“That’s it!” three of us agreed – Debra Birnbaum of Variety plus my fellow Gold Derby editor Marcus Dixon and me — upon seeing the “Mad Men” finale episode at the IFC event at the Ace Hotel Theater on Sunday. “Jon Hamm can finally win the Emmy!”
In fact, I hereby switch my official prediction to Hamm to win Best Drama Actor. See the picks of all Gold Derby experts here.
In “Person to Person,” Hamm gives a deeply felt performance that has the three key elements that Emmy judges seek when deciding a winner: range, impact and empathy. Don Draper’s demeanor spans jauntiness to dark drama, punctuated with powerful impact scenes that include his emotional breakdown during group therapy. But a winning Emmy “reel” is all about empathy and Draper spouts gallons of it while shedding tears during phone calls with Betty and Sally and Peggy.
Up until now, the lead star of “Mad Men” got skunked in the race for Best Actor seven times despite the fact that his show won Best Drama Series four times, tying the Emmy record. Now, finally, his episode and timing may be perfect.
He really deserved to win twice. In 2008, he gave Emmy judges “The Wheel” episode, which revealed glimpses of that cool cat Draper that we hadn’t seen before: vulnerable, haunted by grief and doubt – he even teared up while recalling the faded happiness of his early marriage as he made a presentation to Kodak about their new slide projector. But on Emmy night, he got ambushed by longshot contender Bryan Cranston, who competed for a little-watched new series that was also on AMC — “Breaking Bad.” In retrospect, Hamm’s loss is easy to explain. In fact, back then I even predicted Cranston would pull off the upset because the episode he submitted to Emmy judges (the pilot) was packed with so much emotional grandstanding as his character learns he is dying of cancer.
After Hamm lost three consecutive times, “Mad Men” creator Matt Weiner got, well, mad and decided to give Draper some performance fireworks, too. He wrote “The Suitcase” episode specifically to be Hamm’s Emmy submission and it was a doozy. In it, we see Draper fight with Peggy, get drunk, confide in her and finally weep and fall asleep in her lap as the two pull an all-nighter at the office.
Every Emmy pundit on the planet predicted Hamm would FINALLY win, but he lost. Kyle Chandler staged a shocking upset for the final episode of “Friday Night Lights.” Huh? Chandler’s performance was fairly quiet and reserved compared to the big flashy turn by costar Connie Britton, who lost the corresponding Emmy race for Best Drama Actress to Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife,” “In Sickness” episode). So how did Chandler do it?
No doubt he got a boost from misty-eyed voters who got sentimental while saying goodbye to the TV coach, even though (strangely) the same sentiment didn’t pay off for the coach’s wife. Now voters may be tempted to give a farewell hug to Hamm as Draper vanishes into a misty yoga nirvana in the final scene of the final episode of “Mad Men.” Ironically, this year Hamm will probably compete for Best Drama Actor against Kyle Chandler, who will likely enter the season finale of “Bloodline” in which he gives the kind of huge theatrical performance Hamm gave in “The Suitcase.”
But Hamm will probably prevail nonetheless because he has all of these plusses:
— Many emotional scenes in the final episode that are freighted with intense brooding and self-reflection
— Several crying scenes
— Drunk scenes
— Farewell Hug Syndrome. In addition to Chandler, all of these stars finally won overdue Emmys for their TV series’ last seasons: Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon (“Sex and the City”), John Ritter (“Three’s Company”) and Tony Randall (“The Odd Couple”). Many other actors, who had won previously, took one more win for their final bows – like Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) and Kelsey Grammer (“Frasier”).
— Personal hug for Hamm. He showed a lot of bravery when he checked in to rehab at a time when he was most visible on the media scene during the “Mad Men” wind-down.
Ironically, Emmyless Hamm may actually claim two victories this year. According to Gold Derby’s racetrack odds, he’s favored to prevail for his guest role as the kooky evangelical preacher in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”
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