Television is in transition, but Emmy voters are traditionalists. Something’s gotta give.
We’ll find out what did give on Thursday morning at 8.30 a.m. PT, when Uzo Aduba and Cat Deeley announce the nominations for the 67th Emmy Awards. Given the vast number of eligible television programs and performers, the Emmys are among the trickiest of all awards shows to predict — particularly given the fact that the members of the Television Academy are creatures of habit, but now have to judge a TV landscape that has grown to include streaming and online content in addition to its broadcast, basic-cable and pay-cable components.
On the eve of the nominations announcement, we’ve tried to figure out what might happen in the top categories. Here are our best guesses.
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
“Game of Thrones”
“House of Cards”
“Orange Is the New Black”
There’s no way Emmy voters won’t ignore the final season of four-time winner “Mad Men,” or another headline-grabbing season of “Game of Thrones.” Netflix’s “House of Cards” and PBS’s “Downton Abbey” have been nominated every season they’ve been around, so they’re likely as well. No broadcast-network show has been nominated in this category in the last three years, but it’s hard to imagine that voters won’t break that losing streak by including the year’s hottest newcomer, “Empire.”
In a category that has been expanded from six to seven nominees this year, the final two nominations could go to “Orange Is the New Black,” surviving despite new TV Academy rules that have pushed it from the comedy to drama categories, and “The Americans,” which got a boost when it won the Critics’ Choice Television Award just as Emmy voting was beginning.
“The Good Wife”
“The Good Wife” used to be a staple in this category, the one broadcast network drama that was routinely nominated; it hasn’t been here since 2011, but the category expansion could help it. If viewers are inclined to take a deeper dive into new shows, something they rarely do, “The Affair” has a real shot.
“Better Call Saul”
“Breaking Bad” won the drama-series Emmy the last two years in a row, and its lighter, jokier spinoff show starring Bob Odenkirk could put creator Vince Gilligan back in a tux.
LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline”
Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”
Terrence Howard, “Empire”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Clive Owen, “The Knick”
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”
After seven consecutive nominations for playing Don Draper (but not a single win), Hamm is a lock to be back. So is Spacey, who’s been nominated for both previous years of “House of Cards.” Chandler won for “Friday Night Lights,” and voters will likely welcome him back for “Bloodline,” while two more new shows, “Empire” and “Better Call Saul,” should lead to nominations for Howard and Odenkirk, respectively. While the final spot could well go to past winner Jeff Daniels, here’s guessing that Clive Owen gets attention for Steven Soderbergh’s slow-burn historical drama “The Knick.”
Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom”
Michael Sheen, “Masters of Sex”
Dominic West, “The Affair”
After nudging his way into the Emmy conversation with “The Hour” and “Appropriate Adult,” West could take things a step further — as could Sheen, who plays the Masters in “Masters of Sex” but has seen co-stars Lizzy Caplan, Beau Bridges and Allison Janney land nominations while he’s gone home empty-handed.
James Spader, “The Blacklist”
Don’t underestimate how much Emmy voters like Spader, who won once for “The Practice” and twice for “Boston Legal.”
LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Claire Danes, “Homeland”
Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”
Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”
Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”
Robin Wright, “House of Cards”
If Davis and Henson both land nominations, as they almost certainly will, this will be the first time the category has ever sported two African-American nominees. Their arrival in hot new shows has also made the category unexpectedly crowded and competitive. Our predictions are based on the fact that Emmy voters stick with their favorites, year after year: Danes, Margulies, Moss and Wright have all been here before, with more than 20 nominations between them.
**Note: This seems to be a category in which we might well see the use of the “two-percent rule,” which could expand the field of nominees to seven or eight in the event of a very close vote.
Caitriona Balfe, “Outlander”
Lizzy Caplan, “Masters of Sex”
Olivia Colman, “Broadchurch”
Michelle Dockery, “Downton Abbey”
Vera Farmiga, “Bates Motel”
Ruth Wilson, “The Affair”
The question is, who could fall out to make room for newcomers Balfe, Colman or Wilson or past nominees Caplan, Dockery or Farmiga? Danes’ show experienced a critical rebound last season and Moss is up for her final season as Peggy Olson, so maybe Margulies or Wright are in jeopardy.
Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”
Every year the outrage grows over Emmy voters’ failure to notice Maslany’s performance as an array of clones in the sci-fi drama; with online voting presumably attracting younger, more tech-savvy voters, it’s conceivable things could change.
