Emmy Preview: Who’s In and Who’s Out in Nine Key Categories

Emmy Contenders Preview
Courtesy of Netflix/NBC

It’s that time of year again: Emmy season is upon us, and Variety’s coverage will begin in earnest in next week’s issue. But before we kick off a brand new race for TV’s top trophy, we’re taking a look at nine key categories and breaking down which of last year’s nominees are in and out of the race, who might stage a dramatic return and what newcomers have already made an impact on the kudos landscape.

Vasya Kolotusha for Variety

Drama Series
What’s out: HBO’s “Game of Thrones” won’t return until the summer, ensuring a new winner will be crowned this year. And PBS’ “Downton Abbey” closed its doors last year.
What’s back: FX’s “The Americans,” AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” Showtime’s “Homeland,” Netflix’s “House of Cards” and USA’s “Mr. Robot” are all eligible again.
Looking to return: Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” had a timely and revitalized fourth season, if voters remember.
What’s new: There’s no shortage of hot freshmen including the formidable Netflix duo of “The Crown” and “Stranger Things,” NBC’s broadcast breakout “This Is Us,” Hulu’s acclaimed “The Handmaid’s Tale” and HBO’s flashy “Westworld.”

Comedy Series
What’s out: Nada.
What’s back: ABC family comedies “Black-ish” and “Modern Family,” Netflix’s “Master of None” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Amazon’s “Transparent” and HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and reigning
champ “Veep.”
Looking to return: HBO’s → ← “Girls,” a nominee in its first two seasons, regained some heat in its final run.
What’s new: FX’s Golden Globe winning “Atlanta” is the top newcomer, but look out for Amazon’s “Catastrophe”; a surprise writing nomination last season could be a bellwether for bigger things.

Limited Series
What’s out: “The Night Manager,” “Roots” and “The People v. OJ Simpson,” the first entry in an ongoing “American Crime Story” franchise.
What’s back: ABC’s “American Crime” and FX’s “Fargo” both returned with fresh installments.
Looking to return: A new installment of “American Horror Story” (“Roanoke”) and Starz’s sequel “The White Princess” are eligible.
What’s new: FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan” kicked off a fresh franchise, while HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” “The Night Of” and “The Young Pope” garnered varying degrees of buzz. And although it’s not completely new, Netflix’s “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” enters the category for the first time.

Variety Series – Talk
What’s out: All the 2016 nominees are eligible to return.
What’s back: Veterans ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” and “Real Time With Bill Maher” and NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” plus last year’s surprise nominees Crackle’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and CBS’ “The Late Late Show With James Corden.”
Looking to return: CBS’ “Late Show” and Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” were MIA last year with new hosts Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah, but both have serious momentum this year thanks in no small part to their mockery of President Trump. Ditto’s NBC’s “Late Night,” currently hosted by Seth Meyers, which hasn’t been nominated since 2013 (with host Jimmy Fallon).
What’s new: TBS’ “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” landed a writing nom for its freshman season and could jump into the series mix with a sophomore run that again (a running theme this year) went all-in on Trump.

Reality Competition Series
What’s out: Nothing — this has traditionally been one of the toughest Emmy races to crack.
What’s back: Everything. CBS’ “The Amazing Race,” NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” and “The Voice,” ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” Lifetime’s “Project Runway” and Bravo’s “Top Chef” remain reality mainstays.
Looking to return: Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” was dropped last year after five consecutive noms.
What’s new: It’s been on since 2009, but watch out for VH1’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” after RuPaul Charles sashayed away with the hosting trophy last year.

Drama Actor
Who’s out: No one.
Who’s back: Netflix leading men Kyle Chandler (“Bloodline”) and Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”), Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”), Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”), Liev Schreiber (Showtime’s “Ray Donovan”) and reigning champ Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”).
Looking to return: A few previous winners are in contention with new roles, including Damian Lewis (Showtime’s “Billions”) and Kiefer Sutherland (ABC’s “Designated Survivor”).
Who’s new: Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) scored a SAG nom and Billy Bob Thornton (Amazon’s “Goliath”) bagged a Globe nom.

Drama Actress
Who’s out: Last year’s surprise champ, Tatiana Maslany (BBC America’s “Orphan Black”), won’t be back on the ballot until next year.
Who’s back: Five formidable women — previous winners Claire Danes (“Homeland”) and Viola Davis (ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder”), Taraji P. Henson (Fox’s “Empire”), Keri Russell (“The Americans”) and Robin Wright (“House of Cards”).
Looking to return: She was a nom fixture for “Mad Men” and now Elisabeth Moss has another serious contender in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Who’s new: Golden Globe and SAG winner Claire Foy (“The Crown”) leads the pack, alongside Golden Globe nominees Mandy Moore (“This Is Us”) and Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”) and former supporting actress mainstay Christine Baranski (CBS All Access’ “The Good Fight”).

Comedy Actor
Who’s out: Nobody.
Who’s back: Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”), Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”), Will Forte (Fox’s “Last Man on Earth”), William H. Macy (Showtime’s “Shameless”), Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”) and back-to-back winner Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”).
Looking to return: Four-time winner Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”) has been out for two years running.
Who’s new: Golden Globe winner Donald Glover (“Atlanta”) is a heavy favorite to break into the crowded field.

Comedy Actress
Who’s out: Amy Schumer’s “Inside Amy Schumer” is on indefinite hiatus and HBO axed “Getting On” before Laurie Metcalf earned a surprise nom last year.
Who’s back: Ellie Kemper (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Golden Globe winner Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”), Lily Tomlin (Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie”) and the unstoppable Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”).
Looking to return: Lena Dunham has three acting noms and no wins for “Girls”; could the final season be her ticket back in?
Who’s new: Golden Globe voters nominated a pair of HBO ladies — Issa Rae (“Insecure”) and former champ Sarah Jessica Parker (“Divorce”) — while SAG voters welcomed Tomlin’s co-star Jane Fonda for the first time. Plus, Allison Janney (CBS’ “Mom”) jumps into the fray after two wins in the supporting race.