It's the most wonderful time of the year: awards season, of course! The 2017 Oscar race may just be gearing up, but another race is in full swing. The 68th annual Primetime Emmy Awards are this Sunday, which will honor the best in television from June of last year through May of this year — or what the voting members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences deem the objective "best" of a subjective art form, at least. As hard as it is to pick which of TV's most outstanding dramas is the finest, it can be equally hard to prognosticate which way the Emmy voters will lean. But that's exactly what I'll try to do with these 2016 Emmy predictions.
First, a brief refresher. Last year, both top prizes went to HBO, for their drama Game Of Thrones and their comedy Veep — the first Outstanding Series win for both shows after being nominated in the category multiple times. The big acting awards went to Jon Hamm for Mad Men, Viola Davis for How To Get Away With Murder, Jeffrey Tambor for Transparent, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep. Obviously Hamm is out of the running this year since AMC's period drama ended in 2015, but the rest of last year's winners are still in the mix. Which of them will pull off repeat wins… and which will be dethroned by splashy newcomers?
Outstanding Drama Series
- The Americans (FX)
- Better Call Saul (AMC)
- Downton Abbey (PBS)
- Game Of Thrones (HBO)
- Homeland (Showtime)
- House Of Cards (Netflix)
- Mr. Robot (USA)
And the winner will be… Game Of Thrones
If the fantasy series could win last year for its most divisive season yet, then it can certainly pull off a repeat win for one of its most universally acclaimed batch of episodes. Game Of Thrones dominated the pop culture conversation throughout Season 6, thanks to such trending topics as Jon Snow's fate, Hodor's sacrifice, and Cersei's explosive revenge.
Watch out for… The Americans, which is finally being noticed by voters after three years of snubs, and especially Mr. Robot, the year's buzziest new drama.
Outstanding Comedy Series
- black-ish (ABC)
- Master Of None (Netflix)
- Modern Family (ABC)
- Silicon Valley (HBO)
- Transparent (Amazon)
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
- Veep (HBO)
And the winner will be… Veep
In Season 5, HBO's political satire successfully navigated a showrunner change-up while remaining as bitingly funny as ever. The fact that we're in the middle of an election cycle shouldn't hurt, as the incumbent winner feels even more relevant than ever.
Watch out for… black-ish, a superlative example of that most beloved of television genres: the broadcast family sitcom.
Outstanding Limited Series
- American Crime (ABC)
- Fargo (FX)
- The Night Manager (AMC)
- The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
- Roots (History)
And the winner will be… The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
If you had asked me nine months ago who would be taking home this trophy, I would have said Fargo in a landslide. But then a little something called The People v. O.J. Simpson happened. Ryan Murphy's retelling of the Simpson trial was a perfect storm of television: a true crime exposé, a juicy melodrama, a showcase for terrific actors, and a satire of our celebrity culture.
Watch out for… no one, really, but Fargo would undoubtedly be a distant runner-up.
Outstanding Television Movie
- All The Way (HBO)
- Confirmation (HBO)
- Luther (BBC America)
- Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (PBS)
- A Very Murray Christmas (Netflix)
And the winner will be… Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
Never underestimate Emmy voters' love for British imports in general — or Sherlock Holmes specifically. The last time this mystery series competed at the Emmys, stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman both took home trophies in shocking upsets over the presumed favorites: The Normal Heart's Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer.
Watch out for… All The Way, since the other thing you can't underestimate is the Emmy voters' love for Bryan Cranston.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
- Kyle Chandler, Bloodline (Netflix)
- Rami Malek, Mr. Robot (USA)
- Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul (AMC)
- Matthew Rhys, The Americans (FX)
- Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan (Showtime)
- Kevin Spacey, House Of Cards (Netflix)
And the winner will be… Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
The only major race without a defending champion, this category is wide open. Could Kevin Spacey finally take home his first Emmy for playing Frank Underwood? Could Matthew Rhys ride the sudden wave of support for The Americans to victory? More likely, voters will want to recognize Mr. Robot by honoring its compelling lead actor, since the series itself is bound to lose to Game Of Thrones and Christian Slater was inexplicably snubbed in the Supporting Actor category.
Watch out for… Kevin Spacey and the allure of a big-name movie star standing on the Emmy stage.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
- Claire Danes, Homeland (Showtime)
- Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder (ABC)
- Taraji P. Henson, Empire (FOX)
- Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black (BBC America)
- Keri Russell, The Americans (FX)
- Robin Wright, House Of Cards (Netflix)
And the winner will be… Robin Wright, House Of Cards
Instead of banking on a repeat win here, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict a victory for Robin Wright, who has now been nominated four times but never won for her portrayal of the Lady Macbeth-ian Claire Underwood. And this season of House Of Cards gave her plenty to do, pitting the First Lady toe-to-toe with her own husband in a veritable clash of titans.
Watch out for… Viola Davis , who made history last year as the first black woman to ever win this category; even if her show lost some of its sheen in its sophomore outing, her performance remained top-notch.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
- Anthony Anderson, black-ish (ABC)
- Aziz Ansari, Master Of None (Netflix)
- Will Forte, The Last Man On Earth (FOX)
- William H. Macy, Shameless (Showtime)
- Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley (HBO)
- Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent (Amazon)
And the winner will be… Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Though there is some controversy over cis male actors portraying transgender women aside, Tambor's performance as Maura Pfefferman remains one of the most tender, flawed, fully-realized characters on television today. The former Arrested Development star should have no trouble holding onto his crown in this category.
Watch out for… Aziz Ansari, the lovable star of Netflix's buzzy comedy — the only new show represented in this line-up.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
- Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO)
- Laurie Metcalf, Getting On (HBO)
- Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish (ABC)
- Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)
- Lily Tomlin, Grace And Frankie (Netflix)
And the winner will be… Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
It usually drives me crazy when the same show or performer keeps winning Emmys year after year after year — unless that performer is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who is without a doubt delivering the funniest performance on television in HBO's Veep. With four consecutive wins for her portrayal of hapless Selina Meyer, Louis-Dreyfus is tied with Mad About You's Helen Hunt for most consecutive wins in this category; one more win and she'll officially be the reigning Queen of Comedy.
Watch out for… Laurie Metcalf, who Emmy voters clearly love, as evidenced by her three nominations this year alone (including Guest Actress in a Drama for Horace And Pete and Guest Actress in a Comedy for The Big Bang Theory).
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
- Bryan Cranston, All The Way (HBO)
- Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (PBS)
- Idris Elba, Luther (BBC America)
- Cuba Gooding, Jr., The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
- Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager (AMC)
- Courtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
And the winner will be… Courtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Johnnie Cochran emerged victorious back in 1995, winning the trial of the century for his client O.J. Simpson; and his portrayer Courtney B. Vance should do the same in 2016, winning this category for his dynamic work in the FX limited series.
Watch out for… Bryan Cranston, who already has four Emmys under his belt for Breaking Bad and is hot off his first Oscar nomination for the biopic Trumbo.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
- Kirsten Dunst, Fargo (FX)
- Felicity Huffman, American Crime (ABC)
- Audra McDonald, Lady Day At Emerson's Bar And Grill (HBO)
- Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
- Lili Taylor, American Crime (ABC)
- Kerry Washington, Confirmation (HBO)
And the winner will be… Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Three words: "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia." Paulson delivered exemplary work throughout the entire limited series, but that episode alone — which zeroed in on prosecutor Marcia Clark and her struggles with the media's representation of her — clinched the win for her the moment it aired last March. There's no other possible outcome here.
Watch out for… Kirsten Dunst, who would have had this category locked up just seven months ago for her portrayal of delusional beautician Peggy Blumquist, until Paulson swooped onto the scene.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
- Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul (AMC)
- Peter Dinklage, Game Of Thrones (HBO)
- Kit Harington, Game Of Thrones (HBO)
- Michael Kelly, House Of Cards (Netflix)
- Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline (Netflix)
- Jon Voight, Ray Donovan (Showtime)
And the winner will be… Kit Harington, Game Of Thrones
"Is Jon Snow really dead?" It's the question that dominated the pop culture landscape for an entire year, and the focus on Harington's well-liked character paid off, landing him his first Emmy nomination. His performance in the "Battle Of The Bastards" episode — which ranged from steely determination to blind grief to hopeless despair to grim victory — should land him his first win as well.
Watch out for… Jonathan Banks, who has been nominated three times for portraying grizzled fixer Mike Ehrmantraut between both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul but has yet to nab the gold.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
- Emilia Clarke, Game Of Thrones (HBO)
- Lena Headey, Game Of Thrones (HBO)
- Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (PBS)
- Maura Tierney, The Affair (Showtime)
- Maisie Williams, Game Of Thrones (HBO)
- Constance Zimmer, UnREAL (Lifetime)
And the winner will be… Lena Headey, Game Of Thrones
Many prognosticators expected Headey to take home the trophy last year for Cersei's emotionally and physically bruising walk of atonement, but Orange Is The New Black's Uzo Aduba ended up surprising for the win. With Aduba out of the running this year, Headey should finally emerge triumphant — a perfect cap to a season that saw Cersei finally take the Iron Throne for herself.
Watch out for… Maggie Smith, since Emmy voters might want to reward the Dowager Countess one last time after two previous wins.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
- Louie Anderson, Baskets (FX)
- Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
- Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
- Ty Burrell, Modern Family (ABC)
- Tony Hale, Veep (HBO)
- Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele (Comedy Central)
- Matt Walsh, Veep (HBO)
And the winner will be… Tony Hale, Veep
The fact that seven actors made it into this category instead of the usual six shows that opinions are spread pretty widely here, which makes it difficult to predict the eventual outcome. The safest bet, then, is probably a repeat victory for Tony Hale, who has won two of the three other times he's been nominated for playing Selina's loyal bag man Gary.
Watch out for… Louie Anderson, whose portrayal of Christine Baskets transcends its central gimmick and becomes a surprisingly sensitive portrayal of a dysfunctional mother.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
- Anna Chlumsky, Veep (HBO)
- Gaby Hoffmann, Transparent (Amazon)
- Allison Janney, Mom (CBS)
- Judith Light, Transparent (Amazon)
- Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
- Niecy Nash, Getting On (HBO)
And the winner will be… Allison Janney, Mom
Thanks to her acclaimed roles on The West Wing, Masters Of Sex, and this current CBS sitcom, Allison Janney has a grand total of seven Emmy awards, tied in second place with Ed Asner and Mary Tyler Moore, coming in just shy of Cloris Leachman's record of eight trophies. Janney has won this category for the past two years in a row, and will voters really stop the beloved actress from tying the record by ending her streak now? I wouldn't bet on it.
Watch out for… four-time nominee Anna Chlumsky, who could finally ride a wave of support for Veep to her first win.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
- Sterling K. Brown, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
- Hugh Laurie, The Night Manager (AMC)
- Jesse Plemons, Fargo (FX)
- David Schwimmer, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
- John Travolta, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
- Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo (FX)
And the winner will be… Sterling K. Brown, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
As co-prosecutor Christopher Darden, Brown's role was perhaps more subtle and less showy than Vance's and Paulson's leading roles — but it was equally integral to the success of the show. In many ways, if Vance's Cochran was the calculating mind of ACS and Paulson's Clark its beating heart, then Brown's Darden was its conflicted soul.
Watch out for… Hugh Laurie, who never took home an Emmy for House, and who might benefit from vote-splitting between the two Fargo actors and the three ACS actors.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
- Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Hotel (FX)
- Olivia Colman, The Night Manager (AMC)
- Regina King, American Crime (ABC)
- Melissa Leo, All The Way (HBO)
- Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Hotel (FX)
- Jean Smart, Fargo (FX)
And the winner will be… Jean Smart, Fargo
Given how acclaimed Fargo Season 2 was when it premiered in October of 2015, Emmy voters will likely jump at the chance to award it in the one single category where it's not competing against ACS. And it's not like a trophy for Jean Smart would be a bad consolation prize, since her performance as steely matriarch Floyd Gerhardt was one of the highlights of the show's second season.
Watch out for… Regina King, who won the category last year for playing a different but equally complex character on the ABC limited series — and also Sarah Paulson, if voters want to reward her terrific work this year with two wins in one night.
Other Category Predictions
Outstanding Variety Sketch Series: Inside Amy Schumer
Outstanding Variety Talk Series: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Outstanding Reality-Competition Program: The Voice
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series: Game Of Thrones, "Battle Of The Bastards"
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series: Veep, "Mother"
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special: The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, "From The Ashes Of Tragedy"
Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special: Grease: Live
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series: Mr. Robot, "eps.1.0_hellofriend.mov"
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series: Veep, "Mother"
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special: The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, "From The Ashes Of Tragedy"
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special: Amy Schumer: Live At The Apollo
How many of these predictions will come true? Find out when the 68th annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on ABC this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.
Images: HBO (2), Lacey Terrell (2), Patrick Harbron, Helen Sloan/HBO; Ray Mickshaw (2), Prashant Gupta, Byron Cohen, Chris Large/FX; Robert Viglasky/PBS; Michael Parmelee/USA; David Giesbrecht/Netflix; Amazon Studios; Darren Michaels/CBS