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The 2012 PajEmmys: Our Picks for TV's Big Night

By Sarah Carlson | TV | September 21, 2012 |

By Sarah Carlson | TV | September 21, 2012 |

Criticizing the Emmy Awards is easy. The nominations are never perfect — great shows and actors always are overlooked — and while the voters aren’t as bad as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is with The Golden Globes, the ceremony can still feel like a popularity contest with the latest fads taking home prizes. Yet while the nominations this year have flaws — I’m looking at you, Best Comedy category — there is plenty to celebrate, not just at the Emmys, which air Sunday on ABC, but in TV land in general.
Cable continues to dominate, especially in the drama categories, and rightfully so. Earlier this year, the one-two punch of “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men” on Sundays was enough to give heart problems to any fan of tightly plotted, beautifully executed drama. To think that the “Blackwater” episode of “GoT” aired right before “Mad Men’s” “The Other Woman,” giving viewers an epic battle (led by the fabulous Peter Dinklage) followed by a devastating look at a single mother’s (the also fabulous Christina Hendricks) choices for survival. The next week? Jared Harris, as Lane, shocked us all on “Men’s” “Commissions and Fees” and “GoT” concluded its season with “Valar Morghulis.” Thankfully, the excellent “Boardwalk Empire,” “Homeland,” “Justified” and “Breaking Bad” were more spread out to save viewers from total emotional exhaustion. Most films these days don’t hold a candle to what is gracing the small screen. The Best Comedy love is less grand with its omission of two of the strongest comedies around, “Parks and Recreation” and “Community,” as well as a nom for Nick Offerman on “Parks.” The inclusion of “Girls” and “Veep,” however, gives me hope that Emmy voters are mostly paying attention when it comes to recognizing quality in comedy. Both series had solid, smart premiere seasons.
I asked Dustin and Joanna to play along, and below we’ve offered our picks for the big winners Sunday night. Mind you, these picks generally favor who/what we think should win, not necessarily who/what will win. Because who the hell knows what goes through Emmy voters’ minds as they cast their ballots? The biggest race is between “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” and as you can see, Dustin and Joanna are in the former’s camp while I’m rooting for the latter. “Mad Men” has won Best Drama four times, each year it has been nominated, and “Breaking Bad” was out of contention in 2011 because of its break in scheduling. Both are excellent, but I’ll say this: “Breaking Bad” can take home Drama if Jon Hamm will finally get his due in Best Actor. Part of me, however, is wondering if “Homeland” won’t prove to be the dark horse of the evening. 

We’ll start with a few of our own categories:

Biggest Nomination Slight:
Dustin’s pick: Michael Pitt, Best Supporting Actor — Drama, “Boardwalk Empire”
Joanna’s pick: Walton Goggins, Best Supporting Actor — Drama, “Justified.” It’s really, really hard to argue with the nominees in the Best Supporting Actor in a Drama category.  Except for maybe all the dudes from “Downton Abbey.”  Oh yeah, even my beloved Bates.  The protracted, sloppy melodrama of Season Two does not deserve the love we gave Season One.  But the man who definitely deserves all the love we can spare is Walton Goggins for his extraordinary work on “Justified.”  Though Boyd Crowder took a bit of a back seat this past year, Goggins brought his A-game to every speech, every smirk and every upended shock of hair.  So, yeah, to overlook this performance is a crime.  But something tells me Boyd isn’t sweating it. 
Sarah’s pick: Michael Pitt, Best Supporting Actor — Drama, “Boardwalk Empire.” The rise and fall of Jimmy Darmody was at the heart of “Boardwalk’s” second season, and Pitt was perfect as the tortured gangster who made one too many bad choices. Just as Michael Shannon should have been nominated for his brilliant work in Season One, this was Pitt’s year to receive credit for delivering a moving performance.

Loss That Would Cause Us The Most Pain:
Dustin’s pick: “Breaking Bad,” Best Drama
Joanna’s pick: Amy Poehler, Best Actress — Comedy, “Parks and Recreation.” In Leslie Knope, Amy Poehler has created one of the most enduring and endearing female comedic roles in decades. She’s been nominated a staggering nine times (including nominations for her work on “SNL”) and never won.  Never. Won.  As much as I love Melissa McCarthy, I was ready to burn the store down when she won last year.  If Poehler loses again this year, I’ll be crushed.  Her work on “Parks and Recreation” last year was such a rare blend of comedy and pathos and, given her recent personal troubles, I’m of the opinion that they should rain Emmy gold down on her platinum head.  
Sarah’s pick: Amy Poehler, Best Actress — Comedy, “Parks and Recreation.” I’m with Joanna. I’m glad to see Lena Dunham and Julia Louis Dreyfus getting some love, but Poehler deserves to wear the beauty pageant crown this time. She’s pitch-perfect on “Parks” and is one of the funniest women around.

And now for the real ones:

Best Drama

“Boardwalk Empire”

“Breaking Bad”

“Downton Abbey”

“Mad Men”


“Game of Thrones”

Dustin’s pick: “Breaking Bad”
Joanna’s pick: “Breaking Bad”
Sarah’s pick: “Mad Men”

Best Actor — Drama

Steve Buscemi, “Boardwalk Empire” 

Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad” 

Michael C. Hall, “Dexter” 

Damien Lewis, “Homeland” 

Jon Hamm, “Mad Men” 

Timothy Olyphant, “Justified” 

Hugh Bonneville, “Downton Abbey”

Dustin’s pick: Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad” 
Joanna’s pick: Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”
Sarah’s pick: Jon Hamm, “Mad Men” 

Best Supporting Actor — Drama

Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones” 

Giancarlo Esposito, “Breaking Bad”

Jared Harris, “Mad Men”

Brendan Coye, “Downton Abbey”

Jim Carter, “Downton Abbey”

Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad”

Dustin’s pick: Giancarlo Esposito, “Breaking Bad”
Joanna’s pick: Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad”
Sarah’s pick: Jared Harris, “Mad Men”

Best Supporting Actress — Drama

Archie Punjabi, “The Good Wife”

Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad”

Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”

Joanne Froggat, “Downton Abbey”

Christina Hendrix, “Mad Men”

Christine Baranski, “Good Wife”

Dustin’s pick: Archie Punjabi, “The Good Wife”
Joanna’s pick: Archie Punjabi, “The Good Wife”
Sarah’s pick: Christina Hendrix, “Mad Men”

Best Actress — Drama

Claire Danes, “Homeland” 

Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”

Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men” 

Kathy Bates, “Harry’s Law”

Glenn Close, “Damages”

Michelle Dockery, “Downton Abby”

Dustin’s pick: Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
Joanna’s pick: Claire Danes, “Homeland”
Sarah’s pick: Claire Danes, “Homeland”

Best Comedy


“Modern Family” 

“30 Rock” 


“The Big Bang Theory” 

“Curb Your Enthusiasm”

Dustin’s pick: “Girls” 
Joanna’s pick: “Girls”
Sarah’s pick: “Girls”

Best Actress — Comedy

Tina Fey, “30 Rock”

Lena Dunham, “Girls” 

Zooey Deschanel, “New Girl”

Julia Louis Dreyfus, “Veep” 

Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation” 

Melissa McCarthy, “Mike and Molly”

Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”

Dustin’s pick: Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation” 
Joanna’s pick: Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation” 
Sarah’s pick: Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation” 

Best Actor — Comedy

Don Cheadle, “House of Lies” 

Louis C.K., “Louie” 

Jon Cryer, “Two and a Half Men”

Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

Jim Parsons, “Big Bang Theory”

Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”

Dustin’s pick: Louis C.K., “Louie” 
Joanna’s pick: Louis C.K., “Louie” 
Sarah’s pick: Louis C.K., “Louie” 

Best Supporting Actress — Comedy

Miayim Balik, “Big Bang Theory”

Meritt Weaver, “Nurse Jackie”

Julie Bowen, “Modern Family”

