Sunday night’s Emmy broadcast should be a great night for grownups — viewers and nominees alike. Will those cocktail-swilling ’60s Manhattanites from Mad Men bring home a record-breaking fifth win for Outstanding Drama Series? Or might they be overtaken the countesses and maids of Downton Abbey? The British melodrama won last year’s mini-series Emmy for its first season, but is competing this year in the drama series category. It’s a close call — but I’m betting on Downton, and I’m not buying any talk of Showtime’s dark Homeland thriller or HBO’s fantastical cult favorite Game of Thrones springing the upset in the night’s marquee category. How about you?
The acting categories are full of exciting, familiar names. There’s no shortage of star power, with Nicole Kidman (Outstanding Actress, Hemingway & Gelhorn) and Kevin Costner (Outstanding Actor, Hatfields & McCoys) among the big screen veterans nominated for their work on the small screen this year. Throw in beloved personalities like Michael J. Fox and our own Betty White among the night’s nominees, and we’ll surely see plenty of moments of nostalgic affection too.
One category worth watching closely is Supporting Actress, Movie/Miniseries, where Jessica Lange’s wickedly strange American Horror Story performance is up against Mare Winningham’s mesmerizingly mad matriarch in Hatfields & McCoys. Seasoned actresses also square off against each other for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. I love Christine Baranski’s work as sexy, larger-than-life lawyer Diane Lockhart on The Good Wife, and I’m a big fan of Anna Gunn’s first-rate work on Breaking Bad. But I’m pulling for the Emmy to go to the incomparable Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, countess of snarky wit, in Downton — and I know I’m not alone!
Kathy Bates, currently recovering from a double mastectomy, is already a winner this year, as she took the trophy for her guest turn on Two and a Half Men at this past weekend’s Creative Artists Emmys. On Sunday, she’s a long shot to win as best actress in a drama for her feisty performance on Harry’s Law. That show, you may recall, got cancelled not due to low ratings or quality issues, but mainly because NBC was unhappy with its older audience demographic. Ageism: Alive and well on network TV! Over in the best actress in a comedy category, Julia Louis-Dreyfus could spring a surprise win for her hilarious turn as acerbic second-in-command Selina Mayer on HBO’s Veep.
I’ll be covering the awards, so I’m looking forward to watching the winners backstage. The setting is more orchestrated these days, certainly not as casual as the Emmys in decades past. I remember, for instance, Ed Asner, a winner during his Lou Grant days, wandering amongst the press tables and typewriters, talking to journalists as if he really were one of us. Dame Maggie may not mingle with us, but memorable moments still happen. Some winners have been known to be a little tipsy on victory champagne by the time they make it back to the pressrooms. There’s always potential for gaffes, some blurting of political statements — especially in an election year! — or confessions of designer gown malfunctions and such.
We can only hope that this year’s Emmys, hosted by ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! title star (whose show is a nominee for the first time this year), provides a moment as uplifting as the one Margo Martindale gave us last year. “Sometimes things just take time,” the 60-year-old first time winner told the audience after winning as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama for her role on Justified. “But with time comes appreciation.”
The Emmy Awards will air Sunday night at 8:00 pm EST on ABC. Emmys Red Carpet Live airs at 7:00 pm EST.