Based on expertise gained from years covering television (in other words, the ability to look up past Emmy nominees, feel which way the wind is blowing, then guess), these Emmy predictions differ wildly from my mock Emmy ballot and Paste’s Emmy wish list. Part of Emmy nominations morning, after all, is learning to expect and accept disappointment. So, before the TV Academy announces this year’s field Thursday at 8:30 a.m. PT, I present my Emmy nominations predictions and proclamations. Fair warning: A few of these are driven less by the head and more by the heart. (I can’t help it.)
The Good Place (NBC)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Will & Grace (NBC)
It’s fitting to begin a strange year for the Emmys with what may ultimately be its strangest category—though you might not know it strictly by glancing at the list above. Consider that perennial nominee (and defending champion) Veep is ineligible for the first time since 2012. (Neither is Master of None, nominated for each of its two seasons to date.) Consider that stalwarts Modern Family and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt continue to wane. Consider that former shoe-ins Roseanne and Transparent are unlikely to overcome the controversy surround the former’s star and the sexual misconduct scandal involving the latter’s. All of it adds up, one can only hope, to Atlanta ultimately taking home the top prize for its startlingly ambitious second season.
The Americans (FX)
The Crown (Netflix)
Game of Thrones (HBO)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
This Is Us (NBC)
Most of last year’s freshman Emmy crop (The Crown, This Is Us, Westworld, and winner The Handmaid’s Tale) is likely to be back again this time around, joined by one old favorite that missed out on last year’s proceedings (Game of Thrones). And, of course, the only rightful recipient of the award is The Americans (IMHO). Which means it’s either the buzzy, brazen sensation Killing Eve or Stranger Things, after a sophomore run that generated far less acclaim than the first. I’m going with the former.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX)
Howards End (Starz)
The Looming Tower (Hulu)
Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime)
The first four slots more or less in hand, the wild card here, to my mind, is Godless—a star-studded Western that would seem to scratch the TV Academy’s every itch, yet premiered last fall to relatively little fanfare and hasn’t had a major “For Your Consideration” push from the streaming giant, that I can tell. I’m going to stick with it here, but onyl by a nose: It could easily be leapfrogged by Showtime’s Patrick Melrose, with Emmy golden boy Benedict Cumberbatch, or even Genius: Picasso, with Antonio Banderas as the famed artist.
Black Mirror, “USS Callister” (Netflix)
Fahrenheit 451 (HBO)
The Tale (HBO)
Despite something called “Cocaine Godmother” being eligible, this category—which, as I’ve said again and again, is struggling to justify its existence in recent years—is among the easiest to predict. It’s these five or bust, really.
Anthony Anderson, black-ish (ABC)
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Donald Glover, Atlanta (FX)
Bill Hader, Barry (HBO)
William H. Macy, Shameless (Showtime)
Eric McCormack, Will & Grace (NBC)
2017 winner Donald Glover is the clear frontrunner here, so the real question is how weird Emmys voters wanna get. Because they could get weird. Like, Nathan Fielder (Nathan For You) and Ben Sinclair (High Maintenance) weird, or Hank Azaria (Brockmire) and Thomas Haden Chruch (Divorce weird. They won’t, of course: My money is on Hader’s standout performance in Barry grabbing the only slot not reserved for an old timer—and for frankly tired turns David, Macy and McCormack to elbow out The Good Place’s terrific Ted Danson.
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us (NBC)
Freddie Highmore, The Good Doctor (ABC)
Matthew Rhys, The Americans (FX)
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan (Showtime)
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us (NBC)
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld (HBO)
As I noted on Twitter, the male acting categories this year are rough going: Most of the “safe bets” to earn a nomination are at best adequate, while many hugely deserving performances (e.g., Scoot McNairy and Lee Pace in Halt and Catch Fire) won’t get within 100 miles of an Emmy nod. This one in particular is a bloodbath: Only Rhys, so extraordinary in The Americans over the years that he’s the only winner I’ll accept, made the transfer from my mock Emmy ballot to my Emmy predictions. Sterling K. Brown remains the best thing about This Is Us, but man’s already got an Emmy for it. Let’s spread the love.
Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose (Showtime)
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace (FX)
Jeff Daniels, The Looming Tower (Hulu)
Michael B. Jordan, Fahrenheit 451 (HBO)
Kyle MacLachlan, Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime)
Al Pacino, Paterno (HBO)
Whew! This category has some big names! Which is how I arrived at a list that doesn’t include Antonio Banderas as Pablo Picasso in Genius (for which Geoffrey Rush nabbed a nomination last year). The only non-supernova on here is Criss, and his frightening, magnetic performance as spree killer Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace might be the cream of the crop. (MacLachlan’s multi-character turn in Twin Peaks is sure to give him a run for his money.) I suppose it’s theoretically possible for Daniels’ supporting campaign for Godless to knock him out and allow Banderas to slip in, but I’m not gonna bet the house on it.
Pamela Adlon, Better Things (FX)
Alison Brie, GLOW (Netflix)
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video)
Debra Messing, Will & Grace (NBC)
Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish (ABC)
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie (Netflix)
Look. I like Debra Messing, and Will & Grace is mostly harmless—I sometimes watch it while I’m flossing my teeth. I love Lily Tomlin, from Nashville to 9 to 5. But neither of their run-of-the-mill performances is worth squeezing out Rachel Bloom, for the extraordinary third season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; Justina Machado, for reaching new heights of humor and heartache in Season Two of One Day at a Time; or Gina Rodriguez, for anchoring the perfect antics of Jane the Virgin. At some level, I suppose, it’s a moot point: Brosnahan will win this in a walk, and despite my qualms with the series as a whole, she probably deserves to.
Claire Foy, The Crown (Netflix)
Mandy Moore, The Is Us (NBC)
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve (BBC America)
Keri Russell, The Americans (FX)
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld (HBO)
This category gives me fits every freaking year because it’s gotten so goddamned competitive. For example, I switched out former winner and Emmy perennial Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder) at the last second, in favor of Mandy Moore. (I just think HTGAWM is out of gas.) And whither Jodie Comer? By (rightly) running her as a co-lead with Oh, I fear BBC America has damned her to be passed over for her co-star. I certainly can’t see the others being overlooked.
Hayley Atwell, Howards End (Starz)
Jessica Biel, The Sinner (USA Network)
Laura Dern, The Tale (HBO)
Michelle Dockery, Godless (Netflix)
Sarah Gadon, Alias Grace (Netflix)
Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake: China Girl (Sundance TV)
Can Moss pull off the Emmy double? Will Sarah Paulson (the dreadful American Horror Story: Cult) or Edie Falco (Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders) supplant Gadon’s superlative but under-the-radar turn in Alias Grace? Are you ready to speak into the world the phrase “Emmy nominee Jessica Biel”? Even better, the TV Academy is likely to award the big prize to Laura Dern. That I can get behind.
Louie Anderson, Baskets (FX)
Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Sean Hayes, Will & Grace (NBC)
Bryan Tyree Henry, Atlanta (FX)
Marc Maron, GLOW (Netflix)
Here I have what I’m calling “The Tony Shaloub problem.” On the one hand, I’m highly inclined to believe that Emmy voters, who nominated Shaloub eight times for Monk (he won three), will nominate the actor (fresh off a Tony for The Band’s Visit, no less) for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. On the other hand, the performance is a threadbare, one-note gag stretched far past the point at which it’s bearable, and I won’t acknowledge it. Henry Winkler (Barry), anyone?
All of this could be fixed if one petulant child (Alec Baldwin) weren’t going to be nominated for playing another (Donald Trump), it what remains one of the most bafflingly overrated bad impressions on television.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones (HBO)
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones (HBO)
Noah Emmerich, The Americans (FX)
Joseph Fiennes, The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
David Harbour, Stranger Things (Netflix)
James Marsden, Westworld (HBO)
Once I get over the profound sorrow I feel leaving off The Good Fight’s exceptionally charming Delroy Lindo—these are predictions, remember, not preferences—I can focus my energies on one thing and one thing only: Making sure Noah Emmerich wins a fucking Emmy for that fucking garage scene in The Americans finale. I literally do not care about any of the actors I suspect will be nominated. Not even a little!
Jeff Daniels, Godless (Netflix)
Ricky Martin, The Assassination of Gianni Versace (FX)
Edgar Ramirez, The Assassination of Gianni Versace (FX)
Michael Shannon, Fahrenheit 451 (HBO)
Michael Stuhlbarg, The Looming Tower (Hulu)
Peter Sarsgaard, The Looming Tower (Hulu)
Along with Lead Actor (Drama), this is the list that reflects the biggest shift from my own preferences: Only Ramirez, as a very convincing Gianni Versace, appears on both. I suppose I can’t complain if Michael Shannon or Michael Stuhlbarg(the stalwart character actors of the decade, for my money) win an Emmy, but this category is the ultimate consequence of Emmy voters’ traditional inability to reach deep. Tahar Rahim (The Looming Tower), Alex Lawther (Howards End), Cody Fern and Finn Wittrock (The Assassination of Gianni Versace) are the lesser-known names that immediately come to mind as more deserving than most of the mailed-in performances listed above, but I’m just one lowly, increasingly-despondent-as-this-story-goes-on TV critic.
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
Betty Gilpin, GLOW (Netflix)
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Rita Moreno, One Day at a Time (Netflix)
Megan Mullally, Will & Grace (NBC)
Jessica Walter, Arrested Development (Netflix)
I honestly have no idea what to do with Laurie Metcalf. She’s coming off a banner year, including an Oscar nomination (Lady Bird), and a Tony win (Three Tall Women), and Emmy voters honored her three years running for Roseanne in the early 1990s. But Roseanne, as a property, was at Chernobyl/Fukushima levels of untouchable during the voting period, thanks to its star’s hideous racist invective. I’m going to guess voters will play it safe, and hopefully right some wrongs while they’re at it: For instance, by nominating Moreno, rather bafflingly passed over last year, and Jessica Walter, who is, as we discovered this spring, both the funny bone and the beating heart of Arrested Development.
Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things (Netflix)
Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Vanessa Kirby, The Crown (Netflix)
Chrissy Metz, This Is Us (NBC)
Thandie Newton, Westworld (HBO)
My Unified Theory of the 2018 Emmys revolves around this category, in particular as it regards The Handmaid’s Tale. If the thrust of the Emmy race is going to be “Meet Expectations,” you can expect Bledel (last year’s Guest Actress winner) and Dowd (defending champion) to edge out co-star Yvonne Strahovski (who in fact gives the season’s very best performance, Moss included). If Strahovski elbows her way in alongside her Handmaid’s Tale colleagues, you can expect the series to dominate when the statuettes are handed out. And if she knocks Bledel out of the race? Maybe that means Emmy voters are feeling frisky, and a split decision could see Newton or Kirby come through in the fall. I sort of want to see the latter.
Penelope Cruz, The Assassination Of Gianni Versace (FX)
Laura Dern, Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime)
Nicole Kidman, Top of the Lake: China Girl (Sundance TV)
Angela Lansbury, Little Women (PBS)
Judith Light, The Assassination Of Gianni Versace (FX)
Merritt Wever, Godless (Netflix)
If my predictions hold, I’ll be thoroughly sad not to see Anna Paquin’s terrifying performance in Alias Grace, or Tracey Ullmann’s devilishly funny one in Howards End, go unacknowledged. But the list above is basically the gay TV critic’s dream field, so: I know when to hold my tongue.
Matt Brennan is the TV editor of Paste Magazine. He tweets about what he’s watching @thefilmgoer.