2016 Emmy Predictions: Who Should Win, Who Will Win, and Possible Upsets

     September 16, 2016


2016 might be the most fun year yet for the Primetime Emmy Awards, because shockingly the nominations got so much right. Never before could I have imagined one Emmy category, let alone multiple, where I would be fine with just about anyone in it taking home the trophy. There were snubs, of course, there always are (Rhea Seehorn for Better Call Saul and Patrick Wilson for Fargo, everything related to Rectify). But there were also some unexpected triumphs, like Louie Anderson‘s nomination for Baskets and Constance Zimmer being recognized for UnREAL. Downton Abbey may still be taking up space for better, more innovative shows, but there’s a very strong likelihood that, to balance that out, Mr. Robot will sweep its categories.

One of the most interesting aspects of this year’s nominations, too, are the way in which Limited Series have been separated out from Movies, leaving the latter category looking a little paltry, while FX competes with itself over two outstanding shows: Fargo and The People v. O.J. Simpson. And yet there is AMC with its international co-production The Night Manager, which in years past might have mopped the floor with opponents. Things are hardly so simple now in the land of Peak TV.

More than any other year in recent memory, this year’s nominations seem to reflect what was actually great on television. Not all of it, but enough to be satisfying. Below you’ll find my picks for who or what should win (usually my personal favorite), what will win, and the dark horse for each category. Just keep in mind that The Emmys can occasionally be surprising in ways we can never predict. So how will it thrill / disappoint us this year I wonder?

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series


Image via HBO

Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Laurie Metcalf, Getting On

Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish

Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer

Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

Who Should Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Who Will Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Dark Horse: Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer

While I usually like to see a shake-up from year to year with Emmy winners, I really can’t deny that Louis-Dreyfus is consistently outstanding on Veep, and may never more so than in this past year. In the episode where Selina’s mother passes away, Louis-Dreyfus walked an incredibly fine line between being funny and macabre, teetering even on the edge of a darkness that would have been hard for the show to come back from. But she pulled it off, and in a few deeply affecting moments actually managed to convey Selina’s true, deeply buried emotions. It was supreme work, and just one example of her mastery as this character. To me there will be no other choice.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series


Image via Amazon

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish

Aziz Ansari, Master of None

Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth

William H. Macy, Shameless

Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley

Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

Who Should Win: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

Who Will Win: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

Dark Horse: Anthony Anderson, Black-ish

Tambor had another outstanding season with Transparent, and took home the award last year. Emmy voters tend to like consistency, which mostly likely will keep him in the lead spot. There’s a strong case to be made for each of these actors — including Forte, who somehow spent half the season with just half a beard and head of hair, which is true dedication — but I think the most underrated is probably Anderson for black-ish. Anderson is always good, but he really brings it home with his physical comedy on this show, and his timing is absolutely impeccable. He could make a play for the win.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series


Image via HBO

Louie Anderson, Baskets

Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele

Ty Burrell, Modern Family

Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Tony Hale, Veep

Matt Walsh, Veep

Who Should Win: Louie Anderson, Baskets

Who Will Win: Tony Hale, Veep

Dark Horse: Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

One of the things that makes my job predicting the awards this year so difficult is that Emmy voters actually got so much right with the nominations. Tony Hale and Matt Walsh for Veep? I couldn’t dare to dream. But the one that really blows me away is Anderson for Baskets, in a role that elevated an otherwise mediocre series. Anderson is absolutely incredible playing a woman in a way that somehow perfectly captures the character of an overweight suburban mom. Anderson spoke to NPR’s Terry Gross about channeling his mother in the role, and that sincerity and depth that he brings to it keeps it from being a one-note gag to something truly wonderful. And the fact that Emmy voters noticed it is even more astonishing.

But if we’re talking about a single character who defines a series (who isn’t the lead), we have to talk about Burgess, who uses his entire being to convey his comedy with an incredibly unique delivery, all for an uproarious effect that also has a surprising amount of soul. Anderson is a long-shot — those the voters like a transformation, this one feels a little too avant garde — but if Burgess or either of the Veep fellows win in his place I’ll still be appeased.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series


Image via CBS

Niecy Nash, Getting On

Allison Janney, Mom

Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live

Judith Light, Transparent

Gabby Hoffman, Transparent

Anna Chlumsky, Veep

Who Should Win: Judith Light, Transparent

Who Will Win: Allison Janney, Mom

Dark Horse: Anna Chlumsky, Veep

If I had to pick my favorite performance in this category, it would be Hoffman in Transparent. The problem is, I would honestly categorize it as an outstanding dramatic turn, not comedic. Light is funny — very funny — in Transparent, but if Emmy voters stick with what they know, it’ll go to Janney for Mom again (she’s won 7, 2 for Mom, and been nominated for 12 throughout the years). Chlumsky has rarely gotten her due as part of the Veep cast, but I’m also hoping that this might be her year.

