The Emmys are so predictable ... so boring ... so uninspired ... unless, of course, voters are rewarding your favorite show yet again, and then it's wildly on-target, a well-deserved honor bestowed by perceptive and discriminating industry authorities. Expect a great many predictable (and well-deserved) honors tonight.
The 64th Primetime Emmy Awards will be telecast live at 8 p.m. today on ABC. The show will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.
Here's our predictions:
n "Boardwalk Empire" (HBO)
n "Breaking Bad" (AMC)
n "Downton Abbey" (PBS)
n "Game of Thrones" (HBO)
n "Homeland" (Showtime)
n "Mad Men" (AMC)
Should win: "Mad Men"
Will win: "Mad Men"
Analysis: "Mad Men" won the series Emmy for its first four seasons and, arguably, just completed its finest year. A fifth Emmy here would be unprecedented -- and a proper reward. But AMC stable mate "Breaking Bad" poses a serious threat to its chances, particularly since it's currently airing an ambitious string of new episodes, just as votes are being cast.
LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA
n Hugh Bonneville, "Downton Abbey"
n Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"
n Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
n Michael C. Hall, "Dexter"
n Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"
n Damian Lewis, "Homeland"
Should win: Cranston
Will win: Cranston
Analysis: After sitting out last year's race, Cranston faces little competition for a fourth Emmy, which would tie him with Dennis Franz for most wins in the category. Now if someone would only give the man a role in a decent movie ...
LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA
n Kathy Bates, "Harry's Law"
n Glenn Close, "Damages"
n Claire Danes, "Homeland"
n Michelle Dockery, "Downton Abbey"
n Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
n Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men"
Should win: Danes
Will win: Danes
Analysis: Close's camp can't run on the "this-is-her-year" platform that "Albert Nobbs" campaigners used in the last Oscar race since Close has already won here twice. Margulies won last year, but her show's exclusion for series doesn't bode well. Danes wins, and it's a slam-dunk.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA
n Jim Carter, "Downton Abbey"
n Brendan Coyle, "Downton Abbey"
n Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones"
n Giancarlo Esposito, "Breaking Bad"
n Jared Harris, "Mad Men"
n Aaron Paul, "Breaking Bad"
Should win: Esposito
Will win: Esposito
Analysis: Dinklage won last year, but no one has repeated in this category since Ray Walston for "Picket Fences" in the mid-'90s. And, yes, Coyle has his T-shirted supporters ("Free Bates!"), but his stiff-upper-lip stoicism can't match the work of Paul and Esposito on "Breaking Bad" or Harris' heartbreaking turn on "Mad Men." Esposito should prevail, but it will be close.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA
n Christine Baranski, "The Good Wife"
n Joanne Froggatt, "Downton Abbey"
n Anna Gunn, "Breaking Bad"
n Christina Hendricks, "Mad Men"
n Archie Panjabi, "The Good Wife"
n Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey"
Should win: Hendricks
Will win: Hendricks
Analysis: "Mad Men" has never won an acting Emmy, but Hendricks owns a showcase episode this year with "The Other Woman," in which Joan pondered prostituting herself for financial security. She should win, but Smith's sour dowager countess can't be discounted. This could be the category that the much-loved "Downton" carries.
n "30 Rock" (NBC)
n "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS)
n "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO)
n "Girls" (HBO)
n "Modern Family" (ABC)
n "Veep" (HBO)
Should win: "Girls"
Will win: "Modern Fam
Analysis: "Modern Family" has been an Emmy juggernaut in its two eligible seasons. The legal battle between the cast and 20th Century Fox would have needed to venture into "Hatfields & McCoys" territory for the show to lose here.
LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY
n Louis C.K., "Louie"
n Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
n Don Cheadle, "House of Lies"
n Jon Cryer, "Two and a Half Men"
n Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
n Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory"
Should win: Louis C.K.
Will win: Louis C.K.
