ESCANABA - The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards take place Monday in Los Angeles, and as I've already highlighted my predictions on who would be nominated, here are my final predictions on the front-runners and dark horses to win in the major categories.
1. OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES. Nominees: Fred Armisen for "Portlandia" (IFC), Andre Braugher for "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (Fox), Ty Burrell for "Modern Family" (ABC), Adam Driver for "Girls" (HBO), Jesse Tyler Ferguson for "Modern Family" (ABC), Tony Hale for "Veep" (HBO).
The big surprise here was the inclusion of Fred Armisen for playing multiple characters in the goofy sketch variety series "Portlandia." "Modern Family" remains represented in the category, but has scaled back to two nominations, and though Adam Driver has shined in "Girls," its decline in nominations is worrisome for a win.
Kate Mulgrew arrives at a panel discussion with the cast of 'Orange Is The New Black' at the Directors Guild of America Theater Aug. 4 in Los Angeles.
This publicity image released by CBS shows, from left, Kunal Nayyar, Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons and Simon Helberg in a scene from 'The Big Bang Theory.'
In this image released by PBS, Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham, is shown in a scene on 'Downton Abbey.'
Front-runner: Andre Braugher for "Brooklyn Nine-Nine." The Emmys love Braugher, with seven previous nominations for his work, including two wins. Monday should see a third win for his work as Captain Ray Holt, the strict commanding officer of the fictional 99th Precinct of the New York City Police Department. His lack of visible emotion, paired with his cold and robotic ways of speaking, make him an intriguing character, while the fact that he plays a non-stereotypical gay man adds depth and uniqueness to his role.
Dark horse: Tony Hale for "Veep." No one would have predicted a win for Tony Hale's Gary Walsh a year ago, yet he took home the Emmy in this category for his work as Vice President Selina Meyer's "bag man" and personal aide in "Veep." Through much of the season I failed to recognize many memorable scenes from Gary that would make him worthy of a second Emmy, all I needed to do was wait for one of the final episodes of season three, where he and Selina share a hilarious nose-bleeding scene - easily one of the funniest comedy moments of 2014.
2. OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES. Nominees: Mayim Bialik for "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS), Julie Bowen for "Modern Family" (ABC), Anna Chlumsky for "Veep" (HBO), Allison Janney for "Mom" (CBS), Kate McKinnon for "Saturday Night Live" (NBC), Kate Mulgrew for "Orange is the New Black" (Netflix).
The biggest shocker here was the inclusion of Kate McKinnon, who does a solid job as one of the castmates in "Saturday Night Live," but not enough to warrant an Emmy nomination. Two-time winner Julie Bowen is old news here as "Modern Family" continues to lose its creativity, while critics are even tiring of TV's most-watched comedy "The Big Bang Theory." The inclusion of Anna Chlumsky for her work in "Veep" for a second time is a great acknowledgment of the series, but Chlumsky's character pales in comparison to some of her colleagues.
Front-runner: Allison Janney for "Mom." Though "Mom" may not be a ratings juggernaut for CBS, like Braugher, one can't argue the fact that Janney is beloved by the Emmys - just look at her five Emmys (including one she received last weekend as a guest actress for playing Margaret Scully in Showtime's "Masters of Sex.") Her role as Bonnie Plunkett, a recovering drug and alcohol addict, is quite comical in an otherwise mediocre sitcom.
Dark horse: Kate Mulgrew for "Orange is the New Black." There's no doubt in my mind that Kate Mulgrew's portrayal of Russian prison inmate Galina "Red" Reznikov in the dark comedy "Orange is the New Black" is one of the most talked about performances of the year. "Orange" has excelled in gaining Emmy support as a series, which could put Mulgrew over the edge.
3. OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES. Nominees: Louis C.K. for "Louie" (FX), Don Cheadle for "House of Lies" (Showtime), Ricky Gervais for "Derek" (Netflix), Matt LeBlanc for "Episodes" (Showtime), William H. Macy for "Shameless" (Showtime), Jim Parsons for "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS).
