The ink is still drying on this year's Emmy nominations, but we're already looking ahead to which TV shows and actors will actually take home a trophy in September. We know it's early, but we're breaking down the biggest categories and telling you who should win the Emmy and (more importantly) who will win it.
"Breaking Bad" (AMC)
"Downton Abbey" (PBS)
"Game of Thrones" (HBO)
"House of Cards" (Netflix)
"Mad Men" (AMC)
This category is a real horserace: All six nominees have a legit shot at winning, and a few worthy contenders ("Boardwalk Empire," "The Walking Dead") didn't even make the cut. "Downton" is an awards-show staple, even though Season 3 was a serious downer. "Thrones" had maybe its strongest season yet (the Red Wedding!), and "Breaking Bad" is always a powerhouse. "Mad Men" has won four Drama Series trophies, but went home empty-handed last year. "Homeland" won that one, but a lot of critics were turned off by this season's outlandish plot twists. And "House of Cards" is the newbie on the block, making history with the first major Emmy nominations for a TV show distributed online.
Should Win: "Mad Men." Even with all the great new competition out there, it's still the best show on television.
Will Win: It's anybody's guess, but we're going to predict a shocker and say "House of Cards" will win here and put streaming content on the map for good.
"The Big Bang Theory" (CBS)
"Modern Family" (ABC)
"30 Rock" (NBC)
"Modern Family" is the 800-pound gorilla in this category, having won the past three years in a row, and there's no reason to think they won't make it four-for-four. But there are a few upstarts nipping at their heels: "Big Bang" is TV's top-rated comedy and starting to get more Emmy love, and the genre-defying "Louie" scored its first Comedy Series nod this year. The bloom is off the rose a bit for "Girls," but "Veep" is surging with an even stronger sophomore season. And you can't count out "30 Rock," an Emmys veteran taking a victory lap for its final season.
Should Win: "Louie" is barely a comedy, but it's definitely a work of genius, and the strongest contender here.
Will Win: Upset alert! We see "Modern Family's" winning streak finally getting snapped by sentimental favorite "30 Rock."
Lead Actor, Drama
Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
Hugh Bonneville, "Downton Abbey"
Damian Lewis, "Homeland"
Kevin Spacey, "House of Cards"
Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"
Jeff Daniels, "The Newsroom"
A couple of new faces join the usual suspects this year: Daniels is superb as "The Newsroom's" cantankerous lead anchor, and Spacey brings serious acting cred to Netflix as scheming congressman Frank Underwood. Bonneville is fine on "Downton," but doesn't have a meaty enough role to compete here. Lewis won last year, and his work in Season 2's stark two-person episode "Q&A" was mesmerizing. Cranston has won three times, and only gets better as Walter White gets worse. Hamm is always a bridesmaid, going 0-for-5 so far, but with "Mad Men" ending next year, he needs to get an Emmy at some point for bringing Don Draper to life… right?
Should Win: We're not crazy about "The Newsroom" as a whole, but we are crazy about Daniels' performance.
Will Win: Move over, Sgt. Brody; Cranston is the one who knocks in this category.
Lead Actress. Drama
Vera Farmiga, "Bates Motel"
Michelle Dockery, "Downton Abbey"
Claire Danes, "Homeland"
Robin Wright, "House of Cards"
Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men"
Connie Britton, "Nashville"
Kerry Washington, "Scandal"
There must have been a tie here, because seven ladies managed to cram into this category. But only one can win, and that's Claire Danes. Her Carrie Mathison is a twitchy force of nature, and she's swept just about every award available so far. It's a shame Moss has to compete with her, because her work as Peggy Olson is top-notch as well. Farmiga is a surprise, but she and Freddie Highmore do make a great (and creepy) mother-son duo on "Bates." Wright is fantastic as a not-so-loyal politician's wife on "Cards," and it's nice to see Kerry Washington in the mix for her work as "Scandal's" Olivia Pope. Dockery deserves her nod, but "Downton's" stuffiness works against her. And we love Connie Britton, but "Nashville" doesn't feel Emmy-worthy.
Should Win: Peggy Olson is number one in our hearts; in fact, we want to see Moss win for both this and her miniseries "Top of the Lake."
