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Emmy Contenders 2016: Sneak Peek of the Top Races

It’s that time of year — Emmy season is almost upon us. Before the race for TV’s top trophy takes off in earnest, Variety takes a look at nine key categories and breaks down which of last year’s nominees are in and out of the running and which newcomers have already made an impact on the kudos landscape.

DRAMA SERIES
What’s out: AMC’s “Mad Men” retired after seven seasons and eight series noms.
What’s back: AMC’s “Better Call Saul”; PBS’ “Downton Abbey”; Showtime’s “Homeland”; Netflix’s “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black”; and HBO’s reigning champ, “Game of Thrones,” are all eligible again.
Looking to return: CBS’ “The Good Wife,” last nominated in 2011, has one final chance to make its case.
What’s new: Among freshmen contenders, USA’s “Mr. Robot” has a leg up thanks to a Golden Globe victory, Critics’ Choice honors, and a Writers Guild win for new series earlier this year.

COMEDY SERIES
What’s out: NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” stepped down last season, while FX’s “Louie” is on an indefinite hiatus.
What’s back: ABC’s “Modern Family,” HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” Amazon’s “Transparent,” Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” and HBO’s reigning champ, “Veep.”
Looking to return: CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” fell out of the nominees circle last year, while HBO’s “Girls” was dropped the year before.
What’s new: Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle” was eligible last year and received no noms, but a Golden Globe win could kick it up a notch. Netflix’s “Master of None” won the Critics’ Choice trophy.

LIMITED SERIES
What’s out: “The Honorable Woman,” “Olive Kitteridge,” and “Wolf Hall” were one-time entries last year.
What’s back: ABC’s “American Crime” and FX’s “American Horror Story” both returned with fresh installments.
Looking to return: FX’s “Fargo” and HBO’s “True Detective” (previously nominated as a drama series) re-enter the mix after a year off.
What’s new: HBO’s “Show Me a Hero” and History’s “Roots” are one-and-done entries this year, while AMC’s “The Night Manager” is already talking about a sequel. FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” will continue on with a completely different subject.

VARIETY SERIES – TALK
What’s out: “The Colbert Report” signed off Comedy Central for good back in 2014.
What’s back: ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” and NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” continue unchanged, but both Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and CBS’ “Late Show” transitioned to new hosts (Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert, respectively).
Looking to return: HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” fell out last year after 10 consecutive noms, and TBS’ “Conan” (which shot episodes in both Qatar and Korea this year) was last in the mix in 2011.
What’s new: Two freshmen ladies will try to shake up the boys club: TBS’ “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” and Netflix’s “Chelsea.”

REALITY COMPETITION SERIES
What’s out: Nothing. This category hasn’t had any turnover since 2012.
What’s back: Everything. CBS’ “The Amazing Race,” ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” Lifetime’s “Project Runway,” Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” Bravo’s “Top Chef,” and NBC’s “The Voice.”
Looking to return: Fox’s “American Idol” may have bowed out relatively quietly, but it was also the last nominee to appear in this category before four consecutive years of the same six titles listed above.
What’s new: Anything could be considered new at this point (even shows that have been on the ballot before, like Fox’s “MasterChef Junior” or Syfy’s “Face Off”).

DRAMA ACTOR
Who’s out: Previous winner Jeff Daniels (HBO’s “The Newsroom”) and last year’s winner, Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”), have moved on.
Who’s back: Netflix leading men Kyle Chandler (“Bloodline”) and Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”); Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”); and Liev Schreiber (Showtime’s “Ray Donovan”).
Looking to return: Hugh Bonneville (“Downton Abbey”) was last nominated in 2013, while previous category winner Damian Lewis and nominee Steve Buscemi have new roles in contention this year (on Showtime’s “Billions” and LouisCK.net’s “Horace and Pete,” respectively).
Who’s new: Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”) scored Globe and SAG noms this year, while Wagner Moura (Netflix’s “Narcos”) joined him at the Globes. A high volume of previous Emmy winners entered midseason: Bobby Cannavale (HBO’s “Vinyl”), Aaron Paul (Hulu’s “The Path”), “Horace” co-lead Louis C.K., and “Billions” co-lead Paul Giamatti.

DRAMA ACTRESS
Who’s out: Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”).
Who’s back: Five formidable women: previous winner Claire Danes (“Homeland”), Taraji P. Henson (Fox’s “Empire”), Tatiana Maslany (BBC America’s “Orphan Black”), Robin Wright (“House of Cards”), and reigning champ Viola Davis (ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder”).
Looking to return: Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”) was rather inexplicably shut out last year after winning the year prior. Lizzy Caplan (Showtime’s “Masters of Sex”), Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”), and Vera Farmiga (A&E’s “Bates Motel”) remain in contention.
Who’s new: No actress from a freshman series was nominated for a SAG award this year, but Shiri Appleby (Lifetime’s “UnReal”) and Krysten Ritter (Netflix’s “Marvel’s Jessica Jones”) copped Critics’ Choice noms. And in an example of just how tortured the TV awards calendar can get — although it was her second year of eligibility, Caitriona Balfe (Starz’s “Outlander”) picked up a first Golden Globe nom for the back half of her series’ first season, and is Emmy eligible for season two (airing now).

COMEDY ACTOR
Who’s out: Louis C.K. is on hiatus from his self-titled show, while Showtime’s “Episodes” has only just begun filming its final season, leaving star Matt LeBlanc MIA.
Who’s back: Anthony Anderson (ABC’s “Black-ish”), Don Cheadle (Showtime’s “House of Lies”), Will Forte (Fox’s “Last Man on Earth”), William H. Macy (Showtime’s “Shameless”), and the winner, Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”).
Looking to return: Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”) was surprisingly snubbed after a win the year before.
Who’s new: The Globes showered newcomers with affection — Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”), Rob Lowe (Fox’s “The Grinder”), and Patrick Stewart (Starz’s “Blunt Talk”) all landed noms, while Gael Garcia Bernal (“Mozart in the Jungle”) waltzed off with the win.

COMEDY ACTRESS
Who’s out: With Edie Falco (Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie”), Lisa Kudrow (HBO’s “The Comeback”), and Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”) all out, this category is guaranteed the most turnover.
Who’s back: Just Amy Schumer (Comedy Central’s “Inside Amy Schumer”), Lily Tomlin (Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie”), and the unstoppable Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”).
Looking to return: Previous winner Melissa McCarthy (CBS’ “Mike & Molly”) is in her final season of eligibility, while previous multiple nominee Lena Dunham (HBO’s “Girls”) enjoyed renewed buzz.
Who’s new: CW ingenue Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) scored a Globe and Critics’ Choice kudo.

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