Each year, the Emmys play it safe with a balance of repeat and surprise wins. So predicting who will take home hardware is a tough task. However, the Television Academy continues to change its voting rules to keep up with modern times. And that could make this year's ceremony even more interesting and unpredictable.
The voting process has been streamlined. Now, Academy members can vote for more categories, not just their respective branches. And instead of ranking nominees, voters will declare one favorite. More diversity in opinions will hopefully give unrecognized nominees a chance. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a comedic force who has won four times in a row for Veep, and completely deserves a fifth statue. But this year could bring gold to someone else. (And too bad it can't go to Amy Poehler for the departed gem Parks and Recreation.)
Last year was a glimpse into what could be a whole new world for the Emmys. Game of Thrones finally won Best Drama after four previous losses, and Veep (thankfully) broke Modern Family's winning streak. And this year's nominee list has a few newcomers, most notably The Americans on FX. A nomination is enough for this superb series that continues to get better after four seasons.
In the wake of #OscarsSoWhite, the Emmys are going in the right direction. Almost every acting category has a person of color nominated. It probably won't top the Tonys, which awarded every major acting category to a black actor or actress, but we're at least hoping for wins from Taraji P. Henson on Empire and Courtney B. Vance on The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
Speaking of likely winners, let's make those silly predictions. I've brought along my pal Andy Rosenthal, a Tampa Bay Times sports designer. He watches just as much TV as I do. (Somehow he also finds time to watch sports teams play with a ball.) Together, using our collective hours of precious screen time and my industry knowledge, we declare who will win Emmys. But we all know there's too much to watch (thanks Peak TV), even for those whose job it is to watch it all, so sometimes we choose from our guts: who we think should win.
The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards air Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC. Jimmy Kimmel hosts.
The Americans, Better Call Saul, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland, House of Cards, Mr. Robot
Brittany: Last year's record-breaking winner Game of Thrones could repeat again. It's already taken home nine awards from the Creative Arts Emmy Awards last weekend. But this should go to the best show that no one is watching, The Americans.
Andy: This show is super insane and went off the deep end pretty quickly, but after Jordan Catalano slept with Rayanne, Angela deserves a win. Homeland it is, for those who aren't still salty about My So-Called Life.
Black-ish, Master of None, Modern Family, Silicon Valley, Transparent, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Veep
B: Veep totally deserves another win. But Master of None and Aziz Ansari hold a special place in my heart.
A: Master of None was great (even if it did ruin "Short Circuit" for me), but I have to give the nod to Silicon Valley. Those puckish nerds need some lovin' too, you guys.
American Crime, Fargo, The Night Manager, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Roots
B: It's a shame that American Crime will be overlooked here. Its second season was surprisingly exceptional, and would probably win if not for FX. I'm glad I don't have to actually declare a winner between the network's Fargo and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. But, O.J. has the second-most nominations this year, only one less than Thrones. I expect it'll take home lots of acting wins, so let's give Fargo this one.
A: I'm 100 percent pulling for The People v. O.J. Simpson. We need more David Schwimmer Whiny Face in our lives.
Lead actor, drama
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards; Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul; Kyle Chandler, Bloodline; Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan; Rami Malek, Mr. Robot; Matthew Rhys, The Americans
B: Kevin Spacey hasn't won an Emmy, yet, and I think it'll stay that way. Newcomers to the list, Matthew Rhys and Rami Malek, have the most buzz, and I can't pick between my two boyfriends.
A: Your boyfriends sound more like hipster cocktails than actual humans, Volk. And can't we just call this the Kyle Chandler Award? Clear eyes, full hearts, you guys.
Lead actress, drama
Claire Danes, Homeland; Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder; Taraji P. Henson, Empire; Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black; Robin Wright, House of Cards; Keri Russell, The Americans
B: If you threw all these names in a hat and picked one, I'd be excited with the winner. But we all know we want Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) up there.
A: Wait. They don't throw all the names in a hat to decide the winner? Then how did Amy Poehler never win for Parks and Recreation? (Poehler won her first Emmy this year for her co-hosting SNL gig with Tina Fey. Fair enough.) I'm also rooting for Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) because the world needs more of her.
Supporting actor, drama
Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul; Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones; Michael Kelly, House of Cards; Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline; Kit Harington, Thrones; Jon Voight, Ray Donovan
B: But here's a category where I couldn't care less about a winner. So I'm going with my hope for last year's winner, Ben Mendelsohn. (He lost to Peter Dinklage.)
A: If he doesn't win, Peter Dinklage can always fall back on his backup career as Kevin Hart's body double. Yeah, that was low hanging fruit; both Dinklage and Hart are welcome.
Supporting actress, drama
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey; Lena Headey, Game of Thrones; Emilia Clarke, Thrones; Maisie Williams, Thrones; Maura Tierney, The Affair; Constance Zimmer, Unreal
B: No question: Constance Zimmer. As Michelle Stark rightfully said earlier, everything that comes out of Quinn's mouth is solid gold.
A: I don't think the fact that The Affair is a real show is shocking. The real shocking part is that Shonda Rhimes didn't create it.
Actor, Limited series or movie
Cuba Gooding Jr., The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story; Courtney B. Vance, O.J.; Bryan Cranston, All the Way; Idris Elba, Luther; Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager; Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
B: We know the Emmys love Bryan Cranston (10 nominations, four wins) but this category comes down to the standout stars of O.J. Courtney B. Vance has my vote.
