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2015 Emmy Awards picks and predictions

We're betting on a big night for Game of Thrones and Transparent.

Is Game of Thrones the first series featuring dragons to be a serious threat to win Drama Series? Depends on if you count Northern Exposure.
Is Game of Thrones the first series featuring dragons to be a serious threat to win Drama Series? Depends on if you count Northern Exposure.
HBO

The 67th annual Emmy Awards arrive Sunday, September 20, to honor the best in television for the 2014-15 TV season. And we think we know who's going to win them.

Our predictions this year come with a massive, massive asterisk attached. In the past, it was generally possible to predict the Emmys based entirely on which episodes the various nominees submitted for consideration. This system wasn't foolproof, but it usually allowed you to whittle down the nominees to a handful of plausible winners.

That's really not the case this year. The Emmys have changed their voting system so that the submitted episodes don't matter nearly as much as they used to. (Read more about this here.) That's led to a situation where it's hard to tell what will matter more: what the Emmys have traditionally done in the past, or what's been buzzed about a lot in the media and in the entertainment industry this year.

Judging from the Creative Arts awards (which reward the technicians and others whose names usually appear in the end credits), buzz is going to matter more than ever. But we could be making a disastrously wrong guess, and it will turn out poorly for us. So take this as a rule of thumb: If Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen of Modern Family win the comedy supporting prizes (handed out early in the evening), ignore everything we've said. We're sorry to have steered you so very wrong.

All predicted winners are marked in bold.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Transparent

Transparent stands to have a very good night.

Amazon

This is a tough, tough category to predict. Modern Family has never lost here. Part of that has been weak competition in the past, but last year, it presumably won because strong competition split the vote. And something very similar could happen this year! Modern Family is behaving like a show that the Emmys are losing favor with (getting dropped from more and more lower-ballot categories), but the fact remains that the other six nominees are all niche shows in one way or another, while Modern Family remains a broad-based hit (something that traditionally helps in this category).

Still, there's one show here that's riding a wave of good reviews, good timing, and Hollywood familiarity. Emmy voters might not know a family just like Transparent's Pfeffermans, but they surely know one vaguely similar to it. That should be just enough to carry the Amazon show over the top.

Outstanding Drama Series

Game of Thrones

Daenerys will be taking the Emmy home.

HBO

I could make an argument for House of Cards or Saul winning, but this is really a two show race. Either Mad Men becomes the first series to win five Drama Series trophies as a parting gift (it won four between 2008 and 2011), or Game of Thrones continues the massive sweep it started at the Creative Arts Awards (where it won eight trophies).

The Emmys rarely come back to old favorites in their final seasons, particularly if they haven't rewarded them in a long time, and there's a weird tradition of dramas winning for the first time in their fifth seasons (including The Sopranos and Breaking Bad). Plus, Game of Thrones was inescapable this spring. Advantage: Game of Thrones.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

If the Emmys want to reward Mad Men one last time, I think they'll do it here. Odenkirk or Spacey could pull this out, but I think the new voting system and general sentiment will benefit Jon Hamm, who's been waiting for his chance at the podium long enough. (The only significant award he's won for the character is a Golden Globe he didn't even get to give a speech for because of the writers' strike.)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

How to Get Away With Murder

Viola Davis strikes us as most likely to win this award.

ABC

It's Annalise versus Cookie, as Davis and Henson have the strongest arguments for winning this award. (It's always dangerous, however, to discount Danes, an Emmy favorite.) Henson is on the bigger show, but the Emmys have also had trouble embracing soaps in the past. And while Davis' show is soapy, it's also a legal drama on some level. That should push Viola Davis to the win.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

This feels like an easy call, which probably means an upset is brewing. (The Emmys rarely go for easy calls.) Still, it's hard to see anybody winning here other than Jeffrey Tambor. He's never won an Emmy before, and this is the performance of his career.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Here's another category where you wonder if the Emmys will do what they have done in the past, or if the new voting system means buzz matters more than ever. If it's the former, Julia Louis-Dreyfus wins. But I'm betting it's the latter, and that pushes Amy Schumer to the win.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

If this were still the world where tapes mattered more than anything else, Mendelsohn would be the dark-horse winner here. And he still might manage the trick. But I'm guessing that Jonathan Banks is going to be the sentimental favorite to win here for a character he never won for on Breaking Bad.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

If Thrones is going to win series (as I'm predicting), then it will win a couple of other awards to justify the choice. As such, Lena Headey seems like a good bet here, though this could easily go to either Aduba or Hendricks instead.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

This is probably the toughest category to predict. Burrell has won several times before, and Hale is also a former winner. But the Emmys love Andre Braugher and will take most chances they can to reward him. If it's not him, look out for dark horse Titus Burgess. This would be a good place to reward Kimmy Schmidt.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Mom

Allison Janney (center) gets to play both broad comedy and big drama in Mom.

CBS

If Transparent sweeps, this goes to Hoffmann. If Modern Family comes back, it's Bowen again. And I guess I could see this going to Krakowski or McKinnon, too. But it really feels like Allison Janney is going to win this for three or four years in a row (she also won last year), and I'm not going to mind because she's so good.

Outstanding Limited Series

HBO has marketing muscle to put behind Olive. Freak Show won a whole bunch of awards at the Creative Arts Emmys. And American Crime would be a good way to reward broadcast network TV (where many Emmy voters make their living) for trying something new. But Emmy voters love British people. This is going to Wolf Hall.

Outstanding Reality Competition Program

  • The Amazing Race
  • Dancing with the Stars
  • Project Runway
  • So You Think You Can Dance
  • Top Chef
  • The Voice

The Voice? I guess? It feels like they're over The Amazing Race, but it's felt that way before.

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

Jon Stewart

Can the Emmys resist rewarding Jon Stewart one last time? We're guessing not.

Comedy Central

  • 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

I'm hugely tempted to predict a nostalgia-driven win for Late Show, which dominated this category in the '90s, and I think both Colbert and Last Week have good arguments for winning. But when the voting for this was going on, Jon Stewart was in the news almost every day as his hosting gig wound down. I think this one goes back to The Daily Show.

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

  • Drunk History
  • Inside Amy Schumer
  • Key & Peele
  • Portlandia
  • Saturday Night Live

On the one hand, I think Inside Amy Schumer will win this. On the other hand, I've predicted far too many awards based more on buzz than the Emmys doing what they always do. I need to predict at least one category under the latter criteria, which means this goes to Saturday Night Live. Expect Twitter outrage.

And everything else

The Emmys will award lots more categories at their ceremony. To read a full list of nominees, go here. But my predictions in the other categories follow.

  • Outstanding Directing of a Drama Series: Game of Thrones, "Mother's Mercy," directed by David Nutter
  • Outstanding Writing of a Drama Series: Mad Men, "Person to Person," written by Matthew Weiner
  • Outstanding Directing of a Comedy Series: The Last Man on Earth, "Alive in Tucson," directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
  • Outstanding Writing of a Comedy Series: Transparent, "Pilot," written by Jill Soloway
  • 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: Bill Murray, Olive Kitteridge
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie: Kathy Bates, 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: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver