Sunday's the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. Here are our thoughts.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
• Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates, "Bates Motel"
• Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, "Downton Abbey"
• Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, "Homeland"
• Robin Wright as Claire Underwood, "House of Cards"
• Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson, "Mad Men"
• Connie Britton as Rayna James, "Nashville"
• Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, "Scandal"
Duprey: As much as I hate to say it, this is a Kerry Washington slam dunk. "Scandal" is a hit for ABC, even if it's one of the more intellectually devoid shows on network TV. (I mean, there's a man, there's a woman and there's sexual tension. Blah.) I've seen Season 1; the show has a lie-on-the-couch-with-popcorn-and-the-missus-after-a-long-week-of-work type of appeal. It's a suitable contrast to smarter programs like "Breaking Bad," "Mad Men" and "Boardwalk Empire," shows where you can't really skip ahead 20 minutes at a time without missing key plot points. And mad props to Kerry Washington, who, with "Scandal" and a co-starring role in "Django Unchained," is officially a star. But is she the best actress on TV?
No. I like Claire Danes, even though Season 2 of "Homeland" bordered on absurd. I like Robin Wright, who delivered a surprisingly deep emotional performance in the very dark "House of Cards." But I really, really like Elisabeth Moss, who deserves the honor as a career achievement award, if nothing else. She's been fantastic for six seasons of "Mad Men" but has yet to win despite five nominations. Perhaps a mediocre "Homeland" season pushes her over Danes, but it's hard to argue with the broad, network appeal of ABC's "Scandal."
Mertes: I agree on Moss. She's my favorite of those nominated. But where's Julianna Margulies? This season of "Good Wife" was shaky at times, but Margulies was great. An even bigger crime is the exclusion of Tatiana Maslany on BBC America's "Orphan Black." On the show, Maslany plays not only the heroine but several of the heroine's clones, juggling various accents, tics and personalities so well that you forget it's the same actress. This is one of the best performances I've seen in years, and not just on TV.
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Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
• Bryan Cranston as Walter White "Breaking Bad"
• Hugh Bonneville as Earl of Grantham/ Robert, "Downton Abbey"
• Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody, "Homeland"
• Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood, "House of Cards"
• Jon Hamm as Don Draper, "Mad Men"
• Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy, "The Newsroom"
Mertes: Cranston. He'll get nominated again next year (and probably win), but I think he'll take this one. Though I'd love to see Hamm finally get his Emmy. His work as an increasingly villainous Don Draper was one of the highlights of a bizarre "Mad Men" season. And don't count out Lewis for a repeat win. Much like his co-star Danes, he squeezed out a great performance in a shark-jumpy season of "Homeland." That interrogation episode, when he finally confesses to it all? None of his competitors this year had a scene that great.
Duprey: Yeah, it's got to be Heisenberg. He's the most dynamic character actor since James Gandolfini in "Sopranos." And it certainly won't hurt that "Breaking Bad" is, knock on wood, currently delivering the finest final season in TV history. That's too bad for Hamm and Kevin Spacey, who both deserve the honor. If Cranston's not the winner, I like Spacey, considering the buzz around "House of Cards," the David Fincher connection and that it's Netflix's best original series.
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Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
• Anna Gunn as Skyler White, "Breaking Bad"
• Maggie Smith as Dowager Countess of Grantham/ Violet, "Downton Abbey"
• Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen, "Game Of Thrones"
• Morena Baccarin as Jessica Brody, "Homeland"
• Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris, "Mad Men"
• Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart, "The Good Wife"
Duprey: To me, this is another easy pick: Anna Gunn. Last year was Skyler's first nomination, and I expect this year is her first win. A few years ago, in her Ted Beneke rendezvous days, Skyler was one of the most-hated characters on TV. Now, we all just feel sorry for her. Not that it counts toward these awards, but her dinner scene with Hank, in one of this season's most recent episodes, was one of the more powerful scenes in an ultra-powerful show.
Mertes: Gunn. Will and should win. I don't really have much to add. I wouldn't mind seeing Baranski take it, though.
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Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
• Bobby Cannavale as Gyp Rosetti, "Boardwalk Empire"
• Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, "Breaking Bad"
• Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, "Breaking Bad"
• Jim Carter as Mr. Carson, "Downton Abbey"
• Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, "Game of Thrones"
• Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson, "Homeland"
Mertes: Probably Paul, right? As Walter White's taken Jesse Pinkman deeper and deeper into hell these last few seasons, Paul's matched Cranston every step of the way. Although, it would be great to see old, dead-eyed Jonathan Banks get a surprise win. I just think every actor on that show should get some kind of special achievement award. Here's hoping Betsy Brandt, Dean Norris and Bob Odenkirk get some attention next year.
