Outstanding Reality Competition
Nominees: The Amazing Race, Dancing With the Stars, Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, Top Chef, The Voice
Should win: Sometimes I wonder whether the TV Academy regrets including reality categories at all (or at least showing them during the primetime broadcast, and not relegating them to the Creative Arts Emmys). The competition category in particular has been a disaster. Created in 2003, CBS's The Amazing Race has won nine out of 11 times, and the only other shows that have won are Top Chef in 2010 and The Voice in 2013. Even when American Idol was the most galvanizing show on television, a star-making force, and the last huge hit of its kind, it didn't win. Survivor never won either. It's pretty much a joke! So as far as which show should win … who's to say? Fox's So You Think You Can Dance is wonderfully produced, and has a passionate audience; NBC's The Voice is the only real hit here, and an important show to the TV business.
Will win: For that reason, I imagine The Voice will win again.
Outstanding Variety Series
Nominees: The Colbert Report, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Real Time With Bill Maher, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
Should win: This grouping, at face value at least, is more interesting than usual. There's the viral-video-off going on between Jimmy Kimmel Live and newcomer The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. And then there's this category's recent history: For the past one million years (except for last year), The Daily Show With Jon Stewart has dominated. Then, The Daily Show's Comedy Central brethren The Colbert Report snuck in and won in 2013, which might have marked the beginning of a new streak for the wonderful Stephen Colbert — except now he's a lame duck, heading to CBS in 2015 to take over The Late Show from David Letterman. I'm personally rooting for The Colbert Report, but it would be novel if Fallon's Tonight Show won, and would be the first time a network show won since Letterman in 2002.
Will win: But I do believe The Colbert Report will win again. Colbert's departure from both his show and his character makes him even more intriguing, and he will now be a late-night fixture for years to come.
Nominees: American Horror Story: Coven, Bonnie & Clyde, Fargo, Luther, The White Queen, Treme
Should win: From 2011-2013, miniseries and movies were smushed into one category, since neither was considered strong enough to stand on its own. (And that's still the case for the acting categories.) Still, there's no real competition here for either the head or the heart: FX's Fargo should win.
Will win: And Fargo will win.
Outstanding Television Movie
Nominees: Killing Kennedy, Muhammed Ali's Greatest Fight, Sherlock: His Last Vow, The Normal Heart, The Trip to Bountiful
Should win: Yes, there were enough movies and miniseries to split them, but once again, there's really only one clear choice: HBO's The Normal Heart should win.
Will win: And The Normal Heart will win!
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries/Movie
Nominees: Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dancing on the Edge), Martin Freeman (Fargo), Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo), Idris Elba (Luther), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock: His Last Vow), Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart)
Should win: This is a fun bunch, right? I'd vote for any of these guys. Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock is my personal favorite, and I also love Idris Elba's Luther. But I do think someone from Fargo needs to win here.
Will win: Let's assume that Fargo winner will be Billy Bob Thornton.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries/Movie
Nominees: Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Coven), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story: Coven), Helena Bonham Carter (Burton and Taylor), Minnie Driver (Return to Zero), Kristen Wiig (The Spoils of Babylon), Cicely Tyson (The Trip to Bountiful)
Should win: What an amazing dinner party this group would make! If this were the Golden Globes, and I was in charge of seating, I would put Jessica Lange and Helena Bonham Carter next to each other. What would they talk about? The mind reels. Anyway! Coven was not a great American Horror Story season, but Lange was, predictably, at her batshit best. She's always my pick, and was robbed last year when Showtime put The Big C's final season in the miniseries category, allowing Laura Linney to win here. (That also meant that Elisabeth Moss lost for Top of the Lake. Grrr.)
Will win: Cicely Tyson played the Mrs. Watts character in Lifetime's remake of The Trip to Bountiful, having also played her on Broadway in 2013. She will surely win, and let us begin looking forward to her speech.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries/Movie
Nominees: Colin Hanks (Fargo), Martin Freeman (Sherlock: His Last Vow), Jim Parsons (The Normal Heart), Joe Mantello (The Normal Heart), Alfred Molina (The Normal Heart), Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart)
Should win: It can't be easy being the acting son of Tom Hanks, but Colin Hanks has quietly made his own way. And Fargo, in which he played the cowering Gus Grimly, was a breakout for him. But of all the actors here — and many are from The Normal Heart, as you can see — Matt Bomer (and his massive weight loss) blows this category up for his portrayal of Felix, a closeted New York Times reporter during the AIDS crisis.
