Even when Emmy voters are for the most part predictable, they always throw in a couple of surprises. Last year, for instance, “Schitt’s Creek” and “Succession” and “Watchmen” won, as expected, but Zendaya scored a shocking victory in the drama actress category for “Euphoria.” And this year, members of the Television Academy voters already pulled some big surprises at the Creative Arts Emmys, most notably when they named “Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square” the year’s best television movie and gave Claire Foy the Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series award for one flashback scene in “The Crown.”
They’ll no doubt have other surprises up their sleeves on Sunday at the all-vaccinated, all-tested Primetime Emmy Awards. But where? “Ted Lasso” seems like a prohibitive favorite in the comedy categories and “The Crown” the leader in drama, while the nine Emmys already won by “The Queen’s Gambit” may give that show the upper hand in the fiercely competitive Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series category.
Here are our best guesses for the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards — and as confident as we are in many of these picks, we’re even more confident that those darn voters are going to make us look bad a few times.
Outstanding Comedy Series
After a year in which many past nominees have either gone off the air (“Schitt’s Creek,” “Fleabag,” “The Good Place”) or didn’t produce new episodes during the eligibility period (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “What We Do in the Shadows”), this Emmy season belongs to the new shows. And no new comedy series seized the moment quite like Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso,” which seems like a prohibitive favorite in this category.
Sure, HBO Max’s “Hacks” came on strong late in the Emmy calendar, and the now-airing second season of “Ted Lasso” hasn’t been as unanimously praised as the first one was. But it hardly seems likely that Season 2 will hurt Season 1’s chances to any real degree, because “Ted Lasso” was the series that made us feel good at a time when we really, really needed to feel good. Sometimes, nice guys do finish first.
Predicted winner: “Ted Lasso”
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Anthony Anderson is overdue, Michael Douglas had a fine final season of “The Kominsky Method,” Kenan Thompson also gets a boost from “Saturday Night Live” and William H. Macy has been an Emmy favorite for a very long time. But what that really means is that there will be a competitive battle for second place here. For the last six years in a row, the lead performer in the series that won the outstanding-comedy Emmy has also taken home an acting award, and Ted Lasso himself isn’t about to break that streak.
(Although given a recent storyline, it would be fitting if Jason Sudeikis tied with somebody else for this award. But he won’t.)
Predicted winner: Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso”
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Apart from Mr. Lasso, has there been a more indelible and more entertaining lead character in TV comedy this past year than Deborah Vance, the imperious comic diva played by Jean Smart on “Hacks?” No offense to Kaley Cuoco or any of the other nominees, but no, there hasn’t. In a “Lasso”-less year, “Hacks” would probably be the front-runner for Outstanding Comedy Series, and Smart, who’s also nominated for “Mare of Easttown,” should easily pick up her fourth Emmy (after two for “Frasier” and one for “Samantha Who?”) for her delicious performance.
Predicted winner: Jean Smart, “Hacks”
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Carl Clemons-Hopkins, “Hacks”
Brett Goldstein, “Ted Lasso“
Brendan Hunt, “Ted Lasso“
Nick Mohammed, “Ted Lasso“
Paul Reiser, “The Kominsky Method”
Jeremy Swift, “Ted Lasso“
Kenan Thompson, “Saturday Night Live”
Bowen Yang, “Saturday Night Live”
Now things get interesting, because four of the eight nominees come from the same show — which is, you guessed it, “Ted Lasso.” That’s a lot of potential vote-splitting, unless the “Lasso” vote coalesces around a single actor. But the thing is, it could very well do just that around Brett Goldstein, whose deadpan portrayal of the seething soccer star Roy Kent is one of the show’s true delights.
“Saturday Night Live” also has two nominees here, Kenan Thompson and Bowen Yang, and another bit of vote-splitting could well open the door for “The Kominsky Method” star Paul Reiser, who’d be getting his first-ever Emmy (!) on his 12th nomination and his first nod since 1994. But the “SNL” vote will likely focus on Thompson, the longest-running cast member ever, just as the “Ted Lasso” vote focuses on Goldstein. Apart from Alec Baldwin winning in 2017 for playing Donald Trump on “SNL,” this category tends not to go to a sketch comic, which may give the slightest of edges to Goldstein.
