Who’ll win at the Emmys, who should, and who got left behind

Regina King and Louis Gossett Jr. in "Watchmen." The HBO limited series snagged the most nominations and is a heavy favorite.
Regina King and Louis Gossett Jr. in "Watchmen." The HBO limited series snagged the most nominations and is a heavy favorite.Mark Hill/HBO

You didn’t think that just because there’s a pandemic going on, Hollywood would cancel the Emmys, did you?

Sorry, but not being able to gather in person for a gaudy fashion parade isn’t going to get in the way of some much-needed back-patting. They’ve gotta have it, especially after being kept from worship and kudos since March, which at this moment feels like forever ago.

Of course, the back-patting will all be virtual on Sunday night, with Jimmy Kimmel hosting the live ABC event from Los Angeles. None of the nominees will be onsite (although there may be a few socially distanced celebrity guests), so we just might see the winners thanking their managers, hairdressers, and costars from their perfectly decorated living rooms, surrounded by family and, perhaps, some expensive alcohol.


Two of last year’s big winners, “Game of Thrones” and “Fleabag,” are not in the running this year. Neither are Emmy favorites “Barry” and “Atlanta.” So the game is a little less predictable. As always, I find it hard to forecast winners, knowing that within the week I will be proven wrong over and over again. I feel as though I’m being set up like a bowling pin, then knocked down. It gets to wearing thin. But, as always, here are my guesses, my deepest wishes, and my irritations nonetheless.

Brian Cox as the media mogul Logan Roy in the HBO series “Succession.”
Brian Cox as the media mogul Logan Roy in the HBO series “Succession.” CRAIG BLANKENHORN/HBO/NYT

Outstanding Drama Series

“Better Call Saul” (AMC)

“The Crown” (Netflix)

“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)

“Killing Eve” (BBC America)

“The Mandalorian” (Disney+)

“Ozark” (Netflix)

“Stranger Things” (Netflix)

“Succession” (HBO)

WILL WIN: With no “Game of Thrones,” I’m guessing “Succession” will become this year’s bigfoot, and with good reason. It’s a brutally funny and successfully dramatic family saga whose plot is full of surprises. “Ozark” had its best year, a season that built nicely and won lots of buzz. It may be a surprise victor, but I think “Succession” is unstoppable.


SHOULD WIN: Many say they need a few heroes on “Succession,” as if goody-goodies could be nearly as much fun. Give me Alexis over Krystle any day of the week. I’m 100 percent behind the show.

WAS ROBBED: I’m convinced voters nominate “Stranger Things” over and over, despite it being resoundingly meh, in order to bring its many, many fans to the Emmycast. And “Killing Eve” still sneaks in, even though it has gotten stoopid, because of the lasting memory of that excellent Phoebe Waller-Bridge-written first season. Those spots belong to HBO’s unsettling “Euphoria,” NBC’s schmaltzy but smart “This Is Us,” HBO’s transporting “My Brilliant Friend: The Story of a New Name,” or Netflix’s “Mindhunter,” which had a riveting second season.

Jennifer Aniston in "The Morning Show."
Jennifer Aniston in "The Morning Show." Apple

Lead Actress in a Drama

Jennifer Aniston, “The Morning Show”

Olivia Colman, “The Crown”

Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”

Laura Linney, “Ozark”

Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”

Zendaya, “Euphoria”

WILL WIN: Aniston is beloved, after her many years on “Friends,” and she was better than expected as a morning host coping with her coanchor’s sexual misconduct. Colman certainly could leave with the statue; she is excellent as a somewhat soured Queen Elizabeth. But I’m predicting Aniston, whose win will get the Emmys more attention.

SHOULD WIN: My vote is for Linney, a longtime Emmy favorite who already has four wins under her belt. Clearly the voters liked season three of “Ozark”; they gave it 18 nominations this year. And it was so good largely thanks to her work.


WAS ROBBED: MJ Rodriguez from “Pose” is consistently moving. I’ve heard viewers say she’s too melodramatic, but that’s the character. She is the emotional core of the show.

Lead Actor in a Drama

Jason Bateman, “Ozark”

Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”

Steve Carell, “The Morning Show”

Brian Cox, “Succession”

Billy Porter, “Pose”

Jeremy Strong, “Succession”

WILL WIN: Cox will win. As the Lear figure, he lifts “Succession” to a higher level of excellence. His carefully ambiguous smirk at the end of the season, after his son throws him under the bus, has become a classic TV moment.

SHOULD WIN: Cox all the way. He is the hive all the other wasps circle.

WAS ROBBED: I expected to see Tobias Menzies of “The Crown” instead of Carell, whose innate likability gets in the way of his performance. And the expertly downbeat Holt McCallany gave “Mindhunter” a more personal aspect.