Outstanding Comedy Series


Image via HBO


Master of None

Modern Family

Silicon Valley


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt


Who Should Win: Veep

Who Will Win: Veep

Dark Horse: Black-ish

Veep is such a clear front-runner in this category this year that it’s hard to think who might come up and take the trophy from them. Master of None feels a little too much of a fringe pick for Emmy voters, and the others series didn’t have what were necessarily their best seasons. There’s a case to be made for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which I do think came back possibly even stronger in Season 2 (those females are strong as hell!), but Black-ish also went in hard on some tough, real-world issues that didn’t feel like an after-school special, which I think gives it the edge here.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie


Image via FX

Kirsten Dunst, Fargo

Felicity Huffman, American Crime

Sarah Paulson, The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Lily Taylor, American Crime

Kerry Washington, Confirmation

Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill

Who Should Win: Kirsten Dunst

Who Will Win: Sarah Paulson

Dark Horse: Felicity Huffman

If I had to pick one performance of the year that truly stood out for me among all series, it was Kirsten Dunst in Fargo. Yes, Sarah Paulson was unbelievably affecting as Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J., and it was an incredible role. But I’m sticking with Dunst for my personal pick. She was surprising, powerful, vulnerable, and transcendent. And yet, so was Paulson …

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie


Image via HBO

Bryan Cranston, All the Way

Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

Idris Elba, Luther

Cuba Gooding Jr., The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager

Courtney B. Vance, The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Who Should Win: Courtney B. Vance

Who Will Win: Bryan Cranston

Dark Horse: Elba or Hiddleston

Awards voters love a transformation, and Cranston went through one to channel LBJ for HBO. He’s also won 6 individual Emmys, and the Emmy voters love to do the same thing year after year. But if you want a transformation, look at how Vance became Johnny Cochran for The People v O.J. He was astonishing. And while I absolutely adore Hiddleston and Elba and think that they made both of their roles iconic, I don’t think this is their year. But just watch Cumberbatch come out of nowhere and win it all just to spite my predictions!

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie


Image via FX

Jesse Plemons, Fargo

Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo

Hugh Laurie, The Night Manager

John Travolta, The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Sterling K. Brown, The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

David Schwimmer, The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Who Should Win: Anyone but Travolta

Who Will Win: Sterling K. Brown

Dark Horse: Hugh Laurie

I’m not trying to be glib when I say “anyone but Travolta” should win, but this is an incredibly stacked category, and while what Travolta did with his character of Robert Shapiro was interesting, to my mind it’s not Emmy-worthy. Trying to pick a winner here is impossible. Hugh Laurie was so against type and so wonderfully, charmingly evil in The Night Manager. But wait … Sterling K. Brown! Who brought such an amazing amount of warmth and conflict to his his character, and even a muted hint of romance. Then there’s Bokeem Woodbine! Ugh this is too hard. FX is essentially fighting itself in this category which could mean AMC will prevail with Laurie, even though the Sterling K. Brown buzz has been high. It’s tearing me apart Lisaaaaa!

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie


Image via FX

Melissa Leo, All the Way

Regina King, American Crime

Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Hotel

Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Hotel

Jean Smart, Fargo

Olivia Colman, The Night Manager

Who Should Win: Anyone

Who Will Win: Jean Smart

Dark Horse: Melissa Leo

What a damn fine category of actresses. While I tend to naturally gravitate towards Sarah Paulson in anything, and Kathy Bates is a constant nominee (and sometimes winner), I think that Emmy voters will give it to Jean Smart for Fargo. All of the women in this category had outstanding turns, though, particularly Regina King’s affecting performance in American Crime, and Olivia Colman’s scene-stealing role in The Night Manager (in fact, if I had to choose one scene that should alone deserve the Emmy it’s Colman describing why Richard Roper is the worst man in the world). Still, the Emmy could go to Melissa Leo, who represents the lone TV movie nomination in the bunch, and it feels like it could sneak in to be an upset (even though she is also always great).

Outstanding Limited Series


Image via FX

American Crime


The Night Manager

The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story


Who Should Win: The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Who Will Win: The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Dark Horse: The Night Manager

This one is pretty impossible. But even if you didn’t love The People v O.J., you have to respect what it did in its season, both in terms of its truly episodic format and outstanding acting. Fargo had an immensely interesting story this year, far better than Season 1 (and people who loved Season 1 didn’t care as much for Season 2, I know, I know). But then there were the aliens and the excessive violence and forever monologues that — in such an incredibly tight year — feels like pushed it slightly out of the top spot. It’s why I’m also picking The Night Manager as the dark horse over Fargo, because with both had a wonderful cast and aesthetic, The Night Manager’s narrative consistency edges it out. Plus Emmy voters love British things.

Outstanding Movie Made for Television


Image via HBO

A Very Murray Christmas

All the Way



Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

Who Should Win: Luther

Who Will Win: All the Way

Dark Horse: Confirmation

This category is a little bit of a mess, because of course Luther and Sherlock are also series. I don’t think that The Abominable Bride was anywhere near Sherlock’s best, but for pure entertainment value and a fitting conclusion to a difficult story (and for the love of Idris Elba!), I would give the Emmy to Luther. It will definitely not go to Luther, so I’m instead betting on an HBO drama to take home the tin.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series


Image via FX

Claire Danes, Homeland

Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder

Taraji P. Henson, Empire

Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black

Keri Russell, The Americans

Robin Wright, House of Cards

Who Should Win: Keri Russell, The Americans

Who Will Win: Keri Russell, The Americans

Dark Horse: Robin Wright, House of Cards

I might be fooling myself, but I really think Keri Russell has a chance this year to finally get recognized by the Emmys for her exceptional work on The Americans, especially in a year where her character, Elizabeth, finally showed a vulnerability that we’ve never seen (she should also win just for the forehead vein that pops out when she’s angry). The other women all have a chance — Davis does what she can with terrible material, and the same is true for Taraji P. Henson. Maslany used to be a lock for me, but now that we’ve finally gotten her nominated, Orphan Black isn’t turning in its best work (even though she’s still supremely talented). Danes is always a strong possibility, but I think Wright could take the trophy. Still, I’m hoping hoping hoping it’s Russell.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series


Image via USA

Kyle Chandler, Bloodline

Rami Malek, Mr. Robot

Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul

Matthew Rhys, The Americans

Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan

Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Who Should Win: Rami Malek, Mr. Robot

Who Will Win: Rami Malek, Mr. Robot

Dark Horse: Matthew Rhys, The Americans

An important thing to remember with Emmy voting is which episodes and seasons a show is being considered for. Though the women of Mr. Robot had a breakout season this year, Malek was absolutely outstanding in Season 1, and I think that buzz will carry over and get him the award. Having said that, I want so badly for Rhys to win just for being overlooked for so many years for The Americans, especially in Season 3 when he had his best year yet. Then there’s Odenkirk, who carries the weight of his series almost entirely on his shoulders, and puts in one of the most carefully crafted performances on television, one that is both sly and deeply affecting. There can be no “upsets” in this category, each actor brings something great to their show, but I really do think this is pretty locked up for Malek.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series


Image via AMC

Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul

Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline

Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

Kit Harington, Game of Thrones

Michael Kelly, House of Cards

Jon Voight, Ray Donovan

Who Should Win: Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul

Who Will Win: Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul

Dark Horse: Jon Voight, Ray Donovan

It physically pains me to not vote for my dearest Ben Mendelsohn, who I think was unabashedly the greatest thing about Bloodline Season 1. Bringing him back in Season 2 was an idea, but not one that allowed him to show off his immense talents the way he deserved to. Voight is always amazing, as is Dinklage, but guys — this is a no-brainer. Banks absolutely ruled his time on Better Call Saul this season, and Emmy voters like to honor older actors whenever they can. While I felt that Banks was great in Season 1, the material didn’t connect as well as it did in Season 2, where he delivered a series of wonderfully devastating episodes in a performance that was always nuanced in its principled stoicism.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series


Image via PBS

Dame Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

Lena Heady, Game of Thrones

Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones

Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones

Maura Tierney, The Affair

Constance Zimmer, UnREAL

Who Should Win: Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul, who was not nominated.

Who Will Win: Dame Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

Dark Horse: Constance Zimmer, UnREAL

I think we can all agree that as lovely a diversion as Downton Abbey has been throughout its run, it hasn’t really been good in a long time. But this seems to be the last chance to give Maggie Smith another Emmy, and I can’t fault voters too much if they decide to go that route. While I don’t think Zimmer really has a chance to win, her acid-tongued delivery on UnREAL that clearly masked real emotion was something to come back for week after week (even this year as the wheels started to fall off). Game of Thrones may dominate this category, but I’m not altogether sure I see a win there except possibly for Williams, who did a lot with very uneven material. 

Outstanding Drama Series


Image via USA

The Americans

Better Call Saul

Downton Abbey

Game of Thrones


House of Cards

Mr. Robot

Who Should Win: The Americans

Who Will Win: Mr. Robot

Dark Horse: Game of Thrones

The Americans is the best show on television right now, and I say that without reservation. Even though Mr. Robot’s first season changed the game (and was my top pick for 2015’s drama series), The Americans’ fourth season fired on all cylinders all season in a way that shows that deep into their run rarely do, and in a way that is unique and unpredictable (something that can’t exactly be said for Robot, as great as it is). Downton Abbey tried to tun the ship around a little in its last season, but it wasn’t enough, and the same is true for Homeland. But Game of Thrones had a crowd-pleasing run that could sway some voters, especially with its overarching themes of female empowerment, and its (surprisingly) explosive and satisfying final episodes.


Image via HBO