There’s something dispiriting about predicting Emmy nominations, because the first step is always to look up what was nominated last year and pick it to be nominated again.
And yet, can you really blame the voters in the Television Academy? There may be hundreds of new shows competing for their attention each season, but a glut of new programs doesn’t automatically mean that the series that were deserving of Emmy attention 12 months ago got worse when the new ones showed up.
In the drama categories, for instance, “Game of Thrones” won the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy for the first time last year, and it was probably the most talked-about show of this season, too, despite the presence of hot new series like “Mr. Robot,” “Narcos” and “Billions.”
Note: The Outstanding Drama Series category typically has seven nominees, and the acting categories six each. But in the case of particularly close votes, the Television Academy also has rules that can expand each category by one or two nominees. We’re assuming that each of these categories will have the usual number of nominees, but it’s likely that a couple of them may end up bigger than that.
This is the first part of our Emmy predictions, covering some of the key drama categories. “Mad Men” ended its run last year and is no longer eligible in these categories, with “Downton Abbey” and “The Good Wife” eligible for one last time this year.
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
“Better Call Saul”
“Game of Thrones”
“House of Cards”
“Orange Is the New Black”
Given the fact that the shows didn’t drop off in quality or in buzz, it’s hard to imagine that Emmy voters won’t continue to salute 2015 nominees “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards,” “Better Call Saul,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Homeland” and, in its final season, “Downton Abbey.” That leaves only one slot, which will likely go to the buzziest new show, the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe winner “Mr. Robot.”
If one of last year’s nominees falls out (“Homeland” and “Downton Abbey” probably being the likeliest candidates to do so), a nom could go to another new show, “Billions” or “Narcos,” or the eternally overlooked “The Americans,” or the final season of the last broadcast-network show to land in this category, “The Good Wife.”
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline”
Paul Giamatti, “Billions”
Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”
Last year’s winner, “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm, is gone; so is past winner and regular nominee Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom”). The other 2015 nominees were Spacey (who’s always been nominated for “House of Cards,” but never won), Odenkirk, Chandler and Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”), but it wouldn’t be surprising if one of them is nudged out by newcomers that include Malek, Giamatti and Aaron Paul from “The Path,” or by stars from longer-running shows like Matthew Rhys from “The Americans” and Clive Owen from “The Knick.”
We’re guessing it’ll be Spacey, Malek, Odenkirk, Giamatti, Chandler and Schreiber, though those last two don’t seem as secure as the first four.
OUTSTANDING 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”
Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”
Robin Wright, “House of Cards”
In the last six years, Margulies has won twice, been nominated twice and been overlooked twice, including last year – but her final season as Alicia Florrick ought to keep her out of the “overlooked” category. Wright’s pretty much a lock, as is Danes. Voters finally discovered Maslany and “Orphan Black” last year, and should bring her back this year.
The final two spots figure to go to 2015 nominee Henson and winner Davis, but they both seem a little vulnerable: Henson because TV Academy members otherwise ignored her show last year, Davis because the buzz for “How to Get Away With Murder” has almost completely dissipated over the last nine months.
But we’ll still opt for them over contenders Carrie Coon (“The Leftovers”), Eva Green (“Penny Dreadful”), Ruth Wilson (“The Affair”) and Shiri Appleby (“UnReal”). Watch out for Michelle Dockery, since voters might want to give Lady Mary a parting gift for the entire run of “Downton Abbey.”
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul”
Jim Carter, “Downton Abbey”
Alan Cumming, “The Good Wife”
Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”
Michael Kelly, “House of Cards”
Christian Slater, “Mr. Robot”
Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister didn’t have a great season on “Game of Thrones,” but he did nail a couple of big scenes that should put him back in the race. The other five 2015 nominees are all back: Banks, Carter, Cumming, Kelly and Ben Mendelsohn in “Bloodline.” But one of them has to move aside for Slater, most likely Mendelsohn.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Uzo Aduba, “Orange Is the New Black”
Christine Baranski, “The Good Wife”
Emilia Clarke, “Game of Thrones”
Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones”
Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”
Constance Zimmer, “UnReal”
Aduba is a back-to-back winner for “OITNB.” (Once in the comedy category, once in drama. Go figure.) Headey literally burned down the place in “Game of Thrones,” which should give her a boost over castmates Clarke and the eminently deserving Sophie Turner. Smith is Maggie Freakin’ Smith and she had the last word in the last episode of “Downton Abbey.” Baranski has been nominated six times for “The Good Wife” and 14 times overall, and there’s no reason for voters not to stick with her during her final season on the show.
That’s four of the six slots filled, without even mentioning long-suffering (and twice-nominated) “Downton” star Joanne Froggatt, “The Leftovers” standout Regina King, “UnReal” co-star (and Critics’ Choice winner) Zimmer, spurned wife on “The Affair” Maura Tierney (getting her own point of view onscreen in Season 2) and the fierce “Homeland” baddie Miranda Otto.
Like many others, this category could use some super-sizing, but we’ll guess that the Queen of Dragons and the boss on “UnReal” get those last two spots.