Best supporting comedy actress: Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
Why is it that SNL performers are nominated in this category but almost never win? For a few years now, since Amy Poehler left, Kristen Wiig has been doing double duty as the cast’s most prominent woman. She came into her own with Bridesmaids this year, but she’s also slowly transitioned from an off-the-wall comedian whose zany characters can be grating to the backbone of a show that sorely needs one. If for no other reason than that she’s surely the hardest working person in sketch comedy, we’d like to see the Emmy go to her.
Best supporting comedy actor: Chris Colfer, Glee
We find it so ridiculous that four — four! — of the six nominees are from Modern Family that we’re lodging a protest vote. And it’s not like we could endorse anyone involved with the unkillable travesty that is Two and a Half Men (even if said actor was Duckie). So we’re going with Chris Colfer, because while we’re growing weary of Glee and its non-existent plot, we still think he’s excellent as Kurt Hummel, and his acceptance speeches are reliably touching.
Best supporting drama actor: Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
This year’s supporting drama actor category featured a lot of surprises from underappreciated shows: a nomination for Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones and Walton Goggins of Justified, as well as two nods for The Good Wife. We’d give this one to Cumming, though, because we adore him as The Good Wife‘s unfilitered campaign manager, Eli Gold. Rarely have we seen an actor so perfectly suited to a role. (And we mean that as a compliment.)
Best supporting drama actress: Michelle Forbes, The Killing
It’s always depressing to see a show with a promising premise and a fantastic cast fall prey to bad story lines and generally lazy writing. One of several bright spots in this disappointing AMC series was Michelle Forbes’ portrayal of a mother driven to the edge of sanity by her daughter’s murder. Forbes has had small roles in just about every good show of the past decade, but this is the performance that convinced us that she’s one of TV’s greatest unsung talents. Every time she was on the screen, we couldn’t take our eyes off her.
Best comedy actor: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Sure, he’s won twice before. But last year Baldwin lost out to Jim Parsons of the phenomenally uninteresting Big Bang Theory. It’s time for Jack Donaghy to take the title back — because with each passing year, he becomes more integral to the wonderfulness of one of the best shows on TV.
Best comedy actress: Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Honestly, we weren’t thrilled with the comedy actresses category this year — lots of repeat nominations, lots of actresses from shows we don’t think are that great (The Big C, Nurse Jackie, Mike & Molly). For us, the real competition is between pals Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and while we love Liz Lemon, we think Poehler deserves the prize this year. Over the course of three seasons, she’s saved Parks and Rec by allowing Leslie Knope to evolve from a pitiable doofus with no life outside work to a believable political striver who works hard, maintains friendships, and even merits an office romance. In the beginning, we couldn’t care less about Leslie; now, we’d be proud to call her our friend.
Best drama actor: Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
It pains us not to choose Coach Taylor or Don Draper for this prize, but who would have thought that Buscemi — who’s famous for playing socially awkward oddballs — could so effectively portray a slick, Prohibition-era Atlantic City politician/gangster? The role is a total transformation: If Nucky Thompson treads the well-worn Buscemi territory of vague creepiness, he also comes off as (dare we say it?) a darkly sexy bad boy.
Best drama actress: Mireille Enos, The Killing
For a few years now, Mireille Enos has been toiling away in the largely thankless — but always captivating — role of a fundamentalist Mormon wife with an abusive, closeted husband. When she finally got the lead role she deserved, as a troubled cop on The Killing, she became (along with Michelle Forbes) one of the best parts of a fairly disappointing, sub-Twin Peaks-level murder mystery series. There is a ton of talent in this category, but we say Enos deserves the Emmy for keeping us faithful to such a frustrating show.
Best comedy series: Parks and Recreation
Yes, we’re on the Modern Family bandwagon, and it’s always nice to see Tina Fey give a speech when 30 Rock wins. But let’s give credit where credit is due — Parks and Rec, which got a slow start in its first season, really came into its own last year. Season 3 gave us everything from the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness to April’s Neutral Milk Hotel obsession to the permanent addition of two fantastic cast members, Rob Lowe and Adam Scott. They’re an underdog for sure, but it would be truly gratifying to see them earn their first win.
Best drama series: Friday Night Lights
This year boasts one of the best drama series competitions we’ve ever seen. While the favorite is defending three-time champion Mad Men, which had an incredible fourth season, there’s a truly broad range of shows up for the Emmy — from the fantasy of Game of Thrones to the political drama of The Good Wife. But nothing would satisfy us like seeing Friday Night Lights — which, for some reason, has never even been nominated before — take home the trophy for its final season. Not only would the win be a referendum on five years of achingly real drama about characters we could actually care about, but it would serve as acknowledgment that FNL finished on just as graceful a note as it began.