If Louis C.K. has not won for "Louie" by now, it's never going to happen, and both Cheadle and LeBlanc are on the path to perennial nominations, which never result in a win. Ricky Gervais' inclusion here for the Netflix series "Derek" was somewhat confusing, but critical reception has been all over the map, which tells me he may not have the support from Emmy voters to pull out a win.
Front-runner: Jim Parsons for "The Big Bang Theory." It was a solid year for Parsons as a star in the HBO TV movie "The Normal Heart" as well as his continued role as Sheldon Cooper in "Big Bang," so I expect he will receive his fourth Emmy here for the show.
Dark horse: William H. Macy for "Shameless." For a series that used to submit itself as a drama, making a category change could prove wonders for "Shameless." It finally saw an Emmy nomination for William H. Macy's great performance as alcoholic father Frank Gallagher in the dark comedy. Whether that nomination will turn into an actual award is yet to be determined, but if Emmy voters have grown tired of "The Big Bang Theory," this is the next viable alternative.
4. OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES. Nominees: Lena Dunham for "Girls" (HBO), Edie Falco for "Nurse Jackie" (Showtime), Julia Louis-Dreyfus for "Veep" (HBO), Melissa McCarthy for "Mike & Molly" (CBS), Amy Poehler for "Parks and Recreation" (NBC), Taylor Schilling for "Orange is the New Black" (Netflix).
Let's be honest, "Mike & Molly" is a pretty dull show and McCarthy's previous win for the series in this category was a huge shock. She has the least shot of winning here this year, followed by perennial nominee Edie Falco whose "Nurse Jackie" isn't what it once used to be. Buzz for Lena Dunham's "Girls" has dropped considerably this year, which pretty much excludes her from awards consideration. And if Amy Poehler hasn't won an Emmy yet for her continued fantastic performance as Leslie Knope in "Parks and Recreation," I can't say this past season was memorable enough for her to finally snag a victory.
Front-runner: Julia Louis-Dreyfus for "Veep." She's won twice in a row and is universally praised for her hilarious portrayal of fictional Vice President Selina Meyer. What more could Emmy voters want from a four-time award winner, who continued to excel in the show's third season?
Dark horse: Taylor Schilling for "Orange is the New Black." If "Orange" racks up a ton of awards, I could see Schilling taking this category for her work as prison inmate Piper Chapman, the lead actress for a show with an outstanding supporting cast. Otherwise I don't think Schilling's work is showy enough to prevent a shoo-in win for Louis-Dreyfus.
5. OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES. Nominees: "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS), "Louie" (FX), "Modern Family" (ABC), "Orange is the New Black" (Netflix), "Silicon Valley" (HBO), "Veep" (HBO).
A nomination for "Louie" is a victory in itself given how long it took for the series to be recognized in this category, so a win is definitely out of reach. The new series "Silicon Valley," which centers on six young men who found a startup company in the Silicon Valley was also lucky to even get recognized here as many people thought it wouldn't, so cross that one off the list. I've heard from faithful "Big Bang Theory" fans that the show lost some of its quality this year, so I hardly believe that translates to an Emmy win, which leads me to "Modern Family." The beloved Emmy show has won here for its first four seasons and could make it a fifth year if it wins Monday, but I believe this is finally the year it's taken down a peg or two.
Front-runner: "Orange is the New Black." It has everything - an intriguing plot, a fantastic set of characters with several fine performances, and a lot of pop culture and awards season buzz. Sorry "Modern Family," but there's a new show in town and it's got what it takes to win.
Dark horse: "Veep." As "Veep" continues to get better each season could it finally win here for season three? It, like "Orange," also offers up an excellent cast but it could be too crass for Emmy voters to reward. That said, it is definitely one of the most laugh-out-loud comedies there is.
6. OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES. Nominees: Jim Carter for "Downton Abbey" (PBS), Josh Charles for "The Good Wife" (CBS), Peter Dinklage for "Game of Thrones" (HBO), Mandy Patinkin for "Homeland" (Showtime), Aaron Paul for "Breaking Bad" (AMC), Jon Voight for "Ray Donovan" (Showtime).
Wait a minute, Jim Carter was included for a rather lackluster season of "Downton" over Dean Norris, who turned in a fine performance for the final season of "Breaking Bad"? That's a robbery right there. Carter has zero chance here. I thought Mandy Patinkin would have taken the category last year as his Saul Berenson had a great year in 2012. Though his fine work continued in season three, the mixed reception for the season overall could hurt his chances. Jon Voight won the Golden Globe for his portrayal of Mickey Donovan in "Ray Donovan," but here his chances seem out of reach. And though Peter Dinklage's beloved portrayal of Tyrion Lannister in "Game of Thrones" is a shoo-in for recognition each year, I think there were two performances who bested his that have a better chance to win here.
Front-runner: Aaron Paul for "Breaking Bad." He's won this award twice for his portrayal of fellow meth manufacturer Jesse Pinkman in "Breaking Bad." Since the series came to a close at the end of 2013, expect it to snag a lot of Emmys including here.
Dark horse: Josh Charles for "The Good Wife." It's too bad "Breaking Bad" came to a close in 2013, because otherwise this award would go to Josh Charles for his portrayal of lawyer Will Gardner in "The Good Wife." Not only did season five of the series put Will and Julianna Margulies' Alicia Florrick on opposite sides of the table and give them excellent material to work with, but *spoiler alert* he was killed off in a courtroom shooting that no "Good Wife" fan saw coming. R.I.P. Will Gardner.
7. OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES. Nominees: Christine Baranski for "The Good Wife" (CBS), Joanne Froggatt for "Downton Abbey" (PBS), Anna Gunn for "Breaking Bad" (AMC), Lena Headey for "Game of Thrones" (HBO), Christina Hendricks for "Mad Men" (AMC), Maggie Smith for "Downton Abbey" (PBS).
Lena Headey's inclusion here was considered a victory in itself, but unfortunately will not likely have a shot to win. Christina Hendricks was not given much to work with for the first part of the final season of "Mad Men," which equates to no shot here as well. Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess of Grantham continues to showcase her sharp tongue in season four of "Downton Abbey," but her performance is overshadowed by Joanne Froggatt's Anna Bates, who had a much-talked about season as she had to cope with the aftermath of being sexually assaulted earlier in the series. But has buzz for "Downton" waned? It seems like it has, and last season was not as acclaimed as past years, so I really cannot foresee a win for either actress this year.
Front-runner: Anna Gunn for "Breaking Bad." With "Breaking Bad" coming to a close, Anna Gunn's portrayal as Skyler White will definitely secure her a second Emmy.
Dark horse: Christine Baranski for "The Good Wife." If there's one person who could pull off a major upset it's Baranski as most critics believe she had her best season yet as lawyer Diane Lockhart in season five of "The Good Wife." Could she pull off the unthinkable?
8. OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES. Nominees: Bryan Cranston for "Breaking Bad" (AMC), Jeff Daniels for "The Newsroom" (HBO), Jon Hamm for "Mad Men" (AMC), Woody Harrelson for "True Detective" (HBO), Matthew McConaughey for "True Detective" (HBO), Kevin Spacey for "House of Cards" (Netflix).
Jeff Daniels shockingly pulled off a win here last year, but he won't this year with a crowd of actors this great. Kevin Spacey continues to turn in an excellent performance as Frank Underwood in "House of Cards," but season two was all about his on-screen wife Claire, so I doubt he has a chance. Jon Hamm continues his streak of nominations without winning and this year will be no different. "True Detective" has become the most-talked about new drama of 2014, but despite this there's only enough room for Emmy voters to award one actor with the showiest performance, which eliminates Woody Harrelson from contention.