Analysis: C.K. received seven Emmy nominations -- three (writing, directing, acting) for his FX series and four for his Beacon Theatre stand-up special. So, yes, this is his moment. Plus, even with all the love, "Louie" somehow failed to earn a series nod, an oversight that brought even more attention to C.K. via assorted cries of outrage and puzzlement. Admittedly, C.K.'s skewed humor isn't going to play to everyone in the room, but a Parsons three-peat seems both unlikely and kind of wrong. Unless, of course, that's your favorite show and then it's perfectly acceptable.
LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY
n Zooey Deschanel, "New Girl"
n Lena Dunham, "Girls"
n Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"
n Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
n Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"
n Melissa McCarthy, "Mike & Molly"
n Amy Poehler, "Parks and Recreation"
Should win: Poehler
Will win: Louis-Dreyfus
Analysis: A tie takes the recent expansion of nominees a step further, making for a jam-packed group of seven. With this many options, we'll steer toward the safety of Louis-Dreyfus, a 12-time nominee and two-time winner. If she owns an Emmy for "The New Adventures of Old Christine," she could certainly take one for the sharply observed satire of "Veep."
SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY
n Ty Burrell, "Modern Family"
n Jesse Tyler Ferguson, "Modern Family"
n Max Greenfield, "New Girl"
n Bill Hader, "Saturday Night Live"
n Ed O'Neill, "Modern Family"
n Eric Stonestreet, "Modern Family"
Should win: Burrell
Will win: Ferguson
Analysis: We like both Hader and Greenfield, but we're guessing this category will again go to one of the "Modern Family" quartet. Stonestreet won for the first season; Burrell took it last year, and we'd give it to him again for the way he has refined and enlivened the Clueless Dad TV archetype. But the game of musical chairs will probably mean an Emmy for O'Neill or Ferguson. Flip a coin.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY
n Mayim Bialik, "The Big Bang Theory"
n Julie Bowen, "Modern Family"
n Kathryn Joosten, "Desperate Housewives"
n Sofia Vergara, "Modern Family"
n Merritt Wever, "Nurse Jackie"
n Kristen Wiig, "Saturday Night Live"
Should win: Wiig
Will win: Joosten
Analysis: Sentiment figures here. Lung cancer claimed Joosten in June. The "Modern Family" women rank as strong contenders, and four-time nominee Wiig just wrapped her tenure on "SNL," but we see voters memorializing Joosten to honor both her and the end of "Housewives."
MINISERIES OR MOVIE
n "American Horror Story" (FX)
n "Game Change" (HBO)
n "Hatfields & McCoys" (History)
n "Hemingway & Gellhorn" (HBO)
n "Luther" (BBC America)
n "Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia" (PBS)
Should win: "Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia"
Will win: "Game Change"
Analysis: "Horror Story" made headlines with its 17 nominations, but its freaky latex ghost sex might not be the universal turn-on that such numbers imply. "Game Change" fits the profile of past winners, and its election-year setting might boost its relevancy in voters' minds. "Sherlock" stands as the category's sleeper. As the good detective would remind you, "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, becomes the truth." Or, the Emmy winner.
LEAD ACTRESS, MINISERIES OR MOVIE
n Connie Britton, "American Horror Story"
n Ashley Judd, "Missing"
n Nicole Kidman, "Hemingway & Gellhorn"
n Julianne Moore, "Game Change"
n Emma Thompson, "The Song of Lunch"
Should win: Moore
Will win: Moore
Analysis: Moore made even die-hard liberals feel a measure of empathy for Sarah Palin. Forget an Emmy. The woman deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
LEAD ACTOR, MINISERIES OR MOVIE
n Kevin Costner, "Hatfields & McCoys"
n Benedict Cumberbatch, ""Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia"
n Idris Elba, "Luther"
n Woody Harrelson, "Game Change"
n Clive Owen, "Hemingway & Gellhorn"
n Bill Paxton, "Hatfields & McCoys"
Should win: Harrelson
Will win: Owen
Analysis: If voters decide a "Game Change" sweep might be a bit much, look for them to still hew to the party line (HBO! HBO!) and recognize Owen's proud Papa.