It’s always a plus to have an embarrassment of riches going into the annual Emmy contest. And this year, like the last few, is no exception, even without “Breaking Bad.” These days, when we complain about who “was robbed,” mostly we’re quibbling. With the likes of “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men,” “Veep,” “Louie,” “Olive Kitteridge,” “Wolf Hall,” and “Transparent” in the running, with their exceptional performances and scripts, everyone wins.
Trying to predict the winners is quite a different story, of course. Everyone, except the person who takes the office pool, loses. On Monday morning, see me making my annual walk of shame after Emmy voters come up with entirely unexpected and irrational choices. Just when I think they’ll take this last chance to honor Jon Hamm after passing over his superior work for years, they’ll give his statue to Jeff Daniels or Kevin Spacey. The catchphrase of Emmy predictors: “Curses, foiled again.”
Nonetheless, here is my take on who’ll win during this year’s ceremony, which airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on Fox.
“Better Call Saul” AMC
“Downton Abbey” PBS
“Game of Thrones” HBO
“House of Cards” Netflix
“Mad Men” AMC
“Orange Is the New Black” Netflix
I’m hoping Emmy voters will want to honor some of the “Mad Men” actors, none of whom has ever won. But “Mad Men” has prevailed in this category four times. And some voters may feel unsure about “Better Call Saul,” which is still in the shadow of “Breaking Bad.” So my metaphorical money is on the epic “Game of Thrones.” I didn’t expect the Academy to go gaga for the show, which is brutal and rooted in the kinds of supernatural genres they usually ignore. But years of multiple “GoT” nominations – it got 24 this round – will culminate in a victory.
Should win: The end of “Mad Men” was handled flawlessly. It was the kind of final salvo that reflects back positively on the entire series. Repeated wins can become tiresome, but I’d give the night’s top honor to “Mad Men.”
Was robbed: All due respect to the elegance porn of “Downton Abbey,” but that slot belongs to “The Americans,” whose only consolation is making it onto every “Was Robbed” list in the country. Why are voters having a Cold War with the Cold War drama? Do they have a problem with FX dramas, which have consistently had trouble getting into this category?
Lead Actress, Drama
Claire Danes “Homeland,” Showtime
Viola Davis “How to Get Away with Murder,” ABC
Taraji P. Henson “Empire,” Fox
Tatiana Maslany “Orphan Black,” BBC America
Elisabeth Moss “Mad Men,” AMC
Robin Wright “House of Cards,” Netflix
Will win: Henson has this one wrapped up, doesn’t she? With her swagger, with her extraordinary ability to own every scene she’s in with a simple roll of the eyes, she’s the biggest reason the sudsy “Empire” became a smash hit. Davis has cred and buzz, but her stiff, heightened performance is in service of baloney. Also: This is the only major nomination for “Empire” — the Academy never likes to embrace soap operas — but it will be the right one.
Should win: I’m torn between two critical faves. Moss has been the secret star of “Mad Men,” with a remarkable series-long arc that saw her Peggy transform from a shut-down and socially awkward frump into a fully realized professional and an emotionally engaged woman. And Maslany is outrageously good and impressive as a group of very distinct clones. But I’m going with Moss, whose character embodied a critical moment in the history of women.
Was robbed: Keri Russell is cold blue steel — willing to turn her daughter into a spy — and sweet fire on “The Americans.”
Lead Actor, Drama
Kyle Chandler “Bloodline,” Netflix
Jeff Daniels “The Newsroom,” HBO
Jon Hamm “Mad Men,” AMC
Bob Odenkirk “Better Call Saul,” AMC
Liev Schreiber “Ray Donovan,” Showtime
Kevin Spacey “House of Cards,” Netflix
Will win: Spacey can taste the Emmy gold, which would bring him a step closer to EGOT status. But voters have one last chance to honor Hamm’s remarkable work, and they will take advantage of it. In the final season, he hit an impressive number of notes, from the despair of Don’s last phone calls to the silent, smirking awareness that he was about to create a historic Coca-Cola ad campaign. Hamm has been nominated every year “Mad Men” has been in the running, and his patience will be rewarded. Alas, his membership in the Outrageous Losers’ League will have to be revoked. I’m assuming voters won’t once again honor Daniels, whose win in 2013 was an Emmy misfire.
Should win: Hamm for sure. And not for sentimental reasons, or because the Academy owes him one. The guy killed it again this season. Odenkirk was impressive, as he opened up a character from “Breaking Bad” who seemed trapped in comic relief, and he may have a statue in his future. But Hamm.
