The 68th Primetime Emmys arrive Sunday (8 p.m., ABC/7), and my predictions arrive now. Let’s not keep you in suspense any longer: “Game of Thrones” will almost certainly repeat as best drama.
But those words “almost certainly” will be a little treacherous when applied to other categories. Yes, there are favorites — there always are — but there will be surprises, too. There always are.
The 68th is a particularly interesting year in the history of the Emmys, which has sought to embrace diversity and the full voting power of the membership. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is in the second year of a revolutionary change in voting procedures. Gone are those crusty “blue chip panels” that long determined winners. In their place, all 22,000 Emmy members are divided into 29 “peer groups” — actors with actors, set designers with set designers, and so on — that select nominees. The entire voting body then votes for the winners.
It’s wide open. Anything can happen. Anything just might.
OUTSTANDING DRAMA “The Americans,” FX; “Better Call Saul,” AMC; “Downton Abbey,” PBS; “Game of Thrones,” HBO; “Homeland,” Showtime; “House of Cards,” Netflix; “Mr. Robot,” USA
SHOULD WIN “Game of Thrones”
Even with a couple newcomers aboard — “Mr. Robot” and “The Americans” — “GoT” should easily overwhelm the field for the second year in a row, and for essentially the right reason — it deserves to. Season 5 of “GoT,” otherwise known as the bookless season, managed to deepen and enrich what had come before. In a sense, this fight is not a fair one, because “GoT” musters theatrical-size budgets in service of serial prime-time entertainment. Visually, nothing else can compare — or afford to. Could voters somehow ignore all that in favor of a series with the diminutive scale of “The Americans”? Or reward “Homeland” again for what was its best season to date? Or embrace a sentimental favorite like “Downton”? Any of those outcomes are possible, just highly unlikely.
WILL WIN “Game of Thrones”
OUTSTANDING COMEDY “black-ish,” ABC; “Master of None,” Netflix; “Modern Family,” ABC; “Silicon Valley,” HBO; “Transparent,” Amazon; “Veep,” HBO; “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Netflix
SHOULD WIN “black-ish”
Logic or at least odds point to a second consecutive win for “Veep,” so if you’ve got money on this race, “Veep” is probably your best bet. Since 2007, multiple consecutive wins have been accorded in this category (“30 Rock,” “Modern Family”). The Emmys rarely go backward — which bodes ill for that record sixth win for “Family” — and rarely buck conventional wisdom either, and the conventionally wise have chosen “Veep.” But “black-ish” deserves this award because there have been no series in recent prime-time history that have explored black culture, life and (even) history quite as thoroughly or thoughtfully or comically as this one. Lacking (for argument’s sake) the brilliant inventiveness of say “Kimmy” or “Family,” it makes up for that in both heart — a big one — and relevance. Upsets are always possible Sunday night. This would be the biggest, and most welcome.
WILL WIN “Veep”
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS/COMEDY Tracee Ellis Ross, “black-ish”; Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer”; Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”; Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”; Laurie Metcalf, “Getting On”
SHOULD WIN Metcalf
The comedy actress category is hellaciously competitive this year and equally interesting. I predict Ross will upset this field Sunday night, but if anyone’s poised to do some upsetting, it’s Metcalf. Neither is odds-on favorites, because as usual the fave is Louis-Dreyfus. If she wins, that’ll be five consecutive wins. But . . . will she get to five? That’s an extraordinary number, and surely voters must realize that at a certain point, the other nominees deserve consideration. The presence of Metcalf alone indicates that the voters (and the actor peer group) have finally caught up with HBO’s way-under-the-radar “Getting On.” However, producers submitted an episode for her that was dramatically strong, but not comically strong. Ross’ episode — “Sink or Swim” — was good, but her best? That’s debatable, too. Meanwhile, Louis-Dreyfus will be judged on “Mother,” a midseason episode and one of the best of “Veep.” That fifth win could still be in reach.
But I’m still going with Ross — if she wins, she’ll be the first African-American to win this since Isabel Sanford for “The Jeffersons” in 1981, and only the second overall.
WILL WIN Ross
OUTSTANDING ACTOR/COMEDY Anthony Anderson, “black-ish”; Will Forte, “The Last Man on Earth”; Aziz Ansari, “Master of None”; William H. Macy, “Shameless”; Thomas Middleditch, “Silicon Valley”; Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”
SHOULD WIN Anderson
The calculus is simple, or maybe not so simple: If Ross wins for “black-ish,” then that might mean Anderson’s chances for victory diminish. What complicates this calculus is that the episode “Hope” — about Black Lives Matter and much else — is the one voters judged for Anderson. “Hope” was one of those rare episodes that demonstrated the considerable ambitions of “black-ish,” and Dre Johnson was at the center of it. Will voters see enough here to deny Tambor a consecutive win in this category? Unlikely (he’s the heavy favorite). But this is also still a category ripe for upset.
WILL WIN Tambor
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS/DRAMA Keri Russell, “The Americans”; Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”; Claire Danes, “Homeland”; Robin Wright, “House of Cards”; Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”; Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”
SHOULD WIN Maslany
Even out of the hopeless entanglement that is — now was — “Orphan Black,” at least this singular bit of clarity emerged — Maslany’s performance, or many performances. She was nominated for Sarah Manning, Alison Hendrix, Cosima Niehaus, Beth Childs, Rachel Duncan and MK. I’m fairly certain no actor or actress in history had to play six characters in order to snag a nomination. Davis would have a good shot at repeating if “HTGAWM” didn’t become equally entangled. Instead, this big award goes to Wright. She will be judged by “Chapter 49” — a huge episode for Claire Underwood. Her mother died and she was nominated for vice president.
WILL WIN Wright
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR/DRAMA Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”; Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”; Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline”; Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”; Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”; Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
SHOULD WIN Malek
Malek’s performance the first season was textbook method, full of rage, fear, paranoia, loss, destitution. And that was for just one of Elliot’s conscious selves. Electrifying performances have a way of electrifying voters — and also forcing them to quantify reasons in favor of other candidates. There are good, sound reasons for each of these candidates, but just not enough to overcome Malek’s Elliot Alderson.
WILL WIN Malek
LIMITED SERIES “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” FX; “Fargo,” FX; “American Crime,” ABC; “The Night Manager,” AMC; “Roots,” History
SHOULD WIN “The People v. O.J. Simpson”
Probably the simplest call of them all — “O.J.” was both a crowd-pleaser and Emmy-pleaser, full of great performances and great writing. It was also, arguably, the TV event of the entire year because it put into crystal clear perspective what the “Trial of the Century” was all along, besides a miscarriage of justice. It was about race.
WILL WIN “The People v. O.J. Simpson”
MOVIE/LIMITED SERIES ACTRESS Sarah Paulson, “The People v. O.J. Simpson”; Kirsten Dunst, “Fargo”; Kerry Washington, “Confirmation”; Lili Taylor, “American Crime”; Felicity Huffman, “American Crime”; Audra McDonald,” “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”
SHOULD WIN Paulson
Even with McDonald in the hunt, Paulson should finally win her first Emmy. Her Marcia Clark was one of the most talked about and admired performances on television this year.
WILL WIN Paulson
MOVIE/LIMITED SERIES ACTOR Courtney B. Vance, “The People v. O.J. Simpson”; Bryan Cranston, “All the Way”; Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock Holmes”; Idris Elba, “Luther”; Tom Hiddleston, “The Night Manager”; Cuba Gooding Jr., “The People v. O.J. Simpson”
SHOULD WIN Vance
Vance humanized Johnnie Cochran and — in the process — forced him right into the center of this canvas. His Cochran was key to the entire meaning of this series. Vance didn’t waste a moment or a frame. He was superb.
WILL WIN Vance