For a second year, the Emmy Awards arrive without nominations for many of TV’s biggest shows. The pandemic’s impact on production is still evident, preventing new seasons from historically strong contenders such as “Succession,” “Ozark,” “Stranger Things,” “Better Call Saul,” “The Morning Show,” and “Euphoria.”
Still, there’s plenty of goodness in the running. Will “Ted Lasso” be this year’s “Schitt’s Creek,” the series that swept the major comedy Emmys last year? I’m thinking yes, except for the category of leading actress in a comedy, which absolutely must go to Jean Smart for “Hacks.” Will “The Crown,” riding on a season featuring Princess Diana, finally bring Netflix its first best series win?
The telecast, hosted by Cedric the Entertainer, will air live on Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS. Here are some predictions, fantasies, and grudges.
“The Boys” (Amazon)
“The Crown” (Netflix)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
“Lovecraft Country” (HBO)
“The Mandalorian” (Disney+)
“This Is Us” (NBC)
SHOULD WIN: I’m rooting for that famous family of self-serving beasts combing the tundra for new victims. Oh, I know that “Succession” wasn’t on TV during the Emmy eligibility period. I’m talking about the fourth season of “The Crown,” which gave us the royal family as a pack of wolves. It was the show’s best season so far.
WILL WIN: “The Crown” has been nominated in this category for all of its four seasons so far, but this year it will prevail. Even viewers who’ve traditionally rolled their eyes at period pieces got drawn into the season’s elegant — and yet brutal — portrait of the Windsors at their worst. Voters clearly admired the much-nominated (but canceled) “Lovecraft Country,” which turned horror tropes into racist visions, but the Diana-led “Crown” was a sensation.
Lead actress, drama
Uzo Aduba, “In Treatment”
Olivia Colman, “The Crown”
Emma Corrin, “The Crown”
Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Mj Rodriguez, “Pose”
Jurnee Smollett, “Lovecraft Country”
SHOULD WIN: The nod for Rodriguez, who has always held “Pose” together, is late in coming. But Colman is my favorite this year. As Queen Elizabeth, she’s like a silencer — she shoots to kill, but without making a sound. Just a bit of eye contact will do. Colman was nominated for her first season as the queen, but lost out to Jodie Comer of “Killing Eve.” That’s not obscene, even if Comer won for a poorly written season. But Colman accomplishes so much in advancing the character during season four of “The Crown,” bringing grit and attitude to a woman swathed in drapery fabric and inscrutability. This is her final chance to win for the role.
WILL WIN: Either Corrin or Aduba will win, and that’s no tragedy. Corrin made Princess Diana’s vulnerability impossible to dismiss, and Aduba mastered the challenges that come with a show built on dialogue and introspection.
Lead actor, drama
Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
Jonathan Majors, “Lovecraft Country”
Josh O’Connor, “The Crown”
Regé-Jean Page, “Bridgerton”
Billy Porter, “Pose”
Matthew Rhys, “Perry Mason”
SHOULD WIN: O’Connor was simultaneously unlikable and sadly broken as Prince Charles — which may turn off voters, who won’t want to reward anything having to do with the man who was cruel to Diana. But he was remarkable and uncompromising, and deserving. I also admired Majors, who was a revelation as a Korean War veteran.
WILL WIN: Is it possible voters will go with the big buzz maker, something I usually identify with the Golden Globes? That would put Page in the winner’s chair and turn on a lot of the younger TV viewers that the Emmys are trying to attract to the telecast. But I suspect Porter, so emotionally all-in on “Pose,” will have a repeat win for his work as the dying Pray Tell.
Supporting actress, drama
Gillian Anderson, “The Crown”
Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”
Madeline Brewer, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Aunjanue Ellis, “Lovecraft Country”
Emerald Fennell, “The Crown”
Yvonne Strahovski, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Samira Wiley, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
SHOULD WIN: Anderson was just exactly perfect as Margaret Thatcher, able to be both comic as she navigated the famous bouffant and disturbing as she puts down women in politics as “too emotional.” She made the cool confrontations between Thatcher and the queen dryly amusing and, after her failure to master royal protocol during a visit to Balmoral, out-and-out funny.