Duprey: I'm gonna go off the rails a little here. I agree Paul's the likely winner -- he's dynamite on that show. But he's already won twice. There's some hype around Mandy Patinkin, who's really good in a really bad second season of "Homeland." But I really, really like Bobby Cannavale in "Boardwalk." He embraced a terribly peculiar character in Season 3 and rode it all the way to the finale. A tremendous villain with strange puppy and sexual fetishes (thankfully, not at the same time). "Boardwalk" had a lot to lose when Michael Pitt left the cast after Season 2, so, in a sense, Cannavale saved the show. And, yes, Dean Norris is my runaway Emmy favorite for 2014.
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Best Drama Series
• "House of Cards"
• "Game of Thrones"
• "Breaking Bad"
• "Downton Abbey"
• "Mad Men"
Duprey: For all the reasons above, it has to be "Breaking Bad." But I wouldn't count out "House of Cards." Online streaming (and binge-watching) is changing the way we watch TV, and as Netflix's first substantial play into original programming, "HoC" has the game-changer factor. That said, "Breaking Bad" is the best show since "Sopranos" and arguably one of the two or three best in television history. We've only seen one season of "House of Cards."
Mertes: "House of Cards" is fine. Great production values and some fun, spiky dialogue and performances. But "Breaking Bad." You know, it's "Breaking Bad." Although, "Game of Thrones" did have what will probably be its best season ever. A few shows that should have made the cut over "Downton," "Homeland" and "House of Cards": "Justified" (which had its best season so far), "The Good Wife" and (I'm serious) "Spartacus: War of the Damned," a show that crushes all of the more respectable TV dramas beneath its blood-soaked sandals.
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Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
• Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
• Jason Bateman, "Arrested Development"
• Louis C.K., "Louie"
• Don Cheadle, "House of Lies"
• Matt LeBlanc, "Episodes"
• Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory"
Mertes: I'd love to see Louie win. I know he's just playing himself, but he plays himself exceptionally well. Who will win? I'm guessing Baldwin, given this was "30 Rock's" last season. But if voters are wanting to give some kudos to Netflix for a solid year of original programming, they might go team Bateman. The resurrection of "Arrested Development" felt compromised and was only occasionally great, but Bateman was as funny as he ever was.
Duprey: I've seen bits and pieces of each of these, but "Arrested Development" is the only one I watched consistently. I've seen enough of "House of Lies" to know it's not an Emmy-caliber show. "Big Bang Theory" is one of the more overrated, unfunny shows in recent TV history. I still have 46 episodes of "Joey" stink in my mouth, so that crosses off LeBlanc.
I'll take Bateman, who was good in a criminally underrated season of "Arrested Development." The show created such a high bar for itself in its first three seasons that, I thought, viewers were expecting too much from its return. This season of "Arrested Development" was as good as just about any other TV comedy. I'm still laughing at the thought of he and Michael Cera, father and son, competing for the same love interest.
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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"
Duprey: I've got to go with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who's phenomenal as that boss you love and would do just about anything for but really can't stand because she treats you like garbage. I could see Poehler grabbing a win here. She's been nominated in this category each year since 2010 but never won, and "Parks," maybe ahead of "Community," is THE cult show for the hipster 18-34 demo.
Mertes: "Enlightened," which HBO canceled after its second season, is (was) the best show on TV that nobody watched, and Laura Dern was excellent as a just absolute train wreck of a character. But I like everyone on this list.
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Best Comedy Series
• "30 Rock"
• "The Big Bang Theory"
• "Modern Family"
Mertes: I'm thinking sentiment puts "30 Rock" in the lead, and, to be fair, this was easily its best season in some time. "Girls'" second season was solid. "Veep's" second was hilarious. And "Louie's" most-recent season piled on even more glorious misery to what was already a really sad show. But I'm partial to comedy that makes me cry. TV's got a lot of funny shows, but "Louie's" something more. Also, "New Girl" and "Parks and Recreation" > "Big Bang," "Girls," "Modern Family" and "30 Rock."
Duprey: There is no TV show funnier than "Veep." Well, as long as "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is still off the air. Here's hoping its five nominations translate into a few wins, especially here.