Breaking Bad vs. Mad Men. Tina Fey vs. Amy Poehler. Girls vs. Louie. Oh Emmys, why do you make us pick just one? This year’s Emmys are on Sunday, so per tradition, it’s time to break down who will win and who should win in the major categories. Will Modern Family keep its streak? Can Game of Thrones sneak in a win? And is it okay to root for American Horror Story? Oh, there are so many questions …
The Nominees: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland, Mad Men
Should Win: Mad Men. Anyone who uses the “They’ve won too many times already” argument can shove it. Last time we checked, the best drama on television award should go to the best drama on television.
Will Win: Breaking Bad or Downton Abbey could swoop in because there are many who do believe Mad Men has indeed been over-fêted. Crazies.
Photo: Ron Jaffe/@RONP JAFFE
The Nominees: The Big Bang Theory, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Girls, Modern Family, 30 Rock, Veep.
Should Win: Parks and Recreation, though it is tragically not even nominated. So let’s say 30 Rock, if for no other reason than the creation of Leap Day William.
Will Win: Modern Family’s two-for-two, and the show is nominated all over the place — we’ll be pretty surprised if it doesn’t win a third time. But The Big Bang Theory has a ton of popular momentum, having overtaken Idol by some measures this past season, and it has that retro-classic sitcom rhythm that none of the other nominees do. Geeks inherit the earth at some point, right?
Photo: Peter “Hopper” Stone/? 2012 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Nominees: American Horror Story, Game Change, Hatfields & McCoys, Hemingway & Gellhorn, Luther, Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia.
Should Win: Sherlock, despite its serious sexual politics problems, is the most accomplished of the bunch — and yet we can’t help but root for American Horror Story. Yes, huge parts of it are plainly awful, but let’s reward audacity once in a while.
Will Win: Game Change. 2008’s Recount — also on HBO, also based on actual politics, also written by Danny Strong and directed by Jay Roach — won and this will, too.
The Nominees: Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Damian Lewis (Homeland), Jon Hamm (Mad Men).
Should Win: Don’t make us pick between Jon Hamm and Bryan Cranston. Okay, fine, we’ll pick Hamm just because Cranston’s won before and Hamm hasn’t. Plus we saw more sides of Don Draper (and his barely managed volatility) this season than ever.
Will Win: Bryan Cranston. BB was off the air last season, but before that Cranston had won three times in a row.
Photo: Gregory Peters/Copyright: AMC 2011
The Nominees: Glenn Close (Damages), Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Kathy Bates (Harry’s Law), Claire Danes (Homeland), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
Should Win: She should’ve won for playing Angela Chase, and now Danes is back on series TV playing a bipolar genius. That’s nothing if not Emmy nomnoms.
Will Win: Danes. Have you seen Homeland? Seriously.
The Nominees: Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey), Jim Carter (Downton Abbey), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Jared Harris (Mad Men).
Should Win: Jared Harris. Mad Men has had plenty of sad characters before, but Lane’s downfall over season five was unbelievable. If you can’t win an Emmy for punching Pete and kissing Joan in the same episode, what can you win for?
Will Win: Giancarlo Esposito. You can win for playing Gus Fring, TV’s most enchanting supervillain.
Photo: Ron Jaffe/AMC/@RONP JAFFE
The Nominees: Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife), Christine Hendricks (Mad Men)
Should Win: Hendricks. Because who wasn’t talking about “The Other Woman” for weeks after it aired? This was Hendricks killing it as Joan at her most vulnerable and powerful.
Will Win: Hendricks may take it, but we could see voters going with Smith’s Dowager, even though (or because?) her role is entirely comedic. And she’s Maggie Smith.
Photo: Jordin Althaus
The Nominees: Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Don Cheadle (House of Lies), Louis C.K. (Louie), Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men).
Should Win: Jim Parsons. There, we said it. The other guys are great, but how much acting are they doing? And how … funny is it? Louis C.K. deserves an Emmy for outstanding ideas, but unfortunately that is not a category yet.
Will Win: Jim Parsons. He’s won the last two, might as well make it a threepeat.
Photo: Sonja Flemming/????2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The Nominees: Lena Dunham (Girls), Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly), Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep).
Should Win: Poehler. And if you need to ask us why, go back and watch last season’s finale in which she made us laugh and weep and smile and jump up and down every time we watched (and rewatched) the episode.
Will Win: Louis-Dreyfus is an Emmy favorite, her show is on awards-magnet HBO, and she delivers the kind of funny-edgy performance voters admire. Plus, after three seasons of being snubbed by the academy, there is no indication that they’ll suddenly recognize Poehler.
The Nominees: Ed O’Neill (Modern Family), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family),Max Greenfield (New Girl), Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live).
Should Win: We’re giving a slight edge to Hader for Stefon, the magical unicorn who single-handedly renews our faith in SNL every time he shows up.
Will Win: Take your pick from the Modern Family men. That’s how Emmy voters do it.
The Nominees: Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory), Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives), Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live).
Should Win: Kristen Wiig defined SNL for the last few years, so it’s strange to think of her as a supporting cast member and not a leading one, but either way.
Will Win: Julie Bowen seems slightly more likely than Sofia Vergara, but either not-particularly-modern Modern Family mom could take it.
The Nominees: Julian Fellows (“Episode 7,” Downton Abbey); Semi Chellas, Matthew Weiner (“The Other Woman,” Mad Men), Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton ("Commissions and Fees,” Mad Men); Semi Chellas, Matthew Weiner ("Far Away Places,” Mad Men); Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff ("Pilot,” Homeland.)
Should Win: “Commissions and Fees” had a suicide, “Far Away Places” had an acid trip, but “The Other Woman” was the iconic episode of Mad Men last season. And with good reason — not just for the Joan-and-Jaguar-guy story, but for Peggy’s exit, too.
Will Win: The Mad Mens are terrific, but they work best as part of the overall story. In terms of stand-alone episodes, good luck beating Homeland’s brilliant, tense pilot.
Photo: Kent Smith/Copyright: Showtime 2011
The Nominees: Chris McKenna (“Remedial Chaos Theory,” Community), Lena Dunham (“Pilot,” Girls), Louis C.K. (“Pregnant,” Louie), Amy Poehler (“The Debate,” Parks and Recreation), Michael Schur (“Win, Lose or Draw,” Parks and Recreation)
Should Win: This is one of the strongest list of nominees Emmy voters have ever managed to assemble. But the “Win, Lose or Draw” season finale of Parks still rises to the top for being at the top of its game on every level possible (see again our vote for Poehler, who also submitted this episode in the acting race).
Will Win: Holy hell, it’s the first year Modern Family did not get nominated! Next logical choice? Girls, because even though that first episode was not the show’s strongest showing, Emmy voters frequently reward pilots and Dunham probably has to win something.
Photo: JOJO WHILDEN