Predicted winner: Brett Goldstein, “Ted Lasso”
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Aidy Bryant, “Saturday Night Live”
Hannah Einbinder, “Hacks“
Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”
Rosie Perez, “The Flight Attendant“
Cecily Strong, “Saturday Night Live”
Juno Temple, “Ted Lasso”
Hannah Waddingham, “Ted Lasso”
Hannah’s going to win … but which Hannah? There’s Hannah Einbinder, who essentially has a co-lead role in “Hacks” as a young comic writer who becomes a foil and a punching bag for Jean Smart’s Deborah Vance, and Hannah Waddingham, who is boss, sometime foe and occasional supporter of the misfit coach she hires in “Ted Lasso.”
“SNL” has three nominees, of which Cecily Strong might have marginally more momentum than past winner Kate McKinnon, while Rosie Perez might well be the strongest contender not named Hannah for “The Flight Attendant.” And then there’s another “Ted Lasso” star, Juno Temple, whose presence on the ballot might siphon off enough votes from Hannah W. to give the Emmy to Hannah E.
Predicted winner: Hannah Einbinder, “Hacks”
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
James Burrows, “B Positive”: Pilot
Susanna Fogel, “The Flight Attendant”: “In Case of Emergency”
Lucia Aniello, “Hacks”: “There Is No Line”
Jams Widdoes, “Mom”: “Scooby-Doo Checks and Salisbury Steak”
Zach Braff, “Ted Lasso”: “Biscuits”
M.J. Delaney, “Ted Lasso”: “The Hope That Kills You”
Declan Lowney, “Ted Lasso”: “Make Rebecca Great Again”
How big a problem is it that “Ted Lasso” has three of the seven nominations? Well, the last eight times that shows have scored multiple nominations in this category – “Barry,” “Atlanta,” “Silicon Valley” twice, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” twice and “Veep” twice – the show with more than one nomination has lost to a series with a single nom. That might not be fatal to “Ted Lasso,” but it is a problem, and an opportunity for “The Flight Attendant” and “Hacks” in particular.
Predicted winner: Susanna Fogel, “The Flight Attendant”
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
Steve Yockey, “The Flight Attendant”: “In Case of Emergency”
Meredith Scardino, “Girls5eva”: Pilot
Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, Jen Statsky, “Hacks”: “There Is No Line”
Maya Erskine, “PEN15”: “Play”
Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly, “Ted Lasso”: “Make Rebecca Great Again”
Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Bill Lawrence, Joe Kelly, “Ted Lasso”: Pilot
Over the past dozen years, vote-splitting has been as problematic in the writing category as in directing, but last year “Schitt’s Creek” became the first show since “30 Rock” to land multiple nominations but also win. In that case, it was the series finale that took home the prize – so for “Ted Lasso” to turn the trick, it’ll probably have to make sure all its support goes to its pilot. If it can’t do that, “Hacks” – a show that’s a lot about writing – might well be the main beneficiary, though Maya Erskine could be a real wild card for “PEN15.”
Predicted winner: “Ted Lasso”: Pilot
Outstanding Drama Series
Could “The Mandalorian” turn into the new “Game of Thrones” — the big, extravagant series that wins all the technical awards and also takes Outstanding Drama Series? The fact that it received 24 nominations, tied for the most among all programs this year, suggests that it has across-the-board support, including in the directing and writing categories. And it got off to a good start at last weekend’s Creative Arts Emmys ceremonies, where its seven awards are tops among all drama series and second only to the limited series “The Queen’s Gambit.”
But the other series that received 24 noms this year was “The Crown,” which also has writing and directing nods, along with nine acting nominations to only one for “The Mandalorian.” “The Crown” has been nominated for every one of its four seasons and it’s never won, but with the two shows that beat it (“Game of Thrones” and “Succession”) out of the running this year, it looks like the clear favorite over “The Mandalorian.”
There is one dark-horse candidate to watch out for, though: The final season of “Pose,” a groundbreaking show for transgender representation on television, was a richly satisfying one and has a chance to pull off a real upset.
Predicted winner: “The Crown”
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Three of the last four winners in this category are nominated this year: Billy Porter from “Pose,” who won in 2019; Matthew Rhys from “Perry Mason,” who won in 2018 for “The Americans”; and Sterling K. Brown from “This Is Us,” who won in 2017. Of those three, Porter has the best shot to win again for his show’s final season, though Jonathan Majors from “Lovecraft Country” and Regé-Jean Page from “Bridgerton” are solid contenders as well. The frontrunner, though, is Josh O’Connor, whose performance as Prince Charles in “The Crown” has already won him Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards.
Predicted winner: Josh O’Connor, “The Crown”
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
It’s rare for a show to place a pair of actresses in this category, but Olivia Colman and Emma Corrin have been consistently nominated by every awards group for playing Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana in Season 4 of “The Crown.” Typically, Corrin has been the one who goes home with the award, and she’s certainly the odds-on favorite here. But Mj Rodriguez, the first transgender actress ever nominated in this category, definitely has a chance to make further history, while you can’t overlook past winner Elisabeth Moss. And you can never overlook Uzo Aduba at the Emmys, where she’s won three times in four nominations and where she’s in the running as the star of the late-breaking HBO series “In Treatment.” But as the festival favorite movie “Spencer” shows, Princess Di is a very hot property these days.
Predicted winner: Emma Corrin, “The Crown”
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
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”
If the late Michael K. Williams wins for “Lovecraft Country,” it will not have been a sentimental choice: Voting ended before his death on Sept. 6. But with O-T Fagbenle, Max Minghella and Bradley Whitford potentially splitting the “Handmaid’s Tale” vote and “The Crown” likely winning acting awards in too many other categories, Williams is liable to edge out Tobias Menzies and Giancarlo Esposito for what will be a sentimental presentation.
Predicted winner: Michael K. Williams, “Lovecraft Country”
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
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”
Gillian Anderson has already won SAG and Golden Globe awards for playing Margaret Thatcher in “The Crown,” and the only thing that might prevent her from adding an Emmy is that two of her co-stars, Helena Bonham Carter and Emerald Fennell, are also nominated and could conceivably split the vote. But that vote has all gone to Anderson so far, and her competition includes not three but four nominees from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” of which Yvonne Strahovski and Ann Dowd probably have the best shot.
Unless all those “Crown” and “Handmaid” votes split and Aunjanue Ellis sneaks in for “Lovecraft Country,” this is probably another prize for Anderson.
Predicted winner: Gillian Anderson, “The Crown”
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
Julie Anne Robinson, “Bridgerton”: “Diamond of the First Water”
Benjamin Caron, “The Crown”: “Fairytale”
Jessica Hobbs, “The Crown”: “War”
Liz Garbus, “The Handmaid’s Tale”: “The Wilderness”
Jon Favreau, “The Mandalorian”: “Chapter 9: The Marshal”
Steven Canals, “Pose”: Series Finale
Unlike in the comedy-directing category, multiple directing nominations don’t seem to hurt dramas: Of the last eight shows that have received two or three noms in a single year, five have won the Emmy with one of their episodes. This year, “The Crown” has two nominations, and votes are likely to gravitate toward the Diana-focused episode, “Fairytale.” But this could also be a spot to recognize the scale of “The Mandalorian,” or to give “The Handmaid’s Tale” a significant award, or to honor the final episode of “Pose.” In four of the last six years this category has gone to the Outstanding Drama Series winner, so we’ll go with “The Crown.”
Predicted winner: “The Crown”: “Fairytale”
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Rebecca Sonnenshine, “The Boys”: “What I Know”
Peter Morgan, “The Crown”: “War”
Yahlin Chang, “The Handmaid’s Tale”: “Home”
Misha Green, “Lovecraft Country”: “Sundown”
Dave Filoni, “The Mandalorian”: “Chapter 13: The Jedi”
Jon Favreau, “The Mandalorian”: “Chapter 16: The Rescue”
Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Steven Canals, Janet Mock, Our Lady J, “Pose”: Series Finale
In this category, “The Mandalorian” is the show with multiple nominations – but with the exception of awards for “Game of Thrones” in 2015 and ’16, the award typically goes to talkier, less high-octane shows. That could mean “The Handmaid’s Tale” or “Lovecraft Country” or “Pose,” or most likely the season finale of “The Crown.”
Predicted winner: “The Crown”: “War”
Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series
When it premiered last fall, “The Queen’s Gambit” seemed liable to breeze to a win in this category – but since then, “WandaVision” became Marvel’s breakout TV entry, “Mare of Easttown” turned into appointment TV, “I May Destroy You” picked up strong buzz and Barry Jenkins released the formidable “The Underground Railroad.” So now it’s a much closer race – but the fact that “Queen’s Gambit” has already won nine Creative Arts Emmys, the most of any program, suggests that it’s still the favorite.
Predicted winner: “The Queen’s Gambit”
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie
You can make a case any one of these nominees winning — Miranda because of the cultural impact of the show he created, “Hamilton”; Odom because his performance as Aaron Burr in that show was so strong that it beat Miranda for the Tony Award; McGregor because of the scope of his performance as Halston; Grant because he keeps doing great work on TV; Bettany because “WandaVision” gives him to chance to play a Marvel superhero but also to pay tribute to classic TV icons. And maybe because what Bettany does is so much fun and so unexpected, he might have a slight edge.
Predicted winner: Paul Bettany, “WandaVision”
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie
Back when “The Queen’s Gambit” was dominating pop culture and people were buying chess sets, Anya Taylor-Joy felt like a sure winner at the Emmys to follow her wins at SAG and the Globes and the Critics Choice Awards. But then Kate Winslet and “Mare of Easttown” happened, and suddenly a runaway turned into a very close race. “The Queen’s Gambit” may still win the most awards, but it’s hard to deny Kate Winslet and her Delco accent.
Predicted winner: Kate Winslet, “Mare of Easttown”
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie
Half of the category is from “Hamilton,” but will voters go for a piece of recorded theater over the limited series that make up the rest of the nominees? (If so, it’ll likely be Daveed Diggs over Jonathan Groff and Anthony Ramos.) Thomas Brodie Sangster will get attention for proving that the lovestruck little kid from “Love, Actually” grew up, and Paapa Essiedu would be a high-profile win for “I May Destroy You” – but as Winslet’s sparring partner in “Mare of Easttown,” Evan Peters played a crucial part in that series.
Predicted winner: Evan Peters, “Mare of Easttown”
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie
Along with two more “Hamilton” nominees, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Phillipa Soo, the category contains two from “Mare of Easttown,” Jean Smart and Julianne Nicholson. Nicholson could win on the strength of the show’s wrenching final episode, but Kathryn Hahn is so irresistible as neighborhood witch Agatha Harkness that she may have the upper hand.
Predicted winner: Kathryn Hahn, “WandaVision”
Outstanding Directing for A Limited or Anthology Series or Movie
Thomas Kail, “Hamilton”
Sam Miller, Michaela Coel, “I May Destroy You”: “Ego Death”
Sam Miller, “I May Destroy You”: “Eyes Eyes Eyes Eyes”
Craig Zobel, “Mare of Easttown”
Scott Frank, “The Queen’s Gambit”
Barry Jenkins, “The Underground Railroad”
Matt Shakman, “WandaVision”
Four of the nominations are for full limited series, ranging in length from five-and-a-half to 10 hours; one is for the movie-length version of “Hamilton”; and two are for individual episodes of “I May Destroy You.” In the past decade, single episode directors have won three times, but only once in the last six years, which probably tilts the scales toward the large-scale achievement of “The Queen’s Gambit,” “The Underground Railroad,” “WandaVision” or “Mare of Easttown.” While the playfulness and variety of “WandaVision” will likely get votes, this may come down to Barry Jenkins for “The Underground Railroad” and Scott Frank for “The Queen’s Gambit” – and the latter show seems to be a favorite of voters, judging by the Creative Arts results.
Predicted winner: Scott Frank, “The Queen’s Gambit”
Outstanding Writing for A Limited or Anthology Series or Movie
Michaela Coel, “I May Destroy You”
Brad Inglesby, “Mare of Easttown”
Scott Frank, “The Queen’s Gambit”
Jan Shaeffer, “WandaVision”: “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience”
Chuck Hayward, Peter Cameron, “WandaVision”: “All-New Halloween Spooktacular”
Laura Donney, “WandaVision”: Previously On”
Like the directing category, the nominees are a mixture of single-episode writers (the three from “WandaVision”) and writers of an entire limited series. The scale of “The Queen’s Gambit” and the twists and turns in “Mare of Easttown” make them strong competitors, but this category also feels like the best way to reward Michaela Coel for her deeply personal critical favorite “I May Destroy You,” so she may eke out a close win over “Mare.”
Predicted winner: Michaela Coel, “I May Destroy You”
Outstanding Variety Talk Series
“The Daily Show With Trevor Noah”
“Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”
“The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”
In a category that loves streaks, John Oliver has won for the last five years in a row, this despite the fact that his show is pretty much a talk show only in the sense that he talks to viewers. There’s not much reason to think that Oliver’s streak will end, except for that sudden outpouring of love for Conan O’Brien when his show ended right after nominations were announced in July. Jon Stewart got a sentimental parting gift when his “Daily Show” ended in 2015, winning one last Emmy even though Stephen Colbert had won in the two previous years – so while it’s unlikely, it’s not out of the question that “Conan” could get his own golden sendoff.
Predicted winner: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”
Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
“A Black Lady Sketch Show”
“Saturday Night Live”
Television Academy rules say this category should no longer exist, because there simply aren’t enough sketch shows to make a competitive field. But there was such an outcry when the Academy announced plans to merge this category with the talk-series category that they changed their minds. With a paltry nine shows qualifying for consideration, the rules limited the category to two nominees, one of which is the winningest show in Emmy history, “Saturday Night Live.” “SNL” might lose eventually (most likely when the Academy succeeds in merging this category), but it’s won four consecutive years, and its nine victories at the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend suggest that it’ll make it five in a row.
Predicted winner: “Saturday Night Live”
Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)
“Bo Burnham: Inside”
“David Byrne’s American Utopia”
“8:46 – Dave Chappelle”
“Friends: The Reunion”
“A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote”
This is a beast of a category, with nominees that include the film version of “Hamilton,” with its seven acting nominations; “Bo Burnham: Inside,” a critically adored one-man show that has already won Burnham awards for writing, directing and music direction; “David Byrne’s American Utopia,” directed by no less than Spike Lee; and “8:46 – Dave Chappelle,” the latest comedy special from the man who has won two of the last three awards in this category.
At one point, “Hamilton” seemed like the clear frontrunner here – but “Inside,” which dropped the day before the end of Emmy eligibility, came on very strong at exactly the right moment. The race is probably neck-and-neck between the two, one traditional and the other weirder and more adventurous. (How strange is it that a multiracial hip-hop musical about the founding fathers can be seen as the conservative choice?) Depending on how the age of voters in the category skews, this could go either direction.
Predicted winner: “Hamilton”
Outstanding Writing for A Variety Series
“The Amber Ruffin Show”
“A Black Lady Sketch Show”
“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”
“Late Show With Stephen Colbert”
“Saturday Night Live”
When “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” wins Outstanding Variety Talk Series, it also wins this category. In fact, no show has ever won Outstanding Variety Talk Series without also winning this category, which means that Oliver is pretty much a lock here. Plus, the one show that has a chance to knock him off in the talk-series category, “Conan,” isn’t nominated here – so even if Oliver loses that category, he won’t lose this one.
Predicted winner: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”
Outstanding Competition Program
“The Amazing Race”
“RuPaul’s Drag Race”
Competition program is another category where voters love streaks: “The Amazing Race” won for seven years in a row, “The Voice” won for three, and now “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is on a roll with three straight wins. And considering that it won five awards at the Creative Arts Emmys while none of its fellow nominees won any, it’d be a shock if it doesn’t extend its streak to six, even up against the category’s all-time winner, “The Amazing Race,” and the up-and-coming “Nailed It!”
Predicted winner: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”