Emmys 2017 predictions: Who will (and should) win

From left: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, <em>Veep</em>; Ann Dowd, <em>The Handmaid’s Tale</em>; Sterling K. Brown, <em>This Is Us</em>; Reese Witherspoon, <em>Big Little Lies</em>; Alec Baldwin, <em>Saturday Night Live</em>. (Photos: HBO, Hulu, NBC, HBO, NBC)
From left: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep; Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale; Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us; Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies; Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live. (Photos: HBO, Hulu, NBC, HBO, NBC)

The 69th Primetime Emmy Awards are almost here, so it’s time to make those all-important predictions — both who will win, and who will be robbed in each key category. Let’s get to it:

Outstanding Drama Series nominees:

Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Crown (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
House of Cards (Netflix)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
This Is Us (NBC)
Westworld (HBO)

Will win: This Is Us. The only network drama in this category, the NBC show fought its way into Netflix/HBO-dominated categories. This cannily conceived drama is the kind of product Emmy voters love: It’s emotional, it’s popular, it has a bunch of likable characters, and it comforts the older tier of voters in assuring them that network TV can still yield a quality hit. All that said, there’s one big alternate scenario: The Handmaid’s Tale might win this just as easily.

Should win: Better Call Saul. What a fantastic season this show had, full of rich stories about the brotherly competition that Bob Odenirk and Michael McKean inhabited so well. Every hour brought the show closer to its timeline confluence with Breaking Bad, yet each hour stood on its own as a beautifully filmed work of art.

Outstanding Comedy Series nominees:

Atlanta (FX)
black-ish (ABC)
Master of None (Netflix)
Modern Family (ABC)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Veep (HBO)

Will win: Veep. How can HBO’s best sitcom — which managed to survive the transition into the Age of Trump with sharp funniness — lose? The news that the coming season will be its last was announced too late to be a factor for sentimentality in Emmy voting, and I’ll bet folks had already pulled the lever for it anyway.

Should win: Atlanta. Donald Glover’s FX series was the Emmy year’s most original comedy, certainly one of the funniest, and regularly one of the most creatively filmed and edited. If there’s one upset victory on Emmy night, let it be this over the already well-rewarded Veep.

Bob Odenkirk, <em>Better Call Saul</em>. (Photo: Michele K. Short/AMC via AP)
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul. (Photo: Michele K. Short/AMC via AP)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series nominees

Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)
Anthony Hopkins (Westworld)
Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul)
Matthew Rhys (The Americans)
Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan)
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)

Will win: Sterling K. Brown. He won last year for his work as Christopher Darden in FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson, and that momentum will help carry him across the Emmy finish line first here. And he deserves it: As Randall Pearson, a neurotic and sensitive husband/father/son, Brown gives his character a necessary strength underpinning the vulnerability.

Should win: Bob Odenkirk. Brown is really good, but as I said, he’s already got an Emmy — so how about one for Odenkirk? He has shown more growth as an actor than anyone could have imagined if you remember him from Mr. Show, and in the latest season of Saul, he managed to be poignant, wily, and funny in nearly every episode.

Elisabeth Moss, <em>The Handmaid’s Tale</em>. (Photo: George Kraychyk/Hulu via AP)
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale. (Photo: George Kraychyk/Hulu via AP)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series nominees

Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder)
Claire Foy (The Crown)
Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Keri Russell (The Americans)
Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld)
Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Will win: Elisabeth Moss. She gives a great performance in the kind of strenuously dramatic role that Emmy voters love to reward. While I had problems with the pacing of the second half of the first season (i.e., frequently slooooow), Moss’s own performance was always perfectly calibrated.

Should win: Moss. That said, I really admired Claire Foy’s command of queenly passion in The Crown and would not be disappointed at all if she won. But Moss is pretty great in Handmaid’s Tale.

Donald Glover, <em>Atlanta</em>. (Photo: FX)
Donald Glover, Atlanta. (Photo: FX)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series nominees:

Anthony Anderson (black-ish)
Aziz Ansari (Master of None)
Zach Galifianakis (Baskets)
Donald Glover (Atlanta)
William H. Macy (Shameless)
Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)

Will win: Donald Glover. I’m going out on a limb here — Tambor and Macy are veteran winners in this category, and maybe voters will think it’s time to reward Anthony Anderson’s work on black-ish, but I think the amazingly impressive performance by Glover as the smart, shrewd, conflicted Earn will win him the prize. Glover’s performance insists that you understand Earn in all his contradictions — he’s a hard worker who’s also depressed; a loyal friend who’s also lousy in certain relationships; a man who is a frequent victim of racism both casual and pointed, yet not a victim at all in his insistence upon being measured for his talents and abilities. Like the show itself, Earn is bursting with potential.

