It’s that time of year again. The time when rich people gather into a big ballroom and repeatedly pat themselves on the back. The time when awards are handed out to people based on quality and also how much money they spent on campaigning. The time when a host makes some modestly humorous jokes and then disappears after the first twenty minutes. (Okay, I don’t expect much “modesty” from Stephen Colbert these days. But hey, twenty minutes.)
The Emmys have long been chided for being hoary, unnecessary, and predictable, and yeah, they kind of are. But they do play an important role in cementing shows in the TV pantheon, so I don’t mind crossing my fingers whenever a halfway-decent series makes it into the nominating pool, and hoping that Modern Family will at last go away.
There’s a pretty interesting range of nominees this year, and I had fun sifting through them to try and guess which ones would take home the gold. What follows are my predictions for the seven Best Series categories. (I may later do acting categories as well, although it depends on whether I have the time.) They should not be taken as definitive, of course – and I fully expect to be proven wrong at least once – but they’re an effective way to test the predictability (or lack thereof) of the Television Academy.
We start with:
Amazing as it may sound, there is legitimate suspense in the Best Drama category this year. Reigning champion Game of Thrones was on break for the eligibility period, and several other recurring nominees have been dropped out. More than half the nominees here are brand-new shows – something which hasn’t happened in this category since way back in 1962.
The Emmys love shiny new things, so there’s a lot of speculation. We can easily rule out House of Cards and Better Call Saul, the only two returning nominees (neither of which has had much luck at the Emmys in the past). But that still leaves five choices ripe for the plucking.
Though some voters could lean towards the elegant prestige of The Crown, I have my doubts that it will win the night. The Emmys recently changed their voting rules to allow any Academy members to vote in any category, which means that the most-watched and most-talked about shows tend to get the most votes. (This is why GoT has won the last couple of years, and why it will likely win for its final two seasons as well.) Among this year’s nominees, Westworld, Stranger Things, and This Is Us are the most popular (even acknowledging that Netflix doesn’t release its viewership numbers to the public). And both Westworld and Stranger Things scored big at this week’s Creative Arts Awards, with each series already racking up five wins.
So it seems like a toss between Netflix and HBO – until you factor politics into the equation. In a year where every other nomination seems to be a “Take that!” at the current Presidential administration (just look at how many nods the Trump-bashing SNL received), The Handmaid’s Tale is not only dark and prestigious in all the ways the Academy loves, but it’s 2017’s most perfect TV rebellion, featuring a “What if…?” dystopian world that Twitter keeps telling me is strikingly similar to our own. Plenty of the nominees are more popular, but none will give the voters greater moral satisfaction in declaring the winner.
HBO’s dominance in the Academy still makes it the frontrunner, but don’t be surprised if Hulu pulls an upset.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Better Call Saul
House of Cards
This Is Us
Unlike the Drama category, this year’s comedy picks are pretty much the same as before. The only change from 2016 is freshman series Atlanta, which usurped Transparent in the nominating field. Predictions, thus, are not too difficult.
Veep has already taken home the gold two years in a row, and it’s poised to get a three-peat. Atlanta could claim a surprise victory, but in a voting pool as rigid as this, I wouldn’t claim certainty.
Master of None
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Outstanding Limited Series
Fargo is the only returning series to this category, having won the award back in 2014 (and receiving another nomination in 2016). But coming off its weakest season, the series seems unlikely to recapture the gold again. Instead, two other powerhouses have the acclaim and buzz needed to get the win. Big Little Lies will likely score the big prize due to the HBO and acting prestige, but I wouldn’t count Feud out of the picture. It’s a Hollywood product about Hollywood, and is coming off the heels of another Ryan Murphy anthology, The People vs. OJ Simpson, which won multiple awards in last year’s competition. It’s basically a coin toss.
Big Little Lies
Feud: Bette and Joan
The Night Of
Outstanding Television Movie
In a year with two well-received HBO movies, this could seem like a tough call. But The Wizard of Lies has strength in numbers, with both Robert de Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer also up for awards. If anything, the Bernie Madoff biopic has more to fear from the Black Mirror episode “San Junipero,” which garnered much acclaim, perhaps enough to pull a surprise victory.
The Wizard of Lies
Black Mirror, “San Junipero”
Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Sherlock, “The Lying Detective”
Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
The Amazing Race is the longstanding champion of this category, but The Voice has lately begun to break its hold. I assume inertia will maintain that.
On another note, could they please stop nominating Project Runway?
The Amazing Race
American Ninja Warrior
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Outstanding Variety Talk Series
Ooh, this one’s a toughie. John Oliver is the returning champion of this category, but he faces competition this time around from former Daily Show costar Samantha Bee, whose angry and acerbic comedy has enthralled the political left, with her “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” being especially well-received. (Don’t ask me why that thing was so popular. I just tuned in for the CJ Cregg scene.) Colbert’s comedy is similarly angry and controversial, and he benefits from his Colbert Report wins in 2013 and 2014.
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
The Late Late Show with James Corden
Real Time with Bill Maher
Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
A ratings-smash season with a record-breaking number of nominations, this series regularly mocked and at times even enraged the President. No debates, no questions, no other show has a chance.
Saturday Night Live
Billy on the Street
Tracey Ullman’s Show