Will Win: Don't mess with Carrie; Danes is unstoppable right now.
Lead Actor, Comedy
Jason Bateman, "Arrested Development"
Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory"
Matt LeBlanc, "Episodes"
Don Cheadle, "House of Lies"
Louis C.K., "Louie"
Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
A pair of two-time winners lead the pack: Parsons, so great as uber-nerd Sheldon on "Big Bang," and Baldwin, for his last hurrah as "30 Rock's" boss man Jack Donaghy. Critics were mixed on the revived "Arrested Development," but we loved it, and Bateman is the glue that holds the Bluth family together. LeBlanc and Cheadle are hurt by the fact that their shows draw tiny audiences. And we're big Louis C.K. fans, but acting is not exactly his strong suit; we'd rather see his show win than him.
Should Win: Bateman never won an Emmy for "Arrested's" original run; we'd like to see that injustice corrected here.
Will Win: Baldwin, as long as he doesn't go off on any more offensive rants between now and the ceremony.
Lead Actress, Comedy
Laura Dern, "Enlightened"
Lena Dunham, "Girls"
Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"
Amy Poehler, "Parks and Recreation"
Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"
First of all, yay for Laura Dern and "Enlightened"! HBO canceled it after two seasons, but it's finally getting the Emmys attention it deserves. Louis-Dreyfus is the reigning champ here as bumbling VP Selina Meyer, and "Veep" has only improved. Like Louis C.K., the multi-talented Dunham is better suited to the writing and directing categories. Falco is a marvel, and BFFs Poehler and Fey are always welcome here, with Poehler especially deserving for her work as chirpy go-getter Leslie Knope.
Should Win: We'd love to see Dern and "Enlightened" go out in a blaze of glory.
Will Win: Our latest polls indicate that Louis-Dreyfus will be reelected in a landslide.
Supporting Actor, Drama
Bobby Cannavale, "Boardwalk Empire"
Jonathan Banks, "Breaking Bad"
Aaron Paul, "Breaking Bad"
Jim Carter, "Downton Abbey"
Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones"
Mandy Patinkin, "Homeland"
Toldja! We pushed for Cannavale to get a nod for his work as hotheaded gangster Gyp Rosetti, and Emmy obliged. Too bad he has no shot at the prize. Neither does Carter, whose stoic Mr. Carson isn't a showy enough role to win. Speaking of stoic, Banks takes it to a new level as "Breaking's" terse hitman Mike, joining his co-star (and two-time winner) Paul in the category. Dinklage has already earned an Emmy as roguish imp Tyrion Lannister, but he took a backseat this season. And finally: Mandy Patinkin, holla! He got snubbed last year, but his great work as Carrie's mentor Saul finally got recognized.
Should Win: We're pulling for Banks, especially since it's his last chance.
Will Win: Patinkin, giving "Homeland's" Carrie and Saul matching Emmys.
Supporting Actress, Drama
Anna Gunn, "Breaking Bad"
Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey"
Emilia Clarke, "Game of Thrones"
Christina Hendricks, "Mad Men"
Christine Baranski, "The Good Wife"
It's the Mother of Dragons versus the Dowager Countess, as Clarke and Smith look to be the early frontrunners in this category. Clarke snagged the first non-Dinklage acting nod for "Thrones," and deserves it for her tough-as-nails performance as fiery Daenerys Targaryen. But she's up against a formidable opponent in Smith, last year's winner and a beloved showbiz veteran. (She's a Dame, for Pete's sake.) The rest is basically filler: Gunn had maybe her best season as Walter White's complicit wife Skyler, but she's out-Gunned here. "The Good Wife" is quickly losing Emmy steam, so Baranski is out. And as much as we love "Mad Men's" Joan, Hendricks didn't have enough to do this season to merit her first win.
Should Win: Dracarys! We'd love to see Clarke and her dragons storm the Emmys stage, but…
Will Win: Dame Maggie Smith has this category on lockdown until further notice.
