Time to face facts: The Emmys are "the big dog" this awards season.
With the Oscars and the Grammys hit hard by the pandemic, the Golden Globes entangled in internal scandals and the Tonys left to celebrate a past Broadway season that never was, the Emmys reign supreme.
Any why not? As COVID-19 forced us inside and eager to binge-watch, TV became our lifeline. Cable and streaming services took the lead over major networks to offer uncensored content. And Oscar winners, such as Kate Winslet ("Mare of Easttown"), Michael Douglas ("The Kominsky Method") and Olivia Colman ("The Crown"), eagerly went the series route.
The Emmy rules also changed, bringing younger and more diverse voters into the fold — so look for more popular choices. There are also signs that Television Academy members are becoming aware that certain nominees, such as the filmed-on-a-stage "Hamilton," aren't TV at all. This weekend, the Emmy for outstanding TV movie was presented early to "Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square," which was actually made for TV, as opposed to "Oslo," which also came from the stage, and "Sylvie's Love," a film that played at Sundance before Amazon picked it up.
So before checking off winners on your Emmy ballot, keep an eye out for these changes as Emmy voters struggle to hold to the ground while the ground keeps shifting. Just one reason why the Emmys, airing this Sunday on CBS, will be less predictable and more exciting than ever. Here's my list of who should win and who will win in each category. Let the games begin!
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
SHOULD WIN: "Pose" — It's the third and final season and last chance to win for a truly groundbreaking series about the gender-nonconforming drag ball culture. The series is cast with members of the African-American and Latinx LGBTQ community whose stories it told. Want to make history, Emmy? Here's your chance.
WILL WIN: "The Crown" — A perennial nominee in the top drama category, this saga of the British royal family is the overwhelming favorite to finally take the crown for a fourth season that put the focus on Diana and Charles. This also was the year when Prince Harry (with wife Meghan Markle) broke ratings records by telling Oprah what it was like to be the son of that tragically mismatched royal couple. In short, "The Crown" can't miss.
LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
SHOULD WIN: Matthew Rhys — The Welsh actor already has a deserved Emmy for "The Americans," but Rhys dazzles with its humanizing depth and feeling.
WILL WIN: Josh O'Connor — Riding in on a sweep for "The Crown," O'Connor brings a flesh-and-blood dimension that reveals the beating heart under Prince Charles's famously stuffed shirt.
LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
SHOULD WIN: Mj Rodriguez — A knockout as Bianca Evangelista, an HIV-positive character who is a house mother for a group of young LGBTQ people in New York City, Rodriguez is now the first transgender actor to earn an Emmy nomination in a major acting category. Talk about a cause for celebration.
WILL WIN: Emma Corrin — Capturing Diana Spencer from her relatively free girlhood to her gilded cage as the People's Princess, Corrin brilliantly showed Diana in the act of inventing herself as a young wife and mother who found the courage of her own convictions.
SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
SHOULD WIN: Michael K. Williams — This is the fifth Emmy nomination for the world-class talent who lost for defining roles in "The Wire" and "Boardwalk Empire." In "Lovecraft," as an abusive father forced to closet his gay identity, that omission must not happen again.
WILL WIN: Michael K. Williams — His tragic death earlier this month at the young age of 54 makes it abundantly clear that Emmy attention must be paid to one of the best actors on the planet.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
SHOULD WIN: Gillian Anderson — I know Meryl Streep already won an Oscar for playing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady." But Anderson, knocking it out of the park in the same role on "The Crown," is a surefire bet in this category.
WILL WIN: Gillian Anderson — With respect to all the other nominees in this category, you don't need an X-File to know that Anderson has this Emmy in the bag.
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
SHOULD WIN: "Hacks" — The laughs sting so hard in this comedy series about comics — with Jean Smart doing an inspired spin on Joan Rivers — that the dialogue cuts like a knife.
WILL WIN: "Ted Lasso" — Allergic to cynicism, this series about an American sports coach in England, is the polar opposite of "Hacks," radiating a niceness that a pandemic-weary audience took to heart and Emmy voters will surely take to the winner's circle.
LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
SHOULD WIN: Michael Douglas — Douglas' acting coach, Sandy Kominsky, actually won an acting Emmy in the fictional series. Yet Douglas himself never has. And this is the show's third and final season. For why it won't happen, see below.
WILL WIN: Jason Sudeikis — Look, everyone knows that Ted Lasso is the role of Sudeikis' career and it comes at a time when we urgently need to see the best in ourselves and others. Go, Ted!
LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
SHOULD WIN: Aidy Bryant — No one can or should beat Jean Smart (see below), but kudos are due to Bryant, the "SNL" comedy icon who's been crushing it for three seasons on "Shrill" as a writer who takes on a fat-shaming bully and finds the self-confidence to build a life.
WILL WIN: Jean Smart — She came into this year already having nine Emmy nominations and three wins, but Smart has never found a role that better suits and stretches her talent than Deborah Vance, the prickly Vegas stand-up legend (think Joan Rivers) who fights to stay relevant in a changing comedy landscape without compromising what she stands for.
SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
SHOULD WIN: Everyone in "Ted Lasso" — Sadly, Emmy doesn't give ensemble awards.
WIL WIN: Brett Goldstein — Even in a top ensemble, Goldstein stands out as captain-turned-coach Roy Kent, a swearing rager who melts at the sight of his niece. Emmy will also melt.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
SHOULD WIN: The "SNL" trio — They're comic gold. Sadly, Emmy doesn't award ensembles.
WILL WIN: Hannah Waddingham — Can you image "Ted Lasso" without Waddingham's withering looks and wicked wit as team owner Rebecca Welton? Her comic teamwork with Jason Sudeikis as Ted (he bakes her biscuits) is why they coined the word priceless.
OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES
SHOULD WIN:."I May Destroy You" — This is the toughest Emmy category with all contenders eminently worthy. But the actress and writer Michaela Coel has used her own harrowing experience with sexual assault to create a series you can't get out of your head.
WILL WIN: "The Queen's Gambit" — A near-flawless drama with a beyond fabulous Anya Taylor-Joy as a chess prodigy bedeviled by pills and booze and her own gift for self-sabotage. Even with unprecedented competition, this start-to-finish spellbinder is the TV event of the year.
LEAD ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
SHOULD WIN: Hugh Grant — In case you haven't noticed, the rom-com prince of the 1990s is having a career renaissance playing charming do-badders, none more memorably wicked than this murder suspect doctor, who cheats on his wife (Nicole Kidman) and his oath to do no harm.
WILL WIN: Paul Bettany — For sheer virtuosity in playing, not just the android Vision, but Dick Van Dyke and other sitcom characters of the past who live in the head of his wife, Wanda.
LEAD ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
SHOULD WIN: Michaela Coel — Though Winslet and Taylor-Joy are the clear front-runners, Coel beats all in a powerhouse series she wrote from personal experience and stars in as a rape victim who sees her assault from every angle, some she still can't cope with or fully understand.
WILL WIN: Anya Taylor-Joy — With her series, "The Queen's Gambit," expected to win big, all signs point to Taylor-Joy doing the same as she nails every nuance in a complex role.
SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
SHOULD WIN: Evan Peters — As the young detective who exasperates Kate Winslet's Mare before she comes to love him for who he is, Peters gives the kind of open-hearted performance that sticks with you long after his time on the series is cut short.
WILL WIN: Daveed Diggs — In the dual role of Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette, Diggs doesn't just repeat the performance that won him a Tony, he improves on it, adding such humor and heart that his performance can truly be called definitive.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
SHOULD WIN: Jean Smart — Since she's practically a lock to win the comedy Emmy for "Hacks," should Smart take home a second trophy for putting her dramatic chops on such artful display as Mare's acerbic but loving mother? Of course, it's Smart's year.
WILL WIN: Kathryn Hahn — The only reason Jean Smart can lose this one is that the Hahn tour de force as an evil witch disguised as a nosy housewife is next-level genius, even for her. This would be Hahn's first Emmy. And if there's any justice, the first of many.