Months of shoulda, coulda, woulda wind up here as final Emmy verdicts are in from THR’s awards analyst Scott Feinberg, who assesses what will win, and chief TV critic Tim Goodman, who shares what should win (hint: 'Game of Thrones' and 'Veep' are gonna clean up).
Mr. Robot is a strong first-year option, but 2015's winner returns as this year's most buzzed-about (see: "Battle of the Bastards") and most nominated (its 23 noms include acting, directing and writing) series. A popular ballot only will help its chances.
WILL WIN: Game of Thrones (HBO)
It will be nearly impossible to unseat Game of Thrones, but The Americans already subverted the impossible by getting this long-overdue nomination after being on the air for four seasons, so why not the win? It's the best drama on television.
SHOULD WIN: The Americans (FX)
There's several smart/edgy young'ns (Silicon Valley, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Black-ish and especially Master of None and Transparent). But the defending champ and this year's most nominated comedy (including four acting, three directing and two writing noms) gets the edge.
WILL WIN: Veep (HBO)
This is Veep's Emmy to win for the second consecutive year. And deservedly so — new showrunner and all. But don't sleep on Transparent finally breaking through for Amazon. And I'm game for a long-shot upset from another streaming contender, Netflix's Master of None.
SHOULD WIN: Veep (HBO)
In any other year, American Crime, Fargo or The Night Manager could have won, and in 1977 Roots did. But this year, the clear class of the field is Ryan Murphy's star-studded look back into the '90s, which got just one nom fewer than Game of Thrones!
WILL WIN: The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
This is a two-series race, and it really just comes down to whether you want the sprawling, surprising The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story or the we- did-it-yet-again brilliance of Fargo. I'll go with the latter.
SHOULD WIN: Fargo (FX)
HBO makes and sells TV movies better than anyone. Its contenders have won in each of the last nine years — and will again. The only question: Will it be Confirmation, about Anita Hill, or an adaptation of 2014's best play Tony winner about LBJ? Bryan Cranston in the latter tips the scale.
WILL WIN: All the Way (HBO)
Though this year's limited series category is very strong, TV movie is weak. But the standouts here are expected and worthy: British imports Luther and Sherlock: The Abominable Bride. I like the unexpected direction of Sherlock, so it gets my vote.
SHOULD WIN: Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (PBS)
Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee isn't like the other nominees, which could help it. But in an election year without Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, there's an opening for HBO's Bill Maher or John Oliver. The latter is less divisive, scoring a category-best six noms.
WILL WIN: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
This is a tremendous category this year. For me it comes down to whether you want the greatness of a guy making an hourlong show each night in Jimmy Kimmel or the greatness of a guy making a half-hour show on Sunday in John Oliver. Kimmel is due.
SHOULD WIN: Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)
Inside Amy Schumer won in 2015, but a field-leading 16 noms, including multiple for acting, directing and writing, suggest that Lorne Michaels and company — facing three Comedy Central and two IFC shows that could cancel out one another — are ready to reclaim the throne.
WILL WIN: Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Tons of respect to the precision detail of IFC's Documentary Now! and the consistency of Portlandia — both of which star SNL alum Fred Armisen — but if there's any justice at all, this will be Key & Peele's night.
SHOULD WIN: Key & Peele (Comedy Central)
House of Cards' Kevin Spacey, who won the SAG Award, has yet to win an Emmy. But his sole rookie competitor, Rami Malek, likewise hails from a nominated show, has a killer episode submission and is the only nominee who also received SAG, Golden Globe and Critics' Choice noms.
WILL WIN: Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Mr. Robot doesn't explode into the zeitgeist without its star Rami Malek, but holy hell, you can't deny Matthew Rhys now that he's in the nominees' circle. He gives such a nuanced and exemplary performance in the 1980s-set Russian spy drama week to week.
SHOULD WIN: Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Only 2015's winner Viola Davis was nominated for Critics' Choice, Golden Globe and SAG awards this year. But Claire Underwood has never been more central to her show, which got way more noms than Davis' (13 to 1), and voters will want to spread the love.
WILL WIN: Robin Wright, House of Cards
With great difficulty, I'll veer off The Americans — only because Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany is so incredibly overdue. She finally got nominated last year after being snubbed for the show's first two seasons. Now give her the damn statue. Her performance is stunning.
SHOULD WIN: Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Two appealing nominees hail from shows that got series noms and submitted powerful episodes: Master of None's Aziz Ansari and 2015's winner. This may come down to degree of difficulty: One appears to be playing himself, the other anything but.
WILL WIN: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
With absolutely no disrespect to anyone else here, I just can't see any scenario where Jeffrey Tambor doesn't win. He's that good as Maura Pfefferman on Transparent. And he didn't get any less good in season two. The win would be completely deserved.
SHOULD WIN: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
There are a ton of likable options, from first-time nominee Tracee Ellis Ross to 23-timer Lily Tomlin. But all indications suggest the Seinfeld vet's record 17th nom for a comedy turn will result in a record-extending fifth consecutive win and record-setting sixth overall win in this category.
WILL WIN: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
It must suck to be in this category with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The only way she doesn't win is if TV Academy voters get bored of giving the Emmy to her. I'll say this: Give it to her. She earned it again.
SHOULD WIN: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Any of the five could take it. O.J.'s three nominees could cancel out one another, clearing the path for LBJ's Bryan Cranston. But I've got to go with an actor who nailed a real-life figure who was even flashier.
WILL WIN Courtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson
There's arguably only one weak spot in this category (rhymes with Minolta) but even in such a tough field, The People v. O.J. Simpson's Courtney B. Vance is going to get this done. He's riveting as Johnnie Cochran in every scene.
SHOULD WIN: Courtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson
It's unfathomable that the revered character actress who has accumulated six noms in the last five years without a win (she's also up this year for supporting actress in a limited series for American Horror Story) won't finally bag the prize for her spot-on Marcia Clark.
WILL WIN: Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson
This is yet another stocked category (see, the Emmy folks did well this year), but the winner in this one is a slam dunk: Sarah Paulson as O.J. prosecutor Marcia Clark. Paulson is off-the-charts good. This race is over before it even begins.
SHOULD WIN: Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson
There are many great options here, but it is hard to imagine this not going to one of the two Game of Thrones nominees. Peter Dinklage has had his moment twice, including in 2015. Thanks particularly to "Battle of the Bastards," I think his co-star will win on his first nomination.
WILL WIN: Kit Harington, Game of Thrones
If Peter Dinklage and Kit Harington split the votes among Game of Thrones supporters, look for Jonathan Banks to get the win. I'll take any of these three and will smile at the Banks win (for this third nom for playing the same guy on two shows).
SHOULD WIN: Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
The three Thrones nominees likely will cancel out each other. The Affair's Maura Tierney (this year's Golden Globe winner) or UnREAL's Constance Zimmer (this year's Critics' Choice pick) could happen. But, for Downton's final season, voters will make it a hat trick for the Dowager Countess.
WILL WIN: Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Talk about a Game of Thrones split. Wow, three supporting actress noms this year. I love this whole category. And despite not liking The Affair, I found Maura Tierney's work this season to be exceptional; she really could be the dark horse winner here.
SHOULD WIN: Maura Tierney, The Affair
From a field of cult favorites — Baskets' Louie Anderson, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's Tituss Burgess and Key & Peele's Keegan-Michael Key — I suspect voters will choose the same guy they've chosen in two of the last three years, even if he is up against a co-star (Matt Walsh) this time.
WILL WIN: Tony Hale, Veep
Want to write a thesis paper on how these seven nominees are spot-on? In a year when I celebrate the Emmys getting it right, this category is a showcase. But I really want Louie Anderson to win. His portrayal of Zach Galifianakis' mother was transformational, unexpected work. Bravo.
SHOULD WIN: Louie Anderson, Baskets
It's scary to bet against Mom's Allison Janney, who seemingly can't lose. But my hunch: This is the year the prize goes to someone else — either Veep's eminently worthy Anna Chlumsky or, perhaps more likely, the woman who so memorably captured Hillary Clinton over the past year.
WILL WIN: Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
There are a lot of dramatic performances here with flashes of funny. But for all kinds of funny, I'm going with Kate McKinnon, who makes/saves a lot of SNL sketches.
SHOULD WIN: Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Vote-splitting is inevitable between Fargo's two nominees and O.J.'s three — unfortunate for Bokeem Woodbine and Sterling K. Brown, one of whom might otherwise have won. Instead, bet on a beloved TV vet who has yet to win and represents the best shot at recognition for his series.
WILL WIN: Hugh Laurie, The Night Manager
Sterling K. Brown, as Christopher Darden in O.J., is probably going to win this award, and that is welcome and just. However, Bokeem Woodbine is my pick. He was magnificent in Noah Hawley's second iteration of Fargo. It was the best performance I saw.
SHOULD WIN: Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo
Eliminating the AHS: Hotel contenders (weak season), there are 2015's winner (American Crime's Regina King) and two critics' darlings (All the Way's Melissa Leo and The Night Manager's Olivia Colman). But nobody had a meatier role than Fargo's matriarch, played by a three-time winner.
WILL WIN: Jean Smart, Fargo
Do not, in any way, discount a Sarah Paulson two-fer on Emmy night (this is her fourth nomination for American Horror Story). But Regina King might be the odds-on favorite since she won this category in 2015. That said, wow, Olivia Colman, wow. I vote for you.
SHOULD WIN: Olivia Colman, The Night Manager