BEST MINISERIES OR MADE FOR TV MOVIE
Quick Overview: With 21 Emmy nominations, HBO's 5-part remake of Mildred Pierce has more nods than ANY other program (Mad Men only got 19!); Downton Abbey was one of the most watched programs on PBS' long-running Masterpiece series; The Kennedys had enough controversy behind it to get it noticed; Starz has been trying to get into the Emmy game with more original shows and a miniseries like Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth; And HBO's two original movies Cinema Verite and Too Big To Fail each got enough critical acclaim (and star power!) to share the spotlight with Mildred Pierce.
Will Win: 21 nominations + Oscar-winning star + HBO = Emmy win for Mildred Pierce.
Dark Horse: PBS' Downton Abbey is not to be outdone with a stellar British cast and an Oscar-winning writer (Julian Fellowes) in its corner.
No Real Should Win: Either one (Mildred Pierce or Downton Abbey) are worthy of the prize.
BEST ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Quick Overview: The women in this category took on roles that typically garner awards love: Mildred Pierce won Joan Crawford an Oscar back in 1946, so it takes an Oscar-winner like Kate Winslet to play a woman like the title character; Diane Lane took on the role of Pat Loud, the woman whose life was displayed before us on the legendary documentary An American Family; Taraji P. Henson played a mother searching frantically for her son in a typical Lifetime movie; Elizabeth McGovern was the lone American in the British setting of Downton Abbey; And nostalgia plays a factor for Jean Marsh, who returns to the role that made her famous: stern housemaid Rose Buck on Upstairs, Downstairs.
Will AND Should Win: Do I really need to discuss this? Kate Winslet will add an Emmy to her Oscar.
Dark Horse: There is the extremely small likelihood that Emmy voters will not mark Winslet's name on their ballots (thinking she will get enough votes from other voters!) and the most likely beneficiary would be Diane Lane, who in any other year might have had a stronger chance.
BEST ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Idris Elba, Luther (BBC America); Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood (HBO); William Hurt, Too Big To Fail (HBO); Greg Kinnear, The Kennedys (Reelz Channel); Barry Pepper, The Kennedys (Reelz Channel); Edgar Ramirez, Carlos (Sundance Channel)
Quick Overview: 5 of the men in this category took on real-life roles and the sixth won many fans as a determined detective: Oscar-winner William Hurt shined for many critics as former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in HBO's Too Big To Fail; Laurence Fishburne had his Tony-nominated performance as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall filmed for HBO; Greg Kinnear and Barry Pepper took on the roles of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, respectively; Virtual unknown Edgar Ramirez wowed critics with his multi-language and multi-layered performance as the notorious Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal; And Idris Elba (who also scored a nomination for his work on The Big C) was key to the BBC drama about a detective willing to push the limits.
Will Win: Edgar Ramirez has enough industry support behind him that his win would pretty much be a kind of "Cinderella Story."
Should Win: Though it's been renewed for a second season, Idris Elba gave a dynamic (and extremely favored) performance in the BBC drama Luther (just the type of performance that usually gets Emmy's attention!).
Dark Horse: Playing the former Treasury Secretary, William Hurt was at the center of a movie that was ripe for our time of economic uncertainty. And we know that Hollywood loves to make a statement about changing times.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Dame Eileen Atkins, Upstairs, Downstairs (PBS); Melissa Leo, Mildred Pierce (HBO); Dame Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (PBS); Mare Winningham, Mildred Pierce (HBO); Evan Rachel Wood, Mildred Pierce (HBO)
Quick Overview: Let's just face it! This category consists of two Dames and the ladies behind Mildred Pierce! Melissa Leo, who had a small role in the HBO miniseries, is enjoying the success a recent Oscar win brings an actress; Evan Rachel Wood locked horns with Kate Winslet and held her own; Mare Winningham, who also enjoyed a small role, has become the go-to character actress for many Made For TV Movies/Miniseries; Dame Eileen Atkins, who co-created the British drama with Jean Marsh, played her eccentric wealthy woman with her usual aplomb; And Dame Maggie Smith lent Julian Fellowes' Miniseries that same kind of dignity she puts in every movie she's been in from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (her Oscar-winning role!) to the Harry Potter series.
Will Win: Maggie Smith is always an awards favorite (though she rarely shows up to accept!) and her role on Downton Abbey is exactly the type to win her yet another statue.
Should Win: Eileen Atkins gave the finest performance in the somewhat slow-moving Upstairs, Downstairs, but her recent win for the PBS Miniseries Cranford (back in 2008) puts her at the bottom of most voters' list.
Dark Horse: Evan Rachel Wood had the most prominent supporting female role in Mildred Pierce and if you can hold your own opposite the likes of Kate Winslet, awards voters tend to take notice.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Paul Giamatti, Too Big To Fail (HBO); Brian F. O'Byrne, Mildred Pierce (HBO); Guy Pearce, Mildred Pierce (HBO); Tom Wilkinson, The Kennedys (Reelz Channel); James Woods, Too Big To Fail (HBO)
Quick Overview: 3 previous Emmy-winners, A Tony-winner and well-respected Australian actor make this category very intriguing: Guy Pearce played the dastardly man who seduces and abuses Kate Winslet; Tom Wilkinson took on the task of playing the Kennedys staunch patriarch; James Woods flamboyantly played the part of Lehman Brothers drowning CEO; Paul Giamatti added his awards pedigree to the role of Fed Chair Ben Bernanke; And Tony-winner Brian F. O'Byrne garnered much sympathy as Kate Winslet's philandering and unemployed husband.
Will Win: Guy Pearce has had roles in several notable movies (L.A. Confidential, The Hurt Locker, The King's Speech) and his highlighted role in the HBO Miniseries gave conniving playboy a new meaning.
Should Win: James Woods gave his usual over-the-top style to the powerful HBO Movie and was certainly the film's highlight.
Dark Horse: As it sometimes happens when two actors from the same movie are nominated, they tend to cancel each other out. Therefore, Tom Wilkinson could benefit from the fact he is the sole nominee from his Miniseries in the category.
BEST VARIETY SERIES
The Colbert Report (Comedy Central); Conan (TBS); The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Comedy Central); Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (NBC); Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO); Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Quick Overview: Saturday Night Live enjoyed its 36th season and it also was one of its most-watched in recent years; Jimmy Fallon hosted last year's Emmy ceremony to much acclaim and his show has grown in its industry support; When it comes to industry support, former Late Night host Conan O'Brien's move to TBS was very publicized and very well-received; And the last three shows (The Daily Show, Real Time and The Colbert Report) take on the current news and discuss it to hilarious effect.
Will AND Should Win: The Daily Show has won this award for the past nine years and most pundits agree that the streak isn't likely to stop anytime soon.
Dark Horse: The Colbert Report has gained as many (if not more!) fans as The Daily Show, so Colbert is the most likely candidate to dethrone Jon Stewart's reign. Though there is something to be said for the recent surge in the number of Emmy nominations Saturday Night Live has been receiving!
There you have it: My predictions for 20 categories of the 2011 Primetime Emmy Awards! Thanks for taking the time to read and enjoy the Emmy Awards on Sunday, September 18 on FOX (hosted by Glee's Emmy-winner Jane Lynch).
I dedicate these posts to the victims of 9/11 and their families.
Just know that you are always in our thoughts and prayers.