WILL WIN: Anderson will win, as “The Crown” pulls a semi-sweep on the drama side.
ROBBED: Judy Davis, the only good thing in “Ratched.”
Supporting actor, drama
Giancarlo Esposito, “The Mandalorian”
O-T Fagbenle, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
John Lithgow, “Perry Mason”
Tobias Menzies, “The Crown”
Max Minghella, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Chris Sullivan, “This Is Us”
Bradley Whitford, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Michael K. Williams, “Lovecraft Country”
SHOULD WIN: Williams and Fagbenle — who finally got some meaty material as “The Handmaid’s Tale” brought June back to him — are the standouts here. But the late Williams was exceptional, as usual. The fact that he was never nominated for his turn as Omar on “The Wire” is among the Television Academy’s greatest sins.
WILL WIN: “Crown” fever could pick up Menzies in its heat, but I’m betting on Williams. Alas, not necessarily better late than never.
ROBBED: Nicco Annan was unforgettable as the gender-nonconforming boss on “P-Valley.”
“Ted Lasso” (Apple TV+)
“Hacks” (HBO Max)
“The Flight Attendant” (HBO Max)
“Cobra Kai” (Netflix)
“The Kominsky Method” (Netflix)
“Emily in Paris” (Netflix)
SHOULD WIN: I’m delighted voters acknowledged “PEN15,” which has been so much more than a party trick. But “Ted Lasso” was a full-service treat, a show that arrived with a fully formed collection of characters and a positive, but not naïve, spirit. I’m rooting for it unironically.
WILL WIN: “Ted Lasso” arrived at the right moment, when a locked-down nation was looking to be cheered by something upbeat. It will be rewarded for its service.
ROBBED: So the Television Academy sees fit to nominate “Emily in Paris,” but not the audacious, moving “Dickinson” or the ensemble greatness that is “Mythic Quest”? OK then.
Lead actress, comedy
Jean Smart, “Hacks”
Kaley Cuoco, “The Flight Attendant”
Allison Janney, “Mom”
Tracee Ellis Ross, “black-ish”
Aidy Bryant, “Shrill”
SHOULD WIN: I’m happy Bryant got a little love for her strong leading work (her “SNL” nomination is silly; she spent the season smirking). But I’m all in for Smart, who brought heart, soul, authenticity, and timing to a role that fits her like a glove. She played a show-biz queen looking for the kind of creative renewal that Smart the actress has clearly found.
WILL WIN: Smart has had a recent surge of popularity and quality, with “Watchmen,” “Fargo,” and “Mare of Easttown,” and voters are going to reward her. Historically, she has been an Emmy favorite, with nine nominations and three wins before this year.
ROBBED: Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, the stars of “PEN15,” are miraculous as early teens. The show, nominated as best comedy, doesn’t work without the pair’s balancing act.
Lead actor, comedy
Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso”
Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”
Kenan Thompson, “Kenan”
Anthony Anderson, “black-ish”
William H. Macy, “Shameless”
SHOULD WIN: It’s not easy to make sincerity and optimism bearable, and for that I think Sudeikis deserves credit. Douglas was, as usual, magnificent, but Sudeikis’s effortlessness is winning.
WILL WIN: No question: Sudeikis. He’s the most essential part of the phenomenon; it flies thanks to his buoyant performance.
ROBBED: Apparently voters watched the mediocre “Kenan” and the tired final season of “Shameless,” but not “Mythic Quest,” which features expert leading work by Rob McElhenney as a high-tech narcissist in chief. Not a good look.
Supporting actress, comedy
Hannah Waddingham, “Ted Lasso”
Juno Temple, “Ted Lasso”
Hannah Einbinder, “Hacks”
Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”
Cecily Strong, “Saturday Night Live”
Aidy Bryant, “Saturday Night Live”
Rosie Perez, “The Flight Attendant”
SHOULD WIN: Waddingham was a treat, as the first season revolved around Rebecca’s vengeance, which evolved into empowerment. She was commanding, funny, and moving.