Will win: Unless something strange happens, Matt Bomer will win.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries/Movie
Nominees: Frances Conroy (American Horror Story: Coven), Kathy Bates (American Horror Story: Coven), Angela Bassett (American Horror Story: Coven), Allison Tolman (Fargo), Ellen Burstyn (Flowers in the Attic), Julia Roberts (The Normal Heart)
Should win: Things can get slapdash and freaky in a category such as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries/Movie. For instance, last year, Ellen Burstyn won for USA's Political Animals, which I think even USA had forgotten about. Last year, however, was #weirdEmmys (more on that later), and that oddness probably won't happen again. This is all to say that I would love for Allison Tolman of Fargo or Kathy Bates from Coven to sneak in here and win.
Will win: But how can Julia Roberts not? She is Julia Roberts!
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Nominees: Ricky Gervais (Derek), Matt LeBlanc (Episodes), Don Cheadle (House of Lies), Louis C.K. (Louie), William H. Macy (Shameless), Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Should win: I am assuming that Louie the show does not stand a chance in the Outstanding Comedy category. But it would be pretty great if Louis C.K., who drives his show to tackle life's big ideas, won here.
Will win: The pundits' consensus pick is Ricky Gervais! Strange, right? I don't hear people talking about Derek much, but Gervais is certainly popular at awards shows. I can also see Parsons winning for the fourth time in five years, especially since he won't win for his dramatic role in The Normal Heart. Argh. Guys, I don't know! Let's go with the experts and assume it will be Gervais. Blame them if this turns out not to be the case.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Nominees: Lena Dunham (Girls), Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Taylor Schilling (Orange Is the New Black), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
Should win: Don't fight destiny. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been nominated eight times in this category in 10 years (the first five times were for The New Adventures of Old Christine, for which she won once). She has won twice in a row for her sharp portrayal of Selina Meyer on Veep, and if she wins a third time, she will tie with Helen Hunt with four wins in this category (five wins would put her in a tie with Candice Bergen and Mary Tyler Moore). Vote for Selina!
Will win: I think people will; Julia Louis-Dreyfus will take this one.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Nominees: Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Adam Driver (Girls), Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Fred Armisen (Portlandia), Tony Hale (Veep)
Should win: Remember when Jeremy Piven won Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy three years in a row for playing Ari Gold on Entourage? That was so terrible! Let's take a second and be thankful we're in a different place now. Last year, the hold Modern Family had here was broken when Tony Hale won for playing Veep's obsequious freak, Gary. I'd love to see him win again. Or Andre Braugher for never breaking his deadpan expression on Brooklyn Nine-Nine!
Will win: Without a clear frontrunner, I think Tony Hale will get it again.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Nominees: Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Allison Janney (Mom), Kate Mulgrew (Orange Is the New Black), Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live), Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory), Anna Chlumsky (Veep)
Should win: If we're looking closely at the what-is-and-what-isn't-a-comedy aspect of Orange Is the New Black, Kate Mulgrew's Red is, I guess, mostly comedic. At least in Season 1. Regardless, she is a force on the show, and is vastly different from Mulgrew's past roles. I love her!
Will win: Allison Janney has already won an Emmy this year, for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama for her turn on Masters of Sex. Everyone thinks she'll win another Monday, and who am I to argue?
Outstanding Comedy Series
Nominees: The Big Bang Theory, Louie, Modern Family, Orange Is the New Black, Silicon Valley, Veep
Should win: There are a number of Emmys pundits who think that ABC's Modern Family is likely to win Outstanding Comedy for the fifth year in a row, despite having fully devolved into an Edward Albee play about a family that truly hates each other. I will be so sad if that is the case, but it's certainly possible. If Academy voters want big network comedies to win, I'm not sure why The Big Bang Theory couldn't have supplanted Modern Family at some point. I digress! What I want to win here is Netflix's Orange Is the New Black. No, it's not a traditional comedy, and putting it in here is a cheat, but whatever — the category conflation goes along with OITNB's revolutionary spirit. Jenji Kohan's show, ostensibly about the prison experience of an unlikely inmate, is also about class and racial inequality, sexual fluidity, injustice in the prison system, and how we build community and find love even in dire circumstances.