Kristen Wiig, “Saturday Night Live”

Sofia Vergara, “Modern Family”

Kathryn Joosten, “Desperate Housewives”

Dustin’s pick: Kristen Wiig, “Saturday Night Live”
Joanna’s pick: Kristen Wiig, “Saturday Night Live”
Sarah’s pick: Meritt Weaver, “Nurse Jackie”

Best Supporting Actor — Comedy

Max Greenfield, “New Girl” 

Bill Hader, “Saturday NIght Live”

Ed O’Neill, “Modern Family”

Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”

Eric Stonestreet, “Modern Family”

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, “Modern Family”

Dustin’s pick: Bill Hader, “Saturday Night Live”
Joanna’s pick: Max Greenfield, “New Girl”
Sarah’s pick: Max Greenfield, “New Girl”

Best Television Movie or Miniseries


“Heminway and Gelhorn”

“American Horror Story”


“Hatfields & McCoys”

“Game Change”

Dustin’s pick: “Sherlock”
Joanna’s pick: “Sherlock”
Sarah’s pick: “Sherlock”

Lead Actress — TV Movie or Miniseries

Julianne Moore, “Game Change”

Nicole Kidman, “Hemingway and Gelhorn”

Connie Britton, “American Horror Story”

Ashley Judd, “Missing”

Emma Thompson, “The Song of Lunch”

Dustin’s pick: Connie Britton, “American Horror Story”
Joanna’s pick: Connie Britton, “American Horror Story”
Sarah’s pick: Julianne Moore, “Game Change”

Lead Actor — TV Movie or Miniseries

Woody Harrelson, “Game Change”

Clive Owen, “Hemingway and Gelhorn”

Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock”

Idris Elba, “Luther”

Kevin Costner, “Hatfields & McCoys”

Bill Paxton, “Hatfields & McCoys”

Dustin’s pick: Idris Elba, “Luther”
Joanna’s pick: Idris Elba, “Luther”
Sarah’s pick: Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock”

Supporting Actress — TV Movie or Miniseries

Sarah Paulson, “Game Change”

Francis Conroy, “American Horror Story”

Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story”

Judy Davis, “Page Eight”

Mare Winningham, “Hatfields & McCoys”

Dustin’s pick: Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story”
Joanna’s pick: Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story”
Sarah’s pick: Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story”

Supporting Actor — TV Movie or Miniseries

Ed Harris, “Game Change”

Dennis O’Hare, “American Horror Story”

David Straitharn, “Hemingway and Gelhorn”

Martin Freeman, “Sherlock”

Tom Berenger, “Hatfields & McCoys”

Dustin’s pick: Martin Freeman, “Sherlock”
Joanna’s pick: Martin Freeman, “Sherlock”
Sarah’s pick: Martin Freeman, “Sherlock”

Variety Show

“The Daily Show”

“The Colbert Report”

“Real Time with Bill Maher”

“Saturday Night Live”

“Jimmy Kimmel Live”

“Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”

Dustin’s pick: “The Daily Show”
Joanna’s pick: “The Daily Show”
Sarah’s pick: “The Daily Show”

Reality Competition

“So You Think You Can Dance”

“The Amazing Race”

“Dancing with the Stars”

“Top Chef”

“Project Runway”

“The Voice”

Dustin’s pick: NOBODY
Joanna’s pick: Nada!
Sarah’s pick: “Project Runway”

Reality Competition — Host

Cat Deely, “So You Think You Can Dance”

Phil Keoghan, “The Amazing Race”

Ryan Seacrest, “American Idol”

Betty White, “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers”

Tom Berengon, “Dancing with the Stars”

Dustin’s pick: NO ONE
Joanna’s pick: Refuses to answer.
Sarah’s pick: Betty White, “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers”

Best Animated Series


“The Simpsons”

“American Dad”

“Bob’s Burgers”

“The Penguins of Madagascar”

Dustin’s pick: “Bob’s Burgers”
Joanna’s pick: “Bob’s Burgers”
Sarah’s pick: “Futurama”

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