If there is an awards show that doesn’t go according to script in Hollywood, it’s the Emmys where upsets happen all the time due to its complex voting process. Episode submissions and judging panels often bring frontrunners to their knees and ignite hopes for little-seen underdogs. It’s how Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom“) took down Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad“) last year, but it’s also ironically how Cranston won for the freshman season of “Breaking Bad” against past winner James Spader (“Boston Legal”).
So let’s have a look at the 10 possible upsets to look out for at this year’s Emmys:
1. Ricky Gervais could be up to his old tricks
Remember when all eyes were on Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”) and Steve Carell (“The Office”) back in 2007, and then the envelope opened and Ricky Gervais pulled off a jawdropper Comedy Actor win for “Extras”? This year he got a surprise nomination in that category for his performance on “Derek” that is both different and sympathetic, yet impactful. We could see him pull off an upset again.
2. Woody Harrelson can blow the Emmys wide open
Fresh off a big Oscar win, Matthew McConaughey seems to be in a good spot to win some more gold for his bold performance in “True Detective.” However, are we all sleeping on his partner in crime? Harrelson also has some serious chops in the show, will also benefit from two “True Detective” episodes being submitted to judges in this category (they each benefit from being seen in each other’s entry) and has more of a history with the television academy (he won for “Cheers”).
3. “House of Cards” can bring down the house
All eyes seem to be on reigning champ “Breaking Bad” and the new HBO entrant “True Detective,” but “House of Cards” earned an impressive 13 nominations, 4 more than last year. It had more buzz, stars Kevin Spacey and its theatrical political tone should strike well with academy demos.
4. “Orange is the New Black” gets some new gold
This show stormed out of the gate with a whopping 12 nominations. Its new season just aired, leaving it fresh in voters’ minds. Being on Netflix, it represents the future of television. This show looks like it has the credentials to take down “Modern Family.”
5. But then again maybe “Veep” wins the vote
“Veep” has continued building strength, picking up 9 nominations (most ever). It’s a smart show that appeals to academy demos, had an impressive run through the guilds earlier this year and has TV icon Julia Louis-Dreyfus at its center (possibly on her way to Emmy #5). The academy loves this show and may want this to take the baton from “Modern Family.”
6. Christine Baranski could have a good night
Every season a different woman has won for “The Good Wife.” Perhaps this year is Baranski’s turn. The show had arguably its best season yet, which gave her stuff to do and she’s the most overdue in the category, this being her fifth nomination for the show.
7. Josh Charles could adjourn with an Emmy
Speaking of “The Good Wife,” no one was given more to do this year than Josh Charles. Now that he’s managed to break back into the category, he has some great episodes to submit, including one in which his character is killed.
8. Taylor Schilling could break out with a win
As mentioned, “Orange is the New Black” had a really strong showing. If we end up with a voting panel that is in the mood for a dramatic performance in the comedy category (they often win), watch her smuggle that Emmy right from under Louis-Dreyfus’ arms.
9. William H. Macy may celebrate with one more drink
Macy failed to break into the derby when “Shameless” was classified as a drama series, but now that it’s labeled a comedy, he could get the last laugh. Remember, his role is quite theatrical — as a bawdy, unapologetic souse.
10. Don’t underestimate Ellen Burstyn again
Emmy voters love Burstyn so much that they nominated her for a 15-second performance in telefilm “Mrs. Harris” back in 2006. Last year she pulled off an upset for best supporting actress in a mini for her understated role as a matriarch in “Political Animals.” There’s nothing sublte about her role in “Flowers in the Attic” — she portrays a ruthless grandma, just the kind of colorful part that voters might go for. (Remember those Emmys Cloris Leachman won as evil Grandma Ida in “Malcolm in the Middle”?)