"Game of Thrones' " latest season debuted too late for the show to be eligible for this year's Emmys. Good news, right? Because if "Thrones" had won a third consecutive drama series Emmy for that disappointing run of episodes, it would have made my face scrunch up in a look of disapproval rivaling anything Maggie Smith ever threw down on "Downton Abbey."
"Thrones" shouldn't even be nominated next year, much less win.
But I'll worry about that when the time comes. Meanwhile, we've got a drama series category dominated by first-year shows — "Stranger Things," "The Handmaid's Tale," "The Crown," "Westworld" and "This Is Us" — making it one of the most competitive races in years.
So, yes, we've got a big night ahead of us, and the producers have promised to shake things up. Forget about the prizes being given out in groupings of genre. First-time producers Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner say they're going to save the closest races and biggest stars until the end of the show, meaning we're going to have to wait a while to see if Nicole Kidman wins her first Emmy.
But at least we'll have host Stephen Colbert to guide us through the interim. Plus, scanning the list of presenters and nominees, it looks like there could be reunions of the "Gilmore Girls" and the "9 to 5" women. Hello, Dolly! (And Jane and Lily too.)
There's a good chance Netflix or Hulu becomes the first streaming service to take one of the two major series prizes, and we might finally get to see what an Elisabeth Moss Emmy acceptance speech looks like. (Prediction: awesome.)
Who else will be hoisting those enormous gold trophies? And how many GIFs will Winona Ryder launch if "Stranger Things" wins? Here's my final forecast for the main categories.
Winner: "Stranger Things"
Spoiler: "This Is Us"
I know, I know. "Handmaid's Tale" has the political currency. "The Crown" possesses all the prestige trappings. What does "Stranger Things" have going for it? Popularity. Netflix's ode to '80s fantasy and horror has already won honors from the Producers and Screen Actors guilds, and last weekend it took five honors at the Creative Arts Emmys, including the bellwether casting award. It's no sure thing. This might be the evening's most competitive category. But it has a bit of history on its side.
Drama lead actress
Winner: Elisabeth Moss, "The Handmaid's Tale"
Spoiler: Claire Foy, "The Crown"
This is Moss' eighth nomination, including six for "Mad Men." How can she not win? Wait … didn't we say that once or twice when she was up for "Mad Men"?
Drama lead actor
Winner: Sterling K. Brown, "This Is Us"
Spoiler: Bob Odenkirk, "Better Call Saul"
Brown won an Emmy last year for playing prosecutor Christopher Darden in "The People v. O.J. Simpson," and he's just as good as the dorky, generous Randall in "This Is Us." Voters' love for the character — and the show — gives him the edge.
Drama supporting actress
Winner: Chrissy Metz, "This Is Us"
Spoiler: Thandie Newton, "Westworld"
Or maybe voters will turn it up to 11 and vote for 13-year-old Millie Bobby Brown from "Stranger Things"? This category is crazy competitive. "Westworld" did earn 22 nominations, so fan favorite Newton could win. But I'll stand by Metz, as I think voters will respond both to her work and her personal journey.
Drama supporting actor
Winner: John Lithgow, "The Crown"
You don't bet against a five-time Emmy winner playing Winston Churchill.
The groundbreaking "Atlanta" would be the cool choice and, some would say, the correct choice. But it earned just six nominations while "Veep" pulled in 17. Plus, the two-time series winner reeled in the casting award at the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend, which, as noted earlier, is a sign of overall strength.
Comedy lead actress
Winner: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"
Spoiler: Allison Janney, "Mom"
Louis-Dreyfus set two records with her win last year — most Emmy victories in the category (six) and longest consecutive streak in the category (five). She has to lose sometime, right? Maybe not. With "Veep" announcing it will end its run next year, it's easy to see her winning out. (By the way, an Emmy this year would break the record for most wins by a performer for the same role in the same series. Louis-Dreyfus is currently tied with Candice Bergen and Don Knotts.)
Comedy lead actor
Winner: Donald Glover, "Atlanta"
Spoiler: Jeffrey Tambor, "Transparent"
Tambor won back-to-back Emmys, but "Transparent" failed to earn a series nod for its third season, indicating that voters are cooling a bit toward the show. More than that, though, this would be a great spot to recognize Glover, the multi-hyphenate behind the essential "Atlanta."
Comedy supporting actress
Winner: Kate McKinnon, "Saturday Night Live"
Spoiler: Judith Light, "Transparent"
McKinnon makes even the worst "SNL" sketches watchable. This season she moved on from Hillary Clinton to skewering Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and sending up an unhinged Kellyanne Conway without missing a beat, making her an overwhelming favorite to win a second consecutive Emmy in this category.
Comedy supporting actor
Winner: Alec Baldwin, "Saturday Night Live"
Baldwin mocking Donald Trump week in and week out on "Saturday Night Live" became appointment viewing, whether you watched it live or the next morning on a laptop or phone. It's unlikely voters won't reward his expert turn.
Winner: "Big Little Lies"
Spoiler: "Feud: Bette and Joan"
"Feud" earned 18 Emmy nominations, "Lies" hauled in 16. Even though "Feud" dives into Hollywood history (a favorite subject for voters), "Lies" stands as the strong favorite here for its star power and the deft way it combined the pure pleasures of escapist fare with a nuanced, superbly acted look at the challenges of being a mother, a wife, a woman.
Winner: "Black Mirror"
Spoiler: "Sherlock: The Lying Detective"
Here's one I've switched since my initial picks. It feels like after three seasons, enough voters know about "Black Mirror," and it's easily the best entry of the bunch. That said, "Sherlock," which won this Emmy last year, still has the greatest name-brand recognition.
Lead actress, limited series or movie
Winner: Nicole Kidman, "Big Little Lies"
Spoiler: Jessica Lange, "Feud: Bette and Joan"
Playing an abused wife at war with her husband and herself, Kidman gave an extraordinary performance — the year's best — aching and anguished, a master class of subtlety and control. Lange was superb too in her heartbreaking portrayal of Joan Crawford. But this is Kidman's year.
Lead actor, limited series or movie
Winner: Riz Ahmed, "The Night Of"
Spoiler: Robert De Niro, "The Wizard of Lies"
Ten years ago, De Niro would have had this in the bag even for work that isn't particularly noteworthy. A movie star deigning to do television? Thank you! That novelty has worn off and then some. Ahmed will likely win for his transformative turn on "The Night Of," moving from innocence to hardened prisoner.