Supporting Actor in a Drama

Giancarlo Esposito, “Better Call Saul”

Nicholas Braun, “Succession”

Kieran Culkin, “Succession”

Matthew Macfadyen, “Succession”

Bradley Whitford, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Billy Crudup, “The Morning Show”

Mark Duplass, “The Morning Show”

Jeffrey Wright, “Westworld”

WILL WIN: Will the “Succession” actors cancel one another out? I suspect so. Crudup may stand the best chance, as the dodgy network executive with a hidden agenda and super-white teeth. It was a flashy role, and he handled it like the pro he is.

SHOULD WIN: I’m all for a Culkin win. He is so convincingly dislikable, and he delivers his jam-packed lines as if they were flash poetry.


WAS ROBBED: Asia Kate Dillon has never been nominated for their brilliant turn on “Billions,” and that’s a shame. They’re a nonbinary powerhouse in the show’s world of toxic men. And how voters, who clearly loved “Ozark,” failed to honor Tom Pelphrey — he was Wendy’s bipolar brother — is beyond me.

Supporting Actress in a Drama

Laura Dern, “Big Little Lies”

Meryl Streep, “Big Little Lies”

Fiona Shaw, “Killing Eve”

Julia Garner, “Ozark”

Sarah Snook, “Succession”

Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”

Samira Wiley, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Thandie Newton, “Westworld”

WILL WIN: I would have said Streep. Because she’s Streep and because her still rage on “Lies” was hard to shake. But the season was seriously disappointing, which may hurt her chances. I’m thinking Bonham Carter, such a classy mess as Princess Margaret, will take this one.

SHOULD WIN: And a Bonham Carter win would not displease me. A win by Snook, who was both player and played this season, would also make me happy. She’s not competing with any castmates, too, which could help.

WAS ROBBED: I was sorry not to see Hunter Schafer, as a misused trans teen on “Euphoria,” leading this list. She was devastating. Award shows often ignore trans performers, while celebrating cis actors who play trans. Also missing: Jeannie Berlin, the soul of Amazon’s over-the-top “Hunters.” Sadly, Lisa Emery, who stole scene after scene as Darlene Snell on “Ozark,” was not submitted for a nomination.


Catherine O'Hara as Moira in "Schitt's Creek."
Catherine O'Hara as Moira in "Schitt's Creek." Associated Press

Outstanding Comedy Series

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO)

“Dead to Me” (Netflix)

“Insecure” (HBO)

“Schitt’s Creek” (Pop)

“The Good Place” (NBC)

“The Kominsky Method” (Netflix)

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

“What We Do in the Shadows” (FX)

WILL WIN: One-time winner “Maisel” remains uneven — a slick Broadway-esque production with a silly book. It got 20 nominations this year, but I nonetheless think “Schitt’s Creek” will be honored. It was the show people turned to in the early quarantine days, and it finished up its six-season run on a high.

SHOULD WIN: No show made me laugh more this year than “Shadows,” FX’s subversive vampire comedy. And “Insecure” has its first series nomination for a tough season about the strains of old friendships. But, yeah, I’m rooting for “Schitt’s Creek,” a sweet retro comedy about love, money, and ew, David.

WAS ROBBED: My list is long, alas. Two Apple TV+ series belong here — the playful “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” from some of the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” gang, and the woefully under-acknowledged “Little America,” an anthology group portrait of immigrants. I’m surprised that Hulu’s “The Great” didn’t make it; the comedy from the writer of “The Favourite” is a smart costume drama sendup with a fine cast. Netflix’s “Sex Education,” HBO’s “High Maintenance,” FX’s “Better Things,” they all deserve it more than the 10th season of “Curb.”

Lead Actress in a Comedy

Christina Applegate, “Dead to Me”

Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Linda Cardellini, “Dead to Me”

Catherine O’Hara, “Schitt’s Creek”

Issa Rae, “Insecure”

Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish”

WILL WIN: I feel as though I’m the only person who thinks former winner Brosnahan, while a good performer, is terribly miscast. But anyway, O’Hara’s the one to beat this time. With the “Schitt’s” writers, she created a fantastically amusing queen who bends the language to her thinking. She will win . . .

SHOULD WIN: . . . And she deserves to. Moira is a classic just this side of Norma Desmond. I loved Rae this season, too, but . . . Moira.

WAS ROBBED: The snubbing of Pamela Adlon, whose “Better Things” is a quiet thrill, is beyond me. Likewise leaving out Elle Fanning, who effortlessly works those clever lines in “The Great” for all they’re worth.

Ramy Youssef in a scene from "Ramy."
Ramy Youssef in a scene from "Ramy." Craig Blankenhorn/Associated Press

Lead Actor in a Comedy

Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”

Don Cheadle, “Black Monday”

Ted Danson, “The Good Place”

Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”

Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”

Ramy Youssef, “Ramy”

WILL WIN: It’s likely that Youssef, who is charming on his series, will take this one, after taking the Golden Globe early this year. He is the fresh face in the crowd. Hader, who has won the past two years for “Barry,” is not eligible this time.

