Standout Drama Guest Roles

Paula Bernstein is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the June 19 issue of AwardsLine.
The Good WifeNathan Lane
WHAT: The Good Wife
WHY: “Why would I joke?” asks Nathan Lane’s Clarke Hayden, the trustee brought in to oversee Lockhart/Gardner and get the firm back on track. It’s a fitting question for Lane, who is better known for his comic delivery than for his dramatic chops. But, as the levelheaded Hayden, Lane forgoes the over-the-top theatrics and delivers a quiet performance that could earn him his first Emmy nom in a drama category (he’s been nominated previously for comedy guest roles on Frasier, Mad About You and Modern Family).
ONE-LINER: “I don’t like people who quit.”

Parenthood - Season 4Ray Romano
WHAT: Parenthood
WHY: As Hank Rizzoli, the blunt, socially awkward wedding photographer who woos Sarah Braverman, Ray Romano creates a character that is both misanthropic and romantic—not an easy feat. His complex, restrained performance makes us root for Hank in spite of, or perhaps because of, his neuroses. Although Romano was nominated six times in the lead actor category for Everybody Loves Raymond and won once (in 2002), he has never been nominated in a drama category.
ONE-LINER: “You’re pretty. You’re nice, and I like talking to you.”

The AmericansRichard Thomas
WHAT: The Americans
WHY: Up until now, Richard Thomas has been best known for his lead role as John-Boy on The Waltons (for which he won in 1973), but that could change with the actor’s role as sturdy Agent Frank Gaad on The Americans, a performance that escalates in intensity as the season progresses. On a show where nobody is who he or she seems to be, Gaad is a straight shooter who, thanks to Thomas’ performance, we can believe.
ONE-LINER: “They kill us, we kill them. It’s the world we live in. But even in this world, there are lines that can’t be crossed.”

The NewsroomJane Fonda
WHAT: The Newsroom
WHY: Fonda has described her character on The Newsroom as “Rupert Murdoch marinated in a little Ted Turner.” Playing the steely CEO of Atlantis Media, Leona Lansing, the former Mrs. Ted Turner (who previously won an Emmy for The Dollmaker in 1984) gives a performance that is understated and scene-stealing.
ONE-LINER: “What happened to human interest stories? Obesity, breast cancer, hurricanes, older women having babies, iPhones?”

Downton Abbey series 3.Shirley MacLaine
WHAT: Downton Abbey
WHY: When Shirley MacLaine’s Martha Levinson sweeps into Downton Abbey’s third season as Cora’s forward-thinking American mother, she provides the ideal foil for Dame Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess. Her showstopping performance could earn the veteran actress her first guest drama Emmy (she was nominated for a lead actress Emmy in 2009, for her portrayal of the title character in Lifetime’s TV movie Coco Chanel).
ONE-LINER: “It seems so strange to think of the English embracing change.”

Mad MenLinda Cardellini
WHAT: Mad Men
WHY: When Cardellini appeared on Mad Men as Don Draper’s latest conquest, Twitter was abuzz. Could that really be fresh-faced Lindsay Weir from Freaks and Geeks? After we got over the initial surprise of seeing Lindsay/Linda all grown up, we marveled at her detailed portrayal of Sylvia Rosen, Don’s mystery neighbor-lover and Megan’s confidante. Cardellini’s coy performance added depth and intrigue to the role of the “other woman.”
ONE-LINER: “What do you want for this year?”

PBS Continues Riding Emmy Wave

Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the June 12 issue of AwardsLine.

Last August, just a month after PBS had earned 58 Primetime Emmy nominations—including 16 for breakout hit Downton Abbey—
presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Forbes magazine he would eliminate the $445 million federal subsidy for public broadcasting 
if elected president.
But while candidates and voters still remain divided on the political value of public broadcasting, the TV Academy is decidedly on PBS’ side. Last year, PBS was the third most-nominated network, and Downton Abbey earned the network its first nomination since 1977 in the best drama series category.
PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger says the attention was welcome, but insists PBS is doing nothing different. “We’ve stayed focused on our core, which is to create quality content that connects to people,” she says.
Kerger believes critics who say commercial networks would air these shows without a government subsidy might, in some cases, be right. But she argues that a show like Downton is successful in part because it is on PBS.
“We have on Sunday nights an audience that really loves this kind of programming, so we were able to build on an existing audience and add into it,” she says.
How long PBS can maintain its trendy status is unclear, but its place as an Emmy favorite is unlikely to change as long as it continues to air projects like Ken Burns’ documentary The Central Park Five.
“I am not sure that film would find the kind of home that it did on public broadcasting,” says Kerger. “(PBS) exists for people that are interested in work that is engaging but is also educational and inspiring, and that’s a different mandate than other cable organizations or broadcasters have.”

