Benedict Cumberbatch (‘Patrick Melrose’) could pull off another Emmy upset against a Ryan Murphy star

It’s dangerous to underestimate Benedict Cumberbatch at the Emmys. Most pundits weren’t predicting that he’d win Best Movie/Mini Actor for “Sherlock: His Last Vow” in 2014. In fact, he ranked fourth with 50/1 odds. Now he’s nominated in that category for the sixth time in seven years, this time for “Patrick Melrose.” And again he’s not the front-runner to win. But our Emmy Experts warn us not to foolishly discount him again in what could be his second time upsetting a Ryan Murphy favorite.

The 2014 race was up in the air. Mark Ruffalo had the narrow lead in our predictions for his role in Murphy’s HBO adaptation of “The Normal Heart,” and even in hindsight that seemed like a smart bet. It was a showy performance full of righteous speeches adapted from a Tony winning play about the early days of the AIDS crisis.

Then there were Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman, both nominated for “Fargo.” It was the front-runner for Best Miniseries, which it ultimately won, and Thornton especially seemed like a formidable opponent since he was an Oscar winning movie star playing a mustache-twirling villain. Most of our Experts and Top Users that year thought Thornton would take it.

But instead, Cumberbatch won in a huge upset. Not only that, “His Last Vow” ended up with seven total Emmys that year including Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor, where Freeman upset another “Normal Heart” actor, Matt Bomer. It was the most awarded program of the year in any genre. We didn’t see that coming.

Now the ‘Batch is back, and so is Ryan Murphy — no surprise there since both have been regular fixtures at the Emmys in recent years. Cumberbatch earned his sixth bid for playing the tortured title character in “Patrick Melrose,” and his bid tied him with Laurence Olivier for the second most nominations in the category (both are one bid behind Hal Holbrook). And Murphy could be poised to sweep the longform categories with his true-crime limited series “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.”

Among the wins we’re predicting for “Versace” is Best Movie/Mini Actor for Darren Criss, who plays spree killer Andrew Cunanan. But it’s not an open-and-shut case. Criss gets leading odds of 2/3, but Cumberbatch is right on his heels with odds of 7/2. And he’s backed by five of the Expert journalists we’ve polled for their Emmy picks so far: Debra Birnbaum (Variety), Eric Deggans (NPR), Joyce Eng (Gold Derby), Anne Thompson (IndieWire) and Ben Travers (IndieWire). That’s only two fewer Experts than are predicting Criss.

“Patrick Melrose” did well overall at the Emmys, also earning bids for Best Limited Series, Best Movie/Mini Writing, Best Movie/Mini Directing and Best Movie/Mini Casting. That shows significant support from the TV academy, though it’s the acting branch that matters for Cumberbatch and unfortunately he’s the only actor from the program to earn a nom. Compare that to “Versace,” which earned six nominations for acting, so it appears to me much more beloved by the peer group voters who will be deciding Cumberbatch’s fate.

Then again, “The Normal Heart” had five acting nominations and “Fargo” had four in 2014. “Sherlock” only had two that year, but it still managed to win them both. Sometimes it’s not a matter of how many actors the voters love but how much they love them. And judging from recent history, they love Cumberbatch. A lot.

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before winners are announced on September 17. Be sure to also predict winners for the Creative Arts ceremonies slated for September 8 and 9. And join in the fun debate over the 2018 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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