Emmys 2013: Who will win best lead actress and actor in a drama series?

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emmys-2013-drama-lead-actor-actress-poll.jpgThe 2013 Primetime Emmys are just around the corner, and the drama surrounding them is increasing each day. So it's only fitting that we today finally get to the nominees for best actor and actress in a drama series. Whereas certain categories we've covered so far have some pretty clear favorites, almost all bets are off when it comes to these particular  prognostications. While you should take any prediction with a grain of salt, these might require entire silos.

As established in the last few weeks, we'll look at three things when analyzing each category: Who Will Win, Who Should Win, and What Show Would Benefit Most From Winning. There may be overlap in some cases. Maybe there will be a three-way split. Who knows? Only one way to find out.

Outstanding lead actress in a drama series

Connie Britton as Rayna James, "Nashville"
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, "Homeland"
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, "Downton Abbey"
Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates, "Bates Motel"
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson, "Mad Men"
Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, "Scandal"
Robin Wright as Claire Underwood, "House Of Cards"

Who Will Win?

That's an incredible array of acting talent, even if the roles themselves aren't equally as strong across the board. Britton probably should have won multiple times for her role as Tami Taylor on "Friday Night Lights," and is here due to her work there versus anything she did on the disappointing "Nashville." Farmiga and Wright both have the types of movie credentials that Emmy voters seem to love. But Farmiga's performance divided people down the middle, and Wright had precious little to actually do in the first season of "House Of Cards."

That still leaves four extremely viable winners. If "Downton" snags a big award besides best supporting actress, here's where it could happen. More likely? Dockery is prime position to win next year, if the narratives established in that show's third season finale are executed well in Season 4. Danes was once again riveting on "Homeland," and could definitely overcome the somewhat muted response (relatively speaking) to that show's sophomore year.

Over on "Scandal," Washington delivers poise, presence, and star power on top of great acting chops. But while few shows had as much buzz this season as "Scandal," Washington's submission episode ("Happy Birthday, Mr. President") isn't an ideal showcase for all she brings to the table each week. That leaves Moss, and let's face it: "Mad Men" is Peggy's show at this point, and Moss just gets better with each passing year. "Mad Men" may not get a lot of awards this season, but it should earn one here.

Who Should Win?

Emmy voters may not be able to resist making history: Washington would be the first African-American actress to win an award for best actress in a drama series. But this wouldn't be about making a statement about race, but rather the types of shows the voters consider "quality." "Scandal" doesn't have the overt trappings of the majority of shows that have dominated both the critics' polls and award shows over the past decade. But it's helping push the medium into the next era in ways people are only now starting to understand. And while the show is now a balanced ensemble, Washington is the face of this franchise. Look, we'd be ecstatic if Moss won. But a win for Washington would be THE story of the night, and would have ripple effects across the industry both in front of the cameras as well as behind it.

What Show Would Benefit Most From Winning?

"Scandal" doesn't really need the buzz that would come from this win: It's already as buzzy as a show can be in this fractured media age. The same goes for "Downton Abbey," whose fans positively go batty at the mere thought of that show. While we're not giving Farmiga much of a chance here, we can't ENTIRELY rule her out, and a win for her would force a lot of people who refused to watch "Bates Motel" on principle to at least give it a shot next season.

So who is your pick?

Outstanding lead actor in a drama series

Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley, "Downton Abbey"
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, "Breaking Bad"
Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy, "The Newsroom"
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, "Mad Men"
Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody, "Homeland"
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, "House of Cards"

Who Will Win?

We'd feel bad for Bonneville and Daniels for not having a snowball's chance of winning, but then again, they are famous actors, so life isn't really so bad for them. Both picked strong episodes for their respective submissions (Bonneville picked the grief-stricken fifth episode, while Daniels selected the pilot), but both are afterthoughts this season.

Had Spacey submitted the eighth episode of "House Of Cards," in which Frank goes back to his alma mater, I'd be picking him to win. Instead, he picked the first episode, which is fine but hardly a showcase. By contrast, Lewis picked the absolute best episode ("Q&A") for consideration, even though the material around this installment was hit or miss. Hamm has never won a single award for his work as Don Draper, which is insane but potentially also instructive when handicapping his chances this year. "In Care Of," Hamm's submission episode, sets up great potential for that show's final season. But will voters understand that this past season's theme of repetition was thematic, and not just Hamm falling back into old acting habits? If so, look for him to finally go to the podium.

If not ... well, that just means Cranston wins his fourth statue, correct? Not so fast. Last year, Lewis swooped in and took the prize. This year, Spacey's mere presence on the ballot may be enough to have him win. Will voters be able to resist voting for him? Probably not, so look for him to win.

Who Should Win?

Depending on what day (or even hour) you ask us, Hamm or Cranston should be there both for the totality of their performances this past season but also over the entire series' runs for their respective franchises. Both will be here again next year after completing their iconic runs. "Breaking Bad" is currently the most lauded show in the cultural landscape, and will sweep up next fall. If Hamm doesn't win this year, he never will. This isn't some pity vote, but rather a chance to amend past other equally egregious omissions. ( Steve Carrell is nodding his head so vigorously right now he may have to see a chiropractor.) Hamm's greatest crime is in making it look TOO easy. He may not provide the showy pyrotechnics of his fellow nominees, but he's done some of the best small-screen work of the past decade. His peers should officially recognize him at least once for that achievement.

What Show Would Benefit Most From Winning?

"Whatever Show That Netflix Greenlights Next," should "House Of Cards" win. The future of "television" is in flux right now, and a Spacey win would jumpstart a movement that already has great traction and growing momentum. If Netflix can convince more talent that normally goes to a cable channel to work under its umbrella, you may not see a seismic change in the content you consume. But the industry itself will undoubtedly change if more talent sees Netflix as a viable option for producing interesting content that Emmy voters deem viable for inclusion. And if more awards translates into more subscribers for Netflix, that potentially means more opportunities for the next "Orange Is The New Black" to suddenly appear for our binge-watching pleasure. While "House Of Cards" is a perfectly fine show, it's also an awfully familiar one. The true excitement lies in what Netflix can do to capitalize on the success of its signature show. Does it continue to emulate the old models, or boldly forge new ones?

Who's your choice among these six actors?

Now that you've voted for your favorites, let us know in the comments why you think your selection will win!