Drama Race Handicap

Nellie Andreeva is Deadline’s TV editor. Michael Ausiello is founder and editor in chief of TVLine. This story appeared in the June 19 issue of AwardsLine.

The shows that have won the best drama Emmy for the past five years, AMC’s Mad Men and Showtime’s Homeland, both have been going through up-and-down seasons recently. That is not expected to affect each show’s nomination chances, but it does open the door to an upset. Will AMC’s Breaking Bad finally land a series nom? Or will PBS’ Downton Abbey accomplish the rare feat of winning two top Emmy categories after earning the movie/miniseries trophy two years ago? HBO’s red-hot Game of Thrones also appears likely to get another nom. And then there is Netflix’s newcomer, House of Cards. Here’s a look at each show’s chances for gold come September.

Because FX’s 1980s-set spy yarn is still in its freshman season—and still suffering from comparisons to Showtime’s Homeland—its best bets for nominations are probably in the lead acting categories for Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, and supporting for Noah Emmerich, though their chances might be hampered by their lack of Emmy history.

A&E’s moody Psycho prequel stands its best Emmy chance with Oscar-nominated star Vera Farmiga.

Because this category is more crowded than a Game of Thrones cast party—and HBO’s Prohibition-era drama has never generated much heat—it might not be able to eke out a third consecutive nomination. On the other hand, Bobby Cannavale—so good as the year’s big bad, Gyp Rosetti—might have a chance for a supporting actor nom. (He won in 2005 for Will & Grace and earned a second nom for Nurse Jackie in 2012.)

AMC's Breaking Bad returns for its final handful of episodes Aug. 11.
AMC’s Breaking Bad returns for its final handful of episodes Aug. 11.

Nominations for AMC’s meth-fueled hit and its stars—three-time lead actor winner Bryan Cranston and two-time supporting actor winner Aaron Paul—should be no-brainers. The fact that the series’ last season was an abbreviated eight episodes long—and those episodes aired a summer ago—might, if only slightly, diminish its chances. However, the launch of the final eight-episode installment will coincide with the kickoff of the second phase of Emmy voting, likely keeping the show on voters’ minds.

Passed over for the Emmy twice already, DirecTV’s now-dead-and-buried legal thriller has virtually no shot at being nominated this year. The same can’t be said of star Glenn Close, who’s already taken home the lead actress prize in 2008 and 2009.

Showtime’s serial-killer thriller finally played its trump card last season—by revealing the title character’s deadly pastime to sorta-sister Deb. But its time might have passed: 2012 marked the first year that it wasn’t nominated since 2007. So it will probably have to settle for a nom for five-time nominee Michael C. Hall or, if it’s really lucky, a first for Jennifer Carpenter.

PBS’ acclaimed period piece rebounded from a shaky second season with a more warmly reviewed third. And it kept people talking by killing off two major characters (RIP, Matthew and Sybil). If nothing else, count on a supporting actress nomination for Dame Maggie Smith, who already won twice (once when the show was nominated as a miniseries, and again when it entered drama).

CBS’ modern-day take on Sherlock Holmes is about as likely to be nominated as its lead detective is to miss a clue. Its only chances are noms for Jonny Lee Miller or Lucy Liu (a contender for Ally McBeal all the way back in 1999).

Kevin Bacon stars in Fox's The Following.
Kevin Bacon stars in Fox’s The Following.

If there’s one thing the Emmys love, it’s movie stars doing television. So although Fox’s Kevin Williamson chiller probably won’t scare up a nom, matinee idol Kevin Bacon could.

No longer a niche hit, HBO’s mainstream breakout is a lock for a third consecutive nomination. Unfortunately, the cast is so large that it’s nearly impossible for voters to single out any performer, with the exception of two-time nominee and 2011 supporting actor victor Peter Dinklage

Though passed over for a nomination in 2012, CBS’ law-office drama-procedural hybrid could break back into the race this year—first, because it had a solid season, and second, because it’s one of the very few broadcast dramas to have any shot. Julianna Margulies (2011’s lead actress victor) is also a safe bet to receive a nom.