Will win: If it's not Modern Family, I think Veep could win — and that would be fun. But I am betting that Netflix will get its first best series victory with Orange Is the New Black.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominees: Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife)
Should win: Christine Baranski had a remarkable season on The Good Wife, and got to do a lot of emotional work on screen. I would love to see her win. But Anna Gunn finally won in this category last year for the first half of Breaking Bad's final season, and simply put, she must get up there again.
Will win: Gunn!
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Nominees: Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Jim Carter (Downton Abbey), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), Jon Voight (Ray Donovan), Josh Charles (The Good Wife)
Should win: Bobby Cannavale won this category last year during #weirdEmmys, so it's hard to predict. Josh Charles had a lot to do during his final season on The Good Wife, and has emotional momentum because of Will's shocking, show-upending death. Peter Dinklage continues to give the sprawling Game of Thrones a core, and Tyrion certainly went through it in Season 4 as well. But I hope that the Academy runs with its last chance to honor Aaron Paul (for what is really a lead performance). His submitted episode was "Confessions," in which Jesse finally realizes Walt's darkest depths. If Breaking Bad's final eight-episode sprint was a roller coaster, "Confessions" was the point in the ride when viewers got to the highest peak, knowing that you'll be screaming for the rest of the time. Just harrowing.
Will win: Paul has won twice, and should again.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Nominees: Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), Claire Danes (Homeland), Robin Wright (House of Cards), Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), Kerry Washington (Scandal), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
Should win: The best show of the 2013-14 season was CBS's The Good Wife, and that is a fact that researchers at Harvard will be publishing a paper on later this year. (Or early next year. TBD.) In its fifth year — and remember, that's 22 episodes, not some puny cable season — the show was a marvel, thrilling its viewers every week. And Julianna Margulies' Alicia Florrick stood at its center, as always.
Will win: Margulies won for The Good Wife's first season, and then Danes won twice in a row — but I don't see that happening again. Robin Wright is Margulies' main threat. But I think (I hope) that Margulies will win.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Nominees: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom), Woody Harrelson (True Detective), Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)
Should win: When writing this Emmys post last year — don't look at how wrong I was! look away! #weirdEmmys! — I expressed a fear that Jon Hamm will never win Best Actor in a Drama for his evolving, subtle, beautiful portrayal of Mad Men's Don Draper. That fear has only intensified after #weirdEmmys, since neither of the frontrunners, Kevin Spacey nor Bryan Cranston, won — but Jeff Daniels did! Meaning, there was a surprise, and that surprise could have been Hamm. But it wasn't. Are Emmy voters not watching the same show as the rest of us? The final episodes ever of Mad Men will air in the spring, and in a year, we will be facing the last chance for Hamm. Cranston won't be in this category, nor will Matthew McConaughey or Woody Harrelson. Maybe then. Sigh.
Will win: This is a strong category, particularly this year, and these are all huge performances. The least likely winner — Daniels — won last year, and who knows what will happen. The punditocracy is split between McConaughey and Cranston, given that it's voters' last chance to reward the three-time winner for his monstrous creation, Walter White. But I think McConaughey will win for his scenery-munching, bewigged portrayal of True Detective's Rust Cohle. The McConaissance is real!
Outstanding Drama Series
Nominees: Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Mad Men, True Detective
Should win: This category — always the Emmys' strongest given the current drama-heavy state of quality television — is an interesting one this year. Have I mentioned that I'm so upset that The Good Wife wasn't nominated? Because I am. Moving on! Looking at what's actually nominated, it's probably a two-show race between AMC's Breaking Bad and HBO's True Detective. There's also a chance that the vote will split, allowing Game of Thrones to play the spoiler — but people said that last year, too, and it didn't happen. What True Detective has going for it is two movie-star leads (including one 2014 Oscar winner), an intense eight-episode season everyone was poring over, an original voice in its creator Nic Pizzolatto, and a fun anthology format. (Let's be real: True Detective should be in the Outstanding Miniseries category with its fellow anthology shows, American Horror Story and Fargo.) It also was on more recently than Breaking Bad, which aired a full year ago. Has Breaking Bad faded from voters' memories? Might people forget the seismic end of one of the best shows ever on TV?
Will win: I say they will not, and Breaking Bad will win.
If you're entering a pool, or are just curious, and want a complete list of predictions, GoldDerby offers a slew of prognostication.