The Emmys make bad choices.
We can’t do anything about the flabbergasting exclusion of shows like The Leftovers and the performances by Justin Theroux and Carrie Coon from the list of nominees, or the fact that year-best performances by the likes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom, Search Party’s John Early, or Oprah Freaking Winfrey aren’t contending.
But we can root for justice under the current circumstances. And, hey, maybe Sunday night a major vote in this country will end with the candidate receiving the most votes actually being named the winner—with no re-dos.
It’s an impossible science to predict the Emmy Awards, trying to figure out which categories will go the same way they have year after year and which will randomly shake things up in. Which will go to critics’ darlings and which will go to the populist choice? Then there’s this: almost nobody watches the shows that are nominated for Emmys!
Will the Emmys make good choices this year? Probably not. Which is why we’ve outlined who deserves to win in each of the major races, and which, sigh, will likely take home trophies instead. (A handy list of awards that were already handed out last Sunday at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards is in this annotation.)
Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Crown (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
House of Cards (Netflix)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
This Is Us (NBC)
Should win: Equal parts character study, horror story, and jarringly timely cautionary tale, The Handmaid’s Tale is the rare series to demand attention for being “important,” but to keep attention because it was so damn good. From the gorgeous cinematography to the masterful performances, Hulu’s first major contender in this race is both a dramatic triumph and a wake-up call.
Will win: Most pundits are betting on the suffocating popularity of This Is Us garnering the NBC hit the first broadcast network Drama Series win since 24 in 2006. But a more conservative choice is much more likely, with voters inevitably seduced by the pomp and circumstance of The Crown, the kind of high-production period piece that the industry almost reflexively bows down to.
Master of None (Netflix)
Modern Family (ABC)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Should win: Do you go with the second-by-second funniest show on TV, which is still Veep by a mile? Or the auteur-driven series that changed the game in terms of form, tone, and, because it’s still a crucial talking point, inclusion? You go with Atlanta, and the future.
Will win: Little known fact: When you become a member of the Television Academy, they give you a certificate and a rubber stamp, just to make it easier to vote for the same series year after year. Veep wins again.
Viola Davis - How to Get Away with Murder
Claire Foy - The Crown
Elisabeth Moss - The Handmaid’s Tale
Keri Russell - The Americans
Evan Rachel Wood - Westworld
Robin Wright - House of Cards
Should win: Elisabeth Moss! It’s a career-best performance from an overdue actress—how did she not win for Mad Men or Top of the Lake?!—that expels the ghost of Peggy Olson from the very first frame. She’s a cauldron of fury, resentment, resignation, despondence, and bravery, often hitting more notes in one scene—and while partially hidden by a giant white bonnet—than most performers are given in an entire season.
Will win: Claire Foy is a perfectly dignified queen, adjusting to life with the weight of the crown—and a country at a crossroads—on her shoulders. It’s the kind of regal, star performance that is typically accessorized with a royal scepter, in this case in the shape of an Emmy.
Sterling K. Brown - This Is Us
Anthony Hopkins - Westworld
Bob Odenkirk - Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys - The Americans
Liev Schreiber - Ray Donovan
Kevin Spacey - House of Cards
Milo Ventimiglia - This Is Us
Should win: Sterling K. Brown infused every frame of his This Is Us performance with carefully calibrated combination of bombast and brittle emotion. How is a performance that made us cry so much,so fun?
Will win: Bob Odenkirk has been playing Saul Goodman for eight years across two series. He’s an industry favorite in a wide-open race, on a show that’s as good as it’s ever been. It’s Bob’s year.
Anthony Anderson - Black-ish
Aziz Ansari - Master of None
Zach Galifianakis - Baskets
Donald Glover - Atlanta
William H. Macy - Shameless
Jeffrey Tambor – Transparent
Should win: Is Donald Glover giving TV’s most complicated performance on Atlanta? No, but he’s masterminding its most interesting and refreshing show, and a win here rewards all of his multi-hyphenate work on it—including his subtle, engaging acting.
Will win: No one should be upset if Jeffrey Tambor wins his third consecutive trophy for Transparent. He does miraculous, still-surprising work on that show. But our hunch is that Anthony Anderson gets it, buoyed by the most outwardly funny performance in the category and constantly growing industry goodwill toward the star (something that affects voting maybe more than it should).
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
Should win: The conundrum: Julia Louis-Dreyfus is giving the comedy performance of the decade on Veep. After six seasons, it still is as fresh, funny, and peerless as ever. But, after five consecutive wins, when do you discount that and argue for someone else? Maybe now, and for Pamela Adlon, who is a treasure, doing the most difficult acting work of all on Better Things: the kind that makes it look like you’re not acting at all, just living.