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
“Big Bang” and five-time winner “Modern Family” represent the broadcast networks here every year, and that seems unlikely to change. (If one of them is vulnerable, it’s definitely “Big Bang.”) “Transparent” is the most critically acclaimed and timeliest new comedy, “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” are strong and voters love “Louie” enough to nominate it every year. That leaves one slot, probably for a new show – and we’re guessing that residual affection for Tina Fey pushes her “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” into that spot.
“Jane the Virgin”
Either of these first-year shows could unseat “Kimmy” for that final nomination.
“Parks and Recreation”
Despite Amy Poehler’s string of acting nominations, “Parks and Rec” has only been nominated in this category once, in 2011. But it’s possible that the expanded size of the category, and the fact that this past season is the show’s final one, will give it a boost and lead to a second nod.
LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”
Louis C.K., “Louie”
Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes”
Thomas Middleditch, “Silicon Valley”
Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”
Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”
With four Emmys and six nominations for “Big Bang,” Parsons is assured a nomination; with a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice award for “Transparent,” so is Tambor. While there is no shortage of other contenders, perennial nominees C.K., Cheadle and LeBlanc should be back. The final slot could go to Middleditch, whose show has more momentum than most of his competitors.
Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”
Billy Crystal, “The Comedians”
Will Forte, “Last Man on Earth”
William H. Macy, “Shameless”
Macy has always been an Emmy favorite, so he has a strong chance; Crystal’s a legend, so he does too. If voters feel like saluting some new shows, though, LeBlanc and Cheadle could find themselves usurped by the likes of Anderson and Forte.
Andy Samberg, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
He’s hosting the Emmys this year. Isn’t that worth a few votes?
LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”
Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”
Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer”
Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”
It wouldn’t be a comedy-actress category without Louis-Dreyfus, Poehler and Falco, would it? Not recently, it wouldn’t. But there’s also a plethora of hot newcomers pushing to get in, including Kemper, Schumer and Tomlin, a “hot newcomer” at the age of 75. We think they’ll be impossible to ignore.
Lisa Kudrow, “The Comeback”
Melissa McCarthy, “Mike and Molly”
Gina Rodriguez, “Jane the Virgin”
Rodriguez has the visibility of being on a basic-cable network, The CW, instead of a cable show or streaming service, so don’t count her out. Kudrow and McCarthy have the advantage of being TV icons whose names Emmy voters are used to writing down.
Jane Fonda, “Grace and Frankie”
Of the two leads in “Grace and Frankie,” Lily Tomlin is the consensus favorite for a nomination – but voters just might want to salute a pair of legends, rather than picking one above the other.
“American Horror Story: Freak Show”
“The Honorable Woman”
In the category formerly known as Miniseries, “Kitteridge” and “Freak Show” are the locks, with “American Crime” and “The Honorable Woman” likely proving tough and timely enough to join them. Of the other contenders, the Tudo-era drama “Wolf Hall” seems to have the most Emmy buzz.
“Sons of Liberty”
The British drama “The Missing” may be the likeliest to grab a spot, with more critical acclaim than its rivals.
“24: Live Another Day”
The adventures of Jack Bauer won an Outstanding Drama Series Emmy in 2006 – now that attitudes toward terrorism, government surveillance and enhanced interrogation have shifted, could it still have the juice to land a nomination?
MADE FOR TELEVISION MOVIE
“Derek: The Final Chapter”
“Foyle’s War: Elise, The Final Mystery”
We know that HBO will do well, because they always do, grabbing more than half the nominations in this category since 2000. That means “Bessie” and “Nightingale.” Beyond that, this is the Emmys’ thinnest marquee category, with National Geographic’s “Killing Jesus,” Ricky Gervais’ “Derek: The Final Chapter” and the final, movie-length episode of the long-running British series “Foyle’s War” possibly taking the final spots.
“Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Curtains, Poirot’s Last Case”
“Worricker Salting the Battlefield”
Like “Foyle’s War,” “Poirot’s Last Case” is the final episode of a long-running British series never before submitted for the Emmys. It or PBS’s “Page Eight” sequel “Worricker” are probably likelier nominees than Lifetime’s creepy “Stockholm” or its widely-panned Whitney Houston biopic.
“Grace of Monaco”
Could this widely-panned potboiler, which opened the 2014 Cannes Film Festival to jeers and never got a theatrical release from the Weinstein Company, actually find a measure of redemption with an Emmy nomination? Unlikely – but given a weak field and the star power of Nicole Kidman as Princess Grace, who knows?