Will ‘Mildred Pierce’ and ‘Mad Men’ clean up at the Creative Arts Emmys?

Dozens of technical, craft, and other awards will be handed out on Saturday at the Creative Arts Emmys with categories ranging from hairstyling to guest performers. The winners will clue us into what programs will triumph eight days later at the Primetime Emmy Awards.


The frontrunners for Drama Series, Comedy Series, and Movie/Miniseries all lead their respective fields in nominations: “Mad Men” (19), “Modern Family” (17), and “Mildred Pierce” (21). These impressive totals demonstrate overwhelming support from Emmy voters. However, the races they lose at the Creative Arts Awards could show unexpected weakness heading into the Primetime Emmys.

Last year, “You Don’t Know Jack” was the frontrunner for Best TV Movie until it lost all eight of its races at the Creative Arts ceremony. Two of these awards went to “Temple Grandin,” which ended up sweeping a week later with five Emmys, including Best Movie, Best Director (Mick Jackson) over “Jack” helmer Barry Levinson and both supporting acting prizes with David Strathairn and Julia Ormond prevailing over “Jack” featured players John Goodman and Susan Sarandon.

As with the Oscars, the editing prize is a strong precursor. The winner for editing has gone on to take either Best Miniseries or Best TV Movie in 10 of the last 12 years; the exceptions were in 2009 when “Taking Chance” won the cutting award but “Grey Gardens” got the top prize and in 2002 when “Live from Baghdad” won editing but “The Gathering Storm” took TV Movie.

The editing and directing Emmys frequently match up. “Temple Grandin” won both editing and directing over Best Miniseries winner “The Pacific.” In 2008, “Recount” claimed both prized over “John Adams” which won a record-breaking 13 Emmys. 

Mildred Pierce” will confirm its might or show its vulnerability this weekend when it goes head to head with “Downton Abbey” in Art Direction, Casting, Cinematography, Costumes, Picture Editing, and Sound Editing. Though the pricey “Pierce” should win most of these categories, losses for crafts and editing would demonstrate that “Downton Abbey” is a serious threat in directing and Best Movie/Miniseries. If “Downton Abbey” were to win for casting, “Mildred Pierce’s” Best Supporting Actress nominee Evan Rachel Wood should fear competitor Maggie Smith.

Creative Arts losses mean slightly less in the comedy and drama series races. For example, three-time series champ “Mad Men” usually only wins technical awards. But a first-time win for the coveted casting prize last year proved the show hadn’t lost steam with Emmy voters. 

This year, “Mad Men” contends in almost all Creative Arts categories in which it was eligible. A repeat win for casting, an overdue victory for Picture Editing (where the series has two nominations), or a surprising upset for guest performers Cara Buono, Randee Heller, or Robert Morse would show “Mad Men” is stronger than ever. At worst, the show can win for hairstyling (a category in which they have two bids this year) for a fourth consecutive time.

Their submission in Best Art Direction is a doozy, showcasing the gorgeous new offices of ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Of course, a loss to the $18 million pilot of “Boardwalk Empire” — which also vies for Hairstyling, Makeup, Picture Editing, and Sound Mixing — would hardly be shameful. 

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“Modern Family” has multiple opportunities to be one of this year’s big Emmy winners. Competing for the first time in 2010, the series won three of their five Creative Arts bids — Casting, Picture Editing, and Sound Mixing. They could easily repeat in all these races as well. A win for underdog guest actor Nathan Lane would suggest “Modern Family” is unbeatable in the Best Comedy Series race, not that it really needs any help.

Expect a number of shows with little to no representation in the major categories to win the craft fields. “The Borgias” is a safe bet for its costumes and main title theme music. “Rubicon” could win its only nomination for main title design. Prosthetic makeup will likely go to “The Walking Dead.” Nominees are judged on an individual basis, making sweeps rare. Shows like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” — which won for cinematography last year in its tenth season — can take home an award without the assistance of more high-profile nominations.

Gold Derby will provide coverage of the Creative Arts Emmys as they take place on September 10 at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. An edited version of the awards ceremony will air September 17 on Reelz.

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