WILL WIN: Waddingham is the one to beat in this strong category.
ROBBED: Kathleen Turner was a powerhouse — both comic and dramatic — in “The Kominsky Method,” helping to fill the gap left by Alan Arkin. And Renée Elise Goldsberry brought her perfect delivery to “Girls5Eva.”
Supporting actor, comedy
Kenan Thompson, “Saturday Night Live”
Brett Goldstein, “Ted Lasso”
Bowen Yang, “Saturday Night Live”
Jeremy Swift, “Ted Lasso”
Nick Mohammed, “Ted Lasso”
Brendan Hunt, “Ted Lasso”
Paul Reiser, “The Kominsky Method”
Carl Clemons-Hopkins, “Hacks”
SHOULD WIN: It’s quite possible the “Ted Lasso” dudes will cancel one another out, which would be a shame for Goldstein, whose angry-faced but warm-hearted Roy Kent had a good arc about aging out. He’s my favorite in this category, with Reiser a close second as Sandy’s old man of a son-in-law.
WILL WIN: Thompson is beloved. He will win in a show of gratitude for his many years as an “SNL” staple.
ROBBED: Ray Romano, who shined as a grieving father who falls for a sex doll in “Made for Love.”
Limited or anthology series
“The Queen’s Gambit” (Netflix)
“I May Destroy You” (HBO)
“Mare of Easttown” (HBO)
“The Underground Railroad” (Amazon)
SHOULD WIN: A miniseries that’s as challenging and bracing as “I May Destroy You” is a rare thing. Michaela Coel’s writing and the execution are exceptional right through to the multi-pronged — and brilliant — ending. Barry Jenkins’s cinematic “The Underground Railroad” is a remarkable achievement, too, but less consistent.
WILL WIN: As in recent years, this is a category of winners. I’m guessing voters will ultimately go for the entertaining and gorgeously shot story that became a lockdown sensation: “The Queen’s Gambit.” And I’ll be content with that choice.
ROBBED: I suspect an abundance of voters failed to watch “The Good Lord Bird.” That’s the only explanation for the absence of this extraordinary Showtime dramatic comedy in the major nominations.
Lead actress, limited series or movie
Kate Winslet, “Mare of Easttown”
Anya Taylor-Joy, “The Queen’s Gambit”
Michaela Coel, “I May Destroy You”
Cynthia Erivo, “Genius: Aretha”
Elizabeth Olsen, “WandaVision”
SHOULD WIN: There’s no doubt in my mind that Coel’s performance as a woman recovering memories of an assault is the year’s best. She is stunning. I get it: The HBO miniseries is too difficult for many to watch; it cuts a lot closer than one of those more conventional murder-mystery tales . . .
WILL WIN: . . . Such as “Mare.” Winslet will win, for bringing added value — stifled grief, depression, a touch of nihilism — to her small-town detective. And that’s not a bad thing. Taylor-Joy’s turn as the chess pro is a keeper, too, but Winslet and her accent will dominate.
ROBBED: Thuso Mbedu was stunning in “The Underground Railroad.”
Lead actor, limited series or movie
Hugh Grant, “The Undoing”
Paul Bettany, “WandaVision”
Ewan McGregor, “Halston”
Leslie Odom Jr., “Hamilton”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hamilton”
SHOULD WIN: Obviously the two “Hamilton” nominees are extraordinary, but I refuse to honor them. A film of a theatrical event does not belong in any of these TV categories. Sorry, but I’m going with Grant, who threw us off the trail with his usual charm. Once again, he subverts his typecasting. I will conveniently erase the very end of the story, and his performance in those denouement scenes, from my memory.
WILL WIN: Voters apparently don’t care about giving out valuable TV awards for theatrical performances, so I’m expecting them to go with Odom or Miranda [me throwing up my hands].
ROBBED: In ignoring “The Good Lord Bird,” voters ignored the male performance of the year: Ethan Hawke, whose turn as abolitionist John Brown is one for the ages.