'Breaking Bad' tragedy: Bryan Cranston can't make Emmy history
When Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad") won his third consecutive Emmy for best actor in a TV drama series last year, he joined an exclusive club that included only one other man: Bill Cosby for "I Spy" (1966-1968). Cranston was on track to make Emmy history at this year's ceremony by winning four in a row. He's admired and liked in the industry, "Breaking Bad" was red hot, and his character, Walter White, continued to go deeper into the world of drugs and despair (prime Emmy bait).
Then, all that momentum halted when "Breaking Bad's" network, AMC, announced the show would be taking a hiatus of more than a year. The series' fourth season won't premiere until this summer, well after the Emmy eligibility period has ended for the 2010-11 television season. Cranston will be forced to watch another man claim the category he's dominated since 2008.
Also ineligible to repeat at this year's ceremony is Aaron Paul, last year's best supporting drama actor Paul's victory came as a welcome surprise to pundits, as the TV rookie beat out five veteran actors, including Andre Braugher ("Men of a Certain Age"), Michael Emerson ("Lost"), Terry O'Quinn ("Lost"), Martin Short ("Damages") and John Slattery ("Mad Men"). Oddly, only two of these six men are eligible at this year's ceremony -- Braugher and Slattery. "Lost" reached its natural conclusion last season, and Short is no longer a part of "Damages."
To be clear, Cranston and Cosby aren't the only lead actors who have won thrice at the Emmys. Also on that list are Peter Falk ("Columbo"), James Gandolfini ("The Sopranos") and James Spader (once for "The Practice" and twice for "Boston Legal"). However, none of these men won their Emmys consecutively, like Cranston and Cosby.
Currently, the man at the top of the winner's list is Dennis Franz ("NYPD Blue"). Even though Franz is the only lead actor to win four times, he never managed to come away with more than two consecutive wins in a row. Franz prevailed in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1999.
With Cranston out of the running, the race for best lead drama actor is suddenly wide open. Five-time also-ran Hugh Laurie ("House") could finally hear his name called, as could perennial nominees Michael C. Hall ("Dexter"), Jon Hamm ("Mad Men") and Gabriel Byrne ("In Treatment"). Kyle Chandler is a contender for the final year of "Friday Night Lights," while recent Golden Globes champ Steve Buscemi is a lock for the first year of "Boardwalk Empire." As for other new blood, Andrew Lincoln ("The Walking Dead"), Jeremy Irons ("The Borgias") and William H. Macy ("Shameless") are all possibilities, thanks to Cranston's absence.
-- Tom O'Neil
Photo: "Breaking Bad" stars Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston show off their Emmys. Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images