NBC’s well-reviewed Silence of the Lambs prequel probably needn’t set an extra place at dinner for Emmy. But, if for no other reason than making us forget Sir Anthony Hopkins’ version of Dr. Lecter for a moment, Mads Mikkelsen deserves to be a contender.

In spite of complaints that, in its second season, the Showtime smash became a soap opera, it remains a lock for a second nomination. Mandy Patinkin might also sneak into the supporting actor race on the heels of last year’s lead wins for Damian Lewis and Claire Danes.

Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey play a scheming couple in House of Cards.
Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey play a scheming couple in House of Cards.

Speaking of how Emmy loves movie stars doing television, it definitely applies to two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey and his political drama. The only question is, will voters recognize the actor—a 2008 Emmy nominee for HBO’s Recount—or the series? If the answer turns out to be both, leading lady Robin Wright—herself no stranger to the multiplex—could also get lucky.

Thanks to Margo Martindale’s star turn two years ago as mommie dearest Mags Bennett, FX’s modern-day western was able to break into the Emmy derby. Now, buoyed by a well-reviewed fourth season, the show seems well-positioned to do so again.

AMC's Mad Men has won best drama four times during its run.
AMC’s Mad Men has won best drama four times during its run.

The good news for AMC’s signature hour: Nicotine-stained though it may be, it still is the network’s prestige crown jewel. Therefore, a sixth consecutive nomination is a foregone conclusion. The bad news: So far, this season has had viewers and critics alike crying “been there, done that.” Worse, it’s yet to provide a showcase for any actor that might break 
the cast’s stunning losing streak. (To date, not even Jon Hamm has won an Emmy.) Its record: 0 for 25.

Just about any project that Connie Britton takes on becomes a contender (Friday Night Lights, American Horror Story). But even if three-time Emmy nominee Britton’s track record isn’t enough to get voters to recognize ABC’s backstage soap opera, it’s undoubtedly enough to bag her a fourth nod. And Britton’s colead, Hayden Panettiere, also had many more chances to shine this season, which elevates her chances.

Though this HBO property is a freshman series, its creator is the ultimate Emmy catnip: Six-time winner Aaron Sorkin. Add to that mix the two Golden Globe nods the show received in December, and both it and leading man Jeff Daniels are looking pretty good to be nominated.

NBC’s sleeper is coming off its strongest season yet, but it’s still a longshot for a nomination. (To date, only guest actor Jason Ritter has been recognized.) Its great white hope: Monica Potter, who shone in the storyline that found her character, Kristina Braverman, battling cancer.

Watercooler buzz doesn’t get much louder than the fandemonium that surrounds this Shonda Rhimes sudser. If voters are willing to look past some of the D.C. drama’s over-the-top plot twisting, not only the ABC hit but leading lady Kerry Washington—and supporting players Jeff Perry and Bellamy Young—could be on the receiving end of nominations.

Though TNT’s gritty (and now canceled) LAPD drama has long had critics behind it, the only Emmy love it’s ever been shown was for stunt coordination. Its last chance to change that for Michael Cudlitz, who gave the performance of his life as Officer John Cooper.

William H. Macy’s boozy Frank Gallagher has about as much of a chance of getting his hands on a top-shelf drink as his Showtime sleeper does of being nominated. However, the actor—as well as costar Emmy Rossum—might have a chance.

As much as Emmy loves movie stars doing television, that’s how much it hates bikers. That’s the only way to explain how—even coming off its highest-rated season to date—FX’s fringe hit still won’t get a nomination. (Odds are, it won’t—even badass Katey Sagal has been snubbed!)

After a promising first season that earned star Patrick J. Adams a SAG nomination, USA’s legal drama Suits upped its game in Season 2. While it is a longshot, it could break into the acting categories with stars Adams and Gabriel Macht, scene-stealing supporting actor Rick Hoffman and recurring guest star Rachael Harris.

Now that AMC’s zombie smash is cable’s top drama, voters might not be able to look down their noses at it. So even if the genre series itself doesn’t break in, perhaps Andrew Lincoln will earn a nom.

Andy Patrick contributed to this report.

The New Generation of Evening Soaps

Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the June 19 issue of AwardsLine.

