The 67th annual Emmy Awards arrive Sunday, September 20, to honor the best in television for the 2014-15 TV season. Though that might seem long in the past (the cutoff date was May 31!), it's a long-standing tradition by now, the last big event before the fall TV season officially starts the very next day.
There will be a time for predictions of who will win the awards (and ours will arrive Sunday), but it's also good to talk about who should win the awards, because we all know the Emmys will never make the right choice. We've gone through and made picks in every single category being awarded Sunday night, and all of our choices are absolutely correct and binding. If the Emmys don't follow our choices, to the letter, you will know that they've gotten it disastrously wrong.
This year is filled with some hugely competitive categories, and a couple of cake walks. But let's start with one of the most competitive categories of them all.
Outstanding Comedy Series
You could make a case for any show not named Modern Family winning here. (Nothing against the Pritchett-Tucker-Dunphys, but it's hard to imagine they deserve a sixth award in a row.) Parks is a classic that had a terrific swan song. Veep is TV's most savage satire. Kimmy was a burst of sunshine and fresh air. Louie has somehow never won this award, despite being the decade's best show. And Silicon Valley made me laugh more than any other show. But it's hard to not choose Transparent, which was as lovely and delicate as most TV is bland and overstuffed. It's my favorite here and would be a fantastic winner.
Outstanding Drama Series
- Better Call Saul
- Downton Abbey
- Game of Thrones
- House of Cards
- Mad Men
- Orange Is the New Black
The choice here is much easier. I liked the recent seasons of most of these shows (save House of Cards and Downton), but it really comes down to the groundbreaking, empathetic storytelling of Orange versus the all-time classic Mad Men. And though it's won four times before, I can't help but be swayed by that terrific series finale. Mad Men it is.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
- Kyle Chandler, Bloodline
- Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
- Jon Hamm, Mad Men
- Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
- Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
- Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Did you know that Jon Hamm has never won an Emmy Award? Did you know that no actor from Mad Men has won an Emmy Award? Odenkirk is good, but this is an easy call. Jon Hamm all the way.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
- Claire Danes, Homeland
- Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
- Taraji P. Henson, Empire
- Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
- Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
- Robin Wright, House of Cards
There are some good nominees here, like Maslany, Moss, and Davis. But there's only one instantly iconic performance in this list, and it's that of Taraji P. Henson. TV characters like Cookie Lyon come along only every once in a while. Why not reward the woman who made that character who she is?
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
- Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
- Louis C.K., Louie
- Don Cheadle, House of Lies
- Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth
- Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
- William H. Macy, Shameless
- Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
All due respect to everybody else in this category (including the very good Anderson, C.K., and Forte), but this is the easiest pick of the night. Jeffrey Tambor should win, going away.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
- Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
- Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
- Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
- Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
- Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie
In general, TV's lead actress categories are better than its lead actor categories right now, which is a heartening development. This is a very, very tough call. Do you reward Poehler for years of stellar work that never netted a win? Julia Louis-Dreyfus gives, consistently, one of TV's sharpest performances. And Amy Schumer is having one hell of a creative year. But I don't think there was a performance with more nakedly emotional depths than Lisa Kudrow's. Even if her show isn't a favorite of mine, I can't deny how good she is in it.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
- Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
- Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
- Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
- Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
- Michael Kelly, House of Cards
- Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline
Banks is tremendous in his showcase Better Call Saul episode, but it too often feels like an extension of Breaking Bad, the series where his character first appeared. Overall, as a body of work across the season, Ben Mendelsohn's tortured performance is stronger.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
- Uzo Aduba, Orange Is the New Black
- Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
- Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
- Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
- Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
- Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Aduba is consistently fantastic but was underutilized in the second season (the one she's eligible for). Hendricks has always been a strong player in the Mad Men universe. But nobody had a season as brutal or amazing as Lena Headey, who should probably win for the "Shame" scene from the finale alone.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
- Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
- Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
- Ty Burrell, Modern Family
- Adam Driver, Girls
- Tony Hale, Veep
- Keegan-Michael Key, Key and Peele
Another category with tons of great choices, but for as hard as it is to separate him from his partner, I'm going to have to go with Keegan-Michael Key. Few actors on TV are as versatile as Key and Jordan Peele.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
- Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
- Julie Bowen, Modern Family
- Anna Chlumsky, Veep
- Gaby Hoffmann, Transparent
- Allison Janney, Mom
- Jane Krakowski, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
- Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
- Niecy Nash, Getting On
The art of acting in front of a live studio audience is an underestimated one, but Allison Janney makes it look incredibly easy, week after week. There are plenty of great nominees here, but Janney often pulls her show to some other level entirely.
Outstanding Limited Series
This is not as strong of a category as it has been in the past, which makes it easy to pick Olive Kitteridge, which was one of my favorite shows of 2014.
Outstanding Reality Competition Program
- The Amazing Race
- Dancing with the Stars
- Project Runway
- So You Think You Can Dance
- Top Chef
- The Voice
Why do the Emmys keep nominating the same shows in this category, year after year after year? When The Voice is the newbie, you know you have a problem. I abstain from choosing something in this category.
Outstanding Variety Talk Series
- The Colbert Report
- The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
- Jimmy Kimmel Live
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
- The Late Show with David Letterman
- The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
This is the last chance ever to reward The Colbert Report (though, presumably, he'll be nominated next year for The Late Show), and while Daily Show will technically still be eligible next year, it's unlikely Comedy Central will want to push Jon Stewart over Trevor Noah. It's also the last chance to ever reward David Letterman, which could cause a burst of sentimentality. But you know what? I'm giving this to Last Week Tonight, which felt new and different and real in a way late-night rarely does.
Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
- Drunk History
- Inside Amy Schumer
- Key & Peele
- Saturday Night Live
This is a tough call between two excellent Comedy Central series, particularly since this category is brand new and, thus, neither has won before. But I'm going to go with Inside Amy Schumer by a nose over Key & Peele, if only for the 12 Angry Men episode.
And everything else
The Emmys will award lots more categories at their ceremony. To read a full list of nominees, go here. But my picks in the other categories follow.
- Outstanding Directing of a Drama Series: The Knick, "Method and Madness," directed by Steven Soderbergh
- Outstanding Writing of a Drama Series: The Americans, "Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?" written by Joshua Brand
- Outstanding Directing of a Comedy Series: Transparent, "Best New Girl," directed by Jill Soloway
- Outstanding Writing of a Comedy Series: Silicon Valley, "Two Days of the Condor," written by Alec Berg
- Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie: Mark Rylance, Wolf Hall
- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie: Frances McDormand, Olive Kitteridge
- Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie: Richard Cabral, American Crime
- Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie: Angela Bassett, American Horror Story: Freak Show
- Outstanding Directing of a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special: Olive Kitteridge, directed by Lisa Cholodenko
- Outstanding Writing of a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special: Wolf Hall, written by Peter Straughan
- Outstanding Directing of a Variety Series: Inside Amy Schumer, "12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer," directed by Amy Schumer and Ryan McFaul
- Outstanding Writing of a Variety Series: Key & Peele