Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad – AMC
Yeah, we know. Bryan Cranston has so many awards at this point that he’s probably storing them in an old RV. But we can’t resist. As “Breaking Bad” finishes up its final season, Cranston is at the absolute top of his game—and that’s saying a lot considering the company he keeps. Betsy Brandt, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Bob
Odenkirk, Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito… all of them deserve several awards (and many have received them). But it’s Cranston’s central portrayal of the hopelessly flawed Walter White that really keeps us coming back for more. Walter, a serial murderer who in season 4 even poisoned a child to manipulate his partner Jesse, deserves little sympathy at this point. But we give it to him anyway because of Cranston’s devilish skill to play the audience as he does other characters. We hope Cranston’s Walter White will live on in AMC’s “Better Call Saul” spinoff—even as a flashback or memory. We’re not ready to say goodbye.
Fred Armisen, Portlandia – IFC – The mad genius behind this insanely funny show, Armisen continues to create memorable characters that keep us in stitches.
Jon Hamm, Mad Men – AMC – A winning season for Hamm, whose portrayal of Don Draper has entered some dark places lately—all of them made compelling by his understated devotion to character.
Kevin Hart, Real Husbands of Hollywood – BET Networks and JSR Productions – Hart’s endlessly ridiculous satire of himself and his friends makes this spoof a must-watch series.
Freddie Highmore, Bates Motel – A&E – Wow. What a debut for this incredible actor whose chilling take on a young Norman Bates seems destined for TV greatness.
Timothy Olyphant, Justified – FX – Season after season, Olyphant puts the cool in cool-hand-Luke as he navigates the Kentucky underworld as if it was all just another day at the office.
Matthew Rhys, The Americans – FX – With performance discipline that perfectly matches the tone of the Cold War thriller, Rhys has proven that he’s among the best actors of his generation.