What two popular TV show titles are least likely to occur in the same sentence?
There is no single answer, but British producer Gareth Neame was decidedly taken aback when a family member came up with this combo: “We used to have Dallas. Now we have Downton. ”
“Downton” is, of course, the PBS Masterpiece hit Downton Abbey, the sprawling saga of the fabulously wealthy Crawley family, unfolding at the family’s English country estate. And “Dallas” is, well, Dallas (1978-1991) CBS’ soapy saga of Texas oil baron J.R Ewing, set on the lavish Southfork Ranch.
While the worlds of feathered bonnets and 10-gallon hats couldn’t seem more different, Downton executive producer Neame says the comparison confirmed what he’d been thinking when he proposed the series to creator-writer Julian Fellowes: Once again, there is room for the nighttime soap on the TV landscape.

TNT's Dallas revival features several of the original cast members.
TNT’s Dallas revival features several of the original cast members.

As in the era of Dallas—which spawned Dynasty, Falcon Crest and Knots Landing—the primetime soap has surged in popularity with viewers. Along with the crown jewel Downton Abbey, witness the appearance of new and glamorous multigenerational sagas including ABC’s Nashville and Revenge. To prove the point, there’s even 
a new Dallas on TNT, with some of the original stars 
including Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy (J.R.’s “good” brother Bobby) returning to ruin each other’s lives for 
a new generation of viewers.
Neame adds that the evening soap is going through a revival in TV development as well: While the producer says that he and Fellowes have not been inundated with requests to create another Downton, “I certainly know that of pitches that have been (made) in the last year, nine out of 10 say: ‘It’s a bit like Downton…’” (For the record, Fellowes and Neame are currently in development on The Gilded Age for NBC, a similarly highbrow soap about New York’s real-life wealthy families in the 1880s.)
Neame says his Downton inspiration was the Masterpiece series Upstairs, Downstairs. (The original series ran from 1971-75). But to make such a soap work for a young generation, he believes, it needs the fast pace pioneered by Dallas. “We throw every other scene away. We do in three scenes what would take six in a traditional soap.” He adds that the series focuses on the technology advances of its historical period (1910-1920s) to highlight the similarities between Downton times and contemporary life. “For them, it might be electricity or a motorcar or a new toaster or something. For us, it’s the latest Apple product,” he observes.
Of course, even when geared to a younger audience’s taste for a fast pace, it’s unlikely that Downton or any other TV soap will capture an audience as big as Dallas did. On Nov. 21, 1980, 83 million people in the U.S. alone tuned in to find out who shot J.R. Ewing. That’s more people than voted in that year’s Presidential election. Loraine Despres, writer of the episode, recalls that show producers were so paranoid about the secret leaking that they filmed multiple endings in which J.R. was shot by just about everybody. (The second-choice shooter after J.R.’s sister-in-law Kristen Shepard was J.R.’s alcoholic wife Sue Ellen, played by Gray). It’s unlikely any primetime soap will ever match those kinds of numbers again.
Still, Downton seems to have spawned a raft of hopeful imitators —the most obvious being Masterpiece Classic’s own series Mr. Selfridge, starring Jeremy Piven as real-life department store entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge. Downton producer Rebecca Eaton has stresses the differences between the two shows: Downton is pure fiction, whereas Selfridge is based on a real-life character. But all one has to do is look at the costumes to see that both shows are cut from the same expensive cloth.
For his part, Fellowes doesn’t mind the phrase “soap opera.” “When I hear it, I don’t want to reach for my gun,” the British producer says. “That’s why we call it soap opera in real life—‘Oh, darling, have you heard the latest in the soap opera’—because that sort of succession of dramas is what life is. Life is solving problems, and then you die.” Family feuding is also key to the proceedings, whether it’s the fights of the Ewings, the drama of Downton Abbey’s Crawley clan or havoc in the Hamptons on Revenge.
Despres quotes Dallas producers in outlining the key to that soap’s success: “If you don’t like your neighbor, it’s conflict. But if you don’t like your family, it’s drama.”
Probably because it’s named after a Southern city and highlights cowboy chic, ABC’s Nashville, created by Callie Khouri, gets the inevitable comparisons to Dallas. Khouri, however, is more likely to invoke Downton in describing her show.
“I’m addicted to Downton Abbey, “ Khouri says. “In some ways, the comparison would be that we’re going into a very rarified world where there’s both privilege and ambition, and you are watching your characters deal with problems at both ends of the spectrum.” She adds that Nashville strives to depict reality even amid the glamour. Despite the rivalry between veteran singer Rayna (Connie Britton) and pop-country princess Juliette (Hayden Panettiere), you’ll never see a “Who Shot Rayna?” episode, Khouri says. “They are two women in a very competitive world. They have their differences, but it’s not something you wouldn’t see in real life. “
Patrick Moran, senior vice president of creative development at ABC, has his own theory about why the soapy Downton, Nashville and that network’s Revenge are capturing the public imagination: Viewers’ general procedural fatigue.
“Trends come and go,” Moran says. “Just as for a while there was an appetite for that kind of show, with CSI and all its spinoffs, and NCIS and Cold Case, I wonder if the audience was just craving something different.”
Moran says that maybe today’s Wall Street has something to do with the zeitgeist of Downton Abbey, Revenge or Nashville. “These kinds of shows, Revenge in particular, are about the haves and the have-nots,” he says. “We are culturally sort of experiencing class distinction. I think those conversations are going on.”
Fellowes says finding skeletons in the closets of the super-rich provides “a double element of wish fulfillment. These people are very rich and have pretty houses, and they spend a lot of time having lunch,” he says. “We tend to think, ‘Blimey, it’s all right for some!’ But by going into what’s wrong as well as what’s going right, they get the sense of seeing the beautiful setup and the lovely clothes, but also sort of a relief that they’re not part of it.”
Despres points out that any trend in TV starts with one hit show. “I wasn’t a network executive; I wasn’t in those meetings. But if a show’s a success, they copy it,” she says.
Despres also wrote for Falcon Crest (1981-1990), the third in the primetime serial kingdom that included Dallas, Knots Landing (1979-93) and Dynasty (1981-1989). Set in the California wine country, Despres explains that producers’ instructions to the writers were simple: “Just make them richer than Dallas.”