SHOULD WIN: Much as I’ve loved Douglas, Danson, and Levy in their shows, Youssef turns his character’s adventures into an engaging spiritual journey.

WAS ROBBED: In Netflix’s “Sex Education,” Asa Butterfield is perfect — his teenager knows everything, and nothing.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”

Mahershala Ali, “Ramy”

Kenan Thompson, “Saturday Night Live”

Daniel Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”

William Jackson Harper, “The Good Place”

Alan Arkin, “The Kominsky Method”

Sterling K. Brown, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Tony Shalhoub, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

WILL WIN: I’m expecting Levy to win for his high-strung son, whose evolution across the series has been sweet.

SHOULD WIN: He’ll never win this, his fourth nomination for the role, but Braugher is my favorite thing about “Nine-Nine.” He has created a peculiar, and peculiarly lovable, character.

WAS ROBBED: Paul Reiser was a treat on “The Kominsky Method,” and Nicholas Hoult was perfectly idiotic in “The Great.” They’re deserving, as is F. Murray Abraham as the drunken office mascot on “Mythic Quest” who is blessed with the name C.W. Longbottom.

Yvonne Orji (left) as Molly and Issa Rae as Issa on "Insecure."
Yvonne Orji (left) as Molly and Issa Rae as Issa on "Insecure." Warner Media/HBO

Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Betty Gilpin, “GLOW”

Yvonne Orji, “Insecure”

Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”

Cecily Strong, “Saturday Night Live”

Annie Murphy, “Schitt’s Creek”

D’Arcy Carden, “The Good Place”

Alex Borstein, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Marin Hinkle, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

WILL WIN: Please, please, PLEASE do not give the statue to Borstein again. The two-time winner is likable, but one-note and underdeveloped. Sadly, I think my cries will fall on deaf ears. Emmy voters love to repeat themselves, as a form of self-confirmation.

SHOULD WIN: McKinnon and Strong are ace ensemble players, and Murphy is endearing and much memed, but Orji is my pick for her wonderfully complex Molly. This past season gave her enough room to grow, at last.

WAS ROBBED: Gillian Anderson has genius comic timing in “Sex Education,” Sarah Baker is solid and wonderful in “The Kominsky Method,” and Lori Tan Chinn steals the show in “Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens.”

Outstanding Limited Series

“Little Fires Everywhere” (Hulu)

“Mrs. America” (FX on Hulu)

“Unbelievable” (Netflix)

“Unorthodox” (Netflix)

“Watchmen” (HBO)

WILL WIN: “Watchmen,” which has the most nominations — 26 — will prevail without a doubt. With its topical story lines, and its critical buzz, and its strong cast, it will clean up.

SHOULD WIN: I found “Unbelievable” to be remarkably smart and sensitive, with a trio of powerfully human performances and a theme that, sadly, is relevant. If it won, I’d be delighted.

WAS ROBBED: HBO’s “Years and Years” is special, as it turns a “Black Mirror”-esque premise into a warm family saga. And where are HBO’s “The Plot Against America” and Hulu’s “Normal People”?

Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Jeremy Irons, “Watchmen”

Hugh Jackman, “Bad Education”

Paul Mescal, “Normal People”

Jeremy Pope, “Hollywood”

Mark Ruffalo, “I Know This Much Is True”

WILL WIN: Ruffalo’s go-for-broke performance as twin brothers was made to win. But I have a feeling voters will go for Jackman, who did some of his best work as a conning school superintendent. It’s a small movie, but a rich performance.

SHOULD WIN: I was impressed by Mescal, who makes his character’s adhesion to male stereotypes both frustrating and understandable. I’d like to see him win.

WAS ROBBED: Russell Crowe was endlessly watchable as Roger Ailes in Showtime’s “The Loudest Voice.” And Nick Offerman was both touching and frightening as the tech guru in FX on Hulu’s flawed “Devs.”

Shira Haas, with Amit Rahav, in "Unorthodox."
Shira Haas, with Amit Rahav, in "Unorthodox." Anika Molnar/Netflix

Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Cate Blanchett, “Mrs. America”

Shira Haas, “Unorthodox”

Regina King, “Watchmen”

Octavia Spencer, “Self Made”

Kerry Washington, “Little Fires Everywhere”

WILL WIN: I can’t rule out King, who anchored the series, but Blanchett stands a good chance. She is beloved and also turned in a fierce performance, albeit of a quieter kind.

SHOULD WIN: My mind was blown by Haas, whose journey to selfhood was rousing.

WAS ROBBED: “Normal People” was a piece for two actors, and Daisy Edgar-Jones more than held up her half. Her absence here is unfortunate, to say the least. Also, where are Kaitlyn Dever and Merritt Wever of “Unbelievable”? They ought to be in the mix.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.