The 63rd Annual Emmy Awards give voters the chance to daringly celebrate the new and bold, finally recognize the long-deserving, or keep piling awards on the same winners.
Look for them to mostly go with the third option — with a little of the first two sprinkled in.
"Mad Men" and "Modern Family" seem likely to dominate, building on their past successes. "Mad Men" is going for its fourth consecutive win in the Outstanding Drama Series category, and will likey get it thanks to a strong year that should also give Jon Hamm his first win for Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
That would mean "Boardwalk Empire," HBO's bold new prohibition drama, will likely have to wait another year or two. And "Friday Night Lights," which would be the sentimental pick after five outstanding but unrecognized seasons, would have to wait forever. So would its excellent leads.
"Modern Family," meanwhile, seems likely to take its second consecutive win for Outstanding Comedy Series, and perhaps pick up more awards for its cast. It is the most nominated comedy with 17 nods. ("Mad Men" has 19, and "Boardwalk" 18.)
"Mildred Pierce," the most nominated program of the year with 21, is the favorite for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie. It could bring an Emmy for Kate Winslet, to go with her Oscar. Guy Pearce and Evan Rachel Wood are strong contenders in their supporting roles.
The reality competion race, meanwhile, looks like a rematch between "Top Chef" and "The Amazing Race" after "Top Chef" defeated it last year. ("Race" had won in the first seven years of the Outstanding Reality Competition Program.) The award could even go to a resurgent "American Idol."
Probably not up for grabs? The award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series, which has gone to "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" for the last eight years.
Voters will likely seize at least one opportunity to look back, by giving Steve Carell his first Lead Actor in a Comedy Series win for his completed run on "The Office."
The lead actress categories provide two big opportunities to look forward.
After losing out in her first nomination for Lead Actress in a Drama Series last year, Julianna Marguiles is a favorite for "The Good Wife." But voters could add to a "Mad Men" pile-on by finally recognizing Elisabeth Moss, coming off her strongest year on the show.
Connie Britton would be a sentimental — and deserving — choice for her five seasons on "Friday Night Lights." But Marguiles' buzz is probably too good, and a win for her would be a way to recognize her highly regarded show.
In the Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category, voters can look bold by choosing someone other than Edie Falco, who claimed it last year for "Nurse Jackie," or Tina Fey, who took it the two previous years for "30 Rock."
The race looks very open this year: Laura Linney could get it for dealing with serious themes, comically, in "The Big C," or Amy Poehler could take it home for inspired absurdity in "Parks and Recreation."
The voters can make an even bigger statement by recognizing Martha Plimpton of the new "Raising Hope" or Melissa McCarthy, on a hot streak from the summer hit "Bridesmaids," the star of the new "Mike and Molly."
The supporting dramatic actor category will provide another test of new vs. established: Will voters finally recognize "Mad Men" stalwart John Slattery? Or scenery-devouring Peter Dinklage for the first season of "Game of Thrones"?
The supporting dramatic actress category offers another chance to bring new winners into the fold: Three of the nominees are returning from last year, including winner Archie Panjabi of "The Good Wife." But it may finally be time to recognize Christina Hendricks for "Mad Men" — or new nominees Margo Martindale, outstanding on "Justified," Kelly Macdonald, the moral center of "Boardwalk," or Michelle Forbes, heartbreaking on "The Killing."
Especially as the host of the ceremony — and given her win in the the Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series category last year — "Glee" star Jane Lynch would be a natural choice to win again. But voters could continue the recent trend of awarding Betty White everything possible, this time for her work on "Hot in Cleveland."
The four lead "Modern Family" actors occupy two-thirds of the nominee list for Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Eric Stonestreet won last year, so the sentimental pick would be sitcom vet Ed O'Neill, who went unnominated last time around.
A split "Family" vote will benefit Chris Colfer on "Glee," or — if voters are feeling sympathetic after his show's trying year — Jon Cryer for "Two and a Half Men."
The lead dramatic actor prize is likely Hamm's because "Breaking Bad," which, like "Mad Men," runs on AMC, didn't have original episodes during the eligibilty period. That took three-time consecutive winner Bryan Cranston out of the race.