These are some of the best people on TV. They are what make watching television so great. Without them we would not have extraordinary characters like Don Draper and Patty Hewes. We couldn't tell the stories of the scorned politician's wife or the vigilante serial killer. They pour their hearts into every scene and deliver every line with power. These twelve men and women are truly outstanding actors and actresses.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights - I just watched the first three seasons earlier this summer, and I am stunned that Britton has never received an Emmy nomination. She gives one of the best dramatic performances on television, and the fourth season is no exception. Apparently the end of this season is some of her best work yet, so I can't wait to watch it!
Glenn Close, Damages - There's a reason the woman already has two Emmys for her portrayal of Patty Hewes. This season Close took the character to a whole new level. Patty often screams and throws tea cups, but Close is best when she shows the emotional vulnerability that lies beneath the powerful lawyer.
Lauren Graham, Parenthood - The best moments of this new show are between Graham and her on-screen daughter, Mae Whitman. She perfected her role as the flawed mother who can't always keep it together.
January Jones, Mad Men - Saturday Night Live hosting aside, Jones is a phenomenal actress. For some reason her performance is divisive among Mad Men fans, some of whom claim she's wooden and can't act. That's something I cannot comprehend. Please watch "The Gypsy and the Hobo" and see Betty Draper break down as she exposes her husband as the liar he really is.
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife - I gave up The Good Wife about halfway through the season because I didn't have time for it. That was a mistake (which I plan to amend very soon, thanks to summer reruns). From what I saw, Margulies is deserving of all the buzz. She headlines the hit drama with strength and intensity that's already earned her a Golden Globe and a SAG award.
Jeanne Tripplehorn, Big Love - You can't blame an actress for poor writing. This season of Big Love was certainly much worse than those before, but it takes an exceptionally talented actress to remain strong throughout a weak year. I probably hated Barb for most of the fourth season, but I still loved Tripplehorn.
Honorable Mention: Regina King, Southland & Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights - Coach Taylor cracks me up. Seriously. Maybe it's because I'm from Texas, but I find myself laughing at him because he reminds me so much of the coaches at my high school. And he has a little bit of my dad in him too. Chandler's portrayal of the East Texas football coach is truly flawless.
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad - Like I've said before, since I just recently got into Breaking Bad, I haven't gotten to see season three yet (which is primarily why Anna Gunn didn't make my top six in the previous category). But now I definitely understand why Cranston has won in this category the past two years. Even the man's coughs are Emmy worthy (he plays a man with terminal lung cancer).
Michael C. Hall, Dexter - So far I've only gotten to see season one. Season four is Emmy eligible this year. Clearly I'm a little behind on Dexter. Still, I included Hall on my list because his work on the first season is so brilliant, and I've heard it only gets better.
Jon Hamm, Mad Men - This year Don Draper's home life and work life fell apart, and I loved every second of it. Hamm probably did his best work this season, which is saying a lot.
Ben McKenzie, Southland - The rookie cop did a lot of growing up this season. The gritty cop show is underrated, as is McKenzie's performance.
Timothy Olyphant, Justified - Justified is another show that I couldn't find the time to keep watching, so I had to give it up after a few episodes. But it only took me those few episodes to decide that Olyphant's performance is Emmy worthy.
Honorable Mention: Peter Krause, Parenthood & Matthew Fox, Lost
Coming Soon: My picks for the best comedy and drama series of the year
Six Feet Under Season 3
Episode 6 - Making Love Work