Downton Abbey Creator Julian Fellowes Reveals Lessons of the Business

Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the June 5 issue of AwardsLine.
On giving advice
In a way, I always think advice is rather impertinent really, because I’m not aware of knowing anything that anyone else doesn’t. I suppose the only thing I would say to young writers is if you want to do these courses and read these books, just remember that the element that gets you started is the one thing that everyone else has not got. In a way, they are teaching you to do it like everyone else did. I didn’t do any of that.
On receiving advice
The best advice I had as an actor was from (Anthony) Hopkins. He said to me, “You are thinking like a stage actor. You are coming to a day’s work imagining there is going to be rehearsal. Working on camera, you must conduct your own rehearsal process before you get anywhere near making the show. You need to have made all the thinking processes by the time you arrive to shoot it. If you turn up as if it was the first day of rehearsal, with only loose ideas of what you are going to do, you’ll throw the part away.”
On learning from mistakes
When I was working on a script quite early on, I wasn’t officially the writer, and I wasn’t really being paid. The only way I could get any kind of salary—which was, believe me, at that time a necessary element—was if I wrote a part for myself. But I was also coproducing and responsible for the script and so on. I couldn’t get both hats on my head at the same time. And I’ve always been grateful for that, (particularly) when people would say, “Why didn’t you write yourself into Gosford Park? Why didn’t you write yourself into Downton Abbey?” I’ve never been tempted to do it because I did it, and it didn’t work for me.
On the big break
My first big break was to get a play on the West End when I was in rep and I was almost definitively unfashionable. I just happened to show up for an audition for a part and they couldn’t cast it. It was the part of an American diplomat. I could do an American accent—at least I could then—and I went into a play with Hayley Mills called A Touch of Spring. Then I went to audition with Danny Boyle for (the 1991 TV show) For the Greater Good. I’d had a really bad year, very slim pickings. I read the script, and I thought they had made a mistake. (I thought), they can’t mean this part for me, because it was one of the leads. I suddenly realized: The person who is keeping you out of leading parts is you. When you have a bad stretch, you start to think of yourself as a bit player because that’s all you’re getting. You have to believe in yourself as a leading player always. And then I guess my big break came in writing when I was asked to write Gosford Park. My very first film ended up winning an Oscar.
On the keys to success
I don’t think you make your own luck. Successful people recognize their luck, which sometimes comes in disguise. Anyone who is perceived as very successful who says luck played no part in it is lying. How lucky was I with Gosford Park? All the writers they admired, none of them would do it. They all turned it down—otherwise you’d be talking to Tom Stoppard right now.