Will win: Do you ever bet against Louis-Dreyfus? Or million-time Emmy winner Allison Janney, for that matter, who is competing in the lead category for the first time for Mom? We suspect an inclination to spread the wealth this year will benefit Tracee Ellis-Ross, the best sitcom mom on television.
Big Little Lies (HBO)
Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
The Night Of (HBO)
Genius (National Geographic)
Should win: A strong category that is no match for the collective starpower of Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, David E. Kelly, Jean Marc-Valee, and the real estate porn of Monterey mansions. Big Little Lies’ perfect blend of prestige TV, camp, and pulp deserves this.
Will win: Everyone loved Big Little Lies. But the industry really loved Feud, the dishy dramatization of Old Hollywood gossip that plays to a very important audience in the eyes of awards voters: themselves. It wins this feud.
Black Mirror: San Junipero (Netflix)
Dolly Parton’s Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle Of Love (NBC)
The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks (HBO)
Sherlock: The Lying Detective (Masterpiece) (PBS)
The Wizard Of Lies (HBO)
Should win: Make what you will of Netflix’s cheeky strategy of using a loophole in the rules to submit a standalone episode of the recent season of Black Mirror in this category, but I defy you to argue that San Junipero isn’t far and away superior—in resonance, in production value, in excellent ‘80s nostalgia—to the other offerings in this category.
Will win: An HBO biopic of Bernie Madoff starring Robert DeNiro sounds like something a showbiz satire would create to parody the predictability of the Emmy Awards. And that’s precisely why Wizard of Lies will win.
Limited Series Actor
Riz Ahmed - The Night Of
Benedict Cumberbatch - Sherlock: The Lying Detective
Robert De Niro - The Wizard of Lies
Ewan McGregor - Fargo
Geoffrey Rush - Genius
John Turturro - The Night Of
Should win: John Turturro’s subtle, almost sheepish character work is the unsung hero of The Night Of.
Will win: But Riz Ahmed’s transfixing, often times horrifying, character arc is the splashier star. Assuming the Academy can resist handing a trophy to Robert DeNiro’s phoned-in work as Bernie Madoff for the mere novelty of Robert DeNiro playing Bernie Madoff, then Ahmed wins.
Limited Series Actress
Carrie Coon - Fargo
Felicity Huffman - American Crime
Nicole Kidman - Big Little Lies
Jessica Lange - Feud
Susan Sarandon - Feud
Reese Witherspoon - Big Little Lies
Should win: This category will keep me tossing and turning at night for decades to come. Does Carrie Coon deserve it for twin phenomenal performances this year, not only in Fargo but also The Leftovers? Reese Witherspoon for the revelatory and just-plain-fun nature of her performance? No, it’s Nicole Kidman, for giving both the most physical and yet the quietest performance of her career. Hell, string together her therapy scenes, and you have an Oscar reel.
Will win: Enough people think Kidman will win to make me feel heartened that it’ll actually happen. But I still think that the combination of Witherspoon splitting some Big Little Lies votes, the aforementioned industry fawning over Feud, and just the general love for Jessica Lange gives Lange the edge over her three—including Sarandon—fellow Oscar winners in this category.
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
John Lithgow - The Crown
Jonathan Banks - Better Call Saul
Mandy Patinkin - Homeland
Michael Kelly - House of Cards
David Harbour - Stranger Things
Ron Cephas Jones - This Is Us
Jeffrey Wright – Westworld
Should win: Ron Cephas Jones’s delicate, sensitive portrayal over the course of the first season of This Is Us was hands-down the year’s most affecting performance.
Will win: In what universe does John Lithgow playing Winston Churchill in the most expensive TV series ever not win an Emmy Award?
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
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
Should win: Thandie Newton’s ferocious work was the highlight of the wonky first season of Westworld. Her quietly assured, ascending to scorched-earth performance was the expensive series’ best special effect.
Will win: People like Stranger Things so damn much that I would predict Millie Bobby Brown if just typing that out didn’t make me feel so crazy. (I still think she could!) But because of This Is Us’ cultural impact and the degree to which her personal narrative was a part of that, I think Chrissy Metz wins for, in a crowded television season, giving one of the most truly memorable performances.
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin - Saturday Night Live
Louie Anderson - Baskets
Ty Burrell - Modern Family
Tituss Burgess - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Tony Hale - Veep
Matt Walsh – Veep
Should win: It’s bonkers that Tituss Burgess hasn’t won this category yet. If an incredibly detailed, in-character homage to Beyoncé, the most joyous TV moment of the last year, doesn’t win it for him I don’t know what will.
