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Thursday, May 22, 2014

2014 Emmy Questions: True Detective

Click here for the introduction to The Cover 3's "2014 Emmy Questions" series

COLD, HARD LOCK NOMINATIONS: Outstanding Drama Series, Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey), Best Director (Cary Joji Fukunaga for "Who Goes There")

STRONG EDUCATED GUESSES: Best Supporting Actor (Woody Harrelson), Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Monaghan), Best Screenplay (Nick Pizzolatto for "The Long Bright Dark")

QUESTION ONE: Will being eligible for a Drama Series as opposed to a Mini-Series hurt True Detective's nominations?

The HBO mini-series True Detective took America by storm at the beginning of 2014. People couldn't seem to get enough of the show. It got critical praise and is already considered one of the best shows of the year. A few months ago, to the surprise of many, HBO threw True Detective into the Drama Series ring come Emmy nomination time as opposed to the Mini Series categories. The Emmy rules dictate that shows like True Detective could be considered both a Drama Series or a Mini-Series, so the show can decide their particular category for themselves. Therefore, HBO decided that True Detective is a Drama Series. Needless to say this decision upset many people, mainly FX's CEO John Landgraf considering a) the series was able to get big stars like Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson because the show is a mini-series and b) he's probably a tad bitter because HBO outbid FX for the rights to True Detective. 

However, the real question is, how will this decision by HBO affect True Detective's ability to earn nominations? The Drama Series field is extremely crowded, and True Detective makes it even worse. That being said, True Detective is a show that Emmy's voters typically love. It's a powerful series, it aired on HBO, it's almost universally well reviewed, and it just aired it's rookie season. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Homeland, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, and House of Cards all fit this bill (obviously not are are HBO series, but all aired on prestigious networks) and all earned Outstanding Drama Series nominations its first year eligible.

Really though, the only thing standing in True Detective's way is what show does it knock off? The six shows that earned an Outstanding Drama Series nomination last year, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Homeland, House of Cards and Downton Abbey, all aired new episodes during this nomination period. While the Emmy's most certainly could nominate seven shows as opposed to its normal six, I believe True Detective will knock off Homeland. Frankly though, a crowded field is not a concern for True Detective, because it's going to earn nominations no matter what, it's considered that good.

Like the shows themselves, I think Matthew McConaughey will earn a Best Actor nomination and Damien Lewis, who earned a Best Actor nomination for the past two years for his work on Homeland, will not. However, this swap will be a lot easier for the Emmy's to make as I don't think Lewis will throw his hat in the Best Actor ring as he ceased to be a lead actor in Homeland's third season. Even if he does, McConaughey is one of the two front runners (along with Bryan Cranston) to win the Best Actor category, so he's most certainly going to earn a nomination one way or another. 

Lastly, with the writing and directing categories, I don't think there's consistency year after year. The fact that Nick Pizzolatto wrote all 8 episodes of a show that people like will probably earn him a nomination (he's only eligible for one though). Also, the fact that the last eight minutes of the show's fourth episode, "Who Goes There," is some of the best directing you'll see all year no matter what the medium is, means that Cary Joji Fukunaga's nomination is a slam dunk.

So do I think HBO's decision to make True Detective a Drama Series as opposed to a Mini-Series hurt its Emmy chances? Not in the least.

QUESTION TWO: Will Woody Harrelson earn an Emmy nomination?

The better way to phrase this question is, "Will Woody Harrelson throw his name into the Best Actor field or the Best Supporting Actor field?" There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that Woody Harrelson's character on True Detective was the co-lead of the show with Matthew McConaughey's character. True Detective is about TWO detectives and how time has changed them both. Both McConaughey and Harrelson did excellent jobs on the show, and if there was any justice in the world (or if TV wasn't literally overflowing with great lead actors from drama series) then both McConaughey and Harrelson would each earn a nomination. However, McConaughey gave the showier performance and has the better narrative (if he wins he'll halfway to EGOT in one year) so he's going to be considered the front runner. That unfortunately leaves Woody Harrelson standing in the dust.

