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News: Ticker Tape Farewells and Triumphant Debuts in Our 2015 Emmy Picks

Duncan Greive and Alex Casey run through the Emmy nominations for 2015, picking their favourites to take home the dangerously spiky golden awards. 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series:
Better Call Saul • AMC • Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill
Bloodline • Netflix • Kyle Chandler as John Rayburn
House Of Cards • Netflix • Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood
Mad Men • AMC • Jon Hamm as Don Draper
The Newsroom • HBO • Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy
Ray Donovan • Showtime • Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan

Duncan’s Pick: Jon Hamm as Don Draper (Mad Men)

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Why? Because Don Draper might be the best-realised of all the anti-heroes of the great wave of golden age drama, and it’s not right that he go to the TV grave without at least one win. Plus Hamm’s work with a wrung out, half washed up Draper in the last season was extraordinary. So despite Odenkirk and Chandler doing great work on promising shows, and Schreiber carrying the improving Ray Donovan, Hamm’s the winner here.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Nominees:
Empire • FOX • Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon
Homeland • Showtime • Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison
House Of Cards • Netflix • Robin Wright as Claire Underwood
How To Get Away With Murder • ABC • Viola Davis as Annalise Keating
Mad Men • AMC • Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson
Orphan Black • BBC America • Tatiana Maslany as Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena, Rachel and Krystal

Duncan’s Pick: Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson (Mad Men)

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Why? This category is ridiculous. Danes, Maslany and Wright were all spectacular, and Henson also brilliant  – albeit in a very different style. But New York magazine rightly noted that Moss “has been the star of Mad Men all along”. The fact we only realised that late in the piece doesn’t mean her brilliantly subtle performance has any less consequence. So she edges a strong field for the win.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
American Crime • ABC • Felicity Huffman as Barb
American Horror Story: Freak Show • FX Networks • Jessica Lange as Elsa Mars
Bessie • HBO • Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith
The Honorable Woman • SundanceTV • Maggie Gyllenhaal as Nessa Stein
Olive Kitteridge • HBO • Frances McDormand as Olive Kitteridge
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street • PBS • Emma Thompson as Mrs. Lovett

Alex’s Pick: Jessica Lange in American Horror Story: Freak Show

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Why? I know that Jessica Lange has already got a shelf stuffed with awards from a lifetime of good acting, and she probably won’t win against Frances McDormand and Maggie Gyllenhaal. But her portrayal of Elsa Mars in American Horror Story Freak Show was deceptively tragic, subtly buried beneath the surface as skillfully as a convincing fake leg.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Limited Series Or A Movie
American Crime • ABC • Timothy Hutton as Russ
Derek Special • Netflix • Ricky Gervais as Derek
Houdini • HISTORY • Adrien Brody as Harry Houdini
Nightingale • HBO • David Oyelowo as Peter Snowden
Olive Kitteridge • HBO • Richard Jenkins as Henry Kitteridge
Wolf Hall • PBS • Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell

Duncan’s Pick: Mark Rylance

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Why? Rylance barely speaks in episode one of Wolf Hall, and is very measured with his words throughout. But he masterfully conveys the mix fear, gall and intellectual dexterity which accompany his negotiation of the shifting sands of power in Henry VIII’s court. His grief and determination when tragedy befalls his family are similarly extraordinary. There are other brilliant contenders – most notably Richard Jenkins slow unraveling in Olive Kitteridge – but Rylance is in a world of his own.

Outstanding Limited Series
American Crime • ABC
American Horror Story: Freak Show • FX Networks
The Honorable Woman • SundanceTV
Olive Kitteridge • HBO
Wolf Hall • PBS

Duncan’s Pick: Olive Kitteridge

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Why? Five strong contenders, though all over the map stylistically. But Olive Kitteridge‘s grim domestic scenes showed the extraordinary, often-ignored dramatic potential of what superficially appear ordinary lives. Frances McDormand’s performance in the title role cut me in two – she was pitiless and almost sadistic, but in a way which only magnified the wounds she carried from life’s skirmishes.

Outstanding Drama Series
Better Call Saul • AMC
Downton Abbey • PBS
Game Of Thrones • HBO
Homeland • Showtime
House Of Cards • Netflix
Mad Men • AMC
Orange Is The New Black • Netflix

Duncan’s Pick: Mad Men

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Why? A really mixed slate – Game of Thrones, House of Cards and to a lesser extent Homeland are here on reputation, not current performance. Game of Thrones became downright bad this year. But all are there to applaud Mad Men‘s ascent to immortality. While its final season wasn’t its best (that was probably four or five), and the ending riled many (though not me), the show will be remembered as being as close to perfect as television can be.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
black-ish • ABC • Anthony Anderson as Andre Johnson
Episodes • Showtime • Matt LeBlanc as Matt LeBlanc
House Of Lies • Showtime • Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan
The Last Man On Earth • FOX • Will Forte as Phil Miller
Louie • FX Networks • Louis C.K. as Louie
Shameless • Showtime • William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher
Transparent • Amazon Instant Video • Jeffrey Tambor as Maura Pfefferman

Alex’s Pick: Jeffrey Tambor as Maura Pferfferman in Transparent

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Why? It’s very hard to go past Tambor’s stoically calm performance as Maura in Transparent. Considering the current cultural climate, Transparent feels like a show more deserving of these sort-of empty accolades, although there’s no denying that there are problems beneath a cis man portraying a trans woman. For that reason, Tambor may miss out. I’d be keen to also see Will Forté take it out for his hapless everyman in Last Man on Earth.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
The Comeback • HBO • Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish
Grace And Frankie • Netflix • Lily Tomlin as Frankie
Inside Amy Schumer • Comedy Central • Amy Schumer as Amy
Nurse Jackie • Showtime • Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton
Parks And Recreation • NBC • Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope
Veep • HBO • Julia Louis-Dreyfus as President Selina Meyer

Alex’s Pick: Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope

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With the final season of Parks and Recreation wrapping up earlier this year, my bets are on the Emmys “doing a Hamm” and giving Poehler the mighty award. Amy Schumer also feels right, but perhaps too edgy by comparison to these golden comedy faves.

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
The Amazing Race • CBS
Project Runway • Lifetime
So You Think You Can Dance • FOX
The Voice • NBC
Top Chef • Bravo

Alex’s Pick: The Amazing Race

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Such an inane pick, although I think The Amazing Race epitomises everything good about reality competition. Combining tough physical challenges, relationship quarrels and the majesty of international travel, it’s a dead set. Plus, Phil Keoghan is one of us, and I don’t want to do a hate crime on our nation. PS Where the hell is The Bachelorette?!

Outstanding Variety Talk Series
The Colbert Report • Comedy Central
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart • Comedy Central
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver • HBO
Late Show With David Letterman • CBS
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon • NBC

Alex’s Pick: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

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With Jon Stuart leaving in the next month and David Letterman finally speeding off our screens in the cupcake car of dreams – this is a real tense category. The way I see it, David Letterman will probably get some kind of separate Lifetime Achievement thing shaped like a giant pair of front teeth, and Jon Stewart will probably get elected into the White House. John Oliver is a fresher option and has churned consistently good, consistently viral hot takes since he first took the desk.

Outstanding Comedy Series
Louie • FX Networks
Modern Family • ABC
Parks And Recreation • NBC
Silicon Valley • HBO
Transparent • Amazon Instant Video
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt • Netflix
Veep • HBO

Alex’S Pick: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Why? Because I have never laughed so much in my whole life as when Titus slipped over and the news and his pants fell down as he despairingly cried out “I want to start over, I want to be a baby!!” Transparent and Louie are toeing the drama line too closely by comparison, but Silicon Valley season two has had more buzz around it than the new Whittakers chocolate flavour and could be a contender. I still believe in Kimmy Schmidt.

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
Drunk History • Comedy Central
Inside Amy Schumer • Comedy Central
Key and Peele
Portlandia • IFC
Saturday Night Live • NBC

Alex’S Pick: Inside Amy Schumer

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I said she was a risky pick for lead actress, but I think the overall commitment of her show to creating interesting female characters and bizarro, non-conventional feminist storylines is something that deserves to be commended. I don’t 100% love everything that she does, but she’s adding crucial points in a wider, serious conversation through the medium of sketch comedy. That deserves at least a pat on the back.

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