Jon Hamm as Don Draper, in a scene from the...

Jon Hamm as Don Draper, in a scene from the final season of "Mad Men." Hamm has been nominated for the best actor in a drama Emmy Award -- but has not won -- for the past seven years. Credit: AP / Justina Mintz

 Let's talk Jon Hamm and the 67th annual Emmys.

This week I've been looking at a few key Emmy races -- all decided Sunday on Fox -- in light of how some key rule adjustments might change the Emmy world as we have come to know it, which is: Just a tad predictable, occasionally sclerotic, comfortable with repetition, and sometimes just flat-out wrong.

The Emmys have gotten better in recent years, but "wrong," or simply "wrong-headed" remains a stubbornly difficult trait to completely exorcise.

This year, the Emmys will try.

Those "blue ribbon panels" that selected winners -- which were sort of like the college of cardinals choosing popes -- have been disbanded. Instead, this year, all 20,000 members have voted for the series' winners, while all 20,000, split into their area of specialty, voted on everything else.

Actors voted for actors. Did actors vote for Jon Hamm this year?

Jon Hamm... Don Draper..."Mad Men": The triad is part of TV history, a particularly rich part. Perhaps "Mad Men" would have still been a triumph had someone else been cast in the lead role -- or perhaps "The Sopranos" would have still been one of the two or three greatest series in history had James Gandolfini decided to take a pass.

Perhaps. But let's be honest: Almost certainly not.

In both series, there was something about the actor matched to the character that was inviolate. Over time, over seasons, they became as one: inseparable and inseparable from the machinery that made the series hum. How this comes to be in those rare instances is difficult to define, but defining art and artistry is treacherous business and best left for another post for another day. 

Suffice it to say, Jon Hamm has done a magnificent job, and a consistently magnificent one. His seventh season, the last season of "Mad Men," was as good as the others.

Yet over seven straight years -- this is the eighth nomination -- Hamm has been passed over.

Year after year in the Nokia -- or whatever it's called now -- there he sits: A frozen grin as the camera locks in, while the other name is called. His best performance of all...

Why the long stiff-arm by the Academy?

There are all sorts of theories. One, that most voters simply don't like Draper -- his deceits, and BS, and womanizing. That theory, of course, is nonsense: That's why it's called ACTING. (Was Tony loveable?)

Another theory, that Hamm is a two or three-trick pony -- looks great in those suits, sips the drink to perfection, does a killer pitch. Etc. Also nonsense. Anyone who knows this series --  really knows this series --  knows there's an enormous amount of nuance in his performance, and considerable range, too.

Or maybe this theory:  He's just too HANDSOME. How can you vote for someone that handsome? Look at the other winners of recent vintage -- like Bryan Cranston or James Spader or Michael Chiklis ... or best of all, Dennis Franz. There's something about those craggy imperfections that won viewer hearts AND Emmy voter hearts, too.

Altogether now: Nonsense. You may have heard, good looks are neither a detriment nor obstacle in Hollywood, or during awards competitions.

What's the real reason? Bad luck.

Hamm had the bad luck since 2007 to be nominated the same year Bryan Cranston began his run. He had the bad luck to be nominated over the years "Friday Night Lights" became a TV treasure, and its lead, Kyle Chandler, one of the driving forces behind it. He had the bad luck to be around when Damian Lewis stunned the world with "Homeland."

What sort of luck is he facing Sunday?

Here's the run-down: Chandler, again, for "Bloodline;" last year's winner, Jeff Daniels, for the last season of "The Newsroom;" Liev Schreiber, for "Ray Donovan;" Bob Odenkirk, "Better Call Saul;" and ... Kevin Spacey, "House of Cards."

Without going through the considerable merits of each, I'd argue the real threat to Hamm this season are Odenkirk and Schreiber. I'd imagine the Academy would be happy to honor Schreiber -- great actor, distinguished big screen/stage work. But he's also a real New York actor, and the Academy hasn't really embraced one of those in the male category since Gandolfini.

Odenkirk: I addressed this in Thursday's post. A remarkable year indeed, and it would be just Hamm's luck to get scuttled by the prequel to "Breaking Bad."

So, as we wrap this morning, let's answer the big question of Sunday night's ceremony: What about Mr. Hamm?

He is not entirely alone in this streak category. There have been three other actors with eight nominations: Raymond Burr, Peter Falk and Franz. You will also note they were multiple winners.

Will Hamm, finally, win this Sunday?

Our final answer this morning: Yes. He will win for the purest of reasons. He deserves to. Viewers know this to be true. Emmy voters do as well. If the new and improved Emmys really are as billed -- new and improved -- then this win will be the proof.

Top Stories