The 68th annual Emmy Awards nominations arrive this Thursday, and my predictions arrive now. Who will be nominated? To answer those questions, let’s keep in mind a couple of factors.
First: Great shows will not be ignored. You can bet on that. But another important factor has inexorably crept into this annual horserace. In a word, that factor is “diversity.”
It’s a word often heard around awards season time, but one not always heeded. That is changing. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences appears more open to embracing a diverse slate of nominees and — in fact — honoring them more than ever before. There are reasons. Foremost, the lock that the Emmy “blue-ribbon panels” once held has been broken, with voting now thrown open to every member of the Academy.
Emmy voters also obviously want to avoid the intense criticism leveled at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences when it failed to nominate a single black actor for the second year in a row in 2016.
The single biggest reason is this: Television’s bounty means a bounty of worthy candidates and shows, from “Underground” to “Greenleaf,” from “black-ish” to “Fresh off the Boat.” Television has become more inclusive and so have the awards — hopefully.
With that in mind, here are my predictions in the major categories for the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards, which will be handed out on Sept. 18.
GAME OF THRONES (HBO) A spectacular sixth season ensures this nomination, and going into September, “GoT” remains the favorite of the field.
MR. ROBOT (USA) First-year series about “fsociety” and its merry band of hackers gets into this rarefied circle, and deserves to.
THE AMERICANS (FX) Long ignored by the Emmys, this year the oversight will be corrected, if only because the latest season was the best.
HOMELAND (Showtime) No series on TV has reinvented itself as skillfully or as intelligently as this one, while the last season in Berlin may have been the best “Homeland” yet.
DOWNTON ABBEY (PBS) A sentimental fave gets one last trip to the nominee’s circle, and absolutely deserves it.
BETTER CALL SAUL (AMC) A second season that was richer, deeper, more compelling, more nuanced . . . How could it not get a nod? (It will).
UNDERGROUND (WGN America) WGN’s best historical series to date engages a hugely important story that television has long overlooked. Timing is right for this nod, which is also deserved.
Slightly longer shots: “Billions” (Showtime) has a great cast (Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti), which counts for plenty; “Outlander” (Starz), a winning sophomore season; “The Good Wife” (CBS), or did that controversial ending scuttle what should otherwise be an easy nomination?; “UnREAL” (Lifetime), critical love could translate to Emmy love; “Greenleaf,” OWN newcomer which boasts one very big star (Oprah).
MODERN FAMILY (ABC) Back again, and back for a possible shot at history, as comedy for the most wins (six) in history, surpassing “Frasier” (both now tied at five apiece.)
BLACK-ISH (ABC) Could this upset a field of very strong contenders? It feels like a show with momentum.
SILICON VALLEY (HBO) Essentially the comic counterpart to “Mr. Robot,” Emmy voters have loved its scathing takedown of the “valley” culture, and likely won’t feel much different about the third season.
TRANSPARENT (Amazon) When you’re on a roll at the Emmys, you keep on rolling. The second season maybe didn’t have that “Wow! what just happened!” impact of the first, but shouldn’t matter much to Emmy voters.
VEEP (HBO) Remains an overwhelming favorite to get a nod and — after the relevance-soaked fifth — remains a slightly less overwhelming favorite to win again, but just slightly.
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (CW) Maybe this belongs in the “longer shots” category, but Rachel Bloom’s creation (in which she also stars) had a dazzling freshman season, and the Emmys tend to take notice of such things.
MASTER OF NONE (Netflix) Even at the auteur-heavy Netflix, Aziz Ansari’s new series seemed to stand above all others, with its wise/sad/funny look at a guy who straddles cultures, sensibilities and relationships.
Slightly longer shots: “Catastrophe” (Amazon Prime), getting some traction in the second season; “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix), will probably end up with a nomination if “Ex-girlfriend” doesn’t get in; “Fresh off the Boat” (ABC), a comedy that’s gathered some critical love; “Mom” (CBS), a dark horse candidate; “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS), once an Emmy fave, still an Emmy fave; “Girls” (HBO), a strong season could mean another nod.
BEST ACTOR / COMEDY
Anthony Anderson (“black-ish”); Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”); Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”); Randall Park (“Fresh off the Boat”); Rob Delaney (“Catastrophe”); Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”).
ACTRESS / DRAMA
Caitriona Balfe (Outlander”); Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”); Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”); Jurnee Smollett-Bell (“Underground”); Robin Wright (“House of Cards”); Shiri Appleby (“UnREAL”)
Amy Schumer (“Inside Amy Schumer”); Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”); Ellie Kemper (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”); Constance Wu (“Fresh off the Boat”); Tracee Ellis Ross (“black-ish”); Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”)
ACTOR / DRAMA
Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”); Kyle Chandler (“Bloodline”); Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”); Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”); Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”); Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”).
“The People v. O.J. Simpson” (FX); “American Crime” (ABC); “Fargo” (FX); “Roots” (A&E/History); “The Night Of” (HBO)