To help you do even better at predicting the winners of next year’s Emmys, take heed of these five lessons from this year’s awards.
1. Different years have different panels.
It is difficult not to take every win as indicative of a larger trend, but the truth is that the judging panels comprise mere dozens of voters and a few stray ballots really can make a difference.
Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”) was far out front in Gold Derby’s odds for last year’s Best Comedy Supporting Actor race, in which none of the nominees made an outstanding episode submission. He was a sensible choice because the consensus was that he had the most passable episode and because he could fall back on his general popularity. After all, he would go on to win the Screen Actors Guild Award for TV Comedy Actor against four lead performances just months later. That Tony Hale (“Veep”) ultimately overcame his 9/1 odds against all three “Modern Family” men seemed to indicate a concerted effort by the Emmys to move away from the show.
The Comedy Supporting Actor nominees again failed to yield an outstanding submission this year and Burrell ranked fourth because he could not win last year under similar circumstances. However, “Modern Family” repeated its wins for Comedy Series and Directing, while Burrell also returned to the winners’ circle. Chalk up his loss last year to a fluke or an anarchic panel.
2. Different years have different competition.
Despite having just won a Critics’ Choice Television Award and having won an Emmy two years ago for “American Horror Story,” Jessica Lange was considered an upset for Best Movie/Mini Actress on Sunday. This was largely because Laura Linney (“The Big C”) had won over her last year. After all, losing to Linney meant that Lange was incapable of winning again, right? No, it turns out that all that it meant was that she was incapable of beating Linney, who was ineligible this year.
3. Speeches do not guarantee wins.
Drama upsets last year by lead actor Jeff Daniels for “The Newsroom” and supporting actor Bobby Cannavale of “Boardwalk Empire” sure seemed to suggest as much, as did this year’s guest actor champ Joe Morton (“Scandal”).
However, this year offered even more instances of a character arc triumphing over grandstanding and bombast. Lead actress Kerry Washington (“Scandal”) lost to Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”), supporting actor Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) lost to Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”) and guest actress Kate Burton (“Scandal”) lost to Allison Janney (“Masters of Sex”).
On the movie/mini side, lead actor Mark Ruffalo and supporting actor Joe Mantello of “The Normal Heart” lost to “Sherlock: His Last Vow” stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman respectively while supporting actress Julia Roberts, also of “The Normal Heart,” lost to Kathy Bates (“American Horror Story: Coven”) who also had a loud role, but with fewer monologues.
4. The movie/mini categories are no longer a wash.
Predicting based on buzz or consensus seemed to work for years, but something strange has been afoot last year and this. Categories that were once so predictable have become the biggest wildcards of the Emmys. Performances with all the acclaim in the world (think Matt Bomer in “The Normal Heart”) go ignored, as do performances that could not sound better on paper (Cicely Tyson in “The Trip to Bountiful“).
Performances that had been previously ignored when the media and other awards organizations felt that it was the appropriate time to award them are suddenly in vogue at the Emmys (Cumberbatch and Freeman for “Sherlock: His Last Vow”). And that Writing category has the makings of a perennial head-scratcher by overlooking the programs that go on to win Miniseries and TV Movie.
5. The Emmys go their own way.
Try as the telecast producers did to spotlight movie stars Matthew McConaughey (“True Detective”) and Roberts, the Emmy voters courageously have no interest in fulfilling media expectations. They vary in regard for acclaim (“Orange is the New Black”), coolness (Billy Bob Thornton for “Fargo”) or lack thereof (“The Amazing Race” yet again).