead. The HBO brand plus Metcalf's many Emmy wins and nominations over the year might sneak her in.
Reid: HBO does have a history of muscling in little-seen but quite worthy Lead Actress nods (Dern last year; Lisa Kudrow for The Comeback). Not a bad call, though Melcalf's would be the least buzzy of all those, I think.The tragedy of Emmy Rossum is that she's been worthy of a nomination in the drama category for years, but this switch to comedy does her the most harm. Alas. I remain somewhat baffled that Patricia Heaton has never found traction for The Middle, considering she won all those Raymond Emmys and her show is a solidly respected crowd-pleaser. But if it hasn't happened by now, it's not happening. I think I'm leaning towards that Allison Janney halo shining on Anna Faris, honestly.
Predicted Nominees: Lena Dunham, Girls; Anna Faris, Mom; Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep; Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation; Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black
Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
Sims: Bizarrely, this is a desperately weak category for the Emmys. I'm not quite sure why, and of course there are very worthy contenders (my favorite Andy Daly in Review comes to mind) but there's also a lot of dreck that will certainly seep through. To my mind, there are three locks: Louis C.K. will certainly come back for Louie (and maybe win one of these days), Jim Parsons is of course always going to be there for The Big Bang Theory, and yeah, Andy Samberg is getting in here for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He's a winning lead on a semi-hit show and this category is bereft of big names. He's in there.
Reid: Exactly right. You wouldn't think "Andy Samberg: lock," but look at the field. Which makes for kind of a very interesting field since there are three completely up-for-grabs nominations. I'm an Emmy pessimist at heart, so I would say to watch out for an incredibly conservative set of picks. Someone from among the Don Cheadle (House of Lies), Matt LeBlanc (Episodes), Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory), Michael J. Fox (The Michael J. Fox Show) set. I honestly believe Fox left himself off the Guest Actor ballot for The Good Wife so he'd have a better shot here, but I'm a conspiracy theorist sometimes. It wouldn't even surprise me if Jon Cryer got back in on this racket for Two and a Half Men. Talk me into something new and interesting, David, please.
Sims: Cryer could definitely make it, that's how dire things are. I'd be shocked if Cheadle and LeBlanc didn't make it back after their nominations last year; no one talked about House of Lies or Episodes in 2013 either, but they made it in, because they're well-known to voters. Jason Bateman of Arrested Development is last year's nominee who can't return; I actually think his slot might go to William H. Macy of Shameless. He's the one really helped by the category switch, he went through a lot this year, and the Emmys LOOOOOVE Bill Macy! But yeah, I wouldn't be stunned if Michael J. Fox nudges his way in. The only reason I think he won't is because his show utterly flopped, but that hasn't stopped the Emmys in the past.
Reid: Billy Macy? Huuuge Emmy favorite. You and I are on the exact same wavelength here. To the point where it seems like the switch for Shameless from drama to comedy was specifically so Macy could get this very nomination. Which is just super for me, since Frank is easily my least favorite part of that show, and I had dearly hoped they'd have had the guts to kill him off last year.
Predicted Nominees: Don Cheadle, House of Lies; Louis CK, Louie; Matt LeBlanc, Episodes; William H. Macy, Shameless; Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory; Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Outstanding Comedy Series
Sims: Last year, our nominees were Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, Veep, 30 Rock, Louie, and Girls. 30 Rock ain't coming back, but I'd say those other five are going to be tough to knock off of their perch. Girls, weirdly, feels like the most vulnerable, and it still had a much-discussed year that I'd say improved on the second season (but I didn't like the second season all that much). Veep is already an Emmy favorite and had a legitimately exciting third year that could place it in the winners' discussion, since Modern Family has to stop winning at some point, right? Its four trophies seem like more than enough. Anyway, the obvious sub for 30 Rock here is Orange is the New Black; are there any other major contenders?
Reid: A bit of Inside Wire Baseball: When I started jotting down contenders for this category, I made two columns, YES and MAYBE. By happenstance, my YES column shook out at six exactly, and it's the six you settled on as well, David. I get what you're saying about Girls being vulnerable, but I look at the top contenders to supplant it, and I don't see much chance of that happening. Brooklyn Nine-Nine seems like the most likely, I suppose, but I wouldn't count on those Golden Globe wins to translate. The Emmys' love for cable series is well documented, and I can't see a network show like this or Parks and Rec or New Girl elbowing their way in. I am forever steeling myself for an Eastbound and Down nomination. I know it's not likely, but neither is getting hit by a bus, yet I look both ways when I cross the street anyway.
Sims: Yes, Brooklyn Nine-Nine does seem like the biggest threat, because how can Emmy really resist a nice solid broadcast sitcom hit when there are so few of them these days? Eastbound and Down will get nominated the same time Review does, so I look forward to both of us being happy on that impossible day. But weirdly, this is the easiest category to predict of them all. Orange is the New Black is going to make it.
Predicted Nominees: The Big Bang Theory, Girls, Louie, Modern Family, Orange Is the New Black, Veep