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Emmys 2016: Who will win and who should

EW critic Jeff Jensen makes his picks

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Nicole Rivelli/FX; Michael Parmelee/USA Network; ABC

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

black-ish

Master of None

Modern Family

Silicon Valley

Transparent 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Veep

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:

The Americans

Better Call Saul

Downton Abbey

Game of Thrones

Homeland

House of Cards

Mr. Robot

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

American Crime

Fargo

The Night Manager

The People v. O.J. Simpson

Roots

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

Confirmation

Luther

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.

Moving faster:

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

Documentary Now!

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.

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