Emmy Tracker: Tight Emmy Races and Dark Horse Surprises

Emmy Races

Some Emmy Races Are Too Close to Call

2016 raised a lot of questions in the Emmy races, and for once it seems like more races are completely up in the air than not, which leads to what could be one of the more exciting Emmy ceremonies in recent history. These five races are some of the closet of the night.

Lead Actress in a Drama – Viola Davis vs. Robin Wright Viola Davis is becoming one of the most revered actresses of 21st century and won every peer voted award for her work on HTGAWM. However, viewers recently found the show to be pretty divisive. Robin Wright had a huge year on House of Cards in front of and behind the camera and probably came in second just about every year since the show premiered.

Lead Actor in a Drama – Kevin Spacey vs. Rami Malek   The two-time Oscar winner is pitted against the breakout star, and the two choices couldn’t be more different. House of Cards is at an all-time high in popularity within the actors branch of the academy (not so much anywhere else), and Spacey is the reigning champ at the SAG awards for the second year in a row, meaning he is clearly popular. Rami Malek isn’t technically new to Hollywood, but he is now a household name and dominated the critical conversation since Mr. Robot premiered last summer. This race is really a test on whether or not a newcomer can win a popular vote or if lead races like these will always go to the most respected actor in the category.

Anna Chlumsky vs. Allison Janney vs. Kate McKinnon Without a clear front-runner, this supporting actress race could give us one of the only new winners of the night. Allison Janney is a two-time winner for her work on Mom, but how long the question needs to be asked of how long voters will award her for a show they don’t watch? Anna Chlumsky was snubbed last year, but as Veep becomes even more popular she could easily win a make-up Emmy if the political comedy sweeps. Kate McKinnon has had the best year of her career playing Hillary Clinton on SNL as well as great reviews in a summer blockbuster (which has helped winners in the past).

Writing of a Drama Series Last year Game of Thrones nearly swept the drama categories and the writing branch even surprisingly awarded them for an episode not particularly noticeable for its writing. This year the writers could follow the same path for the action heavy “Battle of the Bastards” or they could instead back a more interesting choice like The Americans or Mr. Robot. The writing branch has never been afraid to follow their hearts and give us a few surprises (Friday Night Lights), and they could easily vote for either show especially since they were both recognized at the WGA awards as well.

Bryan Cranston vs. Courtney B. Vance Bryan Cranston is the industry darling in a prestigious HBO film with a performance for which he has already won a Tony. Courtney B. Vance is a character actor finally receiving the recognition he deserves for his work as Johnnie Cochran on the biggest TV sensation of the year. Voters could easily vote for their favorite actor even though All The Way was one of HBO’s most underperforming shows in recent years or Vance and American Crime Story could easily sweep throughout the night.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver v. The Late Late Show With James Corden   The Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert dominance at the Emmys is as old as this year’s freshman highschoolers, which makes the first year neither of them are in contention an exciting year for variety talk shows. John Oliver is an obvious heir to their throne with his snarky political commentary especially after winning two Emmys last weekend including the writing award. James Corden is just as popular with two wins last weekend and a year in pop culture with a hosting stint at The Tonys and the viral sensation Carpool Karaoke.

Dark Horse Contenders to Watch

Like Merritt Wever or Bobby Cannavale in the past it wouldn’t be a year at the Emmys without some left-field choice that no one saw coming.

black-ish  and Company Veep may be the front-runner in almost every category, but if voters are looking for an alternative they may go for the exact opposite, a family sitcom that reminds viewers that sitcoms can be just as funny as they were in the 70’s and 80’s. The same could be said for the show’s stars, Anderson and Ross, who have been working in Hollywood for years and are probably the polar opposite to their respected front-runners.

Sarah Paulson for American Horror Story There is no doubt that 2016 is Sarah Paulson’s year, but what if voters decide that she also deserves recognition for the anthology series they snubbed her for in the first place? Maybe some voters might feel guilty for not voting for her performance as Marcia Clark in the lead race (if there are even any members not voting for her) and decide to throw her a bone in supporting since the category is a little underwhelming anyway.

Hugh Laurie After years of Emmy-nominated work on House, he has never been recognized the television academy, and after a huge year on The Night Manager and Veep voters might decide it is finally his time. He also stands out on a ballot next to three men from American Crime Story and two men from Fargo.

Kerri Russell  As farfetched as it may sound maybe there is a portion of the acting branch of closeted Felicity fans? She has been working in television since the late 90’s and if voters are looking for another opportunity to award The Americans she comes across as the more overdue of the two stars.

Liev Schreiber The industry cult around Ray Donovan has grown over the years, and the Showtime drama already won its first acting award last weekend. With season four airing during the voting period, Liev Schreiber received a lot of visibility making him the perfect surprise in a Kevin Spacey/Rami Malek matchup.

Keegan-Michael Key With ten nominations in various categories over the years (including a surprise voice-over nod this year), Keegan-Michael Key is pretty well-known among his peers. He’s easily had more visibility than any other nominee throughout the year on shows like Archer, Playing House, Modern Family, Bob’s Burgers, House of Lies, The Muppets, as well as his first major film Keanu.

The “Parents” Episode of Masters of None  This may not count as a dark horse contender, but partially due to vote splitting between Silicon Valley and Veep and partially because this might be the best comedic episode of TV this year Aziz Ansari has a good shot at taking home his first Emmy.

Niecy Nash From Reno 911! to Scream Queens, Niecy Nash has proven she is one of the most consistently hilarious actresses of the past decade, and in a category with so many uncertainties pure goodwill towards her might actually pay off. Not to mention her Didi Ortley is the most relatable and likable characters in the group which might make her standout in a category filled with over-the-top performances.

nashFinal Thoughts Before The Emmys

Like Kylie Jenner predicted, 2016 will be the year of realizing things, not only in life but especially at the Emmys. We’ll finally have an answer on whether or not vote splitting is really a dilemma the Television Academy will have to deal with. The writing and directing races will be the most telling races of the year, especially those for the Limited Series and Comedy races. In any other year, American Crime Story and Veep would dominate those races, but now that they consist of half the nominees in any given race that might not be the case.

We’ll also get a better idea on whether or not newcomers and breakout stars are able to stand out in a popular vote system against well-respected names that have been working in television for decades. Can Rami Malek attract enough voters over a two-time Oscar winner like Kevin Spacey? Can a young stud like Kit Harington ride the success of a year all about Jon Snow to a win, or will he lose to his beloved costar Peter Dinklage or even someone like Jon Voight? Last year Tituss Burgess was the breakout performance of the year, but he still lost to Tony Hale who didn’t have anywhere near Emmy-winning material in 2015. If this continues there may never be another winner like America Ferrera or even Merritt Wever again.


Readers, what races are you most excited to see play out on Sunday? Make sure to catch the rest of our Emmy coverage including the ADTV Emmy Confidential series, our final predictions, and to enter our Emmy predictions contest with prizes donated by HBO!

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