Was robbed: I’m a huge Chandler fan, but he is oddly miscast in “Bloodline.” Matthew Rhys from “The Americans,” Clive Owen from “The Knick,” and Terrence Howard from “Empire” were all more deserving.
Supporting Actress, Drama
Uzo Aduba “Orange Is the New Black,” Netflix
Christine Baranski “The Good Wife,” CBS
Emilia Clarke “Game Of Thrones,” HBO
Joanne Froggatt “Downton Abbey,” PBS
Lena Headey “Game Of Thrones,” HBO
Christina Hendricks “Mad Men,” AMC
Will win: The contest seems to be between Hendricks, another much-nominated “Mad Men” name, and Aduba, who won best guest in a comedy series last year for “Orange,” before the TV Academy pushed the hourlong series into the drama categories. I have a feeling Aduba’s going to take this one, as the sole “Orange” win. The show is losing steam, but she is beloved.
Should win: Aduba’s entertaining, but I didn’t think her Crazy Eyes made much sense as we began to know more about her after the first season. Headey takes my vote, for Cersei’s ferocity, for her stunning public shaming, for her relentless compulsion to lie. She’s cold as ice and yet raging with vengeance.
Was robbed: Maura Tierney was endlessly moving as the betrayed wife on “The Affair.” Lorraine Toussaint held together season two of “Orange” as matriarchal villain V. And Holly Taylor, in her turn as daughter Paige on “The Americans,” nailed each micro-step of Paige’s growing awareness that her parents aren’t who they seem.
Supporting Actor, Drama
Jonathan Banks “Better Call Saul,” AMC
Jim Carter “Downton Abbey,” PBS
Alan Cumming “The Good Wife,” CBS
Peter Dinklage “Game Of Thrones,” HBO
Michael Kelly “House Of Cards,” Netflix
Ben Mendelsohn “Bloodline,” Netflix
Will win: Banks is a strong possibility, since his series was spun off of Emmy favorite “Breaking Bad.” Voters are familiar with him and nominated him for the same character in this category in 2013. But he didn’t have an awful lot to do during the season, and I’m thinking Dinklage, who won in 2011, will win again now that Aaron Paul is out of the running. Dinklage’s series of one-on-one scenes with various characters, including Daenerys, were deeply satisfying.
Should win: No question in my mind, Mendelsohn deserves the prize. He was fully dimensional as the bad guy — sympathetic, selfish, threatening, self-destructive. Much as I enjoy Dinklage, I was riveted by Mendelsohn, who acted everyone else on “Bloodline” into a corner.
Was robbed: How could voters ignore Jon Voight when they’re watching “Ray Donovan” closely enough to nominate Schreiber?
“Modern Family” ABC
“Parks and Recreation” NBC
“Silicon Valley” HBO
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” Netflix
Will win: This is going to be the year when the Academy breaks the “Modern Family” lock, with either “Transparent” or “Veep,” two equally wonderful — and yet remarkably different — comedies. “Transparent” is timely, with its themes of a transgender woman coming out to her family. But “Veep,” also timely with its portrait of political absurdity, will win its first best comedy statue. (Jeffrey Tambor will get the “Transparent” love.) If voters fall back on “Modern Family” for a sixth win, by the way, it will break the Emmy record for scripted series — and it will shatter my hope for change.
Should win: I do so very much love “Veep,” for the kind of satire that keeps on biting. You can watch episodes repeatedly and keep catching new jokes. But the first season of “Transparent” was a revelation, a story about being human and being yourself, about bravery and what truly matters during our time on Earth, about the gnarly realities of family and the consolations of family, too. It deserves to win.
Was robbed: “Girls” had its best season so far, as the characters began to grow in appealing ways. And “Togetherness” was a spot-on ensemble portrait of relationships, distance, fear, and self-realization. Both belong in this crowded category.
LEAD Actress, Comedy
Edie Falco “Nurse Jackie,” Showtime
Lisa Kudrow “The Comeback,” HBO
Julia Louis-Dreyfus “Veep,” HBO
Amy Poehler “Parks and Recreation,” NBC
Amy Schumer “Inside Amy Schumer,” Comedy Central
Lily Tomlin “Grace and Frankie,” Netflix
Will win: This was a remarkably strong year for women in TV comedy, between Kudrow’s phenomenal return as Valerie Cherish, Louis-Dreyfus’s usual stellar work, Schumer’s sharp ironic bite, Falco’s emotional honesty, and Poehler’s endearing might. This is an embarrassment-of-riches situation. But I’m thinking Poehler will finally get recognition for having made Leslie Knope into an icon of political positivity.