Supporting Actor, Comedy
Adam Driver, "Girls"
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, "Modern Family"
Ed O'Neill, "Modern Family"
Ty Burrell, "Modern Family"
Bill Hader, "Saturday Night Live"
Tony Hale, "Veep"
Wait, where's Eric Stonestreet? We're all for breaking up "Modern Family's" monopoly on this category, but it seems especially cruel to cut last year's winner from the running. His three co-stars who did score nods might cancel each other out, with past winner Burrell having the best shot at a win. But we're elated to see Driver in the mix for his turn as Hannah's Neanderthal ex on "Girls." Hale brings the laughs as Selina's lapdog aide on "Veep," but he's not a serious contender. And with all due respect to Hader's amazing versatility, no "SNL" cast member has ever actually won the Emmy in this category, and we don't see that trend stopping here.
Should Win: Driver is the best actor on "Girls"; he's earned serious consideration here.
Will Win: The Emmy just can't quit "Modern Family"; we see Burrell taking home another trophy.
Supporting Actress, Comedy
Jane Krakowski, "30 Rock"
Jane Lynch, "Glee"
Sofia Vergara, "Modern Family"
Julie Bowen, "Modern Family"
Merritt Wever, "Nurse Jackie"
Mayim Bialik, "The Big Bang Theory"
Anna Chlumsky, "Veep"
Another super-sized category, led by "Modern Family" co-stars Bowen (who's won twice in a row) and Vergara. Lynch has won before, but Emmy seems to have lost its taste for "Glee." Krakowski notched her fourth nomination as "30 Rock's" self-obsessed Jenna Maroney, and it's Emmy's last chance to honor her, too. We're doing a happy pancake dance for Wever's second straight nod (we've been touting Zoey for years), but a win would be a huge upset. Same goes for Chlumsky, a first-time nominee this year. But a dark horse contender might be Bialik, whose Amy Farrah Fowler is the perfect match for Sheldon on "Big Bang."
Should Win: We should just be happy with Wever's nomination, but we're still keeping our fingers crossed for a Zoey upset.
Will Win: Bialik. It's time the "Big Bang" girls got in on the Emmy action.
Miniseries or Movie
"American Horror Story: Asylum" (FX)
"Behind the Candelabra" (HBO)
"Phil Spector" (HBO)
"Political Animals" (USA)
"The Bible" (History)
"Top of the Lake" (Sundance)
Okay, we'll just say it: This category is bananas. We have Jesus ("The Bible") vs. Satan ("AHS: Asylum"), with Liberace and Phil Spector thrown in for good measure. (And how are ongoing series like "Asylum" and "Political Animals" eligible? Anything to land an Emmy, we suppose.) "Asylum" was an overbaked step down from Season 1 of "AHS," and "Spector" was tabloid trash — and not in a good way. But "Candelabra" was a strangely compelling portrait of showbiz excess, thanks to great lead performances from Michael Douglas and (especially) Matt Damon. And we're happy to see some attention paid to "Top of the Lake," a hauntingly meditative crime drama from Oscar winner Jane Campion, with a knockout performance from "Mad Men's" Elisabeth Moss. (Check it out on Netflix; you'll like it.)
Should Win: "Top of the Lake." It's one of the best things we've seen on TV all year.
Will Win: The inside-showbiz angle and director Steven Soderbergh's clout should push "Behind the Candelabra" over the top.
Reality - Competition Program
"Dancing With the Stars" (ABC)
"Project Runway" (Lifetime)
"So You Think You Can Dance" (Fox)
"The Amazing Race" (CBS)
"The Voice" (NBC)
"Top Chef" (Bravo)
Otherwise known as the "Amazing Race" category. CBS's globetrotting reality hit has been a real Emmy hog, winning this award nine of the ten years it's been given out. Do any of the others have a chance? Not really, but we'll go through them anyway. "Top Chef" is TV's best cooking competition, and managed to break "Race's" stranglehold on the category a couple years back. Of the two dancing shows, we greatly prefer "So You Think You Can Dance" to "DWTS," since everybody on that show can actually dance. "Runway" is a perennial nominee, but has long since gone out of style. And by snagging a nom, "The Voice" at least has bragging rights over rivals "American Idol" and "The X Factor."
Should Win: A "SYTYCD" win would be amazing (especially if Mary Murphy gave the acceptance speech), but we're hungry for a second helping of "Top Chef."
Will Win: "The Amazing Race." Duh.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Downton Abbey
- Modern Family
- 30 Rock