Last year, Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) won Best Actor in a Drama Series, so he's coming back again. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Matthew McConaughey (True Detective) are still the front-runners in this category so they're both obviously getting a nomination. Jon Hamm (Mad Men) will never win an Emmy as long as he lives, but he's still guaranteed a nomination. That's four slots that are guaranteed locked up, and if Woody Harrelson wants to compete in this category, he has to beat out perennial nominee Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), 2013 nominee and Oscar winner Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), 3-time Best Actor Emmy nominee Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), and newcomer Martin Sheen (Masters of Sex). I don't care how great Woody Harrelson's performance was in True Detective, it's still deemed the "inferior" performance on his own show, and with a deep nomination pool, he's just not going to earn a Best Actor nomination if he and HBO decide to go that route.

He's still going to have a tough time if he decided to go the Best Supporting Actor route, but his odds increase greatly. For starters, two nominees (Bobby Cannivale from Boardwalk Empire and Jonathan Banks from Breaking Bad) from last year aren't eligible this year. Secondly, it's a lot easier to break into the supporting field historically than it is in the lead field. Only three of the 2012 Best Supporting Actor nominees earned a nomination again in 2013, and only one nominee from 2011 earned a nomination again in this field in 2012. If Woody Harrelson does decide to go this route, I imagine he'll be the front-runner to earn one of the two "empty" nominations along with Dean Norris from Breaking Bad with actors from Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, and The Good Wife on the outside looking in. Plus, Harrelson won't have to compete with his fellow co-star in this category.

Now I think it would be pretty unfair if HBO not only allowed True Detective to be a drama series but also allowed a true lead character to earn a supporting actor nomination, but that's just how the rules are set up. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

QUESTION THREE: Will Michelle Monaghan earn a nomination?

Michelle Monaghan's character was pretty useless and cliche if you looked at True Detective as a whole. Fortunately for Monaghan, the Emmy's don't look at seasons as a whole when they determine nominees, they look at single submission episodes. And Monaghan has a decent submission episode- Episode 6's "Haunted Houses". In that episode, Monaghan's character Maggie gets interviewed by the 2012 detectives and does some things in 2002 to shake up Rust and Martin's relationship. Because of that episode plus I believe True Detective will do extremely well at the Emmy's come nomination time, I think Monaghan piggy backs her way into a Best Supporting Actress nomination. 

Also, her competition isn't all that tough either. Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), and Christine Baranski (The Good Wife) are all staples of this category, and their nominations are locks. But that's it. Normally, I'd say Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) is also a lock; however, six out of seven episodes into Season 7a of Mad Mad and not only is Hendrick's character Joan rarely to be seen, she doesn't have a strong submission episode. Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Morena Baccarin (Homeland) earned nominations last year, but 2013 was the first time they received a nomination. It took three seasons and a phenomenal year of Daenerys Targaryian kicking ass and taking names before Clarke earned a nomination, and Baccarin only received a nomination after her show dominated the year before. While Monaghan certainly isn't the heavy hitter the way Matthew McConughey and Woody Harrelson are, Emilia Clarke and Morena Baccarin aren't nearly the tough competition that the boys have either. 

Easily, Michelle Monaghan's nomination is the likely nomination that's least likely to happen, but I predict that it will happen nonetheless.

QUESTION FOUR: Will Matthew McConaghey halfway to EGOT in 2014?


It's not that I don't think Matthew McConaghey can't win an Emmy this year (he already won an Oscar back in February for his work in Dallas Buyers Club), it's just that I think the final season of Breaking Bad will dominate come Emmy time. It's razor thin, but I think Bryan Cranston takes home the Best Actor Emmy as a farewell to the show as opposed to McConaughey.

However, this is just a personal guess and many people disagree with me. This will legitimately be a fun race to keep your eye on.


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