The Primetime Emmy Awards have seen fit to invite a few new nominees for its 68th annual outing. For an award ceremony that has a tendency to pick a horse and stick with it year after year, the appearance of new challengers in the race is a welcome sign, even if it’s rare and certainly belated in one case. These nominees make this year’s awards ceremony a difficult thing to predict the outcome of, as gauging the voters’ interest in an upset versus their desire to see a repeat is thrown out of whack in some cases.
As is the case every year, the amount of perceived snubs almost outnumbers the actual nominees. Shows like The Leftovers, Show Me a Hero, and Louis C.K.’s surprising Horace & Pete were left off while perennial favorites continue to prosper. Still, there have been changes this time around, countering the appearance of familiar faces with a few fresh ones that are very welcome. Some, like The Americans is long overdue for an appearance, while Mr. Robot was a surprise nominee for its wildfire first season. Additions like those make the Emmys a little more interesting this year, especially when many categories still include pedestrian nominees like Homeland and House of Cards, aging shows with a considerably lower heat index than they once had.
In terms of making predictions, then, certain categories seem pretty obvious, whereas others – like Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy – look as though they could go any one of six ways. So let’s dig in and take a look at the nominees for The 2016 Primetime Emmy Awards, predicting who will win, and naming who should win.
Outstanding Drama Series
Nominees: Better Call Saul (AMC), Downton Abbey (PBS), Game of Thrones (HBO), Homeland (Showtime), House of Cards (Netflix), Mr. Robot (USA), The Americans (FX)
Predicted Winner: Game of Thrones
No matter how you look at it Game of Thrones is the biggest show on TV, and after winning last year it’s the odds-on favorite to win again in 2016. The series has a lot going for it in addition to having so many members of its expansive cast amongst the nominees in the acting categories. Its lavish production from all over the globe makes it uniquely appealing to voters, as it most closely resembles the sort of epic blockbuster that typically does very well at these things. Besides, with the buzz of there being just two seasons left and the show’s numerous wins at the Creative Arts portion of the Emmys, the question should be: How can Game of Thrones not win?
Should Win: The Americans
Despite the ratings and awards dominance of Game of Thrones, the best show on TV right now is The Americans. For a long time it’s been a question mark in terms of the Emmys, in that the question seemed to be: Is the Television Academy aware this show even exists? After four seasons, the series has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to quality in its storytelling, acting, and especially directing that sets it apart from the rest of the pack. With this being the show’s first time at the Emmys (the show, not character actress Margo Martindale), it’s impossible not to want FX’s domestic spy drama to go home with a trophy.
Potential Upset: Mr. Robot
As far as wildcards go, look no further than Sam Esmail’s remarkable Mr. Robot. Its first season is still fantastic and even better upon a second viewing (seriously, go back and re-watch it if you haven’t). The little show came out of nowhere and appeared on a network not typically known for its appearances at the Emmys, so if anyone is going to turn the show upside down, it’s Esmail and the gang from fsociety.
Lead Actor in a Drama
Nominees: Kyle Chandler (Bloodline), Rami Malek (Mr. Robot), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Liev Schrieber (Ray Donovan), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
Predicted Winner: Rami Malek
While it might be too much to think that Mr. Robot can come in and take the Outstanding Drama Series away from HBO, it’s not too much to think that the show’s star, Rami Malek, will walk away a winner on Sunday night. Malek’s performance throughout season 1 was enthralling to say the least. He was asked to carry the load of a particularly heavy series and to help sell a familiar twist so that it came of as something fun and exciting (and deliberately familiar) instead of eye rolling. He did it, and continues to do it in season 2. Malek will be hard to beat on Sunday.
Should Win: Matthew Rhys
Here’s the thing: Matthew Rhys has just as hard a job on The Americans as Malek does on Mr. Robot. And he’s been doing it for four seasons now. When thinking about The Americans and the Emmys it can’t be said enough how ridiculous it is that it’s taken this long for the series and its cast to be recognize for the amazing work they’ve done. Rhys continues to turn Philip Jennings’ emotional turmoil into the most captivating performance by anyone on television right now and it is high time he is acknowledged for something he has done consistently for four seasons.
