The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards will be handed out Monday night, and what was expected to be a coronation honoring the final season of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” has emerged as something a little more competitive, thanks to HBO’s “True Detective,” the moody crime series starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.
Though “Bad” still has a decided edge for best drama series — the handicappers at Goldderby.com, for example, are unanimous in their support of the Bryan Cranston-led show — the onrush of McConaughey love earlier this year, when the actor was hailed for his performances in “Mud,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and an Oscar-winning turn in “Dallas Buyers Club,” may turn the tide in favor of “Detective.”
It certainly received a good start. At the Creative Arts Emmys, which were given out August 16, “Detective” won four awards, including trophies for its cinematography and casting. “Breaking Bad” won just one, for its editing.
Here are some things to watch for as TV gets ready for its biggest night:
1. All right, all right, all right, b*tch. “Breaking Bad” finished its run with acclaim as one of the best shows in TV history. Even the Internet liked the finale — and the Internet doesn’t like anything. Certainly that will be enough to earn it best drama, right?
But watch out for “True Detective.” Even if “Breaking Bad” wins best drama, “Detective” might take other major categories. For all the praise he’s received, Bryan Cranston has come up empty for best actor the last two years, losing to Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom”) last year and Damian Lewis (“Homeland”) in 2012. This time he’s facing both McConaughey and Harrelson, not to mention Daniels, perennial bridesmaid Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) and the wily Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”).
And what about “Game of Thrones”? Sure, the series got stiffed in the lead acting categories, but it’s up in supporting slots — for Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey — as well as best drama. Moreover, it led all programs with 19 nominations. Moreover, they “would do things for their family you couldn’t imagine.”
2. Living is easy, comedy is hard. The comedy categories are incredibly competitive this year. Last year’s winner, “Modern Family,” is nominated once again, but this time there’s a sense that it’s ripe for a fall.
“Any (of the other nominees) would be better than yet another win for ‘Modern Family,’ ” wrote New York magazine’s Margaret Lyons and Denise Martin.
But what will take its place? “Orange Is the New Black,” Netflix’s most popular show, could notch a win. So could “Veep,” which has the benefit of last year’s lead actress winner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. And, lurking in the corner, there’s “Louie,” which finished perhaps its most talked-about season — one that had audiences wondering if they were, indeed, actually watching a comedy.
The performers’ trophies are even more uncertain. Will best comedy actor go to “Big Bang’s” Jim Parsons again — he’s won three of the last five — or Louis C.K.? Will best comedy actress go to Louis-Dreyfus, “Parks and Recreation’s” Amy Poehler or “Orange’s” Taylor Schilling? Can Allison Janney, who won an Emmy at the Creative Arts event for her guest spot in “Masters of Sex,” win another for “Mom”? It’s enough to make you long for the certainty of “Parks and Recreation’s” Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) — who’s not, incidentally, up for an Emmy. Not that he would sweat over it.
3. Remembering Robin Williams. The famed comedian and actor, who died August 11, will be remembered during the “In Memoriam” section in a tribute presented by Billy Crystal. Regardless of how tasteful, thoughtful or warmhearted the segment is, you can bet that someone will complain about it.
4. “Race” for the top. Once upon a time, there was essentially no competition in the reality-competition category: The winner was almost always “The Amazing Race.” The popular series — part travelogue, part game, all fun — won nine out of 10 years from 2003 to 2012, except for 2010, when “Top Chef” took the title. But last year “The Voice” took home the trophy, and the battle isn’t getting any easier. “The Voice” is up again, so is “Top Chef,” and the other nominees include “Dancing With the Stars,” “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Project Runway.”
5. Rating Seth Meyers. This is the first time the “Late Night” host and former “SNL” newsman is hosting the Emmys, and no doubt some critics will have their knives out.
Meyers admits he’s nervous.
“I think it would be weird if there were no nerves,” he said. “It’s a big undertaking and you want to make sure you treat it with the proper respect, and I think nerves constantly remind you to do that.”
He’s certainly hoping to do a good job, and he emphasizes: He will not sing.
“I can’t! I wish I could!” he said.
Do it well, Seth, and maybe you’ll get a shot.
The Emmys will air Monday on NBC. The show begins at 8 p.m. ET and airs from Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre.