If it seems too early to begin looking ahead to September’s Primetime Emmys, few people behind the scenes agree. The pitches for Emmy consideration began even before Oscar season ended and have ramped up ever since.
Insiders know it’s an uphill battle. Perennials in the Emmy world don’t leave much room for newcomers to make an impact, and this year might be particularly tough for aspiring series.
Actresses from new drama skeins have a better shot at breakthroughs than their shows do. For example, ABC’s “Nashville” will have to work harder to make its kudo case than former “Friday Night Lights” fave Connie Britton will (no slight intended to co-lead Hayden Panettiere). The same could be said for such combos as FX’s “The Americans” and Keri Russell or A&E’s “Bates Motel” and Vera Farmiga.
In part, that’s because the Emmy drama series field remains particularly overloaded, with 2012 champ “Homeland” and nominees “Breaking Bad,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men” all in contention. It’s not that there might not be changes: “Downton” is in jeopardy thanks to its third season’s mixed reviews, perhaps best illustrated by the diverse and extreme (bitter, heartbroken) reactions to the exits of Jessica Brown Findlay and Dan Stevens, and even “Homeland” earned some serious backlash thanks to its second-season plotting.
Still, drama is a very tough group to crack, and a fresh set of six nominees could come just from such other vets as CBS’ “The Good Wife,” FX’s “Justified,” NBC’s “Parenthood,” Showtime’s “Shameless,” TNT’s “Southland” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
If there’s going to be a rookie series breakthrough in drama, the two leading possibilities might be cachet-heavy “The Newsroom” from HBO and Aaron Sorkin or serialized serial killer skein “The Following” from Fox and Kevin Williamson. Not coincidentally, the stars of those two shows, Jeff Daniels and Kevin Bacon, are also among the leading new candidates to force their way into a lead drama actor group that includes defending champ Damian Lewis and 2012 nominees Hugh Bonneville, Steve Buscemi, Bryan Cranston, Michael C. Hall and Jon Hamm.
In contrast, there could be considerable turnover in lead actress competish. There are two sure vacancies thanks to the departures of Kathy Bates (“Harry’s Law”) and Glenn Close (“Damages”), and quite possibly a third considering how undramatic the storyline was for Michelle Dockery on “Downton” this season. Julianna Marguiles, Elisabeth Moss and 2012 Emmy winner Claire Danes are the other potential returning nominees.
In comedy, the series and lead actor races each have one vacancy thanks to Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which has been on an indefinite hiatus since September 2011. However, none of the five remaining series — “30 Rock” (in a farewell year), “The Big Bang Theory,” “Girls,” “Veep” and the dominant “Modern Family” — offer much reason to bet against them, nor do any new comedies (such as Fox’s “The Mindy Project” or NBC’s “The New Normal”) come close to being locks to fill the gap. FX’s “Louie,” Emmy-eligible this year in its last season before its own hiatus, is almost a perfect match to replace “Curb.”
While Louis C.K. could join 2012 winner Jon Cryer, Alec Baldwin, Don Cheadle and Jim Parsons among the nominees who are returning contenders, there is a spot for a newcomer. But beyond the well-known Matthew Perry of “Go On,” it’s a challenge to think of who that might be. (Josh Gad from “1600 Penn,” anyone?) Comedy lead actress could be an even tougher group to crack, thanks to returnees Julia Louis-Dreyfus (last year’s winner), Zooey Deschanel, Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, Melissa McCarthy and Amy Poehler — though Mindy Kaling of “Mindy” could draw some support.
Ultimately, as with drama, there are a number of comedy vets waiting in the wings. So don’t be surprised that if there is to be any new blood at the Emmys in the series and lead acting categories, it might just be old.