Let’s get serious for a moment, Emmy voters. Below you’ll find the penultimate installment of my 2009 Dream Emmy Ballot, this one focused on two of this year’s most competitive categories — lead actor and actress in a drama series. (My suggestions for outstanding comedy and drama series will be posted tomorrow.) Please use this list of recommendations as your own personal cheat sheet when the real balloting process begins next week. Sound good? Cool. Oh, and I will be checking my picks against the official nominations when they come out on July 16. You know, just to see if you copied correctly.
Best Actor (Drama)
• Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment): He bared his soul as his shrink got shrunk.
• Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights): The series’ heart and soul never punts. Ever.
• Michael Chiklis (The Shield): He made his character sympathetic right down to his final despicable act. That’s art.
• Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad): I’m not a fan of reruns, but c’mon, last year’s winner deserves a repeat.
• Hugh Laurie (House): He kissed Cuddy, lost Kutner, saw dead people, and got committed. ‘Nuff said.
• Denis Leary (Rescue Me): Fired up about the show’s creative resurgence? Thank the guy who fanned the flame.
Best Actress (Drama)
• January Jones (Mad Men): Played the ultimate desperate housewife with remarkable restraint.
• Regina King (Southland): Her complicated, compassionate cop is the standout in a top-notch ensemble.
• Jeanne Tripplehorn (Big Love): When her devout character was excommunicated, it was a religious experience for me, too!
• Glenn Close (Damages): So sharp, she cut clean through a scattered season 2.
• Evangeline Lilly (Lost): She parted ways with “son” Aaron and delivered the mother of all performances.
• Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men): Masterfully conveyed the quiet pain of giving up a child.
addCredit(“Chandler: Bill Records/NBC; Lilly: Art Streiber/ABC; King: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC; Chiklis: Prashant Gupta/FX”)