This year, the race for the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy is tighter than the belly on Jessica Simpson's maternity dresses during month 10 and a half. It's an absolute embarrassment of riches, with 53 eligible actors and at least 15 worthy leading men with a really good shot of landing a nomination. How the heck are we going to figure out who will be in the running?
Since the nomination process is based on math, then we should leave it up to numbers to determine who should get his tux cleaned and who should work on his Emmy reel for next year. I devised a formula that certainly isn't foolproof, but might be a good indicator of who the favorites are.
First off, each actor gets one point for being a male because, if he is not, then he's not going anywhere in this category. Then add in the number of previous Emmy nominations, because, for whatever reason, the Academy loves to reward the same gentlemen year after year. Then I added the number of Emmy wins, because the Academy also loves to give the same people the same trophies. Then I subtracted the number of years the series had been on the air because, while the Academy rewards actors who have inhabited a role for a long time, it also penalizes older series. However, a show gets +5 points if it is in its final season and going off the air (think long-time favorites like House and Desperate Housewives), since this is the last time the show can be recognized. A show also gets -5 points if it has been canceled (think Men of a Certain Age), because the Academy doesn't want to reward a show that won't be on the air anymore.
Alright, here is where things get a little crazy. To that total an actor gets +10 points if his show is on broadcast TV, which always has a better shot than cable. However he gets +15 points if his show is on HBO, a network that gives an actor an even better shot than broadcast TV. He also gets +5 if is show is on AMC, because that network has a better shot than all the other cable networks (sorry Showtime). An actor also gets +10 points for every Oscar he's won, because the Emmys love taking Oscar's sloppy seconds. An actor also gets +10 points if his show has critical buzz (like Mad Men or Homeland). Then, we have to add in the average number of viewers for the most recent season of the show in millions (so if a show averages 3 million viewers, we add 3 to the total). Finally, the whole total was divided by the showiness of the role based on a scale of three: One being the most showy roles and three being the most stoic, because Emmy voters always reward the histrionic over the silent.
Here is the boiled down formula:
[1 point for being a male] + [Number of previous Emmy nominations] + [Number of previous Emmy wins] - [Number of years the show has been on the air (+5 if the show is in final season, -5 if it has been cancelled)] + [10 points for network TV, 15 for HBO, 5 for AMC] + [10 points for each Oscar won] + [10 points for critics' favorite] + [Number of viewers] / [Showiness of the role] = Possibility of Emmy nomination
Here are the scores for the 15 people I thought were frontrunners, and the top six are the ones likely to be in contention for the big award.
Hugh Laurie, House = 30.7
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad = 24
Dustin Hoffman, Luck = 18
Ted Danson, CSI: Original Recipe = 14.25
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey = 14.15 or 11.6*
Michael C. Hall, Dexter = 13.5
Denis Leary, Rescue Me = 12.3
William H. Macy, Shameless = 11.4
Kelsey Grammer, Boss = 11.2
Ray Romano, Men of a Certain Age = 7.57
Jeremy Irons, The Borgias = 7.25
Jon Hamm, Mad Men = 6.83
Steve Buschemi, Boardwalk Empire = 6.67
Damian Lewis, Homeland = 6.3
Timothy Olyphant, Justified = 3.83
The reason Hugh Bonneville has an aterisk next to his name is because his show is a huge hit across the pond and, while its PBS ratings aren't anything to scoff at, if you factor in the international ratings, his number is high enough to tip him over the edge into the top six. However, if you only factor in American ratings, he falls below the nomination threshold.
The other anomaly is how low Jon Hamm scored, mostly due to the fact that his Don Draper is more of a jaw clencher than a scenery chewer. I saw that Hamm should take Bonneville's place in the top six and our nominees will be Hugh Laurie, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Ted Danson, Jon Hamm, and Michael C. Hall. (I also wouldn't be shocked if Damian Lewis sneaks in there too, but due to his show's young age and low ratings, even the buzz wasn't enough to elevate his score.)
Will we be right? We'll have to check back in on July 19 — when nominations are announced — to find out!
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan