This week I’ll be pretending that I have an Emmy vote and discussing my picks for all the major categories. Once it gets closer to the time that nominees are actually announced, I’ll do an official “picks” column. Today: Lead Actor in a Drama Series!
Two things before we get going: First, I’m only choosing performers or writers that are actually on the ballots, so these choices are all real possibilities. Second, unlike in the writing categories where I decided to give each series an opportunity at only one slot, so these categories won’t be dominated by one writer or team, acting categories have the chance to be filled with multiple performers from one series. I wanted to stick to the one-per-program rule, but just couldn’t in some categories, so with this being my dream ballot, I might as well ignore many “rules.”
Another fantastic category here, folks.
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Mr. Cranston is the two-time repeat winner and didn’t do anything throughout Breaking Bad‘s third season to suggest he is not the favorite this year as well. Heck, I think he might have an even bigger profile this year since more people actually watch the series now. His performance as Walter White bounces from steely introspection to enraged intensity and the always-game Cranston balances it all perfectly within the persona of one man. Though the series is no longer the one-man show it was during its initial batch of episodes, Bryan Cranston still reminds us as to why he ever won this award in the first place.
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
It’s weird to think that Jon Hamm hasn’t actually won an Emmy for his performance as Don Draper. For whatever reason, it seems like the series itself gets more dap than the performers and it doesn’t help Hamm that he’s right in the middle of a busy time for great lead actor performances. I’m not completely sure if season three gave him the most material to work with to actually win this award — I think he had more to do in season two — but he handled Don’s feeble attempts at making his family life work very well. It’s just an additional layer to an already tremendously layered performance.
Hugh Laurie, House
A lot of critics said back in the fall that after Laurie’s performance in the season six premiere “Broken,” he would finally win the Emmy he so rightfully deserves. But much like Hamm, Hugh Laurie finds himself stuck in a period where it’s hard to give it to him and also hard NOT to give it to him. His performance in “Broken” and in the season’s final batch of episodes that actually focused on the issues presented in the premiere was stellar. And even when the material isn’t as good — which was the case for most of the season, honestly — Laurie always makes it seem so much better. He’s probably in fourth position to actually win, but he’s definitely a nominee.
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
You know, I can understand why Friday Night Lights never gets nominated for any series-related awards. I can see why people like Zach Gilford or Aimee Teegarden never get nominated. It sucks, but I get it. But Kyle Chandler? People know who Kyle Chandler is! And that’s at least half the battle! Thus, I’m thoroughly confused every year when the man playing perhaps the most realistic and best television dad of the last 20 years doesn’t come close to a nomination. Kyle Chandler says way more by just stomping around the Taylor house and breathing heavily than most performers can do with top-notch dialogue. If there were any justice in this sad world, he’d be nominated. Just nominated!
Matthew Fox, Lost
I’ve said this a few times since the finale, but I’ll say it again. I think during those bleak years for the character of Jack — notably seasons three and four — we as audience members were not supposed to like him. He was supposed to seem like an insufferable jerk who refused to believe in an island disappearing right in front of him. That was the point. But because Jack became so unlikable, the internet critic community decided that it was Matthew Fox who was so unlikable and perhaps even one-dimensional. However, it seems to me that this season proved that Fox knew how to play a more traditional hero all along, that’s just not what he was asked to do. And so when he was actually able to do so in season six, the performance was full of fire, charm and emotion in a way we hadn’t seen from Fox or Jack since season one really. That was the point people. Fox is sometimes too reliant on a few ticks, but he’s a wonderful actor.
Timothy Olyphant, Justified
Timothy Olyphant was born to play Raylan Givens. He’s an actor that doesn’t have a whole lot of emotional range — just watch “Catch and Release” and you’ll see what I mean — so he’ll never been a leading man in Hollywood. He can’t do rom-coms. The guy can barely smile properly. But that’s okay, especially when he’s called upon to be a man who would rather grimace and shoot than smile and talk on Justified. And perhaps more so than anyone else on this list aside from Hugh Laurie, Olyphant completely carries his series. Sure, Walton Goggins had a number of great moments in the last few episodes, but it was Olyphant’s performance that made even those kind-lame-in-retrospect procedural episodes early on worth watching. He’s another guy who will probably never be nominated based on the sheer number of probable nominees alone, but damn he’s fun to watch.
Past days of the Dream Ballot