Should win: Louis-Dreyfus has won three statues for this role, and she ought to win a fourth. Her comic timing, her facial expressions, her physical comedy, it’s all just exactly perfect.
Was robbed: Emmy Rossum continues to bring depth to “Shameless,” as her Fiona struggles to lead her siblings and not succumb to her self-destructive tendencies. Come on voters, open your eyes.
Lead Actor, Comedy
Anthony Anderson “Black-ish,” ABC
Don Cheadle “House of Lies,” Showtime
Louis C.K. “Louie,” FX
Will Forte “The Last Man on Earth,” Fox
Matt LeBlanc “Episodes,” Showtime
William H. Macy “Shameless,” Showtime
Jeffrey Tambor “Transparent,” Amazon
Will win: The power of Tambor’s turn as a father of three adult children transitioning into a woman is hard to resist, even for Emmy voters. Forte was a lot of fun — and also poignant — as a guy who remains a shallow dude after the end of the world, but Tambor’s craft is undeniable. After six supporting nominations for “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Arrested Development,” and with no nomination this year for four-time winner Jim Parsons of “The Big Bang Theory,” he’s close to a sure thing.
Should win: Tambor definitely deserves it for his moving and grounded work, although I still grieve the fact that Macy hasn’t won yet. He’s a compelling force of life and an emblem of survival, along with the rest of the “Shameless” cast.
Was robbed: Good on voters for recognizing Amy Poehler and “Parks and Recreation,” but what about Adam Scott? As Ben, he layered his turn as supportive husband with all kinds of nerdy goodness.
Supporting Actress, Comedy
Mayim Bialik “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS
Julie Bowen “Modern Family,” ABC
Anna Chlumsky “Veep,” HBO
Gaby Hoffmann “Transparent,” Amazon
Allison Janney “Mom,” CBS
Jane Krakowski “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Netflix
Kate McKinnon “Saturday Night Live,” NBC
Niecy Nash “Getting On,” HBO
Will win: Janney is an Academy favorite, having won four statues for “The West Wing,” one for “Masters of Sex,” and one for “Mom.” But this year, I’m expecting Chlumsky to leave with the statue, particularly since her episode submission, “Convention,” features her brilliant explosion at Selina.
Should win: McKinnon continues to brighten every sketch she’s in. And Nash was a gift on the elder-care comedy. But as an endearing woman-child, Hoffmann was extraordinary. We don’t often see such realism and complexity in family comedies. She’d get my vote.
Was robbed: Amanda Peet was electric on “Togetherness” as a woman protecting others from her own unreliability. And Amy Landecker was another “Transparent” standout as the daughter in the middle of her own transition.
Supporting Actor, Comedy
Andre Braugher “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Fox
Tituss Burgess “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Netflix
Ty Burrell “Modern Family,” ABC
Adam Driver “Girls,” HBO
Tony Hale “Veep,” HBO
Keegan-Michael Key “Key & Peele,” Comedy Central
Will win: Both Hale and Burrell have won. Is it possible that Burgess, a scene stealer fitted with great lines by the impressive “Kimmy Schmidt” writers, will make his breakthrough with an unexpected win? I say yes.
Should win: Braugher is a thorough kick, but his character has only a few moves, including a face that doesn’t move. And Driver is consistently impressive with his unique character. But Burgess kept me hooked on “Kimmy Schmidt” with his repartee and his occasional pathos. He’s a natural.
Was robbed: Steve Zissis of “Togetherness” was a sad sack on the verge of either triumph or failure, it was hard to tell — but always easy to watch. Robert Michael Morris was lovely as Mickey on “The Comeback,” and Timothy Simons was unlovely – and hysterical – on “Veep.”
Best Limited Series
“American Crime” ABC
“American Horror Story: Freak Show” FX
“The Honorable Woman” Sundance
“Olive Kitteridge” HBO
“Wolf Hall” PBS
Will win: “Olive Kitteridge” is a subtle, unsentimental miniseries, but I don’t think that will stop the voters. The prestige project, anchored by revelatory performances from Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, and Zoe Kazan, will win, even if voters are tempted by “American Crime,” a network product that screams Quality Drama a little too loudly. “Olive” has 13 nominations, proof of the Academy’s enthusiasm for it.
Should win: And “Olive” should win, even though “Wolf Hall” is right up there with it in terms of quiet brilliance and unforgettable performances. I suspect that “Wolf” will get Emmy love in the best actor category, for Mark Rylance’s remarkable Thomas Cromwell.
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Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.