Veterans, newcomers vie for acting Emmys

Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:21am EDT
 
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By P. Ryan Baber

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - There is one absolute certainty about this year's Emmy Awards for acting: In the miniseries/movie category, someone from HBO will win the prize on Sunday.

Of course, that's hardly a stretch: Only actors from HBO miniseries and movies were nominated in that category, which should make the post-awards party planning for the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards that much easier for the cable channel.

But little else is obvious. Yes, in the network vs. cable grudge match of the past decade, the comedy and drama acting categories have at last reached parity: Cable networks make up 10 of the nominated actors, broadcast 11. And as far as recent wins go, cable and network channels are evenly matched in lead actor categories, with eight wins apiece since 2000.

HERO WORSHIP

The lead actor drama category does have a theme -- Emmy vets against Emmy newbies. First-time nominees like Gabriel Byrne (HBO's "In Treatment") and Jon Hamm (AMC's "Mad Men") are squaring off against the previously nominated Michael C. Hall (Showtime's "Dexter") and Hugh Laurie (Fox's "House") -- and then there's James Spader (ABC's "Boston Legal") and Bryan Cranston (AMC's "Breaking Bad"). Spader has taken home the prize three times, one for each nomination as lawyer Alan Shore, so the safe money's on him. Cranston is new to the category but does have three supporting actor nominations.

But that's just so ... predictable. Laurie, who has been twice nominated as irascible Dr. Gregory House, is considered ripe for the prize (he has won the Golden Globe twice already). Over the past eight years, four out of five first-time winners in the category won after landing a previous nomination for the same role -- and only Laurie meets that description in this year's field.

Recent wins for lead actor have tended to go to antiheroes, a fascination that could bode well for Hall's serial killer, Dexter Morgan -- or perhaps a mild-mannered husband/father-turned-rogue-meth-dealer in Cranston's Walt White.

"Anytime you have an antithetical hero that is not used to being seen on TV, it stands out," Cranston explains. "You see a real person (in White), with flaws and fragility and uncertainty in his actions, and that makes sense. We want deep characters, not just one-dimensional bad guys."   Continued...

 
<p>Paul Giamatti as John Adams in a still from the HBO series "John Adams". There is one absolute certainty about this year's Emmy Awards for acting: In the miniseries/movie category, someone from HBO will win the prize on Sunday. REUTERS/HBO/Handout</p>