Getting a nomination at the Emmys is sort of like getting a tenured position at university – in order for a place to open up, someone has to retire. There are shows that have a lock on the categories, even though they’ve had weak years or are now in their dotage. This year, with Mad Men, Parks and Recreation and Louie all out of contention, there are a few spots open in the comedy and drama races, so who might be able to step up to the plate?
Outstanding drama series
Last year’s winner, Game of Thrones, is once again in contention and a lock for a nomination. The same goes for Downton Abbey, likely to be rewarded for the final time. Orange is the New Black is off a great season, though the current episodes are not the ones being voted on this year – but will Emmy voters remember that? Better Call Saul was even better in season two and deserves its seat at the table. Homeland, though slipping, is sure to be back and possibly House of Cards, too, but if one show is going to get dropped, that’s the one.
The new addition, taking Mad Men’s slot, is sure to be USA’s Mr Robot, a critical and popular success last summer. Louis CK’s web series Horace and Pete might weasel its way in there, but too few people have seen it. The same goes for Lifetime’s UnREAL. The Leftovers had an unbelievably good second season, but it might be too late for HBO’s drama to have an impact. This is also The Good Wife’s final season, so that might get a victory lap, though that honor will probably go to star Julianna Margulies herself.
Outstanding comedy series
As long as Veep and Modern Family are still on the air, nothing else is going to win in this category. However, with Parks and Recreation and Louie out of the race, there is room for some fresh blood. Expect some appreciation for one of ABC’s stellar family sitcoms, particularly Black-ish and possibly Fresh Off the Boat. Aziz Ansari’s Netflix show Master of None also has a good chance – it managed to be fresh, original, and get a healthy amount of buzz around its debut. Golden Globe favorite and critical smash Crazy Ex-Girlfriend could be in the running. Girls, once a lock in the category, had its best season yet last year and might be invited back to the party. Look for Transparent, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Silicon Valley to repeat their nominations from last year.
Outstanding limited series
Just give all the awards for limited series to The People v OJ Simpson. Yes, Fargo was amazing, but the first chapter of American Crime Story is getting all of the Emmys. Still, look for Fargo to enter the race again this year along with another nomination for American Crime (yes, it is different from American Crime Story). Hopefully, OJ fever and a particularly strong year in the category will mean the end of American Horror Story’s streak of nominations (and zero wins). Look for HBO’s amazing Show Me a Hero, A&E’s Roots, AMC’s The Night Manager, and Hulu’s 11.22.63 to be both fitted and acquitted from OJ’s category.
Outstanding lead actress in a drama
Nothing much exciting in this race, which looks like it will be a recount for last year’s ballot, with winner Viola Davis from How to Get Away with Murder duking it out with Empire’s Taraji P Henson, House of Cards’ Robin Wright, Homeland’s Claire Danes, and Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany. The final slot, vacated by Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss, will most definitely go to two-time winner Julianna Margulies for the final season of The Good Wife. There are plenty of women deserving of attention for this season – chief among them Scandal’s Kerry Washington, The Leftovers’ Carrie Coon, and The Americans’ Keri Russell – but this doesn’t seem like it’s their year.
Outstanding lead actress in a comedy
We all know Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus will take the trophy, so everyone else is fighting for consolation prizes, but there will be some new faces in this category since Parks and Recreation, Nurse Jackie and The Comeback are all off the air this year. Hopefully Constance Wu, the best part of the stellar Fresh Off the Boat, will get some recognition. Lena Dunham might return for a strong season of Girls, and it-girl Amy Schumer should find herself back in contention. The Golden Globe winner Rachel Bloom should get invited to the big show for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Aya Cash had a killer season on the critical favorite You’re the Worst, though both are relatively little-seen shows. Tracee Ellis Ross, for Black-ish, stands a very good chance at a nod, and I wish that the geniuses of Broad City had a shot, but Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson probably cancel each other out.
Outstanding lead actress in a limited series or TV movie
Congratulate The People v OJ Simpson’s Sarah Paulson, because suffering under all of those Marcia Clark wigs is going to pay off for her this year. The only person who could possibly knock her off the throne is Kirsten Dunst, who did a killer job as a witless killer in Fargo. Kerry Washington could get nominated for playing another real 90s figure, Anita Hill, in HBO’s movie Confirmation. Both Felicity Huffman and Lili Taylor could pull in attention for American Crime, as could Roots’ Anika Noni Rose. Strange as it is to say, Lady Gaga could find herself with a reason to wear something ridiculous to the Emmys thanks to a surprisingly understated turn on American Horror Story, but it’s Paulson who is sure to be victorious.
Outstanding lead actor in a drama
Now that Jon Hamm finally has his Emmy for playing Don Draper, the field is once again open. Look for Rami Malek to come in and win on his first try for Mr Robot. Bob Odenkirk, who should get his second nomination for Better Call Saul, also has a good shot, as does Kevin Spacey, who still hasn’t won for playing Frank Underwood on House of Cards even though he’s been nominated every season. Emmy favorites Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis could get recognition for Showtime’s Billions, but Lewis might be better suited to the supporting category. If HBO’s canceled Vinyl has a shot of winning something, it’s for Bobby Cannavale. Kyle Chandler might get another nomination for Bloodline, but lessening buzz makes it less of a sure thing. Maybe this is the year for The Americans’ Matthew Rhys or The Leftovers’ Justin Theroux.
Outstanding lead actor in a comedy
With trans issues more talked-about than ever, Jeffrey Tambor’s incredible performance in Transparent should get him a second trophy. However, look for first-timers such as Master of None’s Aziz Ansari and Black-ish’s Anthony Anderson to spoil it. William H Macy and Don Cheadle always somehow secure nominations for Shameless and House of Lies, respectively (what blackmail does Showtime have on Academy members?), so look for them again. Add Will Forte to that mix for The Last Man on Earth. Rob Lowe, meanwhile, deserves a nomination for Fox’s wonderful The Grinder (RIP).
Outstanding lead actor in a limited series or TV movie
Courtney B Vance is another lock amid The People v OJ Simpson’s blitz on the Emmys for his role as Johnny Cochran. There could be other nominees from the show in this category too, including Cuba Gooding Jr as OJ and Sterling K Brown as Chris Darden, though some of them might end up in the supporting category. Both Patrick Wilson and Jesse Plemons are deserving of nominations for Fargo – in fact, the two shows could take up all of the slots. Oscar Isaac, however, should get some love for Show Me a Hero and Tom Hiddleston should get some for The Night Manager. Also, Bryan Cranston playing LBJ in HBO’s All the Way is some sort of perfect Emmys storm that the awards can’t possibly pass up. In a weaker year, perennial favorites such as Luther’s Idris Elba and Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch might get a shot too, but they might be left off for fresher faces – an odd thing to say when it comes to the Emmys.
- This article was amended on 13 July 2016; 11.22.63 is on Hulu, not Amazon.