September 21, 2012



We’ve taken a look at the major Comedy and Movie/Miniseries categories at Sunday’s Emmys, and now it’s time for the big guns:  the Dramas.  Incredibly, the state of TV drama is so strong these days that one could make a case for any of this year’s nominees deserving the big prize (and even a few that didn’t make the list, like The Good Wife, Parenthood and Justified).  In fact, the Drama nominees this season not-so-arguably would wipe the floor with the nominees for Best Picture at last year’s Oscars.  Only one, however, will get to step up to the podium and thank a litany of agents, managers and publicists.


“Boardwalk Empire” (HBO)
“Breaking Bad” (AMC)
“Downton Abbey” (PBS)
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“Homeland” (Showtime)
“Mad Men” (AMC)

WILL WIN:  The bet here is that the Academy isn’t ready to make MAD MEN the most honored TV drama in history with 5 consecutive Emmy wins.  BREAKING BAD is nominated for its spectacular season 4 (the one prior to this past summer), but in voter minds, it will also get credit for this year’s excellent season 5, and that should put it over the top.  However, HOMELAND could easily be the dark-horse winner, with one of the most stunning debut seasons in recent years.  DOWNTON ABBEY dominated the Movie/Miniseries categories, but the competition wasn’t as strong, and consensus seems to be that this season wasn’t quite at the same level of quality (the phony dead cousin!).  GAME OF THRONES just isn’t the Academy’s kind of show, and BOARDWALK EMPIRE doesn’t inspire the passion it would need to beat this group.

SHOULD WIN:  MAD MEN.  Matt Weiner’s masterpiece didn’t even go near its laurels this year, let alone rest on them.  It was more daring and beautifully mysterious than ever before, adventurous both cinematically and thematically, not just delivering a feature-film quality hour every week, but one of Oscar caliber.  As boring as it may be to see it win every year, Mad Men continues to earn its honors.



Glenn Close, “Damages”
Michelle Dockery,”Downton Abbey”
Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
Kathy Bates, “Harry’s Law”
Claire Danes, “Homeland”
Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”

WILL WIN:  Claire Danes, overwhelming in exactly the kind of role the Academy relishes most.

SHOULD WIN:  Danes brought so many layers and grace notes to her role that what could have been just a smart, tricky thriller became emotionally compelling and even heartbreaking.



Steve Buscemi, “Boardwalk Empire”
Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”
Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”
Hugh Bonneville, “Downton Abbey”
Damian Lewis, “Homeland”
Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”

WILL WIN:  Bryan Cranston.  Again.  What can one say?  He really is that good, and Season 4 may have featured his best work to date.

SHOULD WIN:  Jon Hamm, whose superb, subtle performance has unaccountably never been fully appreciated by the Academy.



Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad”
Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”
Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey”
Archie Panjabi, “The Good Wife”
Christine Baranski, “The Good Wife”
Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men”

WILL WIN:  Maggie Smith.  Because she’s Maggie Smith, and every line that comes out of her mouth sounds like it’s been marinated in centuries of English literature and theatre.

SHOULD WIN:  Christina Hendricks, for “The Other Woman” episode, the single best hour of television of the season, with her at the center.



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”

WILL WIN:  Giancarlo Esposito.  Because he was Gus Fring, one of the most memorable villains in pop culture history, much less TV drama.

SHOULD WIN:  Esposito.  As good as Breaking Bad was this past season, it still hasn’t recovered from his loss.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."