The Emmys are here. Will The People v. O.J. Simpson win an abundance of verdicts or can Fargo pull an upset? Will The Americans triumph after years of being ignored or will Game of Thrones reign once again? Our TV critic Jeff Jensen tried to hack the Emmy database and steal the answers, but apparently he learned nothing from obsessively watching and recapping Mr. Robot. While he can’t tell you who WILL win, he does have opinions about who SHOULD win… and maybe who shouldn’t, too.
Outstanding Lead Actor, Drama
Kyle Chandler, Bloodline
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Should Win: In any other year, my allegiance would be to Rhys, who has been excellent as a conflicted Reagan-era KGB agent since day one of The Americans and is finally getting props. But Malek’s electrifying, capture-the-imagination performance in the first season of Mr. Robot was the best acting turn of the 2015-2016 season by anyone on television, period, full stop, just mail him the trophy now.
But I’ll be okay if… Rhys pulls the upset, or Odenkirk wins for his supremely deft mix of pathos and comedy in Better Call Saul.
I’ll grumble if… Spacey wins for House of Cards. He was very good in a just-okay campaign for Frank Underwood, although he was downright snoozy in a few episodes – the ones in which Frank was in a coma.
Outstanding Lead Actress, Drama
Claire Danes, Homeland
Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder
Taraji P. Henson, Empire
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Keri Russell, The Americans
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Should Win: Russell. In an emotionally tumultuous year for Soviet subversive Elizabeth Jennings – a near-death experience, bonding and betraying a mission-turned-best-friend, breaking down and building back up – Russell was raw, real, and riveting.
But I’ll be okay if… Maslany finally triumphs for executing the hardest acting job on television, playing multiple fully-realized and completely distinct characters in her soon-to-end sci-fi clone drama. Whether it’s this year or next, Emmy should bling her. Also, you know who was also absolutely fantastic? Wright, who refined and perfected diamond-hard Claire as she seized power and destiny. (She also directed some of the season’s strongest episodes.)
I’ll grumble if… previous winners Danes and Davis were called to stage, even though they were very good, and only because I’d like to see Russell (or Maslany) get their due.
Outstanding Lead Actor, Comedy
Anthony Anderson, black-ish
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Will Forte, Last Man on Earth
William H. Macy, Shameless
Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Should Win: Tambor. He put scenes on film that are seared into my brain and make me laugh and weep and cringe upon recall. Maura dancing with herself in the mirror was one of the most moving moments of the past TV season.
But I’ll be okay if… Anderson scores for anchoring and rocking black-ish, which had a triumphant, ascendant year.
I’ll grumble if… actually, I won’t grumble at all. This is a strong category stocked with deserving candidates, and I’d be thrilled if any of them won.
Outstanding Lead Actress, Comedy
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Ellie Kemper, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish
Laurie Metcalf, Getting On
Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie
Should Win: Kemper. Her Kimmy Schmidt was a more flawed creation in season 2, and Kemper nailed every challenge thrown at her. She played the peculiarities and tones of her broad character just right, keeping Kimmy constantly winsome and never wearying and even deepening her over the course of an exceptional, next level season for that show.
But I’ll be okay if… Metcalf won for Getting On, an underappreciated gem. And it would correct the injustice of Metcalf not getting the award she should have won: best guest actress in Horace and Pete. (Margo Martindale picked up the trophy last week for, like, one or two scenes in The Americans. I love me the Margo, and I adore The Americans, but no. Just no.)
I’d grumble if… Schumer pulled an upset. Not that anyone’s expecting it, and to be honest, I think Schumer is fantastic. I just think sketch comedy performers should have their own acting categories.
Outstanding Comedy Series
Master of None
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Should Win: black-ish. This is its moment…
But I’d be okay if… Veep scored a repeat for being a comedy of the moment, for helping us laugh through our current high stakes and terrifying real-world presidential contest. (It also handled a showrunner transition in impressive fashion, without missing a beat or sabotaging the show’s voice.)
I’ll grumble if… five-time winner Modern Family returned to the stage for a sixth trophy. This show is an all-timer for being both extremely good and paving the way for the surge of TV diversity. That said, it’s time the show facilitated diversity another way and allowed other shows to win all the Emmys forever and ever, Amen.
Outstanding Drama Series:
Better Call Saul
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Should Win: The Americans. Not because it’s overdue, but because it was the best drama of last season, period. Don’t let dazzling, big budget battle scenes or cutting edge unreliable narrator storytelling or sentimental attachment to beloved British melodrama fool you into thinking otherwise…
But I’d be KINDA okay if… Game of Thrones or Mr. Robot took the trophy, because there was amazing artfulness in those dazzling, big budget battle scenes and that cutting edge unreliable narrator storytelling. If The Americans has to lose to something, these two are acceptable to me. On the other hand…
I’d grumble if… Downton Abbey won, because this beloved British melodrama has been nothing but sentimentality for most of its consistently fine and consistently overrated life.
RELATED: Hear EW’s Emmy Predictions
Onward to some quick takes. My picks in bold.
Outstanding Supporting Actor, Drama
Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Kit Harrington, Game of Thrones
Michael Kelly, House of Cards
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan
Harrington came back to life in Game of Thrones, but Banks gave rich life to Better Call Saul as he attempted the folly of staying principled in an immoral business.
Outstanding Supporting Actress, Drama
Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Maura Tierney, The Affair
Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones
Constance Zimmer, UnREAL
All those Game of Thrones actresses were great, but they were essentially lead actresses in separate arcs of story. Smith has won plenty. The Emmy should go to Zimmer, poignantly nasty and so real in the reality show satire in UnREAL.
Outstanding Supporting Actor, Comedy
Louie Anderson, Baskets
Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Ty Burell, Modern Family
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Tony Hale, Veep
Keegan-Michael Key, Key and Peele
Matt Walsh, Veep
Yep. That’s right. A tie. Deal with it.
Outstanding Supporting Actress, Comedy
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Gaby Hoffman, Transparent
Allison Janney, Mom
Judith Light, Transparent
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Niecy Nash, Getting On
Light provided essential support to Tambor, in a performance that was bold in its own right.
Outstanding Limited Series
The Night Manager
The People v. O.J. Simpson
An amazing collection of shows, but let the coronation begin: The People v. O.J. Simpson will be king of the Emmy prom.
Outstanding Television Movie
A Very Murray Christmas
All the Way
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
A weak field. I’m going with Sherlock: The Abominable Bride, which was a flawed work, for sure, but I admired the mad, noodle-cooking storytelling, and it scratched my Sherlock itch.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Bryan Cranston, All the Way
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
Idris Elba, Luther
Cuba Gooding Jr., The People v. O.J. Simpson
Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager
Courtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson
Vance should win, but don’t be surprised if Cranston muscles past him and goes all the way here.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Kirsten Dunst, Fargo
Felicity Huffman, American Crime
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson
Lili Taylor, American Crime
Kerry Washington, Confirmation
How I appreciate Emmy for remembering and honoring American Crime, but it’s Marcia! Marcia! Marcia! – Paulson! – for the win.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Sterling K. Brown, The People v. O.J. Simpson
Hugh Laurie, The Night Manager
Jesse Plemons, Fargo
David Schwimmer, The People v. O.J. Simpson
John Travolta, The People v. O.J. Simpson
Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo
Brown was a revelation in The People v. O.J. Simpson. If he loses votes to his deserving costars, I bet Laurie benefits the most. But Woodbine would be my choice after Brown.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Hotel
Olivia Coleman, The Night Manager
Regina King, American Crime
Melissa Leo, All the Way
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Hotel
Jean Smart, Fargo
Smart blew me way as the matriarch of a Midwest crime family trying to keep her crumbling clan together while fighting off a city slicker takeover.
Outstanding Variety Talk Series
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
American Ninja Warrior
(Seriously! I dig this show!)
Outstanding Writing, Drama
Sam Esmail, Mr. Robot, “eps.1.0_hellofriend.mov”
Outstanding Writing, Comedy
Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang, Master of None, “Parents”
Outstanding Directing, Drama
Miguel Sapochnik, Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards”
Outstanding Writing, Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special
D.V. DeVincentis, The People v. O.J. Simpson, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”
Outstanding Directing, Comedy
Jill Soloway, Transparent, “Man of the Land”
Outstanding Directing, Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special
Ryan Murphy, The People v. O.J. Simpson, “From the Ashes of Tragedy”
The Emmys coverage on ABC kicks off at 7 p.m. ET with the red carpet, followed by the show at 8 p.m. ET hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.