For the sake of time and brevity, we’re going to combine TV Movie or Miniseries Outstanding Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress into one article. As a fan of Masterpiece Theater, British TV, and miniseries in general I’m excited to cover this but given the Academy’s penchant for simply rewarding big name movie actors slumming on the small screen and their inexplicable appreciation for The Kennedys, a quick overview of the four acting categories won’t deprive you, the reader, of much if anything at all.

Supporting Actress
Mildred Pierce was packed with big name actors and actresses and three of those names show up in this category. Evan Rachel Wood, Melissa Leo, and Mare Winningham all garnered nominations and while Wood did a fantastic job and Leo is quickly asserting herself as an actress who can hit homeruns with any role, standard reasoning leads one to think they’ll split the vote among themselves. Thus, it becomes a two-woman race between Eileen Atkins (Upstairs Downstairs) and Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey). I really liked Upstairs Downstairs, but nothing about Atkins’ performance as the primary ‘downstairs’ plot inducer rises to a level that could keep Smith from winning on the basis of her own strong performance and sheer name recognition.

Supporting Actor
This is the hardest category to get a read on. The Kennedys was terrible, but Tom Wilkinson (The Kennedys) was actually pretty good in it. Paul Giamatti (Too Big to Fail) was excellent as always but his cast mate James Woods (Too Big to Fail) had a much meatier role and hit it with his usual flair. Likewise, Brian O’Byrne (Mildred Piece) was fine but almost certainly outshined by Guy Pearce (Mildred Pierce). Ultimately I lean toward Pierce because he’s an excellent, if often overlooked, actor, but I’m hesitant about that pick since it’s possible that Woods or Giamatti could score and upset if for no other reason than to ensure that the timely Too Big to Fail doesn’t come away from Emmy night empty handed.

Lead Actress
Most people assume this is Kate Winslet’s (Mildred Pierce) award to lose and I’m not going to break with that line of thought. Diane Lane (Cinema Verite) poses the biggest threat but if she were to win it would surely be seen as an upset. Elizabeth McGovern (Downtown Abbey) did a fine job, but the show revolves around so many characters that her part doesn’t compare to all the screen time that Winslet got. Jean Marsh (Upstairs Downstairs) played the family eccentric and trouble maker, which I found to be the worst part of an otherwise excellent show and I have no idea who Taraji Henson (Taken From Me) is.

Lead Actor
I regard this as the most interesting category. Again, The Kennedys was terrible but Greg Kinnear (The Kennedys) always does a solid job. Meanwhile, Barry Pepper’s (The Kennedys) stint as Robert Kennedy was somewhere between his performance in 61* and his performance in Battlefield Earth. Make of that what you will. Laurence Fishburne (Thurgood) comes out of obscurity to get a nominee and while I didn’t see Thurgood, it has to be conceded that when he applies himself Fishburne has some impressive acting chops. A pretty strong case could be made for William Hurt (Too Big to Fail), but, with the exception of James Woods’ typical over-the-top-ness (it’s like all his characters are variations of the pimp he played in Casino) Too Big to Fail gives primacy to the story and not the individual players. Such emphasis on story rather than characters might remind you of The Wire and as it turns out Stringer Bell, aka Idris Elba (Luther), is nominated in this category too. Elba plays an obsessive detective who is extremely intense and somewhat darkly disturbed. So basically he’s Jimmy McNulty crossed with Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House.

It’s a good show and Elba certainly pulls off the character, but Elba, as with the other nominees simply cannot win this category for one simple reason: Edgar Ramirez (Carlos). How Carlos didn’t get nominate in the Outstanding Movie/Miniseries category is beyond me, but at least the Academy didn’t double down on stupid and overlook Ramirez. Ramirez fully taps into Carlos the Jackal, a guy who is unquestionable a monster and criminal, but who is also being used by forces larger than him and spurred on by his own idealism and narcissism in a way that is utterly fascinating. It’s a complicated character to pull off but one that, if done correctly, ends up being an extraordinary look into the darkest side of the human psyche. Carlos is a bad guy who never gets redeemed, who you never root for and yet you are enthralled by his rationale, bravado, and paranoia. In my mind Ramirez has to win this category but I would’ve thought it impossible to not include Carlos in the Movie/Miniseries category so who knows.

Road to the Emmys Series

August 24: Miniseries/TV Movie Acting Roundup – Dantzler Smith

August 25: Outstanding Miniseries or TV Movie – Dantzler Smith

August 26: Outstanding Reality Competition Host – Erica Scandariato

August 29: Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series – Phil Wallace

August 30: Outstanding Reality Program – Erica Scandariato

August 31: Outstanding Reality Competition Program – Savanna New

September 1: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy – Dave Morris

September 2: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy – Kendra Beltran

September 6: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama – Angela Stern

September 7: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama – Adam Spunberg

September 8: Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series – Megan Lane

September 9: Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series – Megan Lane

September 12: Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series – Kit Bowen

September 13: Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series – Andrew Payne

September 14: Outstanding Comedy Series – Rebecca Rose

September 15: Outstanding Drama Series – Andrew Payne

September 18: 63rd Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards