Emmys Predictions: Forget Dragons, This Year Is About Newcomers and Politics

“Stranger Things” or “The Handmaid’s Tale?” Donald Glover or Jeffrey Tambor? Stephen Colbert or John Oliver?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus will set records. “Saturday Night Live” will break its own mark for the most Emmy wins by any television series ever. Politics will not only figure into host Stephen Colbert’s monologue, but also drive many voters’ choices. And “Game of Thrones” won’t win a damn thing.

Those are among the things we expect to see Sunday at the Microsoft Theatre, where Stephen Colbert will host the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards — and “Thrones,” to the relief of its competitors, won’t eligible for anything, because it didn’t air during the nomination period.

While we would never abdicate our responsibility as prognosticators, it’s worth pointing out that predicting the Emmys can be maddening and fruitless. Almost every year, someone wins who no one saw coming — like last year’s supporting actor winner for “Baskets,” Louie Anderson.

Here are our predictions in the 27 categories that will be announced Sunday.

DRAMA SERIES CATEGORIES

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
Nominees:
“Better Call Saul”
“The Crown”
“The Handmaid’s Tale”
“House of Cards”
“Stranger Things”
“This Is Us”
“Westworld”

It’s rare for a first-year drama series to win this award — but unless “Better Call Saul” or “House of Cards” can pull off an upset, one of the record five rookie nominees will join “Homeland,” “Mad Men,” “Lost” and “The West Wing” as the only new shows to turn the trick in the last 20 years.

“Stranger Things,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “This Is Us,” “The Crown” and “Westworld” all have a legitimate shot at taking the top prize. “This Is Us” would be a triumph for the broadcast networks, which haven’t even been nominated in the category for years, while “The Handmaid’s Tale” could ride a wave of politically conscious voting. The race could be very close between those two and “Stranger Things,” which may have captured the zeitgeist in a way that the other shows didn’t quite manage. “Stranger Things” also landed five Creative Arts Emmys last weekend, so we know it has strength with voters.

Predicted winner: “Stranger Things”

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Nominees:
Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”
Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
Milo Ventimiglia, “This Is Us”
Anthony Hopkins, “Westworld”

The first four in that list are returning nominees, while the last three hail from first-year shows. Bob Odenkirk could have a shot at winning his first acting Emmy (to go with the writing ones he’s won for “Saturday Night Live” and “The Ben Stiller Show”), and some voters might figure it’s time for Kevin Spacey to finally win for “House of Cards,” for which he’s been nominated every year.

But they’ll face strong competition from Anthony Hopkins and especially Sterling K. Brown, who won Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series/TV Movie last year for “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” If Brown’s “This Is Us” castmate Milo Ventimiglia doesn’t siphon votes away, Brown should do it again.

Predicted winner: Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Nominees:
Keri Russell, “The Americans”
Claire Foy, “The Crown”
Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Robin Wright, “House of Cards”
Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”
Evan Rachel Wood, “Westworld”

Jon Hamm had to wait until the final year of “Mad Men” to finally win an Emmy for acting, but that show’s co-star Elisabeth Moss had to wait even longer — after going 0-for-6 in Emmy nominations for that show, she’s poised to finally win in her first season on “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Claire Foy is Moss’ biggest competitor for “The Crown,” followed perhaps by Evan Rachel Wood for “Westworld,” but this appears to be one of the easier acting races to call.

Predicted winner: Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Nominees:
Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul”
John Lithgow, “The Crown”
Mandy Patinkin, “Homeland”
Michael Kelly, “House of Cards”
David Harbour, “Stranger Things”
Ron Cephas Jones, “This Is Us”
Jeffrey Wright, “Westworld”

If John Lithgow wins for his performance as Winston Churchill in “The Crown,” he’d become the third actor in 16 years to win for playing the British statesman, after Albert Finney in 2002 and Brendan Gleeson in 2009. And in an unprecedented twist, Gary Oldman is currently considered the current Oscar frontrunner for his role as Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”

Ron Cephas Jones, David Harbour and Jeffrey Wright will stand in his way, but Lithgow’s Critics’ Choice and SAG Awards suggest that there’s something irresistible to voters about a fine actor portraying Churchill.

Predicted winner: John Lithgow, “The Crown”

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Nominees:
Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Samira Wiley, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Uzo Aduba, “Orange Is the New Black”
Millie Bobby Brown, “Stranger Things”
Chrissy Metz, “This Is Us”
Thandie Newton, “Westworld”

While I’m tempted to predict an upset winner in this category, the smart money says it will come down to two of the year’s unlikeliest breakout stars, Chrissy Metz for “This Is Us” and Millie Bobby Brown for “Stranger Things.” Metz is considered the favorite, but Brown is the offbeat heart of a singular show, and at 13 she’d become the youngest acting winner in Emmy history.

But watch out for Ann Dowd, unforgettably fearsome in “The Handmaid’s Tale” and perhaps poised to sneak in here.

Predicted winner: Millie Bobby Brown, “Stranger Things”

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A DRAMA SERIES
Nominees:
Vince Gilligan, “Better Call Saul”: “Witness” episode
Stephen Daldry, “The Crown”: “Hyde Park Corner” episode
Reed Morano, “The Handmaid’s Tale”: “Offred” (pilot) episode
Kate Dennis, “The Handmaid’s Tale”: “The Bridge” episode
Lesli Linka Glatter, “Homeland”: “America First” episode
The Duffer Brothers, “Stranger Things”: “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” episode
Jonathan Nolan, “Westworld”: “The Bicameral Mind” episode

The Outstanding Drama Series winner has also taken the prize in the directing category the last two years, but before that the categories had different winners for seven consecutive years. If “Stranger Things” wins drama series, his could easily go to “Westworld” for its scale, or “The Handmaid’s Tale” for its scope. But it may well be irresistible to honor the Duffer brothers for creating the mood and the world of “Stranger Things” in its first episode.

Predicted winner: The Duffer Brothers, “Stranger Things”

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A DRAMA SERIES
Nominees:
Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, “The Americans”: “The Soviet Division” episode
Gordon Smith, “Better Call Saul”: “Chicanery” episode
Peter Morgan, “The Crown”: “Assassins” episode
Bruce Miller, “The Handmaid’s Tale”: “Offred” (pilot) episode
The Duffer Brothers, “Stranger Things”: “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” episode
Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, “Westworld”: “The Bicameral Mind” episode

In contrast with the directing category, the writing winner has matched the drama-series champ in eight of the last 10 years. That presumably makes “Stranger Things” the favorite here, unless you think something else will win drama series. But I think it’ll be a split, with writing honors going to the literary adaptation.

Predicted winner: Bruce Miller, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

COMEDY SERIES CATEGORIES

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Nominees:
“Atlanta”
“black-ish”
“Master of None”
“Modern Family”
“Silicon Valley”
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
“Veep”

In a category that loves repeat winners, “Veep” has taken this award for the last two years running. “Atlanta” is the hot newcomer, but the last one of those to win was “Modern Family” in 2010, the first of its five consecutive awards – and the only other freshman shows to in in the last 20 years were “30 Rock” in 2007 and “Arrested Development” in 2004.

Among the other contenders, “Silicon Valley” has more heat that it has in a while, while “black-ish” is increasingly timely and “Master of None” will get the adventurous vote. But “Veep” still feels fresh and funny, which means that it should keep winning this particular election.

Predicted winner: “Veep”

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Nominees:
Donald Glover, “Atlanta”
Zach Galifianakis, “Baskets”
Anthony Anderson, “black-ish”
Aziz Ansari, “Master of None”
William H. Macy, “Shameless”
Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

With nominations for acting, writing, directing and producing, Donald Glover will almost certainly win something for “Atlanta.” This category is one of his best bets for an Emmy, but Jeffrey Tambor has two consecutive wins for “Transparent,” and remains formidable. Remember, this is the category where voters embarrassed Jim Parsons by giving him the award for “The Big Bang Theory” year after year despite fresher, hotter competitors.

Predicted winner: Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Nominees:
Pamela Adlon, “Better Things”
Tracee Ellis Ross, “black-ish”
Jane Fonda, “Grace and Frankie”
Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”
Allison Janney, “Mom”
Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

You almost feel sorry for Tracee Ellis Ross, the heart of a hit show, or Lily Tomlin, every inch an icon, or Pamela Adlon, a surprise nominee who fully deserved the recognition. They all have the misfortune to be competing against Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who makes great comic acting look easy.

She can break the Emmy record for consecutive acting wins for the same show, with her sixth. That would also be a record for the most Emmys won for one role, and it would tie her with Cloris Leachman with the most acting wins ever, with eight. (She also won once for “Seinfeld” and once for “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”) It’s hard to imagine that she won’t do all those things.

Predicted winner: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Nominees:
Louie Anderson, “Baskets”
Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”
Alec Baldwin, “Saturday Night Live”
Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Tony Hale, “Veep”
Matt Walsh, “Veep”

Tony Hale, Ty Burrell and Louie Anderson have won five of the last six awards in this category, with Hale and Burrell winning twice each and Anderson being the surprise victor last year. But Alec Baldwin was a two-time winner for “30 Rock,” and his “Saturday Night Live” appearances as Donald Trump were among the most viral moments of an enormously politicized television season.

“SNL” already swept the Creative Arts Emmys guest-acting categories; now it’ll probably do the same with the supporting-comedy awards.

Predicted winner: Alec Baldwin, “Saturday Night Live”

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Nominees:
Vanessa Bayer, “Saturday Night Live”
Leslie Jones, “Saturday Night Live”
Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”
Kathryn Hahn, “Transparent”
Judith Light, “Transparent”
Anna Chlumsky, “Veep”

Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump may have provided a plethora of viral moments, but its impact was arguably dwarfed by one moment on the first post-election episode of “SNL”: Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton sitting at the piano and singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as an elegy to the recently-deceased Cohen and to her political career. It wasn’t a particularly comic moment, but it was a devastating one – and it’s hard to imagine that it won’t win her a second consecutive Emmy, great work from Judith Light, Anna Chlumsky and Kathryn Hahn notwithstanding.

Predicted winner: Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A COMEDY SERIES
Nominees:
Donald Glover, “Atlanta”: “B.A.N.” episode
Jamie Babbit, “Silicon Valley”: “Intellectual Property” episode
Mike Judge, “Silicon Valley”: “Server Error” episode
Morgan Sackett, “Veep”: “Blurb” episode
David Mandel, “Veep”: “Groundbreaking” episode
Dale Stern, “Veep”: “Justice” episode

In the last 20 years, “Modern Family” and “Arrested Development” have been the only shows to take directing awards and Outstanding Comedy Series awards in the same year. And “Veep,” which has never won for directing, has the potential of splitting the vote, with three of the category’s six nominations. That should open the door for Donald Glover and “Atlanta,” the only nominee that doesn’t have to worry about vote-splitting.

Predicted winner: Donald Glover, “Atlanta”

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A COMEDY SERIES
Nominees:
Donald Glover, “Atlanta”: “B.A.N.” episode
Stephen Glover, “Atlanta”: “Streets on Lock” episode
Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe, “Master of None”: “Thanksgiving” episode
Alec Berg, “Silicon Valley”: “Success Failure” episode
Billy Kimball, “Veep”: “Georgia” episode
David Mandel, “Veep”: “Groundbreaking” episode

This is the category that in the past has recognized the edgy likes of “Louie,” “Arrested Development” and last year’s winner, “Master of None.” While “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” have strong episodes in contention, the “Thanksgiving” episode of “Master of None” will probably make that show a repeat winner here.

Predicted winner: Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe, “Master of None”

MOVIE AND LIMITED SERIES CATEGORIES

OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES
Nominees:
“Big Little Lies”
“Fargo”
“FEUD: Bette and Joan”
“Genius”
“The Night Of”

At the Creative Arts Emmys, “The Night Of” edged out “Big Little Lies” and “Feud” for the most awards. It could also score an upset in this category, but it’s hard to bet against the stylish, star-powered “Big Little Lies,” which seemed to be more universally embraced than its competition.

Predicted winner: “Big Little Lies”

OUTSTANDING TELEVISION MOVIE
Nominees:
“Black Mirror: San Junipero”
“Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love”
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”
“Sherlock: The Lying Detective”
“The Wizard of Lies”

The less competitive side of the movies/minis divide is probably a battle between the British imports “Black Mirror” and “Sherlock” and the Bernie Madoff movie “The Wizard of Lies.” Last year’s “Sherlock” film, “The Abominable Bride,” won in this category, while “The Wizard of Lies” has the advantage of being on HBO, which usually wins here.

But “Black Mirror” is the hottest and trendiest nominee by a long shot, and the series’ “San Junipero” episode was particularly moving. (Emmy rules allowed the creepy anthology series to submit individual standalone episodes as made-for-television movies.)

Predicted winner: “Black Mirror: San Junipero”

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Nominees:
Ewan McGregor, “Fargo”
Geoffrey Rush, “Genius”
Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of”
John Turturro, “The Night Of”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock: The Lying Detective”
Robert De Niro, “The Wizard of Lies”

Benedict Cumberbatch won for playing Sherlock three years ago, while Geoffrey Rush is an Oscar winner, Ewan McGregor is a movie star playing two roles and Robert De Niro is, well, Robert De Niro. But if voters feel real affection for the dark and dramatic “The Night Of,” which the Creative Arts Emmys results suggest they do, it could well be manifested in an Emmy for Riz Ahmed and his transformative performance at the heart of that miniseries.

Predicted winner: Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of”

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Nominees:
Felicity Huffman, “American Crime”
Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”
Reese Witherspoon, “Big Little Lies”
Carrie Coon, “Fargo”
Jessica Lange, “FEUD: Bette and Joan”
Susan Sarandon, “FEUD: Bette and Joan”

Bow your head in shame, all you other Emmy categories. This one has four Oscar winners (Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon) and one Oscar nominee and Emmy winner (Felicity Huffman), along with “Fargo” star Carrie Coon, who if truth be told has a real chance to knock off all those big stars and take home the trophy.

Barring that, the race should come down to Kidman v. Lange, who have emerged as the top contenders from “Big Little Lies” and “Feud,” respectively. Lange delivers a delicious performance as the aging, desperate movie queen Joan Crawford, but Kidman’s role delves into hot-button issues like domestic abuse and might feel tougher and timelier.

Predicted winner: Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Nominees:
Alexander Skarsgard, “Big Little Lies”
David Thewlis, “Fargo”
Alfred Molina, “FEUD: Bette and Joan”
Stanley Tucci, “FEUD: Bette and Joan”
Bill Camp, “The Night Of”
Michael Kenneth Williams, “The Night Of”

Alfred Molina might have a slight edge over his fellow “Feud” nominee, Stanley Tucci; the two nominees from “The Night Of,” Bill Camp and Michael Kenneth Williams, are more evenly matched, which could hurt them. But Alexander Skarsgard, the one male acting nominee from the women-driven “Big Little Lies,” has a crucial part that really stands out – and no, we’re not talking about that prosthetic penis he flashes in one episode.

Predicted winner: Alexander Skarsgard, “Big Little Lies”

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Nominees:
Regina King, “American Crime”
Laura Dern, “Big Little Lies”
Shailene Woodley, “Big Little Lies”
Judy Davis, “FEUD: Bette and Joan”
Jackie Hoffman, “FEUD: Bette and Joan”
Michelle Pfeiffer, “The Wizard of Lies”

This race is probably between Regina King, the best chance for voters to support the final year of John Ridley’s “American Crime”; Laura Dern, a memorable antagonist in “Big Little Lies”; and Judy Davis, the venal gossip queen Hedda Hopper in “Feud.” The rest of Dern’s remarkable year, which also includes “Twin Peaks” and the films “Wilson,” “Downsizing” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” might help tip the scales.

Predicted winner: Laura Dern, “Big Little Lies”

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A LIMITED SERIES, MOVIE OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Nominees:
Jean-Marc Vallee, “Big Little Lies”
Noah Hawley, “Fargo”:”The Law of Vacant Places” episode
Ryan Murphy, “FEUD: Bette and Joan”: “And the Winner Is … (The Oscars of 1963)” episode
Ron Howard, “Genius”: “Einstein: Chapter One” episode
James Marsh, “The Night Of”: “The Art of War” episode
Steven Zaillian, “The Night Of”: “The Beach” episode

Is it fair to compare Jean-Marc Vallee’s direction of the entire season of “Big Little Lies” to the single episodes for which the other contenders were nominated? Maybe not, but that’s how it worked out. Steven Zaillian and Ryan Murphy have a shot, but it’s worth pointing out that it’s been six years since a director nominated for a single episode beat one nominated for an entire miniseries.

Predicted winner: Jean-Marc Vallee, “Big Little Lies”

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A LIMITED SERIES, MOVIE OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Nominees:
David E. Kelley, “Big Little Lies”
Charlie Brooker, “Black Mirror: San Junipero”
Noah Hawley, “Fargo”: “The Law of Vacant Places” episode
Ryan Murphy, “FEUD: Bette and Joan”: “And the Winner Is … (The Oscars of 1963” episode
Jaffee Cohen, Michael Zam and Ryan Murphy, “FEUD: Bette and Joan”: pilot episode
Richard Price and Steven Zaillian, “The Night Of”: “The Call of the Wild” episode

In the movie/mini writing category, on the other hand, movies or single episodes have beaten entire miniseries twice in the last three years. Given that, and the unlikelihood of a complete sweep for “Big Little Lies,” you have to figure that “The Night of,” the Oscar-night episode of “Feud” or the “San Junipero” episode of “Black Mirror” all have more than a fighting chance.

Predicted winner: Charlie Brooker, “Black Mirror: San Junipero”

VARIETY AND REALITY CATEGORIES

OUTSTANDING VARIETY SKETCH SERIES
Nominees:
“Billy on the Street”
“Documentary Now!”
“Drunk History”
“Portlandia”
“Saturday Night Live”
“Tracey Ullman’s Show”

In the Year of Trump, can anything beat “Saturday Night Live?” Probably not: For the first time in the show’s 42-season history, it tied (with “Westworld”) for the most nominations of any show this year, and at the Creative Arts Emmys it tied (with “Westworld” and “Stranger Things”) as the big winner.

Maybe it’s foolish to rule out the consistently funny and increasingly political “Billy on the Street,” but “SNL” can thank Donald Trump for more Emmy momentum than it’s ever had.

Predicted winner: “Saturday Night Live”

OUTSTANDING VARIETY TALK SERIES
Nominees:
“Full Frontal With Samantha Bee”
“Jimmy Kimmel Live”
“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”
“The Late Late Show With James Corden”
“The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”
“Real Time With Bill Maher”

Speaking of Trump-related Emmy momentum, that’s the story of the variety-talk category. Trump’s cheery hair-musser, Jimmy Fallon, failed to get a nomination for the first time, while Stephen Colbert’s post-election ratings surge was matched by an Emmy surge.

The smart money is still on HBO’s acerbic “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” which is also tough on the president, but we think voters who gave “The Colbert Report” 10 nominations and two wins will want to welcome him back. Plus Colbert is hosting this year’s Emmy show, which ought to give him some kind of home-court advantage.

Predicted winner: “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A VARIETY SERIES
Nominees:
Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner, “Drunk History”: “Hamilton”
Andy Fisher, “Jimmy Kimmel Live”: “The (RED) Show”
Paul Pennolino, “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”: “Multi-Level Marketing”
Jim Hoskinson, “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”: “Episode 0179”
Don Roy King, “Saturday Night Live”: Host: Jimmy Fallon

From 2010 to 2015, Don Roy King won five consecutive Emmys for directing “Saturday Night Live.” In the show’s Emmyest year ever, it figures he’ll win another.

Predicted winner: Don Roy King, “Saturday Night Live”

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A VARIETY SERIES
Nominees:
“Full Frontal With Samantha Bee”
“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”
“Late Night With Seth Meyers”
“The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”
“Saturday Night Live”

Maybe it’s that British accent, but John Oliver seems really smart. That should help him (and his writers) win in this category, though Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee seem pretty smart too.

Predicted winner: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”

OUTSTANDING REALITY-COMPETITION PROGRAM
Nominees:
“The Amazing Race”
“American Ninja Warrior”
“Project Runway”
“RuPaul’s Drag Race”
“Top Chef”
“The Voice”

“The Amazing Race” used to always win. Then “Top Chef” won once and “The Voice” won three of the last four. “Race” and “Voice” are definitely still in the mix – but after the Creative Arts show, where its three wins included the second consecutive one for its host, it feels as if the time is right for “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which offers an entertaining message of tolerance at a time when it’s badly needed.

Predicted winner: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”