Hey, Emmy voters: Need help figuring out which shows and performers to single out this year? I can help! (FYI, ballots are due June 21; nominations will be announced July 8.)
+ Breaking Bad – TV’s most nerve-racking hour hit a new creative high in year 3.
+ Damages – Bounced back from a meh season 2 with a mystery that was taut, suspenseful, and timely.
+ Friday Night Lights – A different team, but still victorious.
+ The Good Wife – Single-handedly raised the bar for procedurals on TV.
+ Mad Men – For a season rife with breakups (Sterling Cooper, Don/Betty) I never felt more committed.
+ True Blood – The Maryann plot meandered a bit, but the season as a whole hardly sucked.
+ Better Off Ted – The best show that no one watched.
+ Chuck – I spy a consistently awesome and hilarious show in need of some long-overdue Emmy love.
+ Cougar Town – Overcame an awkward birth (and title) to emerge as the year’s biggest comedic surprise.
+ Glee – The rare show that lives up to its name week in and week out.
+ Modern Family – Brought the family comedy into the 21st century.
+ Parks and Recreation – Who would’ve thought: NBC’s funniest Thursday comedy doesn’t have Rock or Office in its title?
BEST ACTOR (DRAMA)
+ Kyle Chandler, (Friday Night Lights) – His coach turned the misfits of East Dillon into champs. Surely that warrants an Emmy.
+ Bryan Cranston, (Breaking Bad) – I smell a three-peat.
+ Michael C. Hall, (Dexter) – He killed as Dex tried (and failed) to have it all.
+ Peter Krause, (Parenthood) – His character is flawed. His performance? Not so much.
+ Hugh Laurie (House) – Delivered the best work of his career in the season’s opener and closer.
+ Timothy Olyphant (Justified) – So strong, it’s dang near criminal.
BEST ACTRESS (DRAMA)
+ Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) – Carried the ball, never fumbling, even with a tricky abortion plot.
+ Glenn Close (Damages) – Showed us a devil of a time as Patty stared down her past demons.
+ Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) – The breakout performance of the year.
+ Regina King (Southland) – Simply put, the tube’s most complex female cop since… Yeah, we’re stumped too.
+ Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) – Good? Try great.
+ Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy) – Season 2 sent Gemma to hell and back. Heavenly!
BEST ACTOR (COMEDY)
+ Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) – There’s a reason that he already has two of these under his belt.
+ Steve Carell (The Office) – Dunder Mifflin’s bad times brought out the best in Michael and his portrayer.
+ Jay Harrington (Better Off Ted) – The funniest performance no one watched.
+ Zachary Levi (Chuck) – He epitomized a new kind of superhero: Everyman!
+ Joel McHale (Community) – Made an honor role of his snarky underachiever.
+ Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) – What could’ve descended into shtick ascended to genius.
BEST ACTRESS (COMEDY)
+ Courteney Cox (Cougar Town) – At last, a role as good as, if not better than, Monica.
+ Portia de Rossi (Better Off Ted) – Her ice queen was headed for legendary status. Damn you, cancellation!
+ Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Old Christine) – The best revenge for having your show axed? Emmy!
+ Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) – Carmela who?
+ Tina Fey (30 Rock) – She’s what keeps us from declaring the rare off episode a deal breaker.
+ Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) – Makes Leslie as endearing as she is daffy. And she’s really daffy.
To see who deserves Emmy love in the supporting categories (like Glee‘s Jane Lynch), check out Ausiello’s entire Emmy ballot at ausiellofiles.ew.com