Emmy Awards 2017 Predictions: Who Should Win and Who Will Win

Emmy Award statue
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Emmy Award statue seen at the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

What a bonanza for the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards to have so many great new series competing this year (airing Sunday, 8/7c, on CBS), though it often makes it even harder to predict a clear winner. But why let that stop us from trying? TV Guide Magazine senior critic Matt Roush makes his picks for who should win and his educated (though still often wild) guesses as to who is most likely to win in some of the top categories.

Drama Series

Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Crown (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
House of Cards (Netflix)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
This Is Us (NBC)
Westworld (HBO)
Five of the seven nominees are brand new, and if NBC’s crowd-pleaser This Is Us wins, it would be the first for a broadcast network since Fox’s 24 in 2006. Its strongest competition: Hulu’s unnervingly topical breakthrough hit The Handmaid’s Tale and Netflix’s sumptuous and Oscar-worthy The Crown. A win would be a first for either streaming service. (Genre breakthroughs Stranger Things and Westworld could fill the Game of Thrones void, but seem a long shot.)

Should Win: The Crown
Most Likely to Win: A real toss-up, and I’d be fine with any of the front-runners, but industry buzz is currently highest for The Handmaid’s Tale.

Drama Actress

Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder)
Claire Foy (The Crown)
Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Keri Russell (The Americans)
Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld)
Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Foy marvelously conveyed the young Queen Elizabeth’s growing pains in the royal job, but Moss is the true marvel in this category as the oppressed yet defiant Handmaid. Only if The Crown sweeps will Moss be denied for her eighth nomination.

Should Win: Elisabeth Moss
Most Likely to Win: Moss

Drama Actor

Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)
Anthony Hopkins (Westworld)
Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul)
Matthew Rhys (The Americans)
Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan)
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)

As the adoptive brother who meets (and then loses) his biological father, Brown carried much of the emotional heavy lifting on This Is Us—though Ventimiglia also impressed as the world’s greatest father-in-memoriam. Unless they cancel each other out (unlikely), this will be Brown’s second consecutive Emmy, after last year’s People v. O.J. win.

Should Win: Sterling K. Brown
Most Likely to Win: Brown

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black)
Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things)
Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Chrissy Metz (This Is Us)
Thandie Newton (Westworld)
Samira Wiley (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Metz and Brown are the sort of “overnight” breakthrough stars this category was designed for, and neither of their shows is imaginable without them. But Newton as Westworld’s conflicted and oh-so-sexy android had the most demanding and trickiest role, and was sensational.

Should Win: Thandie Newton
Most Likely to Win: A squeaker for Chrissy Metz

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

John Lithgow (The Crown)
Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul)
Mandy Patinkin (Homeland)
Michael Kelly (House of Cards)
David Harbour (Stranger Things)
Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us)
Jeffrey Wright (Westworld)

One of the few absolute sure things. Lithgow is an Emmy favorite with five previous wins, and his commanding Winston Churchill is among his best performances ever.

Should Win:
John Lithgow
Most Likely to Win: Lithgow

Comedy Series

Atlanta (FX)
black-ish (ABC)
Master of None (Netflix)
Modern Family (ABC)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Veep (HBO)

The question is if anything can stop the juggernaut of Veep, which won the last two years and just triggered premature separation anxiety by announcing next season will be its last. Best bet for an upset: the daringly genre-bending Atlanta from multi-hyphenate auteur Donald Glover.

Should Win: Atlanta (with runner-up, Master of None)
Most Likely to Win: Veep

Comedy Actress

Pamela Adlon (Better Things)
Tracee Ellis-Ross (black-ish)
Jane Fonda (Grace and Frankie)
Allison Janney (Mom)
Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie)

Another overstuffed category, much like the Emmy shelf of Louis-Dreyfus, who has won five consecutive years for Veep. Janney, another Emmy favorite who was bumped up from supporting, could be a challenge, and Tomlin is a legend. But don’t bet against the incumbent.

Should Win: Underdog Pamela Adlon, who plays it more real than anyone in this category
Most Likely to Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Comedy Actor

Anthony Anderson (black-ish)
Aziz Ansari (Master of None)
Zach Galifianakis (Baskets)
Donald Glover (Atlanta)
William H. Macy (Shameless)
Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)

Star/creator visionaries Glover and Ansari are both deserving and would bring welcome diversity to the winner’s circle. Tambor is always moving as the forever-transitioning Maura, but let’s give it this year to one of the truly funny guys.

Should Win: Donald Glover or Aziz Ansari (I can’t decide)
Most Likely to Win: Glover

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)
Vanessa Bayer (Saturday Night Live)
Leslie Jones (Saturday Night Live)
Anna Chlumsky (Veep)
Judith Light (Transparent)
Kathryn Hahn (Transparent)

Triumphant in portraying comic defeat while singing “Hallelujah,” McKinnon’s Hillary could easily score the versatile comic a second win in a row. But discerning voters should embrace Hahn’s indomitable Rabbi Raquel, having denied the actress a nomination for her outstanding star turn in Amazon’s I Love Dick.

Should Win: Kathryn Hahn (runner-up: Judith Light)
Most Likely to Win: Kate McKinnon

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Alec Baldwin (Saturday Night Live)
Louie Anderson (Baskets)
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Tony Hale (Veep)
Matt Walsh (Veep)

A caricature for the ages, Baldwin’s outrageous impersonation of the president is so instantly iconic, he’s favored to upstage the excellent character acting of his competitors, including three previous honorees (Anderson and two-time winners Burrell and Hale).

Should Win: Tony Hale
Most Likely to Win: Alec Baldwin

Limited Series

Big Little Lies (HBO)
Fargo (FX)
Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
The Night Of (HBO)
Genius (National Geographic)

Another toss-the-dice decision between two blockbuster star vehicles: HBO’s slick, gossipy Lies or FX’s deliciously vicious Hollywood chronicle of aging divas battling for respect and survival. Lies seems to have the momentum, and HBO tends to dominate in the movie-minis arena, but Feud may have struck a nerve among industry insiders.

Should Win: Feud
Most Likely to Win: Big Little Lies

Television Movie

Black Mirror: San Junipero (Netflix)
Dolly Parton’s Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle Of Love (NBC)
The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks (HBO)
Sherlock: The Lying Detective (Masterpiece) (PBS)
The Wizard Of Lies (HBO)

An underwhelming category, making it tough to know if voters will go for haunting quality (Black Mirror) over tradition (Sherlock) or star power (The Wizard of Lies). HBO is the traditional winner here, so do the math.

Should Win: Black Mirror: San Junipero
Most Likely to Win: The Wizard of Lies

Limited Series/Movie Actress

Carrie Coon (Fargo)
Felicity Huffman (American Crime)
Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies)
Jessica Lange (Feud)
Susan Sarandon (Feud)
Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies)

The Television Critics Association honored the amazing Coon (also for her work on The Leftovers), but the Emmy will almost certainly go to one of the four Oscar winners from Lies or Feud. If Lies goes on a roll, Kidman’s abused wife is a clear favorite, but Feud’s Lange, a three-time winner in this category, was unforgettable, vanishing into the insecure persona of queen bee Joan Crawford.

Should Win: Jessica Lange
Most Likely to Win: Nicole Kidman

Limited Series/Movie Actor

Riz Ahmed (The Night Of)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock: The Lying Detective)
Robert De Niro (The Wizard of Lies)
Ewan McGregor (Fargo)
Geoffrey Rush (Genius)
John Turturro (The Night Of)

Many powerful choices, but De Niro’s first-ever Emmy nomination as a chilling Bernie Madoff will be hard to ignore. But so is Ahmed’s sorrowful performance as a young man trapped in and forever changed by a punishing legal system.

Should Win: Riz Ahmed
Most Likely to Win: Robert De Niro

Supporting Actress in a Limited Series/Movie

Judy Davis (Feud: Bette and Joan)
Laura Dern (Big Little Lies)
Jackie Hoffman (Feud: Bette and Joan)
Regina King (American Crime)
Michelle Pfeiffer (The Wizard of Lies)
Shailene Woodley (Big Little Lies)

Davis as the vindictive gossip Hedda Hopper stole every one of her Feud scenes with hilarious verve, but a Lies sweep could carry Dern to a victory for her equally ferocious power mom. King won the last two years for Crime, but is a long shot this time.

Should Win: Judy Davis
Most Likely to Win: Laura Dern

Supporting Actor in a Limited Series/Movie

Bill Camp (The Night Of)
Alfred Molina (Feud: Bette and Joan)
Alexander Skarsgård (Big Little Lies)
David Thewlis (Fargo)
Stanley Tucci (Feud: Bette and Joan)
Michael K. Williams (The Night Of)

As Fargo’s slithery villain, Thewlis was astonishingly creepy, a standout in a very strong field. And yet he may fly under the radar compared to the more glamorous menace of Skarsgård, so compelling as Nicole Kidman’s passionate but abusive husband living the biggest of Lies.

Should Win
: David Thewlis
Most Likely to Win: Alexander Skarsgård

Variety Talk Series

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee (TBS)
Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
The Late Late Show With James Corden (CBS)
Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO)
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS)

An insane year in politics makes this category among the most anticipated, with Emmy host Colbert (snubbed last year, but a multiple winner during his Comedy Central reign) surging in popularity with his stinging political satire. A win for Bee, crashing the boys’ club with fearless aplomb, would be even more satisfying. But Oliver is the reigning champ, so can’t be dismissed.

Should Win: Full Frontal With Samantha Bee
Most Likely to Win: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

Variety Sketch Series

Billy On The Street (truTV)
Documentary Now! (IFC)
Drunk History (Comedy Central)
Portlandia (IFC)
Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Tracey Ullman’s Show (HBO)

Leading the pack with 22 nominations, and having already won two for guest performer (Melissa McCarthy and Dave Chappelle), if now isn’t the time for Saturday Night Live to take this home, then when?

Should Win: Saturday Night Live
Most Likely to Win: Saturday Night Live

Reality Competition

The Amazing Race (CBS)
American Ninja Warrior (NBC)
Project Runway (Lifetime)
RuPaul’s Drag Race (vh1)
Top Chef (Bravo)
The Voice (NBC)

Last year’s surprise win by RuPaul as reality host (who in Emmy tradition repeated this year) gives first-time nominee Drag Race a sporting chance to sashay away with a trophy. But perennial winners Voice and Race are mighty obstacles.

Should Win: The Amazing Race
Most Likely to Win: The Voice