A: If Idris Elba is comin', make ready for the man. He never won one for The Wire (which was only given two writing Emmy nods and didn't win either) and, given that these nominees are like a 40-degree day, let's go ahead and give Stringer the statue.
Actress, Limited series or movie
Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story; Kerry Washington, Confirmation; Kirsten Dunst, Fargo; Felicity Huffman, American Crime; Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill; Lili Taylor, American Crime
B: Will Sarah Paulson finally get her due? She's got two chances this year to take home gold, but her performance in O.J. is her best, yet. Rocking a perm is hard, okay?
A: If Sarah Paulson doesn't win an Emmy, she can always take solace in having won a Volky. My vote is for her as well. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.
Supporting actress, Limited series or movie
Melissa Leo, All the Way; Jean Smart, Fargo; Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Hotel; Regina King, American Crime; Kathy Bates, Hotel; Olivia Colman, The Night Manager
B: Regina King was arguably the surprise winner from any of last year's winners (people were betting on Sarah Paulson), and here she is again in the same category. However, I'd rather give her this award for The Leftovers (Emmys' biggest snub this year). But I gotta go with Jean Smart on this one.
A: I've never seen it, so I can only assume American Crime is about the decision to switch the red and green Skittles from cherry and lime to strawberry and green apple. I support any TV show that brings light to this travesty. Regina King it is.
Supporting actor, Limited series or movie
Jesse Plemons, Fargo; Hugh Laurie, The Night Manager; Sterling K. Brown, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story; John Travolta, O.J.; David Schwimmer, O.J.; Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo
B: Everyone was delightfully surprised with David Schwimmer as the Kardashian patriarch, but our hearts grew heavy for Sterling K. Brown's compassionate take on Christopher Darden. However, Emmy voters should right their wrong for never giving Hugh Laurie an Emmy for House.
A: My mother was so captivated by the O.J. Bronco chase, she was swindled into buying a set of encyclopedias. The made-for-TV drama was just as riveting, thanks in large part to David Schwimmer. He gets my pick, despite having forced America to suffer through Friends for what seemed like 20 years.
Lead actor, comedy
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent; William H. Macy, Shameless; Anthony Anderson, Black-ish; Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth; Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley; Aziz Ansari, Master of None
B: I still think comedy categories should be based on LOL moments, so, I'm sorry Jeffrey Tambor, no award — or LOLs — for you this year. I'd like to see Aziz Ansari pick up this gold. And then make me some pasta.
A: Aziz should get the nod based on Volk's scientific LOL factor, but I always lean toward a man who can drink his weight in whiskey. William H. Macy's Frank Gallagher is the perfect drunken poet.
Lead actress, comedy
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep; Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer; Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie; Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish; Laurie Metcalf, Getting On
B: Julia Louis-Dreyfus will win, again, because she's a national treasure and totally deserves it. She IS the funniest woman on television. #FIVEINAROW
A: Wow. Haven't seen #FIVEINAROW as a hashtag since my prom night. I'm with Amy Schumer on this one. And, just so she's aware: My address says St. Petersburg on it. Just sayin'.
Supporting actress, comedy
Niecy Nash, Getting On; Allison Janney, Mom; Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live; Judith Light, Transparent; Gaby Hoffman, Transparent; Anna Chlumsky, Veep
B: Allison Janney is am Emmy favorite, but I'm hoping for a shake-up. Like I said, Transparent isn't funny (but its stars are very good), so let's give Kate McKinnon some love. We'll be seeing a lot of her Hillary Clinton (and hopefully Justin Bieber) in the coming months.
A: I look forward to four years of Kate McKinnon presidential sketches on SNL. Hillary or Trump, McKinnon can play either. We need more of her in our lives.
Supporting actor, comedy
Louie Anderson, Baskets; Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele; Ty Burrell, Modern Family; Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Tony Hale, Veep; Matt Walsh, Veep
B: Last year's winner Tony Hale is the one to beat. But Louie Anderson's nuanced and charming role as Zach Galifianakis' mother (yes, mother) shouldn't go unnoticed.
A: Hopefully Keegan-Michael Key remembers to keep his celebration to two pumps. Any more would be a penalty.
Variety sketch series
Documentary Now!, Drunk History, Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele, Portlandia, Saturday Night Live
B: It's Key & Peele's final year to win anything (15 losses total). So let's hope America (Emmy voters) gets it right.
A: Shout out to A-aron.
Variety talk series
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, The Late Late Show With James Corden, Real Time With Bill Maher, Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon
B: Yay, let's give white guys some more awards! It's down to the ones whose names begin with J (sorry Bill), so let's use my journalism bias here, and award Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.
A: Jimmy Kimmel Live's Halloween candy bit (where parents lie and tell their kids they've eaten all their candy while they were sleeping) is an annual gem. Between that and Cousin Sal, I gotta show love to Kimmel.
A Very Murray Christmas, All the Way, Confirmation, Luther, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
B: HBO usually wins this award, so let's have fun and go with Netflix's A Very Murray Christmas. I'd love to see Bill Murray on stage, even for a moment.
A: Bill Murray is the coolest man alive. He could record a show of him sitting in a chair reading a book and it'd probably make me laugh.
Documentary or nonfiction series
American Masters, Chef's Table, Making a Murderer, The Seventies, Woman With Gloria Steinem
B: Since HBO's The Jinx won last year, it makes sense for Netflix's Making a Murderer to take home this one.
A: If I learned one thing from watching Making a Murderer, it's that the criminal justice system of Manitowac County is run by a group of 9-year-olds after a Pixie Stick binge.