One of the most ballyhooed aspects of this year’s Emmy season is the absence of a perennial favorite over the last three years, “Breaking Bad.”
Because AMC decided to move the show from its usual late-winter start to a July premiere, it fell out of the eligibility window for the upcoming Emmys, whose cutoff date was May 31. Considering the fact that the show’s star, Bryan Cranston, is the three-time defending winner of the outstanding lead actor in a drama award, that’s a pretty big hole to fill.
Or is it?
When the nominations are announced on July 14 (three days before the Season 4 premiere of “Breaking Bad”), the hue and cry that Cranston won’t get to defend his crown will rise, then quickly fall, and Emmy watchers will go about their business handicapping the chances of the people who are actually nominated.
There are a few good reasons for that. For one thing, people get tired of repeat winners. This is pretty much true in any venue where winners and losers are determined. For instance, who besides Yankee fans were happy to see them win all those World Series in the late ’90s? The first one was great, but the fourth one was greeted by shrugs… and a lot of them came from New Yorkers.
As much as people like Cranston, and have enjoyed the transformation his character, cancer-patient-turned-meth-maker Walter White, has made over the last three seasons, seeing a fresh face, or someone who’s been nominated a bunch but hasn’t won, be able to claim the award is always refreshing. Maybe we’ll get to hear the comedy stylings of Jon Hamm, as he would be the next logical choice to get the award, given his strong performance on the fourth season of “Mad Men” and the fact that he’s one of the guys who’s repeatedly lost to Cranston.
Speaking of Hamm, he is part of a strong field of actors in this category, one that has been one of Emmy’s most contested over the last decade. In what other category would Hamm and Hugh Laurie, a guy who has come close to disabling himself by limping through his role of Dr. Gregory House for the last seven years, be multiple losers?
For every perennial winner that leaves the field, another actor is ready to step in with his own stunning performance. This year, that person is Steve Buscemi of “Boardwalk Empire,” who we’ve said before is a virtual lock to get a nomination for playing Nucky Thompson on the soaring, ambitious HBO series. Other people who could land on the list: Tom Selleck, William H. Macy, Ray Romano, Timothy Olyphant and a handful of others that would be equally deserving.
It’s also time to face facts: The academy is pretty much in love with “Mad Men.” As long as the show is eligible, there is a pretty good shot that it’s going to get armfuls of awards. So, even with “Breaking Bad” not in the running, the academy will be more than happy to shove awards in the hands of Hamm, Matt Weiner, and others without even skipping a beat.
Finally, there’s the “Sopranos” factor in play: it’s not like the show is going to be forgotten by the academy simply because it wasn’t eligible this year. Its premiere just happened to fall at an odd time. Even though the show will be a relatively distant memory by the time nominations come out next year, Cranston and company will still be there. “The Sopranos” took a long time off between seasons, but was always lavished with nominations every time it came back. A summer premiere has never hurt “Mad Men”; it’s not going to hurt “Breaking Bad.”
By the way, it’s ironic that, despite the protracted contract negotiations that have delayed the fifth season of “Mad Men” until March 2012, eighteen months after season four ended, it will still be eligible for the 2012 Emmys as if it never got delayed. It’s a quirk in the academy’s eligibility rules that we’ll likely never get used to. We wonder if Cranston is thinking the same thing right now.