Yesterday we went over the stupidity of Tatiana Maslany not getting nominated despite giving far and away the best performance on television. Her male counterparts do not suffer from such an egregious snub. Yes, Jeff Daniels and Kevin Spacey have no business being nominated, but the formidable foursome of Jon Hamm, Bryan Cranston, Matthew McConaughey, and Woody Harrelson are all there. Since no one outside of these four actors deserve to win the Emmy it is hard to get too upset over snubs, but I’ll try anyways.
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards” – Oh man, look at that Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood manipulative and cunning with his grand monologues direct to camera. Is there no end to his brilliance? Spacey’s campy, over-the-top, scene chewing performance would be highly entertaining on a Funny or Die video or maybe even a feature film, but over the course of a 13 episode season it is just grating. A lead character doesn’t need to be likable, but he should be at least interesting and multidimensional, ala Tony Soprano. Underwood is a cartoon villain in the flesh. Just like House of Cards is a 80s primetime soap opera masquerading as quality television, Spacey is delivering an annoying, over-the-top performance that dupes everyone into believing it is brilliant. Tone things down and find some humanity in the character, Kevin, and oh yeah, learn how to throw a fucking baseball.
Jeff Daniels, “Newsroom” – Daniels is not undeserving because of his performance. In fact it is a great acting job considering Aaron Sorkin’s writing lends itself to falling down the same overacting well that Spacey did. He’s undeserving of nomination simply because he stole the award last year over far more deserving performers, top of the list being six, now seven, time nominee and zero time winner, Hamm as Don Draper. It would be perfectly acceptable for Daniels to take the sixth spot in this category every year. A nice face to pop up at the show, but to actually win the damn thing is unacceptable.
Michael Sheen, “Masters of Sex” – Sheen is a brilliant actor able to slip into the skin of an array of characters with ease. He does it again as the cold, calculating, sex research pioneer, Dr. William Masters. Sheen brings out the humanity in this cold scientific man, especially in scenes he shares with the equally brilliant Lizzy Caplan. It is not a showy role, but rather reserved and complicated one, which is more difficult to pull off effectively. An actor of Sheen’s brilliance playing the complicated role of a real life figure is more than deserving of a nomination.
Hugh Dancy, “Hannibal” – It is rare for a broadcast network lead to break into this category with all the powerful male characters on cable these days, but Dancy’s Will Graham belongs in the conversation with his cable counterparts. It is the quieter role of the two leads on this psychological thriller, but with his arc of getting arrested and constantly having to deal with his own fragile psyche Dancy pulls off a memorable performance deserving of more recognition.
There are only two people to bet on in this category since only two people have any chance of winning, McConaughey and Cranston. It comes down to odds, McConaughey at (4/9) or Cranston at (3/1). Any time a former three time winner with a submission episode that was the best episode of television last year has (3/1) odds, you have to take it.
Breaking my own rule of only considering the current season in which their eligible, but only slightly because he was still absolutely brilliant, Jon Hamm is the most deserving actor in this category. Don Draper and Walter White are pantheon characters in the history of television and will always be linked together since they appeared on our screens over the same time period. Cranston is absolutely incredible and the journey he took from High School Chemistry teacher to Drug Kingpin was unlike any ever seen before on TV. However, Hamm’s performance as Don Draper is slightly more impressive.
The character beats of Walter White are easier to see as the plot directs the changes in his attitude. Cranston nails all of these, but it becomes a showier performance thanks to the extreme change in White. Draper is a more muddled character, by design, and therefore more difficult to nail down. Yet Hamm knocks it out of the park. While he never gets badass lines to say like “I am the one who knocks,” or “Now, say my name,” he is able to floor me with the slightest facial movements that speak volumes.
There is no chance that Hamm wins it this year, making it seven nominations in a row without a win, and leaving him next year as his last chance. It should be his best one as Cranston, McConaughey, and Harrelson will all be ineligible, but it seemed like last year was his year and Daniels swiped it away, so with that luck Kevin Spacey will probably take home the gold next year.
In His Favor – A three time winner nominated for the final episodes of an iconic television character. He has the best submission episode in ‘Ozymandias,’ which is sure to grab voters attention. There is a ground swell of Breaking Bad support as voters seem intent on honoring the show as much as possible on its way out. Cranston is also a very well-liked actor that has waited a long time to get this kind of recognition for his work.
Working Against Him – A three time winner nominated for the final episodes of an iconic television character. Where have I seen this before? The late, great James Gandolfini won three straight Emmy awards, three straight that he was eligible for as the long break between seasons meant a year with no Sopranos, for seasons 2-4 only to never win another for his last three years of being eligible including losing to James Spader in the final season. The parallels are very similar between these two and voters may decide again that three Emmys is enough recognition for this iconic character. Also, Cranston may be beloved, but he does not have the cache of McConaughey coming off an Academy Award as well.
In His Favor – An Academy Award winning actor being eligible for an Emmy in the same year? This just does not happen in the world of television. Voters are sure to be thrilled that a movie star of this caliber chose to “slum it” on TV, even if only for 8 episodes on HBO. It was also a fascinating character in which he had to play three different incarnations of in a show that covered 20 years of time. It is a both showy and reserved role, which speaks to its brilliance. The mystery crime elements of True Detective never fully came together, but no one cared cause the real pleasure of the show came from watching McConaughey and Harrelson work together. And while Harrelson still does not get enough credit for his performance, there is no denying the McConaughey was truly something special to watch for 8 weeks at the beginning of this year. Plus everyone wants to see another McConaughey speech on Monday night.
Working Against Him – Perhaps voters are turned off by this outsider masquerading as a TV star for only 8 episodes and instead honor one of their own. There also may be some McConaughey fatigue at this point considering he spent the winter racking up award after award. True Detective has also been receiving some backlash since Nic Pizzolato has opened his mouth and given interviews. This might hurt the show’s chances to rack up as many awards as possible and McConaughey could get pulled under as well.
The McConaissance continues. It is just impossible to imagine voters not voting for him. He just has far too much momentum and with three Emmys already on his shelf no one feels the pressure to give Cranston any more.