Anyone have a crystal ball I can borrow?
Predicting the Emmys has never been harder — with the incumbents out of contention (see you next year, “Game of Thrones”), many of the top races are legitimately toss-ups. Complicating matters, too, are the new voting rules: Last year the Academy replaced the ranking system with a winner-take-all system — which led to delightfully surprising winners like Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”) and Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”).
Does this mean that the Academy has finally shed its legacy habit of rewarding old standbys and new winners will be crowned yet again? We’ll find out for sure when the envelopes are opened on Sept. 17, but in the meantime, here are our predictions for who will win, who should win — and who’s poised to play spoiler.
Will win: “This Is Us” (NBC)
Should win: “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
Spoiler: “Stranger Things” (Netflix)
It’s a tough call — you could make a reasonable argument for nearly all of the nominees taking the night’s top prize. Will popularity win out over prestige? When it first debuted, for example, Netflix’s “The Crown” seemed like a lock, dripping with top-notch production values and lavish attention to period detail. But then Hulu delivered “The Handmaid’s Tale,” with its perfectly timed, pointed political commentary. Members looking to make a political statement may well vote for the dystopian drama, but NBC’s “This Is Us” offers a more populist alternative, with its impressive broadcast reach and award-worthy auspices. Not to mention those tear-jerking plot twists. But lurking in the shadows is Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” The sci-fi thriller already claimed top prizes from the Producers Guild as well as the SAG Awards, which proves its awards bonafides, and crowds have flocked to the series’ FYC screenings in record numbers.
Will win: “Veep” (HBO)
Should win: “Atlanta” (FX)
Spoiler: “Black-ish” (ABC)
This season saw a renaissance of half-hours, with a bevy of auteur-driven efforts — but none more resonant than Donald Glover’s “Atlanta.” The Globes rightfully saw fit to anoint the series, but winning among that small pool may not quite translate to the Academy’s 20,000-plus member voting body. With politics dominating the headlines, members may want to elect “Veep” yet again. (The news that it will be ending its storied run broke after voting ended, so that won’t be a factor either way.) Still, don’t count out Kenya Barris’ “Black-ish” — as razor-sharp as ever in its third season, and more than slyly political.
BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Sterling K. Brown is already an Emmy favorite, winning last year for his role on FX’s “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.” His performance as anxiety-riddled Randall on the NBC crowd-pleaser (that breakdown scene on his office floor!) is the stuff awards are made for. But should he somehow split the vote with his castmate, Milo Ventimiglia, who’s also nommed, “Better Call Saul” star Bob Odenkirk could sneak in for his always stellar work on the AMC hit.
BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
There aren’t many sure things going into Emmy night, but no single performance has been talked about more this season than Moss’ bravura turn in Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s classic novel. From those makeup-free closeups to the chilling voiceovers, Moss proved that she’s an acting force to be reckoned with. This is an opportunity to reward not just this star turn, but also rectify the grievous error that she somehow never won for “Mad Men.” Still, the voters do love their British period pieces (witness “Downton Abbey”) and Foy brought quiet intelligence to a monarch we all thought we knew.
BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Will win: Donald Glover, “Atlanta” (FX)
Should win: Donald Glover, “Atlanta” (FX)
Spoiler: Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish” (ABC)
Jeffrey Tambor has deservedly won this trophy for the last two years for his work on “Transparent,” but chances are he’ll have to sit this one out in favor of Glover. Should voters fail to recognize the show for best comedy, they can reward him here instead. But the third time could be the charm for Anthony Anderson, whose performance as harried father Dre anchors the hit sitcom. Don’t underestimate the power of broadcast: Long neglected at the Emmys, shows from the Big Four could well finally break through this year.
BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” (HBO)
Should win: Pamela Adlon, “Better Things” (FX)
Spoiler: Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish” (ABC)
Should Julia Louis-Dreyfus win for the sixth time, she’ll set a record for the number of wins by a performer for the same role — and tie Cloris Leachman’s record of eight Emmy wins as a performer overall. That’s likely incentive enough for the Academy to elect her again to the stage. But for a performance that truly broke the rules this season, look no further than Pamela Adlon, who brazenly, unapologetically shattered all the tired tropes of the sitcom mother. For that matter, so did Tracee Ellis Ross. With a season-long baby bump.
BEST LIMITED SERIES
Will win: “Big Little Lies” (HBO)
Should win: “Big Little Lies” (HBO)
Spoiler: “Feud” (FX)
When “The Night Of” debuted last summer, it seemed like a lock: what with its powerful subject matter and nuanced turns from movie-star talent (John Turturro, Riz Ahmed). But then came the flood of competition, from its network mate “Big Little Lies” to FX’s “Feud” and “Fargo,” among others. It comes down, ultimately, to Ryan Murphy’s excavation of sexism in Hollywood and the star-studded “Big Little Lies,” brought to the small screen by none less than Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. Both projects featured indelible performances — but the edge goes to “Lies.”
BEST ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE
Will win: Robert De Niro, “The Wizard of Lies” (HBO)
Should win: Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of” (HBO)
Spoiler: Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock: The Lying Detective” (PBS)
The Academy loves to reward movie stars for their TV efforts, and Robert De Niro certainly delivered as the scheming Bernie Madoff. But Ahmed made his mark as a seemingly good kid convicted of a terrible murder who completely transforms himself to survive in jail. Still, never count out Benedict Cumberbatch, who already has a track record of swiping the trophy. (He nabbed it from Billy Bob Thornton in the first season of “Fargo.”)
BEST ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE
Will win: Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies” (HBO)
Should win: Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies” (HBO)
Spoiler: Jessica Lange, “Feud” (FX)
Some argue the women of “Big Little Lies” could split the vote; ditto the stars of “Feud.” I’d give the edge to Kidman, given how she navigated the complex portrayal of an abused wife. Still, just watch the Oscars episode of “Feud,” and you’ll want to award Jessica Lange a trophy of her own.