Emmy Wish List: 10 Dark Horse Nominees We’d Like to Win (PHOTOS)

arrow - left
arrow - right
Emmy Winner Hopefuls

The Stars and Shows That Should Win

At Sunday night’s Emmy Awards (8/7c, Fox)—hosted by Andy Samberg—you’ll probably hear some familiar names called aloud to pick up statuettes: Jeffrey Tambor, Viola Davis, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, maybe even Jon Hamm for his final Mad Men season. But staff members of TV Guide and TV Insider have chosen some dark horse nominees that would make us smile ear to ear if they happened to be lucky enough to deemed victors. Here are 10 terrific alternative winners to think on for TV's Big Night.

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won this category three years straight for Veep, and it's likely to happen again. But how can you not root for Kudrow? The 2005 series’ return was a master class in properly reviving a beloved property, anchored by Kudrow’s hilarious, devastating turn. Kudrow should have taken home the trophy for the performance’s first go-around—when interestingly enough, she lost out to Louis-Dreyfus for CBS’ The New Adventures of Old Christine—so it’s only appropriate that the Emmys atone for their sins now. —Gregory E. Miller


Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Niecy Nash, Getting On

The (sniff, sniff) soon-to-depart HBO comedy probably has the best female ensemble trio on television (including ace costars Alex Borstein and Laurie Metcalf), but as DiDi, the seen-it-all nurse with a heart of almost-gold, Nash impresses with her ability to wring laughs by underplaying key moments. (Not to mention her ability to break your heart; her season two crush on a hunky visiting doctor was as deeply felt as anything from the nominated drama-series contenders.) Let’s give this gal an Emmy for making the rounds with style. —Jason Clark


Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Jane Krakowski, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Some folks felt Krakowski’s uber-rich ice queen Jacqueline Voorhees on Kimmy was just like her Jenna Maroney on 30 Rock. Well, guess what? She scored four Emmy nods for that one, so she's clearly doing something right. In fact, Krakowski has killed it from the start—she's a Tony winner and a constant, nominated presence at most other award shows—so it's time to honor her knack for coloring broad comedy with subtly demented shades (those flight-attendant hand gestures in "Kimmy Gets a Job!" were all her idea), while also nailing lines about being a "perfect foot slut." —Damian Holbrook

Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline

We might know black sheep brother Danny's fate from the start, but Mendelsohn's layered performance is unsettling even as the rookie Netflix series creeps toward its inevitable conclusion. The Aussie actor stole more than a few scenes with his haunted, hangdog veneer and talent for creating tension, keeping the eldest Rayburn brother hovering somewhere between villain and victim. A first-time nominee, he'll likely get overlooked for fan favorite Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) or the much-lauded, never-victored Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul), but a dark horse win would be fitting for a most dark role. —Amanda McGrath

Des Willie/Sundance TV

Actress in a Movie or Miniseries

Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Honorable Woman

Even if you wanted to look away, you couldn’t possibly take your eyes off of Gyllenhaal as Nessa Stein, the tortured British daughter of a murdered Israel arms merchant, in this dark spy thriller. The actress, despite earning a Golden Globe this year for the role in the SundanceTV miniseries, is up against some other heavy-hitting title characters (Bessie's Queen Latifah, Olive Kitteridge's Frances McDormand). But as expertly played with such harrowing intensity and deep psychological acuity by the actress, it’s a portrait of a conflicted soul that won’t be easily matched in its complexity, nor easily forgotten. —Ileane Rudolph

John P. Johnson/HBO

Comedy Series

Silicon Valley

It’s got some pretty big competitors—Louie has the artistic cred. Modern Family has that massive pile of previous Emmy statues, and critically beloved Transparent probably already has the win. But Silicon Valley has heart—and not in the “keep-your-head-up-despite-the-odds” way. Though the main characters—six tech geeks struggling to build a world-changing compression app while being consistently undermined by a jealous Steve Jobs-type—do face 5,000 gigabytes of obstacles. The HBO comedy is, at its core, a sweet story about good guys trying to make it in an industry made for bad boys, simply because they love what they do. It just happens to also have ridiculously funny dialogue and a scene-stealing (and underappreciated) performance by T.J. Miller as their self-appointed leader. All hail the underdogs, or at least Emmy voters. —Aubry D’Arminio

WHGK2951402467 221
Giles Keyte/Playground & Company/Masterpiece, BBC

Limited Series

Wolf Hall

Some of us paid attention during high school history. The rest of us watched The Tudors. So we all basically knew how the tensions between Henry VIII (Damian Lewis) and his second wife Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy) came to a bloody head. But swift scripting by playwright and Academy Award nominee Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) made this TV adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s award-winning books Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies surprisingly…surprising. That especially goes for Anne’s inevitable final moments on the scaffold (we won’t spoil them for you—and that is possible). Add multiple Tony winner Mark Rylance’s quietly monstrous, furrowed-brow performance as master manipulator Thomas Cromwell (whose downfall was basically marrying off Henry to a homely chick), and this series was a feast made for kings. —Aubry D’Arminio

2014 Best-The Americans
Craig Blankenhorn/FX

Writing for a Drama Series

Joshua Brand, The Americans ("Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?")

Outside of Margo "Claudia" Martindale's guest-actress win (after three nominations), FX's brilliant espionage drama has mostly been an Emmy no-show. The Americans' way-overdue first writing nomination confronts our own deep ambivalence about these hidden-in-plain-sight Soviet anti-heroes. In what unfolds like a one-act play, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) oversees the forced suicide of a sympathetic woman (the great Lois Smith) who unfortunately crosses her path on a late-night mission. "You think doing this to me will make the world a better place?" she says before drifting into eternal sleep. "That's what evil people tell themselves when they do evil things." Chilling. —Matt Roush


Writing for a Variety Series

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

A murderer's row of nominees, and for two of them (The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), it's their final shot. But just as those two changed the way Gen Y consume news, Last Week Tonight has managed the same. Oliver’s writing staff brings to light issues like the appalling lack of funding for public defenders, why we desperately need to fight for net neutrality, and police militarization, all while making their audience laugh heartily. Those efforts deserve to be recognized. —Oriana Schwindt


Directing for a Drama Series

Lesli Linka Glatter, Homeland ("From A to B and Back Again")

Despite worthy competition from Steven Soderbergh (The Knick) and two Game of Thrones directors, Lesli Linka Glatter’s tour-de-force helming of this emotionally shattering season 4 episode should earn the veteran director her first Emmy win. (She already has a Directors Guild Award for the episode.) Glatter set a mood of underlying anxiety that led to a shocking execution and main character Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) ordering a drone strike that could kill her beloved mentor Saul (Mandy Patinkin). Adding to the real time tension, Glatter chose to have viewers watch the violence along with Carrie on a monitor in a very tense mission room. A woman has not won this category in two decades; Lesli Linka Glatter should be the one to amend that, stat. —Ileane Rudolph

1 of

Plus: Visit Our Emmys Page for More Coverage