2012 Emmy preview: ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Downton Abbey’ supporting actresses face off

Expect a tight race here.

In continuing what we said about the contenders with the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series category, the Emmys have their work cut out for them this year in trying to find just six women on this list who are worthy of some recognition this year.

There are some interesting candidates here — and while there are a few obvious choice, a good half of the category at the moment really does feel up for grabs.

The deserving nominees

Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”(PBS) – Clearly, Smith is the favorite in the eyes of many for winning this award. The Dowager Countess is one of the most brilliant characters on all TV (not to mention over-the-top). Is it predictable? Sure, but sometimes predictable is code for “an amazing performance that you cannot contest.”

Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men” (AMC) – Just for the episode involving the Jaguar deal alone, Hendricks will get the love. Outside of this, though, was it really her best season? She didn’t always have the most to do, and this could be what ends up keeping her from the win.

Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad” (AMC) – You know “Breaking Bad” has had a good year when there are four deserving people for acting nominations — and Gunn is one of them. Skyler White is a tortured soul if there ever was one, and she treats every scene she is in like it is a game-changing moment.

Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones” (HBO) – Like with Hendricks, Headey had one landmark episode in this past season of “Game of Thrones” (“Blackwater”) that merits a nomination on its own. She also deserves some special due for playing a part in Cersei Lannister that is really a rather despicable person — but even though we root for her to fail, we don’t want her to die so we can continue to see more of Headey onscreen.

Morena Baccarin, “Homeland” (Showtime) – Inara has grown up in a big way. The former cast of “Firefly” has never really received much in the way of love from awards shows, but Baccarin is definitely worthy here for a role that really has proven her to be a major force to be reckoned with.

Jennifer Carpenter, “Dexter” (Showtime) – For the first time, we have Carpenter getting the nod for this show rather than Michael C. Hall — mostly because she was able to tackle some pretty controversial material with strength on season 6 of “Dexter“. Unfortunately, she probably has no shot of securing a real nomination in the race.

Honorable mentions: Archie Panjabi (“The Good Wife”), Regina King (“Southland”), Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”), Kelly Macdonald (“Boardwalk Empire”)

Hendricks has a shot.

The likely nominees

Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey” – As we said, Smith is likely the favorite. The only way we see her losing is if the critics decide to go crazy all over “Mad Men” again.

Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men” – Everyone knows that Joan is a great character, and Hendricks is going to be in consideration for this role every year until “Mad Men” comes to an end.

Archie Panjabi, “The Good Wife” (CBS) – You can never underestimate the amount of Emmy love that is out there for “The Good Wife,” and Panjabi may actually be the show’s best performer outside of Julianna Margulies. With that being said, not everything felt as “good” to us during season 3.

Christine Baranski, “The Good Wife” (CBS) – See above. Viewers love “The Good Wife,” and Baranski could get this nomination every season.

Anjelica Huston, “Smash” (NBC) – Never underestimate someone getting some Emmy love thanks to being a living legend. Is Huston the best part about a disappointing show? Yes, but that doesn’t mean that anyone from the show is worthy of any love.

Regina King, “Southland” (TNT) – We at least have no qualms with this choice. King is a brilliant actress on a show that never really gets enough due — if we had another spot on our list, it would’ve went to her.

Likely to receive votes: Rose Byrne (“Damages”), Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”), January Jones (“Mad Men”), Morena Baccarin (“Homeland”), Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad”)

Who do you think is the most-worthy supporting actress of the bunch? As always, we want to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comment box and the poll below.

Photo: Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, AMC

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