Will win: If there’s one thing that trumps Burgess doing Beyoncé it’s, uh, Trump. You don’t even have to watch TV to know that Alec Baldwin wins this.
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Kate McKinnon - Saturday Night Live
Vanessa Bayer - Saturday Night Live
Leslie Jones - Saturday Night Live
Anna Chlumsky - Veep
Judith Light - Transparent
Kathryn Hahn – Transparent
Should win: Interesting fact: not a soul on this earth predicted that these would be the nominees in the category. We could not be happier that Kathryn Hahn unexpectedly made it in for her subtle, beautiful work on Transparent, but there’s no denying the glory of Judith Light singing “One Hand in My Pocket” on a cruise ship.
Will win: When a category is this delightfully random, it might seem like a fool’s errand to predict a winner. That is, it would be if Kate McKinnon wasn’t here to be Hollywood’s wish fulfillment for a race in which Hillary Clinton, or the actress playing her, actually wins.
Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Bill Camp - The Night Of
Alfred Molina - Feud: Bette and Joan
Alexander Skarsgård - Big Little Lies
David Thewlis - Fargo
Stanley Tucci - Feud: Bette and Joan
Michael K. Williams - The Night Of
Should win: Bill Camp did quiet work in an otherwise very loud category. The Night Of, which feels like it aired years ago at this point, was chock full of stirring performances. Unexpectedly, his is the one that still lingers.
Will win: Voters will devour Stanley Tucci’s Feud performance with the unbridled gusto that he chewed on that scenery.
Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Judy Davis - Feud: Bette and Joan
Laura Dern - Big Little Lies
Jackie Hoffman - Feud: Bette and Joan
Regina King - American Crime
Michelle Pfeiffer - The Wizard of Lies
Shailene Woodley - Big Little Lies
Should win: Bow down to Laura Dern, queen of making the vile epitome of privileged, judgmental motherhood sympathetic and, in the end, even aspirational. In a way, she had the most difficult arc on Big Little Lies. But she’s Laura Dern. She earned her invite to the cardigan beach party in the end.
Will win: See above about Stanley Tucci for the same reason why Judy Davis will win this category.
Variety Talk Series
Full Frontal With Samantha Bee
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
The Late Late Show With James Corden
Real Time With Bill Maher
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Should win: At a time when, without Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report, the nation was starved for the kind of fire-and-brimstone approach to covering politics that Full Frontal has been brandishing for two seasons now, Samantha Bee rode in like a white knight. (That she happened to be a woman made the rescue all the more noteworthy.) Bee brought the middle finger back to late-night, and you can see her approach trickle down to her colleagues, with the likes of Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert producing best-yet seasons in her wake. So give Bee credit where it’s due.
Will win: That’s right, though, she’s a woman! How presumptuous to think she’ll get that credit. John Oliver will win this for the second straight year, with Colbert a possible spoiler simply because people are just really happy that Colbert is good again.
The Amazing Race (CBS)
American Ninja Warrior (NBC)
Project Runway (Lifetime)
RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1)
Top Chef (Bravo)
The Voice (NBC)
Should win: The supergay in me of course wants to scream, “Yaas Drag Race!’ But it’s actually the TV critic in me that recognizes the brilliant, tight editing; the inventiveness of the mini-competitions; the genius of the writing (yes, all reality series have writing staffs); and the genuine emotion that bleeds out of the fabulously flamboyant contestants, a rarity in a genre known for emotional manipulation. It doesn’t hurt that the show’s themes, message, and mere existence are bonafide political statements in today’s world.
Will win: I would never have imagined in a million years predicting this, but I think Drag Race might win! The conservative in me says to play it safe and predict The Voice again, but seeing how many below-the-line trophies Drag Race won at the Creative Arts Emmys, where RuPaul Charles picked up his second straight hosting trophy, and just a surge in awareness and appreciation for the show makes me think that it will pull off one of the most pleasant surprises of Sunday night.
Variety Sketch Series
Billy On The Street (truTV)
Documentary Now! (IFC)
Drunk History (Comedy Central)
Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Tracey Ullman’s Show (HBO)
Should win: It doesn’t even require a close or studied viewing of Billy on the Street to notice that its simultaneous skewering and celebration of pop culture is more nuanced and, usually, much funnier than that of frontrunner SNL. Its most recent season exploded with hysterical and surprisingly observant political and social landmines, too, made all the more powerful by their unexpected detonations, unlike SNL.
Will win: Saturday Night Live. Duh.