Should win: Glover, no doubt and in full.

Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis-Ross, <em>black-ish</em>. (Photo: Ron Tom/ABC via AP)
Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis-Ross, black-ish. (Photo: Ron Tom/ABC via AP)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series nominees:

Pamela Adlon (Better Things)
Tracee Ellis-Ross (black-ish)
Jane Fonda (Grace and Frankie)
Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie)
Allison Janney (Mom)
Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)

Will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus. There’s a reason she keeps winning in this category: She’s giving, season after season, one of the most enjoyable and sharp-witted performances on television. If she wins this one, it’ll be six in a row.

Should win: Tracee Ellis-Ross. Woefully underrated, Ross has been doing very fine work on black-ish from the start. Her character Bow is at once a believable professional woman and a believably frantic, frazzled wife and mom. Ross has a gift for physical comedy that’s rare among this year’s nominees in this category (Louis-Dreyfus and Kemper are her only competition there), and she’s a team player, frequently playing excellent straight woman to Anthony Anderson’s joker.

John Lithgow, <em>The Crown</em>. (Photo: Netflix)
John Lithgow, The Crown. (Photo: Netflix)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series nominees:

John Lithgow (The Crown)
Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul)
Mandy Patinkin (Homeland)
Michael Kelly (House of Cards)
David Harbour (Stranger Things)
Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us)
Jeffrey Wright (Westworld)

Will win: John Lithgow. This used to be an easy Emmy formula: Familiar actor portraying famous historical figure = Emmy. Thus, Lithgow’s thorough embodiment of Winston Churchill — and really, after the first few minutes seeing him, you pretty much forget it’s Lithgow — ought to be a sure thing, right? Perhaps; enough so that I’m picking him. Plus, I think the academy wants to give some awards — if not the very top awards — to The Crown.

Should win: Ron Cephas Jones. Jones played my favorite This Is Us character, William Hill, the formerly dissolute dad to Sterling K. Brown, the father he never knew growing up. Jones convinced you that he was a musician who’d squandered his talent, a recovering drug addict, a now-excellent grandfather, and a man dying of cancer. If that doesn’t deserve an Emmy, what does?

Chrissy Metz, <em>This Is Us</em>. (Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)
Chrissy Metz, This Is Us. (Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series nominees:

Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Samira Wiley (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black)
Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things)
Chrissy Metz (This Is Us)
Thandie Newton (Westworld)

Will win: Chrissy Metz. As I said above, This Is Us is filled with likable characters, and Metz’s Kate is one of them for sure. As Kate Pearson, a lively charmer who suffers from poor self-esteem and is navigating a serious romantic relationship, Metz has won over a lot of viewers, and probably the Emmy Academy.

Should win: Ann Dowd. Dowd is great in almost anything (The Leftovers, Masters of Sex), and never more so than playing the awesomely severe Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale. Taking hold of a character that could have been one-note, or a variation on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s Nurse Ratched, Dowd managed to make Aunt Lydia both a villain and a poignant figure — you can see that she wasn’t always this cruel a person. She deserves an award for that.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series nominees:

Alec Baldwin (Saturday Night Live)
Louie Anderson (Baskets)
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Tony Hale (Veep)
Matt Walsh (Veep)

Will win: Alec Baldwin. If there is one lead-pipe cinch in this year’s Emmys, it’s that Baldwin will win for his Donald Trump impersonation on SNL. I am, apparently, alone in feeling Baldwin’s take on Trump is loose and vague — he doesn’t have Trump’s gestures down accurately; his puckered lips don’t approximate Trump’s mouth — but there is such a lust to see Trump humiliated, I guess this will have to do.

Should win: Matt Walsh. I wasn’t counting lines, but it seemed to me that Walsh’s superbly incompetent speechwriter, Mike McLintock, took on an even greater presence in last season’s Veep. His subplot as the ghostwriter of Selina Meyer’s autobiography enabled Walsh to bring new depth to Mike’s superficiality.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series nominees:

Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)
Vanessa Bayer (Saturday Night Live)
Leslie Jones (Saturday Night Live)
Anna Chlumsky (Veep)
Judith Light (Transparent)
Kathryn Hahn (Transparent)

Will win: Kate McKinnon. McKinnon is SNL’s MVP, a most valuable player of hard-to-play characters, from Angela Merkel to Mika Brzezinski to Jeff Sessions. (Her Justin Bieber is pretty great too.) But let’s face it, she’s going to win on the strength of one impersonation: her Hillary Clinton, whom McKinnon portrays as a plucky workhorse whose strenuous attempts to be media-likable now seem tragically poignant.

Should win: Anna Chlumsky. Much as I admire McKinnon’s skills, I think the five-times nominated Chlumsky deserves the win for her performance as chief of staff Amy Brookheimer in Veep. As the seasons have proceeded, Chlumsky interprets Amy in an increasingly complex and emotional manner that never forsakes comedy but increases our identification with the put-upon Amy.

John Turturro, left, and Riz Ahmed, <em>The Night Of</em>. (Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO via AP)
John Turturro, left, and Riz Ahmed, The Night Of. (Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO via AP)

Outstanding Limited Series nominees:

Big Little Lies (HBO)
Fargo (FX)
Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
The Night Of (HBO)
Genius (National Geographic)

Will win: Big Little Lies. This is one of the tightest races of the Emmys; I think Feud: Bette and Joan could win this just as much as Big Little Lies. But ultimately, I’m reasonably sure that the big-star firepower (Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley) of Lies, combined with what is possibly the best writing adapter David E. Kelley has ever done, will secure this HBO miniseries a win, and a well-deserved one.

Should win: The Night Of. But not as well deserved as The Night Of. This other HBO miniseries never quite had as much buzz as other esteemed shows this season, but writers Richard Price and Steve Zaillian constructed such a sturdy murder mystery/prison saga/courtroom drama, stocked with great performances that include Riz Ahmed, John Turturro, Bill Camp, and Jeannie Berlin, that I wish it could pull out a surprise win.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series nominees:

Riz Ahmed (The Night Of)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock: The Lying Detective)
Robert De Niro (The Wizard of Lies)
Ewan McGregor (Fargo)
Geoffrey Rush (Genius)
John Turturro (The Night Of)

Will win: Riz Ahmed. He was very good indeed as Nasir Khan, the college student accused of murdering a one-night-stand lover. Ahmed’s large, expressive eyes conveyed Naz’s innocence about the rough world he was plunged into immediately upon his arrest, and Naz’s journey from shocked victim to cagey survivor is completely convincing.

Should win: John Turturro. He took what could have been a caricature role — a sad-sack lawyer with a gimmick (itchy feet) — and made it into something richly three-dimensional. He met the challenge of making mediocre lawyer John Stone something close to a tragic figure.

Nicole Kidman, <em>Big Little Lies</em>. (Photo: HBO)
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies. (Photo: HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series nominees:

Carrie Coon (Fargo)
Felicity Huffman (American Crime)
Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies)
Jessica Lange (Feud: Bette and Joan)
Susan Sarandon (Feud: Bette and Joan)
Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies)

Will win: Nicole Kidman. As a character that could have been defined by her victimization as an abused wife, Kidman played Celeste Wright as a lot more than a victim; she was strong and, in her own way, an exploiter and manipulator of various aspects of her superficially fabulous California-suburbia life.

Should win: Reese Witherspoon. Taking the perhaps least sympathetic role among the female pals in Lies, executive producer Witherspoon turned in a marvelously flinty, finely detailed performance that deserves an Emmy.

Outstanding Variety Talk Series nominees:

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee (TBS)
Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
The Late Late Show With James Corden (CBS)
Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO)
The Late Show With Stephen Colbert (CBS)

Will win: The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. The shock that registered on Colbert’s face during his live election-night Showtime special carried over into anger, sarcasm, and an eloquent bitterness on The Late Show, supercharging his monologues and making him a source of both comfort and controversy as his show became TV’s most consistently fine source of political commentary. You can say that Colbert won’t be able to sustain his anger, or his ratings surge, but give him the Emmy first.

Should win: The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. After Alec Baldwin, Colbert is the performer who has benefited the most from the election of Donald Trump, and while I’ll bet that Baldwin thanks his lucky stars for this turn of events, it probably fills Colbert with private sorrow. Which is why he ought to win: His monologues are filled with as much fear for the country as they are with outrage.

The Emmys will be broadcast Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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