Thursday, September 3, 2009

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses.

Christian Clemenson as Jerry Espenson, Boston Legal (Roe)
Clemenson won an Emmy in the guest actor category for the show’s second season in 2006. He earned a nomination again in 2007, and placed in the top ten when he was promoted to series regular the following year. This year, he’s earned his first supporting nomination as the show aired its final season and got snubbed in the Best Drama Series category. Clemenson did very well by submitting “Roe,” where his oddball lawyer defends himself in court after standing up to a bully. Many will likely be impressed with Espenson’s ability to deftly portray this character with so many tics. Espenson does have internal competition to face – William Shatner is also nominated for “Boston Legal” – but last year, Zeljko Ivanek proved that the lesser-known actor can often prevail when he beat out “Damages” costar Ted Danson in this category.

Michael Emerson as Benjamin Linus, Lost (Dead is Dead)
This is Emerson’s third straight nomination in this category, and like last year, he’s the only nominated cast member of “Lost” in any category. He has yet to win, but I don’t think this is the year. Both his submitted episode and the other episode he could have gone with, the season finale “The Incident,” are terrific instances of his vicious monster of a character being humanized. The trouble is, voters who haven’t seen “Lost” don’t have the background on the character, and therefore seeing him terrified and apologizing to the ghost of his dead daughter doesn’t carry the same weight. “Lost” is clearly popular with voters, returning to the Best Drama Series list last year after a two-year absence, but this category is just too crowded. There’s no reason he would win this year over any other; he’s been just as great the whole time.

William Hurt as Daniel Parcell, Damages (Hey, Mr. Pibb)
Hurt is a four-time Oscar nominee and winner for 1985’s “Kiss of the Spider Woman, and his last nomination came for a 10-minute performance in 2005’s “A History of Violence.” Therefore, it’s no surprise that Hurt got nominated for an underwritten role on FX’s legal thriller, though this is his first-ever Emmy nomination. Hurt chose the episode where it’s revealed that he’s taking a bribe from Ultima National Resources and recants his testimony, blowing a huge hole in Patty Hewes’ case. Someone pointed out that Glenn Close is the one who actually owns this episode, and, like Emerson’s performance, Hurt’s betrayal likely won’t pack the same punch if his initial cries of help to Patty aren’t known to voters. He could still win, but I’m betting he won’t. One more advantage: a “Damages” star won this award last year.

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, Breaking Bad (Peekaboo)
Paul has so many factors going for him. He managed to break into this category of established character actors, his show is red-hot and earned a somewhat surprising Best Drama Series nomination, and he chose the perfect episode to impress voters. “Peekaboo” showcases Jesse going after the people who stole his meth, and bearing witness to a vengeful abused wife letting an ATM machine fall on her husband’s face, brutally killing him. It’s usually hard to sympathize with high school dropout and drug dealer Jesse, but this episode allows viewers to see him thrown into an impossible situation and just deal with it. I think if Paul was able to get nominated, he can win. This is going to be a big year for “Breaking Bad,” and I think it can Paul’s its safest bet.

William Shatner as Denny Crane, Boston Legal (Made in China/Last Call)
Shatner won this award on his first try back in 2005 after a win in the guest actor category the previous year for creating the character on “The Practice.” Now, his show’s over and he has the possibility of bookending his time on the series with wins at the start and the finish. He submitted the grandstanding series finale. It’s a preposterous double-hitter, but it’s very true to the show’s offbeat nature, so voters who liked him in the past will likely favor him again. It’s hardly serious, and shooting people repeatedly with a paintball gun and entering into a gay marriage just so that he can transfer money doesn’t really help his case. He’s also already had his day, and has a more talented performer from his own show to contend against, so while I think he could upset, I don’t think it will be Shatner’s turn this year.

John Slattery as Roger Sterling, Mad Men (Six Month Leave)
This is Slattery’s second consecutive nomination as “Mad Men” becomes even more popular and returns with “Sopranos”-like force to take dominate many of the Emmy categories. Unfortunately for Slattery, he’s the least showy of all “Mad Men” has to offer. Last year Slattery had a standout episode where his character suffered a heart attack and relied his closeness to his family, but this year’s installment doesn’t showcase his secretary-starring midlife crisis, and contains little dramatic material specifically for him. “Mad Men” still has the buzz but Slattery doesn’t.

Who should win (based on entire season): Michael Emerson
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Michael Emerson
Who will win: I think that the buzz for “Breaking Bad” will lead Aaron Paul to prevail. Clemenson, Emerson, Shatner, and Hurt could also win – in that order.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

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