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And the Emmys might go to...

Free Press TV critic Brad Oswald delivers his picks to take home hardware at Sunday's awards ceremony

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Anna Gunn, Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad.

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Anna Gunn, Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad.

A whole lot has changed in the two-plus decades since Bruce Springsteen lamented that there were "57 channels and nothing on."

First of all, for any TV-watcher with an average-or-larger cable bill, 57 channels probably seems like a quaint, long-ago notion, as a lap through the average on-screen menu these days scrolls through hundreds, rather than dozens, of channels.

And second to that is the undeniable, inarguable fact that there's more on TV now than at any time in the history of the medium -- more great dramas, more great comedies, more great miniseries and documentaries and movies -- or, as Jerry Seinfeld once said during a memorable first-class airplane trip, "More everything!"

For evidence, just look at the roster of potential trophy-grabbers at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, which air Sunday at 7 p.m. on CBS and CTV. Hosted by the multi-talented Neil Patrick Harris, this year's Emmys promise to be a celebration of some pretty darned great television programming.

Of course, with every Emmycast comes the annual round of fearless (but hopelessly flawed) Emmy predictions. Here are this year's picks, accompanied by the usual "No wagering, please" warning and a pre-emptive promise to really, truly try to do better next year:

 

Outstanding lead actress in a drama series

Connie Britton, Nashville

Claire Danes, Homeland

Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey

Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel

Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

Kerry Washington, Scandal

Robin Wright, House of Cards

Lowdown: Kind of a weird field this year, given the mishmash of cable/broadcast/PBS/online series from which the nominees are drawn. Danes has won before for Homeland, and many would consider Moss overdue for Mad Men. Britton, lamentably overlooked in this category during her Friday Night Lights run, is in tough and would be a very, very long-shot choice. Washington has straddled the TV/movies divide (Scandal, Django Unchained) recently and become something of a media darling, so she must be taken seriously.

The envelope, please: Washington

 

Outstanding lead actor in a drama series

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad

Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey

Damian Lewis, Homeland

Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Jon Hamm, Mad Men

Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom

Lowdown: An incredibly competitive category, in which any of the above could be considered a worthy winner. Cranston, a three-time winner, should be considered a front-runner because Emmy voters are creatures of habit, but Hamm is overdue and Lewis is a known and respected commodity. Spacey, a big-screen performer who appeared in a not-quite-TV (Netflix) show, could pull an upset if voters get all starstruck.

The envelope, please: Cranston

 

Outstanding lead actress in a comedy series

Laura Dern, Enlightened

Lena Dunham, Girls

Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie

Tina Fey, 30 Rock

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Lowdown: This one feels very much like a two-horse race, with the also-rans being cable-series stars Dern, Dunham and Falco and 30 Rock alumna Fey; Louis-Dreyfus and Poehler are leading the field with unquestionably hilarious performances in shows that are clearly and undeniably laugh-generating comedies. It's a well-deserved photo finish.

The envelope, please: Louis-Dreyfus

 

Outstanding lead actor in a comedy series

Jason Bateman, Arrested Development

Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Matt LeBlanc, Episodes

Don Cheadle, House of Lies

Louis C.K., Louie

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock

Lowdown: Baldwin is an Emmy favourite, and could generate some thanks-for-the-memories votes now that 30 Rock is done, and Parsons has established himself as the funniest player on a mainstream network sitcom. Bateman could attract a block of votes because of all the attention Netflix's revival of Arrested Development generated, and C.K., a one-man creative juggernaut on a lesser-known cable comedy, certainly deserves serious consideration.

The envelope, please: Parsons

 

Outstanding drama series

Breaking Bad

Downton Abbey

Game of Thrones

Homeland

House of Cards

Mad Men

Lowdown: Once again, the drama-series category produces a list of nominees that should be kept handy as a primer sheet for anyone who says there's nothing good on TV these days. This is the golden age of television, and here's all the proof you need. Top to bottom, a great collection of shows, but there's really only one choice here.

The envelope, please: Breaking Bad

 

Outstanding comedy series

30 Rock

Girls

Louie

Modern Family

The Big Bang Theory

Veep

Lowdown: It's the cable comedies vs. the network sitcoms -- did Emmy voters opt for safer, traditional broadcast fare, or edgier, more out-there specialty-net offerings? Modern Family and Big Bang are even money on the network side, and Louie and Veep are equally worthy atop the made-for-cable bracket. If this is a play-it-safe vote, Big Bang will triumph ... but the betting here is that it won't be.

The envelope, please: Veep

 

BONUS CATEGORY:

Outstanding miniseries or movie

American Horror Story: Asylum

Behind the Candelabra

The Bible

Phil Spector

Political Animals

Top of the Lake

Lowdown: Not surprisingly, a very diverse collection of nominees -- AHS: Asylum topped all programs with 17 nominations, but that won't be enough to earn it the big prize. Top of the Lake was a beautifully crafted but largely unnoticed crime drama, and Al Pacino's performance in Phil Spector definitely caused a stir. Michael Douglas and Matt Damon delivered fearless performances that turned Candelabra into the most talked-about movie of the year.

The envelope, please: Behind the Candelabra

 

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2013 G1

History

Updated on Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 5:48 AM CDT: Adds videos

7:42 AM: Replaces photo

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