“Veep” and “Game of Thrones” won for best comedy and drama again, capping off an oddly fun and legitimate night. There were enough surprises to keep things interesting. Most of the speeches were heartfelt and lovely, some funny and energetic, some poignant, some political, some heartbreaking. The show even ended on time.
A weird thing seems to be happening to the Emmys. They’re…continuing to improve. Maybe it’s because the number and variety of worthy shows is growing, and so snubs seem less egregious and rising tides have raised all winners’ ships. Or maybe the academy is starting to notice what fans and critics have seen for a long time. (Please, television lords, let “The Americans” be the next show the Emmy Awards wake up to. It took a while for “Orphan Black,” so maybe good things come to those who wait.)
Beyond mostly terrific acceptance speeches, though, the best part of the show was, well, how little of it there was. The presenter segments were nothing special, but they were mercifully brief. Jimmy Kimmel did his opening, and had one indulgent Matt Damon segment, and that was just about it, other than a handful of one-liners. No song-and-dance numbers, no protracted bits, no running jokes throughout the show that got worse and worse. The show moved, and the awards seemed to go to most of the right people.
What are TV obsessives going to complain about when we don’t have the Emmys to kick around anymore?
Drama Series: “Game of Thrones” (HBO)
Comedy Series: “Veep” (HBO)
Mini-Series or Movie: “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (FX)
TV Movie: “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (Masterpiece)” (PBS)
Variety Talk Series: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” (HBO)
Variety Sketch Series: “Key & Peele” (Comedy Central)
Actor in a Comedy Series: Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”
Actress in a Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
Actor in a Drama Series: Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”
Actress in a Drama Series: Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”
Actor in a Mini-Series or Movie: Courtney B. Vance, “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie: Sarah Paulson, “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
Supporting Actor in a Drama: Ben Mendelsohn, “Bloodline”
Supporting Actress in a Drama: Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”
Supporting Actor in a Comedy: Louie Anderson, “Baskets”
Supporting Actress in a Comedy: Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”
Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie: Sterling K. Brown, “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
Here’s who we think would win. How did we do?
Outstanding drama series
Will win: “Game of Thrones”
Could win: “The Americans”
This was the first season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” that surpassed the story in the novels. Faced with that challenge, the show took lots of risks, measured out how much it would give in to fans’ wishes, injected humor into an otherwise dark time, and ended with a huge, fan-pleasing battle. A win here is pretty much a guarantee.
That said, “The Americans” has been a longtime critical favorite and was just nominated for the first time in the drama category after coming out of a very strong season. It remains to be seen if the Television Academy will want to honor it this year to make up for years of snubs.
Outstanding lead actor in a drama series
Will win: Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”
Could win: Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
With Emmy favorites like Jon Hamm and Bryan Cranston out of the running, there’s room for a new leading man to take the statue. Rami Malek has proven to be a critic favorite for playing a delusional hacker on USA Network’s “Mr. Robot.”
Kevin Spacey has yet to win in this category for Netflix’s “House of Cards,” but the show’s last season wasn’t its strongest and actually leaned toward highlighting his costar Robin Wright. And Bob Odenkirk has a strong claim to the statue for his transformative performance on “Better Call Saul.” But the Television Academy will probably give Malek the edge.
Outstanding lead actress in a drama series
Will win: Robin Wright, “House of Cards”
Could win: Keri Russell, “The Americans”
The last season of “House of Cards” was dripping with thirst for an Emmy win for Robin Wright. It definitely did all it could to give Wright a fighting chance at the award, as she delivered a Claire Underwood dead set on exerting her independence from Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood. The Television Academy definitely noticed and will probably hand her the award.
Her toughest competition will arrive with “The Americans” star Keri Russell, who is nominated for the first time in this category. If anything gives her the edge, it’s the recent return to talk about the series after four seasons. The members of the Television Academy may want to show that they’re not as out of touch as people think.
Outstanding comedy series
Will win: “Veep”
Could win: “Transparent”
Another strong season of HBO’s “Veep,” which got the most nominations among comedies, should make it an obvious winner for best comedy two years in a row.
But Amazon’s “Transparent” has a chance of breaking out this year. Its second nomination follows a year that has been very much occupied with the conversation around trans issues. That and the potential for a powerful acceptance could give voters extra incentive to pick the show.
Outstanding lead actor in a comedy series
Will win: Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”
Could win: Aziz Ansari, “Master of None”
Tambor’s gender-bending role on “Transparent” will probably earn him the Emmy for a second year in a row.
But Aziz Ansari delivered a fresh style and perspective on diversity in Hollywood with Netflix’s “Master of None.” The Television Academy may want to reward Ansari for his hard work as star, writer, and cocreator of the show.
“Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson could also snag the award. The show dealt with some timely topics surrounding #BlackLivesMatter, and he certainly delivered smiles when he read his own name during the Emmy nomination announcement in July. There’s nothing better than the potential for an Emmy moment like that during the broadcast.
But I’m going to give Ansari the edge here as a potential upset.
Outstanding lead actress in a comedy series
Will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
Could win: Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is on a roll. She’s currently tied with Helen Hunt for a record four Emmys in this category. Since the show continues to smolder, there’s no reason she’ll lose it this year. And the Television Academy does love itself a history-making moment.
