There's a new wrinkle at the Emmys this year: More people figure to be voting as the Television Academy opened up the final round to any member so inclined to go online and check off their choices in their peer categories. (Prior to this year, voters were limited to two categories.)
If I had to guess, the rule change is going to make this year's choices a little less focused on the nominees' submitted episodes and more into a contest of name-brand recognition. We've already seen that in last weekend's Creative Arts Emmys, where Margo Martindale won the guest actress prize despite barely being in "The Americans" this season.
If anyone from "The Americans" should have won, it'd be Lois Smith, who in an unforgettable episode played a decent woman caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. But she wasn't even nominated, probably because not enough people watch "The Americans" in the first place. But enough voters knew and loved Martindale to give her a second Emmy even though she'd be the first to tell you that her screen time this year was "short."
All of this is to say: I'm prepared to be exasperated Sunday night when the Emmys are awarded. That said, here are my ironclad predictions!
"Better Call Saul"
"Game of Thrones"
"House of Cards"
"Orange Is the New Black"
The winner: "Game of Thrones." Two reasons: 1. The HBO fantasy series picked up eight wins at the Creative Arts Emmys, indicating a broad wave of support. 2. The show just finished its worst season, which means it's ripe for the Emmys to finally reward it.
"Parks and Recreation"
"Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"
The winner: "Veep." "Modern Family" has won this category for each of its first five seasons, and it could easily take it again. But on the assumption that all things must pass, I'm guessing that, like "Frasier," its streak ends at five. "Transparent" has the social currency to woo voters, but I'm going to give the slightest of edges to "Veep." Its fourth season might have been its best yet. And don't think there aren't more than a few traditional network types not yet inclined to reward a series from a streaming platform such as Amazon.
FULL COVERAGE: Emmy nominations
LEAD ACTOR DRAMA
Bob Odenkirk, "Better Call Saul"
Kyle Chandler, "Bloodline"
Kevin Spacey, "House of Cards"
Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"
Liev Schrieber, "Ray Donovan"
Jeff Daniels, "The Newsroom"
The winner: Hamm. It has to be, right? Right?!? Bryan Cranston's gone, the way is clear and there's no obvious alternative. Then again, no member of "Mad Men's" impeccable ensemble has ever won an Emmy. And the show's final season generated more think pieces than viewers. So if, say, Spacey's name is read, don't be shocked. Be angry. But don't be shocked.
LEAD ACTRESS DRAMA
Taraji P. Henson, "Empire"
Claire Danes, "Homeland"
Robin Wright, "House of Cards"
Viola Davis, "How to Get Away with Murder"
Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men"
Tatiana Maslany, "Orphan Black"
The winner: Davis. No minority actress has ever won this category. Two years ago, Kerry Washington seemed primed to make history for her turn on Shonda Rhimes' political soap, "Scandal." Didn't happen. This year, the consensus pick is Davis, who stars in another frothy Rhimes series, "How to Get Away with Murder." Personally, I don't see how Henson doesn't win for creating an instant icon on "Empire." But the fact that voters snubbed her series in every other category save costumes (No song nominations? For real?) doesn't bode well.
LEAD ACTOR COMEDY
Anthony Anderson, "black-ish"
Matt Leblanc, "Episodes"
Don Cheadle, "House of Lies"
Louis C.K., "Louie"
William H. Macy, "Shameless"
Will Forte, "Last Man on Earth"
Jeffrey Tambor, "Transparent"
The winner: Tambor. The night's biggest lock. Everyone loves Tambor, the 71-year-old character actor given the role of a lifetime as the lovely, layered "Moppa" in "Transparent." When an actor's career journey lines up with career-best work, it makes it easy for voters to check off the box next to his name.
LEAD ACTRESS COMEDY
Lily Tomlin, "Grace and Frankie"
Amy Schumer, "Inside Amy Schumer"
Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"
Amy Poehler, "Parks and Recreation"
Lisa Kudrow, "The Comeback"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"
The winner: Louis-Dreyfus. I'm sure there's a fair amount of sentiment for Poehler, seeing as this is the last chance voters have to do what they should have done long ago -- give her an Emmy for leading the mighty "Parks" ensemble. But Louis-Dreyfus has won three years running for "Veep," and it seems premature to predict an end to her run, particularly because she had such a juicy storyline on the series this season.
DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jonathan Banks, "Better Call Saul"
Ben Mendelsohn, "Bloodline"
Jim Carter, "Downton Abbey"
Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones"
Michael Kelly, "House of Cards"
Alan Cumming, "The Good Wife"
The winner: Banks. The veteran actor's Emmy submission, "Five-O," in which we learn Mike's gut-punch of a back story, might have been the year's best hour of television. So even though I mentioned that submissions didn't matter as much this year, in this case, the episode all but gave the Emmy to Banks.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS DRAMA
Joanne Froggatt, "Downton Abbey"
Lena Headey, "Game of Thrones"
Emilia Clarke, "Game of Thrones"
Christina Hendricks, "Mad Men"
Uzo Aduba, "Orange Is the New Black"
Christine Baranski, "The Good Wife"
The winner: Headey. Big night for "Thrones" and HBO.
SUPPORTING ACTOR COMEDY
Andre Braugher, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"
Adam Driver, "Girls"
Keegan-Michael Key, "Key & Peele"
Ty Burrell, "Modern Family"
Tituss Burgess, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"
Tony Hale, "Veep"
The winner: Burgess. But it's a close race between him, Hale and Burrell. No actor has won this Emmy in back-to-back years since Jeremy Piven repeated during "Entourage's" heyday. Burrell won last year; Hale the year before. That leaves newcomer Burgess, who will probably get a few votes simply because actors can easily relate to his character's desperate aspiration.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS COMEDY
Niecy Nash, "Getting On"
Julie Bowen, "Modern Family"
Allison Janney, "Mom"
Kate McKinnon, "Saturday Night Live"
Mayim Bialik, "The Big Bang Theory"
Gaby Hoffman, "Transparent"
Jane Krakowski, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"
Anna Chlumsky, "Veep"
The winner: Janney. We'll stop picking this six-time winner when Emmy voters do, though Chlumsky could pull off an upset for her epic meltdown in her submitted episode, "Convention." Voters love big speeches!