Potential Upset: Bob Odenkirk
Whatever you do, don’t count out Saul Goodman. Like Better Call Saul, Bob Odenkirk is almost so unobtrusively good you forget he’s there. For two seasons now Odenkirk has managed to make a prequel series about a Breaking Bad supporting character into a show that works on its own terms. Sure, the finer points of an elder care class-action lawsuit maybe aren’t as thrilling as, say, becoming a meth-dealing drug kingpin, but that hasn’t stopped Odenkirk from delivering a terrific performance on a consistent basis.
Lead Actress in a Drama
Predicted Winner: Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. Henson has been a favorite since Empire premiered. Henson’s role as Cookie has more or less defined the series and gone on to be the only good thing about it, especially as Empire‘s burn-the-candle-at-both-ends style of storytelling often leaves little time for things like nuance. Still, Henson can always be relied upon to handle both the big and little moments, and deliver a satisfying performance. Last year it seemed like Henson stood a decent chance at winning but left empty-handed. There’s a good chance she won’t repeat this year.
Should Win: Keri Russell
Keri Russell’s story is the same with everything that has to do with The Americans this time around. The show has been inexplicably left out of the running for so long everyone involved needs to go home a winner. Russell has consistently been great on the show and has risen to the challenge as the material has become more dense and emotional. But the season 4 storyline and especially her interactions with daughter Paige have demonstrated why Russell deserves to take home the trophy.
Potential Upset: Viola Davis
Viola Davis has already taken home an award for her role in How to Get Away with murder, but the high profile show and Davis’ own increased profile this summer could mean she’s on voters’ minds. Davis does great work in a show that, like Empire, seems to work best when going completely off the rails, and it takes a talented performer like Davis to know when to steer into skid and when to pump the breaks. If anyone’s going to upset in this category it might be the woman who won last year.
Supporting Actor in a Drama
Nominees: Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul), Jon Voight (Ray Donovan), Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Michael Kelly (House of Cards), Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline)
Predicted Winner: Kit Harington
Game of Thrones caused a stir last season with the resurrection of Jon Snow. Despite the deception in the offseason, the show managed to bring Snow back and later put him in one of the series’ biggest events ever. It’s hard to say whether or not it was Harington’s performance or the spectacle of it all that led him to a nomination. It’s likely a mix of the two. With the hubbub surrounding Snow’s return to the land of the living and his Leroy Jenkins-ing of ‘Battle of the Bastards’ Harington was consistently strong throughout. While other performances were more captivating, there’s a good chance the voters will recognize the headline-grabbing nature of it all by handing the actor a trophy on Sunday night.
Should Win: Jonathan Banks
As is so often the case (especially this year) Jonathan Banks comes in being owed an Emmy. Last year his amazing, tearful performance in ‘Five-O’ left many thinking the Emmy competition was over before it began. Banks certainly deserved recognition for his work in season 1 of Better Call Saul. And while he was incredibly strong in season 2 and didn’t have quite the showcase that was offered to him before, he still delivered a terrific performance. Besides, as was mentioned earlier, he’s overdue or a trophy.
Potential Upset: Peter Dinklage
Everyone’s favorite Game of Thrones character stands a real chance at taking home another trophy on Sunday night. While Tyrion didn’t have a whole lot to do in season 6 except drink and know things, Dinklage didn’t let the static nature of his story line prevent him from being a captivating presence on screen. Tyrion being made Dany’s Hand of the Queen after advising the would-be ruler of Westeros to say her goodbye to Daario made for a great one-two punch that the character – thanks to the actor portraying him – is so good at delivering.
Supporting Actress in a Drama
Nominees: Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Maura Tierney (The Affair), Constance Zimmer (UnReal)
Predicted Winner: Lena Headey
Cersei had herself quite a season on Game of Thrones and Lena Headey was right there with all of her wonderful facial expressions to make it all seem as glorious as a new cask of Dornish wine. Given the way season 6 ended and how Headey was able to move around from pleasure to grief to vengeance and more it seems as though she’s a lock for Supporting Actress. So many actors are awarded for big performances and stirring speeches, and Cersei has those moments, but it’s when Headey is allowed to convey everything with a simple facial expression that she really shines. This feels like it’s her year to win.
Should Win: Lena Headey
Not much to say here. Headey for the win she deserves.
Potential Upset: Constance Zimmer
Constance Zimmer had an incredible first season on UnReal that could swoop in and steal everything (provided the voters didn’t watch season 2).