If anyone could take it from her, it’s probably Ellie Kemper. Her upbeat take on a girl saved from years of being locked up in a bomb shelter and just looking to experience life makes for some hilarious situations.
Outstanding limited series
Will win: “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
Could win: “Fargo”
“The People v. O.J. Simpson” luckily cashed in on a current hunger for shows about true crimes. Even better, it lived up to expectations once you tuned in. And it’s earned the second-highest tally of Emmy nominations — “Game of Thrones” has the most. So the show is poised to win its category.
“Fargo,” also from FX, will give it a run. It won the award last year, which is a blessing and a curse. That first win means it’s good enough to get the trophy again, but it could also mean that voters feel that it had its chance already and it’s time to spread the love.
Outstanding TV movie
Will win: “All the Way”
Could win: “Confirmation”
HBO has owned this category for years, so that automatically gives its entries the edge. “All the Way,” starring “Breaking Bad” actor Bryan Cranston as President Lyndon B. Johnson, has the most nominations of movies this year.
“Confirmation,” on the other hand, was a strong move for Kerry Washington (who sadly fell out of drama actress contention once Viola Davis appeared on the scene) as Anita Hill. The series also took a look at both gender and race in America, which made it feel relevant in the past year.
In the end, though, “Confirmation” had some writing and editing problems. I would give this to “All the Way.”
Outstanding reality competition program
Will win: “The Voice”
Could win: “Top Chef”
With “American Idol” over, previous Emmy winner “The Voice” is TV’s last standing singing competition. The Television Academy may want to reward it for that achievement. At the same time, it’s one of the most-watched shows on TV and attracts big-name guest mentors.
Then there’s “Top Chef.” Its culinary focus has allowed it to stay above the fray when reality shows were taking a hit. It has also been nominated in the category every year since 2007, clinching one win. But the show hasn’t really innovated much over the years and probably won’t beat the more talked-about “Voice.”
Outstanding variety sketch series
Will win: “Key and Peele”
Could win: “Inside Amy Schumer”
This is a battle of Comedy Central shows. “Inside Amy Schumer” won last year, but that was the year of Amy Schumer. She had just starred in the movie “Trainwreck” and appeared on some magazine covers. The award was hers for the taking. This most recent season, the show seemed to lack buzz, and Schumer herself has said that she wants to take a break from it.
I’m going to say that the beloved “Key and Peele” will get the trophy. The duo just had their own film, “Keanu,” in theaters and got a fair amount of press for it. Plus, “Key and Peele” ended last year, so this is the Television Academy’s last chance to honor them for the work.
Outstanding variety talk series
Will win: “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
Could win: “Late Late Show with James Corden”
This is just year two of this category (variety was split into sketch and talk last year) and it feels as though it’s still evolving, especially as perennial winner “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” is no longer around.
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” seems to have picked up where Stewart left off, and I’d say that he’s the frontrunner to win the category, which has typically honored newsy talk over late-night chat.
But James Corden has been rising in the ranks, especially after hosting the the Tony Awards. And the show has gotten nothing but positive press for its “Carpool Karaoke” segment, which has featured some of the biggest talents in music.
It’s strange not to give more credence to Jerry Seinfeld’s presence in the category with “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” but it may not be on the radar of most Television Academy voters.
Here are this year’s nominations:
“Better Call Saul”
“Game of Thrones”
“House of Cards”
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
“Master of None”
LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Kyle Chandler – “Bloodline”
Rami Malek – “Mr. Robot”
Bob Odenkirk – “Better Call Saul”
Liev Schrieber – “Ray Donovan”
Kevin Spacey – “House of Cards”
LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Claire Danes – “Homeland”
Viola Davis – “How to Get Away with Murder”
Taraji P. Henson – “Empire”
Tatiana Maslany – “Orphan Black”
Keri Russell – “The Americans”
Robin Wright – “House of Cards”
LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Anthony Anderson – “Black-ish”
Aziz Ansari – “Master of None”
Will Forte – “The Last Man on Earth”
William H. Macy – “Shameless”
Thomas Middleditch – “Silicon Valley”
Jeffry Tambor – “Transparent”
LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Ellie Kemper – “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – “Veep”
Laurie Metcalf – “Getting On”
Tracee Ellis Ross – “Black-ish”
Amy Schumer – “Inside Amy Schumer”
Lily Tomlin – “Grace and Frankie”
LEAD ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Bryan Cranston – “All the Way”
Benedict Cumberbatch – “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride”
Idris Elba – “Luther”
Cuba Gooding Jr. – “American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson”
Tom Hiddleston – “The Night Manager”
Courtney B. Vance – “American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson”
Outstanding TV Movie
“A Very Murray Christmas”
“All the Way”
“Sherlock: The Abominable Bride”
“The Night Manager”
“American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson”
LEAD ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Kirsten Dunst – “Fargo”
Felicity Huffman – “American Crime”
Audra McDonald – “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”
Sarah Paulson – “American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson”
Lili Taylor – “American Crime”
Kerry Washington – “Confirmation”
“The Amazing Race”
“America Ninja Warrior”
“Dancing With the Stars”
VARIETY TALK SERIES
“Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee”
“Jimmy Kimmel Live”
“Last Week Tonight”
“The Late Late Show”
“Real Time with Bill Maher”
“The Tonight Show”