Can Kelsey Grammer end Emmy winning streak of Bryan Cranston?

It has become an Emmy rule in recent years to assume that when Bryan Cranston is in contention for the Best Drama Actor Emmy, he will win. This season appeared at first to be no exception, with Cranston coming off a stronger than ever fourth season of “Breaking Bad” with no shortage of potential episode submissions that would easily put him back in pole position for a fourth time.

Cranston plays Walter White on “Breaking Bad,” an everyman underdog chemistry teacher who has slowly morphed into a scheming mastermind at the center of AMC’s groundbreaking hit show. At the Emmys, he is a force to be reckoned with, winning all three times he has been nominated.

In 2008, Cranston won his first Emmy against previous three-time winner James Spader (“The Practice,” “Boston Legal”) and favorites Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”) and Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”). The following two years, Cranston would go on to prevail over heavyweights like returning nominees Hall and Hamm, as well as perennial also-ran Hugh Laurie (“House”).

However last week, a formidable challenger to the Best Drama Actor title emerged in none other than four-time Emmy champion and television comedy legend Kelsey Grammer. Most famous for playing effete and erudite Frasier Crane on “Wings,” “Cheers” and then “Frasier” over the last 20 years, Grammer returns to TV after a couple of failed network sitcoms in the new political thriller “Boss” on pay cable outlet Starz.

Grammer has received some of the best reviews of his long career for a role that is as far removed from Frasier Crane as you could possibly get. As Chicago Mayor Tom Kane, Grammer plays a ruthless and ferocious political powerbroker harboring a secret degenerative neurological disorder. Alan Sepinwall (Hitfix) says Grammer’s work is “Career-defining” and “mesmerizing” while Tim Goodman (Hollywood Reporter) likens Grammer’s performance to “a stunning, eye-opening dramatic turn”.

Could next year finally see Cranston pipped at the post by none other than Emmy darling Kelsey Grammer, playing a similarly tortured anti-hero leading man?

At the Emmys earlier this year, Cranston bowed out of contention because “Breaking Bad” did not air any new episodes to be eligible for Emmy consideration. Many assumed that Jon Hamm would prevail, but he lost out again, this time to Kyle Chandler for his swansong season of “Friday Night Lights.” So a battle royale is mounting in the category once again, as Ham, Hall and Laurie will likely face off again with a returning Cranston.

But watch out for Kelsey Grammer. During his run as Frasier Crane he was nominated twice in the Comedy Supporting Actor race (for “Cheers”) and 11 times in the Comedy Actor race (once for “Wings” in 1992 and ten times for “Frasier” between 1994 and 2004, which he won four times). Emmy voters love Kelsey Grammer. And now that he has landed on a gritty, critically acclaimed pay cable drama, perhaps next year’s Best Drama Actor race just got even more interesting.

And with the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards next on the awards radar, perhaps Grammer’s road to a fifth Emmy win might start sooner than we think.

Check out Grammer in “Boss” below.

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