Leading up to the Emmys on Sept. 22, we gathered The Envelope's Buzzmeter panelists — USA Today's Robert Bianco, TV Guide's Matt Roush, The A.V. Club's Todd VanDerWerff, the Los Angeles Times' Mary McNamara and Glenn Whipp and, when the focus is on predictions, Gold Derby's Tom O'Neil — for a little back-and-forth about this year's nominations.
In this last installment of three (the previous two can be found here and here), the Buzzmeter gang picks between nominated auteurs and lauds their favorite "Mad Men" (and women) for some long-overdue Emmy love.
Auteur throwdown: Jane Campion’s “Top of the Lake” vs. Steven Soderbergh’s “Behind the Candelabra.” Who’s more deserving ... and isn't it a little silly to have these two very different formats competing in the same category?
McNamara: It is totally silly to have these two things (not to mention "American Horror Story") competing against each other. With any luck, the growing number of "limited series" and "television events" will create a more natural division. "Behind the Candelabra" will win its acting categories I imagine -- certainly Michael Douglas is a shoo-in -- but "Top of the Lake" should win this one.
Bianco: How is this even considered close? “Top of the Lake.” As flashy and well-performed as “Candelabra” may have been, it was essentially an emotional and factual cheat that distorted the lives of Liberace and, more crucially, Scott Thorson. It’s one thing to rearrange or condense facts, and another to eliminate an essential truth: Scott Thorson was a teenager preyed upon by a rich, powerful man nearly 40 years his senior -– and as young as Matt Damon may look, he’s far too old to convey a child’s vulnerability and immaturity. If you don’t think that matters, imagine a movie about Roman Polanski’s rape case that cast a 42-year-old woman to play 13-year-old Samantha Geimer. Do you think that movie would be up for an Emmy?
Whipp: I remember Soderbergh lamenting that no studio would touch "Candelabra" because of its subject matter. And, yet, I didn't find his approach particularly novel or adventurous. There were moments when I could see him deftly sending up biopic conventions but, as a whole, I don't think "Candelabra" completely transcended the genre. Campion, meanwhile, had the luxury of time and made the most of it, fashioning a daring work of art. I think it is inherently ridiculous to have the two formats competing but, that said, the choice seems obvious.
VanDerWerff: I'm going with Soderbergh here, but only narrowly. If I preferred "Behind the Candelabra" overall, I might find the haunting direction of "Top of the Lake" superior to that. But it's such a close call that I'll go with the one I liked slightly better.
Roush: Do we have to pick just one? It seems unimaginable that Jon Hamm has yet to win for inhabiting such a complex and iconic character as Don Draper -- and even with this season's flaws, he was terrific. I'd love him to win, though it's unlikely against the great Bryan Cranston and/or the showier Kevin Spacey. I'm hoping Elisabeth Moss will win in the miniseries category for her amazing work in "Top of the Lake," but failing that, she's probably "Mad Men's" best shot, and Peggy had one of the season's strongest storylines.
McNamara: Elisabeth Moss. She's up for two this year so she has to win won (right? RIGHT?) and I'd rather see her win for Peggy, which is a more subtle, shifting and difficult role than the version of the ubiquitous Haunted Policeman she plays in "Top of the Lake." Though she was very good in that as well.
VanDerWerff: Jon Hamm absolutely deserves to win, and he might even be my personal pick in that always hard-to-decide-upon category. This year, the show did something a little different, deliberately constructing a frustrating season for viewers, before bringing it all home in the final three episodes to show what it was doing. Hamm was the only reason it worked as well as it did, and his performance in the finale is quietly devastating.
Whipp: Jon Hamm. For reasons I wrote about here.
Bianco: I wouldn’t pick any of them to win and I wouldn’t be sorry if any of them won. But I’d be happiest if Robert Morse won, because he’s Robert Morse.