Outstanding Comedy Series
Nominees: black-ish (ABC), Master of None (Netflix), Silicon Valley (HBO), Transparent (Amazon), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix), Veep (HBO)
Predicted Winner: black-ish
ABC’s comedy black-ish did tremendous work this past season, moving deftly between outright comedy and moments of seriousness. The terrific cast excels at creating a charming and witty family comedy that manages to do some pretty remarkable things given its placement on (and with the restrictions of) a broadcast network. With its stellar cast that includes fellow Emmy nominees Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, as well as Laurence Fishburne, black-ish stands a real chance at taking home the award.
Should Win: Transparent
Oddly enough, the show that probably should win only sort of registers as an actual comedy. Jill Soloway’s Transparent has been a remarkable show since debuting on Amazon in 2014. Season 2 was actually a step up for the series in terms of both the scope of its storytelling and the craftsmanship put into it. (Most of that credit is due to Soloway who also wrote and directed a great many of the season’s 10 episodes.) The show continues to be a bold offering from Amazon and with its third season just around the corner, a win here would be a deserved one.
Potential Upset: Veep
It’s almost impossible to comprehend that, with the departure of showrunner Armando Iannucci, Veep somehow turned in its funniest season to date with its fifth go-round. A frequent winner at the Emmy’s Veep is always a solid contender and one that earns both its awards recognition as well as its wins. While it feels like this is black-ish or Transparent‘s year, it wouldn’t be surprising if HBO’s scathing political comedy (and its star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus) somehow managed to sneak away with another win.
Lead Actor in a Comedy
Nominees: Anthony Anderson (black-ish), Aziz Ansari (Master of None), Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth), William H. Macy (Shameless), Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)
Predicted Winner: Anthony Anderson
Like the show he stars in, Anthony Anderson is as adept at delivering big comedic performances as he is making dramatic turns. He demonstrated both this season with his usual comic flare, but when black-ish made the surprising and successful move to have an episode take the topic of police violence head on, it was Anderson’s powerful performance that led the charge.
Should Win: Anthony Anderson
Anderson definitely earned a win and maybe locked one down with his charm when the nominations were announced.
Potential Upset: Jeffrey Tambor
Yes, Tambor already has his Emmy for Transparent, but he did do phenomenal work as Maura last season. Besides, the Emmys love a repeat winner, especially one with as storied a career as Tambor has. So while it seems like this year is Anderson’s time to take home the award, there’s also a good chance Tambor will come in and play spoiler.
Lead Actress in a Comedy
Nominees: Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish), Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie), Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer), Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Julia Louie-Dreyfus (Veep)
Predicted Winner: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
There are just some people who are winners in life and Julia Louis-Dreyfus is definitely one of them. She has many Emmys to her name, the majority of which have come from a little HBO show called Veep. While, to a certain degree, seeing Louis-Dreyfus take home another trophy would be the same old song and dance, it’s hard to argue that she doesn’t deserve it. Her performance on Veep is incredibly strong year in and year out and given that the series just came off one of its best ever is a testament to how good Louis-Dreyfus is in the role.
Should Win: Ellie Kemper
Ellie Kemper did some impressive work in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 2. Her performance could easily seem at odds with itself, swinging wildly between slapstick comedy and the surprisingly complex material she undertook in the latter half of the season. The show went overlooked for the most part last year and that turned out to be a good thing, as it was a far stronger and funnier series all around in its second season. Kemper deserves a win and the Emmys could use a change-up in this category.
Potential Upset: Ellie Kemper
Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Nominees: Louie Anderson (Baskets), Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele), Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Titus Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Predicted Winner: Louie Anderson
This is a surprisingly hard category to pick a winner from. Everyone is incredibly strong in his own right. But this year the award simply belongs to Anderson, who plays Zach Galfianakis’ mother, Mrs. Baskets, on FX’s Baskets. It’s an amazing performance that Anderson does without a hint of irony, which helps make the character into a surprising source of emotion for a show that can sometimes be a little weird and needs some grounding. Besides, Anderson should win just for the way he mispronounces “Dasani” in the way mothers seem to willfully do with certain words.
Should Win: Louie Anderson
This one is Anderson’s.
Potential Upset: Andre Braugher
Andre Braugher is one of the best things on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a reliably great, funny, and heartfelt sitcom that doesn’t get enough attention come award season. Known for the steely performances he has given in shows like Homicide: Life on the Street, Braugher’s Captain Holt is evidence of his incredible range as an actor and his skill as a comedian.
Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Nominees: Niecy Nash (Getting On), Allison Janney (Mom), Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live), Judith Light (Transparent), Gaby Hoffman (Transparent), Anna Chlumsky (Veep)
Predicted Winner: Allison Janney
Janney is like Louis-Dreyfus in that, when they are nominated, it is unlikey that either will go home empty handed. That has certainly been the case with Janney of late, as she already won for her role in Mom twice, and given the consistency of the television academy, it seems likely she could three-peat. While it’s not a lock for Janney – she is up against some pretty stiff competition in both Judith Light and Kate McKinnon; she is a solid choice for 2016.
Should Win: Niecy Nash
Niecy Nash has been one of the strongest performers on HBO’s underrated Getting On, which ended its three-season run recently. Nash has been a solid supporting player for years, being hilarious on Reno 911 and recently showing up in shows like The Mindy Project and even Masters of Sex. But really, this is about an actor and a show both deserving of something more than critical praise. Nash is terrific in Getting On and although the show is gone, it’s not too late for it to get a win.
Possible Upset: Kate McKinnon
Don’t count out Kate McKinnon. 2016 has been her year, whether she’s acting as the strongest player on Saturday Night Live or working in this summer’s Ghostbusters, she’s clearly proven herself as a comedic force to be reckoned with. While it’s harder to judge someone’s performance on a show like SNL than, say, a regular series where she’s playing the same character, McKinnon’s comedic consistency is such that she could easily sneak in and grab herself a trophy on Sunday.
Outstanding Limited Series
Predicted Winner: The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
FX owns this category this year. Although American Crime and Roots were both very good and The Night Manager was a sort of treat in and of itself, this category comes down to The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and Fargo. And as good as the latter is, even the Minnesota Nice of Noah Hawley’s crime story doesn’t really stand a chance against a juggernaut like The People vs. O.J. Simpson. It’s hard to believe that a series about a murder everyone is so familiar with could turn into one of the most riveting dramas of the year, intersecting issues of race, class, and violence with such captivating ease. If anything feels like a lock this year, it’s this.
Should Win: The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story was terrific through and through. It deserves the win.
Potential Upset: Fargo
As mentioned above, all the other nominees would make for fine winners, but only Fargo feels like it really has a shot. It seems unlikely that it will, given the proximity of The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story to the actual world of Hollywood and the entertainment industry, but it could happen.
Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Nominees: Bryan Cranston (All the Way), Idris Elba (Luther), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock: The Abominable Bride), Tom Hiddleston (The Night Manager), Cuba Gooding Jr. (The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story), Courtney B. Vance (The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story)
Predicted Winner: Courtney B. Vance
Okay, let’s clarify something here: The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story has its respective categories on lockdown. The show itself will win and its two actors, Courtney B. Vance and Sarah Paulson, are going to win as well. There are some big names in this category, like Bryan Cranston, Idris Elba, and Academy Award-winner Cuba Gooding Jr., but there’s really no question as to which one will take the trophy home. Vance was too good from start to finish. He wasn’t simply doing an impersonation of Johnnie Cochran – which was a concern when this series was first announced. Instead, Vance delivered a measured, thoughtful performance that actually made Cochran out to be a human being again, after so many years relegated to clownish impressions or depictions that pumped up his courtroom bravado and handling of the media. Vance has been a terrific supporting actor for years, and now he gets to be the star.
Should Win: Courtney B. Vance
It’s Vance all the way.
Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Nominees: Felicity Huffman (American Crime), Lili Taylor (American Crime), Kerry Washington (Confirmation), Kirsten Dunst (Fargo), Audra McDonald (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill), Sarah Paulson (The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story)
Predicted Winner: Sarah Paulson
Like her The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story co-star, Paulson did a phenomenal job making a character out of a real individual, not reducing Marcia Clark to a caricature or worse. Paulson is always the best thing about any Ryan Murphy production (even things she doesn’t actually appear in) but this is a step above her usual strong performances in American Horror Story. Look for The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story to sweep its categories, and for Paulson to go home a winner.
Should Win: Sarah Paulson
It’s not even close. Paulson basically has this in the bag.
There you have it. Screen Rant’s predictions for The 2016 Primetime Emmy Awards. Join us Sunday night as we find out all the choices we got wrong (and maybe a few we got right).
The 2016 Primetime Emmy Awards will air Sunday, September 18 @8pm on ABC.