Based on expertise gained from years covering television (in other words, the ability to look up past Emmy nominees, feel which way the wind is blowing, then guess), these Emmy predictions differ rather wildly from my mock Emmy ballot and Paste’s Emmy wish list. Part of Emmy nominations morning, after all, is learning to expect and accept disappointment. So, before the TV Academy announces this year’s field Thursday at 8:30 a.m. PT, I present my Emmy nominations predictions and proclamations. Fair warning: A few of these are driven less by the head and more by the heart. (I can’t help it.)
The Americans (FX)
Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Crown (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
The Leftovers (HBO)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
This Is Us (NBC)
It’s two newcomers—The Crown, Netflix’s sumptuous series about the life of Queen Elizabeth II, and This Is Us, NBC’s blockbuster tearjerker—that appear to be shoe-ins for nominations here; a third and fourth—Stranger Things, Netflix’s 1980s horror homage, and The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu’s horrifying not-so-speculative fiction are close behind. Which leaves the superb stalwarts (The Americans, Better Call Saul) to fight it out with the too-long-ignored The Leftovers for the scraps, with HBO’s hugely overrated, profoundly frustrating Westworld poised to ruin my day.
Master of None (Netflix)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
The real question here is not whether Veep will nab its sixth consecutive nomination (no doubt), or whether Donald Glover’s exquisite Atlanta is its main competition (it is), or even whether Girls will feel the Emmy glow one last time (fat chance). It’s whether the TV Academy will finally (finally!) deposit Modern Family in the ash heap of Emmy history where it belongs—thus making way for Issa Rae’s smashing Insecure, the only title on this list besides Atlanta that I’d be truly pissed to see omitted.
American Crime (ABC)
Big Little Lies (HBO)
Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
The Night Of (HBO)
I’m going to make this easy on myself and assume that there will be only five nominees this year—as in both 2015 and 2016—and not six—as in 2014—because I can’t imagine any of the five here being left out in favor of American Horror Story: Roanoke, Genius, Shots Fired, or The Young Pope, the last of which has the pedigree to play spoiler but proved far too tonally slippery and critically divisive to be a major threat. (If it got the sixth slot, I wouldn’t complain.)
The Young Pope
Black Mirror (Netflix)
Churchill’s Secret (PBS)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO)
Sherlock: The Lying Detective (PBS)
The Wizard of Lies (HBO)
The number of entrants in this category seems to wane with each passing year, and the result is an increasingly eccentric and unsatisfying hodgepodge of semi-prestigious HBO offerings, occasional PBS specials, and British category frauds. (Sorry, neither Black Mirror nor a single episode of Sherlock count as a “TV movie,” that ridiculous.) I don’t harbor any real expectation that the final five will differ from the above, but to be on the safe side (and since 2017 hates America), I’m going to say that the likeliest spoiler is the ghastly Killing Reagan, based on the equally ghastly book by the ghastliest-of-all Bill O’Reilly (with Martin Dugard). LOL, nothing matters.
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us (NBC)
Anthony Hopkins, Westworld (HBO)
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot (USA)
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul (AMC)
Matthew Rhys, The Americans (FX)
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards (Netflix)
It is with no small amount of regret that I tell you this: I cannot see Justin Theroux’s performance in The Leftovers, however powerful, edging out Anthony Hopkins and Kevin Spacey here, though I’ve listed him as a potential “spoiler” because there’s something about the lack of buzz about House of Cards this season that gives me at least a little pause. On a more positive note, Odenkirk and Rhys are in it with a real chance this time—that is, if they can beat out the (moving, mesmerizing, best-thing-about-the-whole-damn-show) Sterling K. Brown, who I’d put my hard-earned money on to win the Emmy right this second.
Spoiler: Justin Theroux, The Leftovers
Carrie Coon, The Leftovers (HBO)
Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder (ABC)
Claire Foy, The Crown (Netflix)
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Keri Russell, The Americans (FX)
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld (HBO)
I’d rather get this one wrong than breathe even a single word about the possibility that Carrie Coon—in the performance of the year—might miss out on a nomination for The Leftovers’ final season. So, instead, let’s talk about how competitive this category is! Foy, Moss, Wood, and especially Russell are all brilliant in their respective series (as is Davis, though HTGAWM is basically unwatchable at this point when she’s not on screen). I’m loathe, given the first sentence of this paragraph, to mention a spoiler at all, but let’s face it, Robin Wright (who I love!) could be the one to knock Coon out of the running (which would make me cry). Say Please, Emmy voters, do this one thing for me, and I’ll never ask again: Come through for Carrie.
Spoiler: Robin Wright, House of Cards
Anthony Anderson, black-ish (ABC)
Aziz Ansari, Master of None (Netflix)
Ted Danson, The Good Place (NBC)
Donald Glover, Atlanta (FX)
William H. Macy, Shameless (Showtime)
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent (Amazon)
Anderson, Ansari, Glover and two-time defending champion Tambor are surefire nominees here, and I can’t imagine, after three straight nods for Shameless, why the William H. Macy contingent should suddenly abandon him. Whether the same is true of Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch, whose maiden Emmy voyage was last year. Which is why I’m going to out on a small limb for longtime TV Academy favorite Ted Danson, back in the running for last season’s most cleverly constructed comedy, The Good Place. Hank Azaria is also on the outside looking in for IFC’s Brockmire, though I wonder if it landed in front of enough eyes to secure him the last slot over both Danson and Middleditch.
Spoiler: Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley
Allison Janney, Mom (CBS)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO)
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Issa Rae, Insecure (HBO)
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish (ABC)
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie (Netflix)
This year’s Emmy is, once again—rather dispiritingly, I might add—Louis-Dreyfus’ to lose. (Not that she’s not reliably excellent in Veep! It’s just… I wish Emmy voters would show a little more imagination.) The one wrinkle is Allison Janney being bumped up to Lead Actress after three nominations and two wins in Supporting Actress for Mom, but she’s not exactly representative of a changing of the guard. In fact, though I’d be thrilled to see Rae and Ross, this one’s a bit of a snooze despite the amazing, varied performances—from Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Minnie Driver, Rachel Bloom and Kristen Bell—on the outside looking in. Even the spoiler’s familiar. I assume you’ve heard of her?
Spoiler: Sarah Jessica Parker, Divorce
Riz Ahmed, The Night Of (HBO)
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Lying Detective (PBS)
Robert De Niro, The Wizard of Lies (HBO)
Jude Law, The Young Pope (HBO)
Ewan McGregor, Fargo (FX)
John Turturro, The Night Of (HBO)
My guess is, this comes down to the Brits. Law’s a big name, and effectively brash in The Young Pope, but as I mentioned above, the miniseries was off-putting to many. Cumberbatch is a big name, and he’s won before for Sherlock, though before the series began to lose some of its luster. Geoffrey Rush is a big name, too, and playing an even bigger one (Albert Einstein), but did anyone even see Genius? It’s a toss-up, but I say Rush is on the outside looking in.
Spoiler: Geoffrey Rush, Genius
Carrie Coon, Fargo (FX)
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies (HBO)
Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
Susan Sarandon, Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
Oprah Winfrey, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO)
Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies (HBO)
The fiercest category of the night, in every sense of the term: Four Oscar winners, the best actress working in TV right now, and Oprah fucking Winfrey. Poor Felicity Huffman: She’s as powerful as ever in the third season of American Crime, but how do you compete with that?
Spoiler: Felicity Huffman, American Crime
Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul (AMC)
Ed Harris, Westworld (HBO)
Ron Cephas Jones, This Is Us (NBC)
Frank Langella, The Americans (FX)
John Lithgow, The Crown (Netflix)
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld (HBO)
As I go through the acting categories, I’m starting to rethink my optimism about The Leftovers edging Westworld in Outstanding Drama Series—can the former earn so few nominations for its performances and the latter so many and still land the big one? (I’m so desperate to see this happen that I’m going to leave it as is and just cross my fingers. So sue me.) In the end, though, I see this category coming down to Lithgow, the frontrunner, and Jones, so affecting in tandem with Sterling K. Brown. Banks will have to wait, maybe forever, and Langella—despite his brilliant turn in The Americans this season—may not even make the final six. It’s he I’d expect Michael Kelly to bump if there’s any remaining momentum behind House of Cards.
Spoiler: Michael Kelly, House of Cards
Uzo Aduba, Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)
Millie Bobbie Brown, Stranger Things (Netflix)
Margo Martindale, The Americans (FX)
Chrissy Metz, This Is Us (NBC)
Thandie Newton, Westworld (HBO)
Winona Ryder, Stranger Things (Netflix)
Her character’s arc is deeply frustrating, but Metz, along with Brown and the exquisitely controlled Newton, should ride the wave of freshmen successes to a nomination here. Beyond that, predictions start to get a bit dicey: past winner Aduba, nominated for the series’ fourth season, is a fair bet; so is Ryder, a likely beneficiary of the popularity of Stranger Things despite her polarizing performance. (I thought it was laughable.) That leaves a crowded field vying for sixth place, including Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel), Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Maura Tierney (The Affair), but given that the TV Academy once gave her a guest Emmy for about two unremarkable lines in the same role, I think Martindale has the edge. (My “spoiler” is just wishful thinking at this point.)
Spoiler: Amy Brenneman, The Leftovers
Louie Anderson, Baskets (FX)
Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Tony Hale, Veep (HBO)
Andrew Rannells, Girls (HBO)
Timothy Simons, Veep (HBO)
It’s Baldwin FTW for playing Trump, with former champs Anderson and Hale in the second tier. After that, this category gets complicated, and fast. Burgess, who should have won already, seems safe here; the sheer amount of Jonah in Veep this season should finally earn him the recognition he deserves; Rannells’ MVP-level performance in Girls’ final season should nab him a slot, too. That means bidding adieu to Andre Braugher, so strong in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and hoping that the shadow of Modern Family doesn’t cast a pall over the whole occasion by sneaking in an eighth consecutive nomination for Ty Burrell.
Spoiler: Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Anna Chlumsky, Veep (HBO)
Gaby Hoffmann, Transparent (Amazon)
Jane Krakowski, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Judith Light, Transparent (Amazon)
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Rita Moreno, One Day at a Time (Netflix)
With the exception of the legendary Moreno, the sunny center of Netflix’s must-see multi-cam comedy, this list looks a lot like last year’s. But both Chlumsky—sorely underutilized in Veep this season, for shame—and Krakowski—her character so poorly written in UKS this season that even she couldn’t save it—seem out of place when Yvonne Orji (Insecure), Donna Lynne Champlin (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Zazie Beetz (Atlanta) are eligible. Alas, there’s always next year.
Spoiler: Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Hank Azaria, The Wizard of Life (HBO)
Alfred Molina, Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
Martin Freeman, Sherlock: The Lying Detective (PBS)
Alexander Skarsgård, Big Little Lies (HBO)
David Thewlis, Fargo (FX)
Stanley Tucci, Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
This is a tough one, because the two actors I’d expect Emmy voters to go for—Molina and Tucci—are so thoroughly overshadowed by their female costars, and the most surprising turn—Skarsgård’s—is also the hardest to watch. That’s why I’m wondering if Thewlis has a particular edge here, as a scenery chewing villain, or if Freeman could sneak through to a win amid vote splitting. For now, though, I’m confident in these six, especially with FX’s utterly baffling decision not even to submit Michael Stuhlbarg for Fargo.
Spoiler: Reg E. Cathy, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Judy Davis, Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
Laura Dern, Big Little Lies (HBO)
Regina King, American Crime (ABC)
Michelle Pfeiffer, The Wizard of Lies (HBO)
Shailene Woodley, Big Little Lies (HBO)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Fargo (FX)
It’s probably foolish to bet against Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates (both in American Horror Story: Roanoke), but Winstead closed so strong in this season of Fargo, and Pfieffer’s roles are so few and far between these days, that I think the iffy plotting of Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology will finally hurt it. The idea of Davis, Dern and King fighting for the trophy in September even makes up (at least a little bit) for the fact that Jackie Hoffman’s Mamacita is less a spoiler than long shot, though I’ve included her here because she’s just too good to ignore.
Spoiler: Jackie Hoffman: Feud: Bette and Joan
Matt Brennan is the TV editor of Paste Magazine. He tweets about what he’s watching @thefilmgoer.