Front-runner: Matthew McConaughey for "True Detective." Here's one category where "Breaking Bad" is predicted to take a back seat. McConaughey will top off his stellar year where he received a Golden Globe and Oscar for the film "Dallas Buyers Club" with an Emmy statuette for his fantastic performance as Det. Rustin Cohle in "True Detective." The anthology crime detective series will return for season two, but without McConaughey and Harrelson in the lead roles, making McConaughey's now-or-never win a lock.
Dark horse: Bryan Cranston for "Breaking Bad." Almost everyone is giving McConaughey the edge in this category but Cranston is another possibility as the reign of one of TV's most memorable characters, Walter White, comes to an end. However, Cranston has won three times here and lost the last two years, so I figure that works against him.
9. OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES. Nominees: Lizzy Caplan for "Masters of Sex" (Showtime), Claire Danes for "Homeland" (Showtime), Michelle Dockery for "Downton Abbey" (PBS), Julianna Margulies for "The Good Wife" (CBS), Kerry Washington for "Scandal" (ABC), Robin Wright for "House of Cards" (Netflix).
This is one category that is really tough to predict, in part because it's so competitive. Michelle Dockery's inclusion here was a bit of a head-scratcher as season four of "Downton" didn't offer much for Lady Mary and the same can be said for Kerry Washington's Olivia Pope in "Scandal." Last year was Washington's year for a victory, but not this year following a mediocre season three of the political thriller. Lizzy Caplan is easily one of the finest actresses as Virginia Johnson in the period drama "Masters of Sex" but her nomination is a win on its own. I also believe this year marks the end of reigning two-time Emmy champ Claire Danes for "Homeland." Her character Carrie Mathison certainly had a lot to grapple with in season three, but the series' lukewarm reception and Emmy voters lack of support may be the final nail in the coffin for her impending loss.
Front-runner: Robin Wright for "House of Cards." Wright continued to shine as Claire Underwood in season two of this political thriller, where she publicly revealed she was raped in college by a prominent general. Recognizing work by series, actors or actresses that bring up such serious issues is something Emmy voters always applaud, and this year will be no exception for Wright's work.
Dark horse: Julianna Margulies for "The Good Wife." Margulies had an exceptional year as Alicia Florrick in season five of "The Good Wife", breaking off to start her own law firm, coming to terms with the death of her former lover, the list goes on and on. Margulies always handles her role with such grace and elegance she proves why she deserves a second Emmy. This win could definitely happen.
10. OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES. Nominees: "Breaking Bad" (AMC), "Downton Abbey" (PBS), "Game of Thrones" (HBO), "House of Cards" (Netflix), "Mad Men" (AMC), "True Detective" (HBO).
"Downton Abbey" has no chance here with a weak season four and a shocking inclusion in this category to begin with. Since winning four times for its first four seasons, "Mad Men" buzz has cooled considerably and nothing changes that again for the first half of its final season. "Game of Thrones" has hit record ratings for HBO while garnering widespread critical acclaim, but I think it could be too much of a fantasy series for older Emmy voters to consider as best drama series. And despite Claire's storyline in "House of Cards," season two of the series seemed tedious and not as exciting as the first season.
Front-runner: "Breaking Bad." Last year's winner is a lock to win its second Emmy for its final year of eligibility. "Breaking Bad" will go down as one of the finest drama series on television and rightfully so with an all-around terrific cast, great premise, an ever-changing plot that left viewers wanting more, and die-hard fans waiting for the spin-off series, "Better Call Saul" to debut in February 2015. Bravo to "Breaking Bad." This award is well deserved.
Dark horse: "True Detective." There's no "true" shot for "True Detective," but one could argue since it is an anthology series it technically is the final season for the cast which will not be back for season two. Yes, the crime detective series had a fine debut, but there's no chance it can stand up to five great seasons of "Breaking Bad" that culminated in an explosive series finale.