Will Mad Men become the first drama to five-peat? Can anyone beat Bryan Cranston and Claire Danes? We'll find out Sunday at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards. But for now, let's make our best educated guesses at who will walk away with the big prizes. Check out the list of nominees, make your picks and see if they match up with ours.
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Who will win: Mad Men
For the first time in years, this race is actually competitive. Breaking Bad is back (and aired new episodes during the voting period), but the buzzy new Homeland is in the mix alongside Downton Abbey, which successfully switching categories. Still, it's hard to bet against four-time defending champ Mad Men, which will go for an unprecedented five-peat in the category. Don't think the fact that it won zilch at the Creative Arts Emmys last week means anything: Last year, it only won one award (for hairstyling) at the Creative Arts and then took home just one more at the big show — for drama series.
Watch out for: Downton Abbey
Elitist snob appeal + a whopping 16 nominations = a winning formula.
Who will win: Modern Family
The two-time defending champ is beloved by the TV Academy (though it curiously failed to get a writing nod this year after winning the past two years). While its third season wasn't quite up to par with the first two, it was still hilariously comforting. Should it win, it would be the fifth series to win three times, after The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi and 30 Rock.
Watch out for: Curb Your Enthusiasm
No, it's not the cool, edgy choice (that would be Girls), but Curb returned with a vengeance and earned its best notices yet for an uproarious Season 8, highlighted by the "Palestinian Chicken" episode. It's also crossed over into "overdue" territory with seven series nominations and zero wins.
LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Who will win: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
After sitting out last year, Cranston should pick up right where he left off: winning his fourth-straight Emmy. Cranston continues to astound week after week and gives a tour-de-force performance in his episode submission, "Crawl Space," which reaches a crescendo of madness at the end as Walt lies in the (artfully shot) grave he dug for himself. If Cranston were to win, he'd join Dennis Franz as the only other four-time champ in the category.
Watch out for: Damian Lewis, Homeland
Claire Danes has received most of the acclaim and awards for Homeland, but Lewis was equally as mesmerizing, keeping us all on our toes about prisoner of war-turned-sleeper terrorist Nick Brody's intentions. His submission, the Season 1 finale, is also a superb showcase for Lewis with loads of screen time.
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LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Who will win: Claire Danes, Homeland
The lock of locks. Danes, who was first nominated in this category 17 years ago for My So-Called Life, is simply untouchable with her riveting, transformative performances. Her submission, "The Vest," is the perfect cocktail of impact and range, as Carrie's bipolarity erupts just as she's agonizingly close to the truth about Abu Nazir. The color-coded wall of crazy is just a bonus.
Watch out for: Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
The defending champ is an Emmy favorite (she has nine career nominations and seven in lead drama actress — the third most in the category), but it doesn't help that The Good Wife was dropped from the series race.
SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Who will win: Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad
A first-time nominee, Esposito is up against formidable competition, which includes co-star and 2010 champ Aaron Paul, but we don't think his hauntingly quiet yet menacing drug kingpin will — or can — be ignored. History is also on his side: No one has repeated in this category since 1996 (Picket Fences' Ray Walston), which doesn't bode well for Paul or defending champ Peter Dinklage.
Watch out for: Jared Harris, Mad Men
Speaking of trends, Mad Men is a ridiculous 0-21 in acting awards at the Emmys. But there's a very good chance that Harris will break that curse with his subtle, affecting turn in "Commissions and Fees" as Lane's pride dooms him. Besides, we'd vote for anyone who punched Pete in the face.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Who will win: Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Smith won last year in the TV movie/miniseries genre and there's no reason to think she can't reap more gold here. The Dowager Countess is a scene-stealer and it's hard to imagine anyone else delivering her stinging barbs that are only rivaled by her icy stares.
Watch out for: Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Hendricks gives a beautifully nuanced, career performance in "The Other Woman," which was Jon Hamm's and Elisabeth Moss' submissions as well. One edge she has over her competitors: Her divisive story line — Joan prostituting herself to land an account and a partnership stake — is still being talked about today, and probably will be for a long time.
LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Who will win: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
The two-time defending champ is a proven Emmy favorite after beating out the heavily predicted Steve Carell last year in his farewell campaign. Parsons should also catch eyes with his submission episode, which features a flashy, non-Sheldon performance as he completely loses it when he can't get his hair cut by his regular barber. Fun fact: If Parsons wins, he'll be the first person to three-peat in this category since Michael J. Fox won from 1986-88.
Watch out for: Louis C.K., Louie
The multi-hyphenate's episode, "Duckling," packs his usual dark hilarity with heartwarming fuzzies after Louie discovers his daughter put a duckling in his suitcase for his trip to Afghanistan. And with seven nominations this year — the most ever by an individual in one year — we'd hate to see C.K. go home empty-handed.
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LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Who will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
An Emmy darling, JLD is on her 13th nomination and is a two-time winner. Her acerbic, foul-mouthed Selina Meyer is riotous, and Louis-Dreyfus is almost unmatched when it comes to slapstick delivery. Plus, she more or less carried Veep to a surprising series nomination, and political satire goes a long way in an election year.
Watch out for: Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
After submitting a gut-busting tape last year, Poehler went the serious route with the dramatic finale as her submission, which isn't necessarily a death knell — especially if voters recognize her as overdue. This is her fifth acting nomination, counting her ones for Saturday Night Live, and she's also up for writing this year. The bad news? Parks and Rec is missing from the series lineup this year.
SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Who will win: Ty Burrell, Modern Family
We expect voters to gild all the Modern Family guys eventually (a la The West Wing), but Burrell is in prime position to defend his crown. So often the funniest and sweetest part of Modern Family, he also benefits the most from being the standout in his co-stars' submissions.
Watch out for: Ed O'Neill, Modern Family
If voters want to keep the rotation going, O'Neill, who is just on his second nod ever, will likely be next in line. While he doesn't have a lot of side-splitting moments, he'll surely win over hearts at the end of his episode, when Jay lovingly dances with Lily. Aww!
SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Who will win: Kathryn Joosten, Desperate Housewives
Emmy voters aren't usually a sentimental bunch, but they won't pass up the chance to reward the late Joosten one last time. She's won twice before in the guest category for Housewives and the poignancy of Joosten dying from lung cancer weeks after Mrs. McCluskey met the same fate will resonate. Not only that, Joosten served three terms on the TV Academy's board of governors.
Watch out for: Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Bowen shines in her wide-ranging episode, in which Claire's night on the town goes awry, and it's arguably better than her winning submission last year.
Who will win: The Amazing Race
Race only has one blemish in this, uh, race, the past nine years, losing to Top Chef in 2010. It already did the hard part last year in reclaiming the title and signs point to another victory. The simple fact is, the breadth, scope and logistics of the show are unparalleled.
Watch out for: The Voice
If voters feel that eight is enough for Race and want fresh blood, there's nothing fresher than first-time nominee The Voice, whose spinning chairs reinvigorated the stale singing competition genre and bumped American Idol off the shortlist for the first time.
What are your picks?
The 64th Primetime Emmy Awards airs Sunday at 8 pm ET/5 pm ET on ABC.
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