Frontrunners beware: Upsets are a part of Emmys history

While Bryan Cranston is forecast to win his fourth Emmy for “Breaking Bad” and Claire Danes  is expected to claim her first Drama Actress award for “Homeland,” these top TV kudos have a history of pulling the rug out from under frontrunners.


James Spader won three Drama Actor awards (2004, 2005, 2007) for playing legal eagle Alan Shore on “The Practice” and “Boston Legal” defeating both James Gandolfini (“The Sopranos”) and Martin Sheen (“The West Wing”). Spader’s stranglehold on that category counts as just one entry in our photo gallery of the 20 most shocking upsets in Emmy history. VIEW GALLERY

Other jaw-droppers include the 2010 Realiy-Competition Series win by “Top Chef,” which ended the seven-year winning streak by “The Amazing Race,” and Katherine Heigl (“Grey’s Anatomy”) taking Supporting Drama Actress in 2007 over a strong field including Lorraine Bracco (“The Sopranos”) and her two costars Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson.

RELATED: Emmy voting 101 – How winners are determined 

How do these upsets happen? Winners are decided by panels who view sample episodes. Two years, Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer“) prevailed as Drama Actress over Globe and SAG champ Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”) because she submitted a more powerful episode.

However, the real Emmy shockers are when someone wins in spite of a substandard submission. After Heigle, the Supporting Drama Actress Emmy went to three other women whom pundits had counted out after watching their sample reels: Dianne Wiest (“In Treatment,” 2008), Cherry Jones (“24,” 2009) and Archie Panjabi (“The Good Wife,” 2010).


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Emmy Awards: Complete list of nominations

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Emmy snubs include ‘Parks and Recreation,’ ‘The Good Wife,’ Kelsey Grammer, Jeff Probst

6 thoughts on “Frontrunners beware: Upsets are a part of Emmys history

  1. How was Archie Panjabi’s reel in 2010 “substandard”? Because it was subtle? What she does on that show throws the whole idea of acting on it’s head; she’s compelling and magnetic all while maintaining extraordinary economy. Just because some fat cat “pund

  2. You guys are so stupid. Not only is this offensive (you guys are basically saying these actors didn’t deserve their award) but it’s inaccurate. Katherine Heig an upset win?! Really? Did y’all watch Grey’s at all?! Katherine Heigl blew it out of the ball

  3. (part 2) park with the whole Denny storyline. Her love…her rage…her grief those two years were UNMATCHED. Say what you will about her person, but her award in 2007 was actually overdue. She should have won the year before, as well. Oh, and shame on

  4. (part 3) you some more for mentioning Archie! Archie’s episode submission may not have been as elaborate or expressively dramatic as you may have wanted, but that didn’t make it substandard. In my opinion, it was a divinely acted and purposely under

  5. (part 4) stated performance—a lesson in fine acting if you ask me. In the end, it is impossible to accurately or fairly declare one actress better than another based off on one episode. I am quite certain half these folks voting knew that Katherine, Ar

  6. (part 5) chie, Diane, and Cherry could have submitted a simple 3 second scene and still deserved their award. Their work those respective years spoke volumes.

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