Emmys 2018: Who Will Win, Who Should Win

6:30 AM 8/28/2018

by Daniel Fienberg and Scott Feinberg

In a Feinberg vs. Fienberg showdown, THR's awards analyst crunches the stats to reveal the shows and actors most likely to take home trophies while a chief TV critic makes his final winner wishes.

  • Best Drama Series

    Macall B. Polay/HBO

    WILL WIN: Game of Thrones (HBO)

    Game of Thrones sat out last year's race after winning the previous two, and The Handmaid's Tale bagged the first-ever series win for a streaming show. Now they face each other — talk about apples and oranges, both tasty — with an emboldened Netflix (The Crown, Stranger Things) and a departing FX critics' darling (The Americans) lurking.

    SHOULD WIN: The Americans (FX)

    With the Handmaid's Tale finale leaving a sour taste and 
Game of Thrones feeling like it aired a million years ago, 
hopefully there's room for The Americans to grab recognition 
for both its series run and a haunting final season.

  • Best Comedy Series

    Courtesy of Amazon Studios

    WILL WIN: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)

    With Veep, which won in each of the last three years, ineligible, this year's race seems to be between FX's Atlanta, for its second season, and two rookies, HBO's Barry and Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Of the three dramedies, Atlanta scored the most noms (barely), but Maisel seems, anecdotally, more broadly appealing.

    SHOULD WIN: Atlanta (FX)

    It's such a relief that Modern Family wasn't nominated that it's 
easy to ignore at least three dud seasons in the mix here. Fortunately, 
the second season of Atlanta was another format-defying 
masterpiece, even if calling it merely a "comedy" feels reductive.

  • Best Limited Series

    Jeff Daly/FX

    WILL WIN: The Assassination of Gianni Versace (FX)

    Scott Frank's Western Godless, which could bring Netflix its first limited series win, and Showtime's literary adaptation Patrick Melrose, which stars voter favorite Benedict Cumberbatch, each have writing, directing and acting noms. So does Ryan Murphy's follow-up to The People v. O.J. Simpson — among a field-leading 18 noms.

    SHOULD WIN: The Assassination of Gianni Versace (FX)

    Ryan Murphy's second American Crime Story chapter committed 
the minor sin of not being as much fun as the O.J. Simpson installment. 
Still, with its narrative-in-reverse structure, it deftly crafted a 
uniquely American tragedy of wealth, racial identity and homophobia.

  • Best Television Movie

    Courtesy of Netflix

    WILL WIN: Black Mirror: USS Callister (Netflix)

    HBO, which has dominated this category, has three nominees that can't be counted out — Fahrenheit 451, Paterno and The Tale — but the smart money is on Black Mirror: USS Callister, which received three more noms than that anthology series' installment that won last year and has a field-leading seven noms, including one for writing.

    SHOULD WIN: The Tale (HBO)

    Pitting a pair of so-so historical dramas (Flint and Paterno) against 
a lambasted adaptation (Fahrenheit 451) against a good made-for-
Sundance feature (The Tale) against a TV episode (USS Callister), this category needs reshaping. Maybe we should skip it some years?

  • Best Actor in a Drama Series

    Ron Batzdorff/NBC

    WILL WIN: Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us (NBC)

    Having co-stars nominated for This Is Us (Sterling K. Brown, Milo Ventimiglia) and Westworld (Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright) suggests splits could pave the way for Jason Bateman for rookie Ozark or Matthew Rhys for The Americans' last season. But Brown has won Emmys in each of the last two years and swept this year's precursors.

    SHOULD WIN: Matthew Rhys, The Americans (FX)

    The baffling exclusion of Counterpart star J.K. Simmons from 
a field dominated by supporting performances makes it easy 
to argue that Matthew Rhys' work as the increasingly miserable and 
dislocated Philip Jennings demands recognition at long last.

  • Best Actress in a Drama Series

    George Kraychyk/Hulu

    WILL WIN: Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)

    Many voters will want to give a warm sendoff to The Crown's Claire Foy, Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany and The Americans' Keri Russell, but none of those actress' shows has as many noms or as much social relevance as The Handmaid's Tale, which continues to be anchored by last year's winner, Elisabeth Moss.

    SHOULD WIN: Keri Russell, The Americans (FX)

    You won't find a deeper nominee field, led by the great Elisabeth 
Moss looking for a repeat win. This is Foy's last chance for The Crown, 
and a Sandra Oh win would make history. Still, The Americans 
shouldn't be allowed to end without Russell winning an Emmy.

  • Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

    Courtesy of Netflix

    WILL WIN: David Harbour, Stranger Things (Netflix)

    Though classified as supporting, the male leads of Handmaid's (Joseph Fiennes) and The Crown (Matt Smith) may have a shot, much like Peter Dinklage, who has won twice before for Game of Thrones. But SAG and Golden Globe noms and a Critics' Choice win suggest David Harbour may be tough to beat for Stranger Things' second season.

    SHOULD WIN: Matt Smith, The Crown (Netflix)

    A mixture of retreads and head-scratchers, this category comes 
down to the immensely likable work by David Harbour on Stranger Things and the immensely unlikable character played by Matt Smith on 
The Crown, with the higher degree of difficulty going to the latter.

  • Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

    Courtesy of Netflix

    WILL WIN: Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things (Netflix)

    Handmaid's' extraordinary Ann Dowd won last year and could repeat, but this year she'll have to fend off two co-stars (Alexis Bledel, a guest actress winner last year, and Yvonne Strahovski), not one. Also from other popular shows: Thrones' Lena Headey, The Crown's Vanessa Kirby and Westworld's Thandie Newton. I predict a surprise.

    SHOULD WIN: Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)

    With "Beryl," The Crown's Vanessa Kirby has the best 
single showcase episode in this category. For a full season, though, 
it's hard to top Yvonne Strahovski, who transitioned Serena 
Joy from hissable villain to her show's most complicated character.

  • Best Actor in a Comedy Series

    Courtesy of FX

    WILL WIN: Donald Glover, Atlanta (FX)

    Donald Glover, last year's winner, is nominated for producing, directing and writing, as well, and has a guest-acting nom — as is Barry's Bill Hader. This race would seem to be between the two of them — unless TV Academy favorite Ted Danson can pull an upset for his show's delicious second season.

    SHOULD WIN: Bill Hader, Barry (HBO)

    Atlanta's Donald Glover winning for the magnificent "Teddy Perkins" 
episode, in which he was encased in latex most of the time, 
would be nice, but Bill Hader mined remarkable dramatic depths 
in the last few episodes of his HBO hitman comedy.

  • Best Actress in a Comedy Series

    Courtesy of Amazon Studios

    WILL WIN: Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)

    This category's youngest nominee, Rachel Brosnahan, has won every award for which she has been eligible since her rookie show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel debuted because she is outstanding on it. Moreover, only two of this category's nominees — she and Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish) — hail from shows nominated for best comedy.

    SHOULD WIN: Pamela Adlon, Better Things (FX)

    Rachel Brosnahan is, um, marvelous in her Amazon series. 
Sorry for that. I'm also sorry to have to snub her for Pamela Adlon, 
so outrageously good on Better Things and doubtlessly 
worthy of multiple writing and directing nominations as well.

  • Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

    Courtesy of HBO

    WILL WIN: Henry Winkler, Barry (HBO)

    One can't count out past winners Alec Baldwin for his SNL Trump or Louie Anderson for his Baskets mom, nor Tony Shalhoub for popular Maisel or Bryan Tyree Henry for acclaimed Atlanta. But expect a beautiful moment when Henry Winkler, a TV icon and one of the industry's true nice guys, wins for the first time on his sixth nom.

    SHOULD WIN: Louie Anderson, Baskets (FX)

    Anybody other than Alec Baldwin, whose SNL support 
from voters should go to the long-overdue Kenan Thompson. 
Frankly, Louie Anderson should have been elevated to lead, 
given how central Christine Baskets is to the show's narrative.

  • Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

    Courtesy of Amazon Studios

    WILL WIN: Alex Borstein, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)

    Atlanta's Zazie Beetz, Glow's Betty Gilpin, Will & Grace's Megan Mullally and Roseanne's Laurie Metcalf will get votes, but this will come down to SNL's Kate McKinnon (even though co-stars Aidy Bryant and Leslie Jones share the category), the winner in each of the last two years, and MADtv vet Alex Borstein, Maisel's resident smartass.

    SHOULD WIN: Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)

    Betty Gilpin emerged as the heart of GLOW, Zazie Beetz had 
two superb Atlanta showcases and Kate McKinnon is Kate McKinnon. 
But the winner should be Alex Borstein, tearing into a career-best 
live-action role and improving — not just stealing — her every scene.

  • Best Actor in a Limited Series or a Television Movie

    Courtesy of FX

    WILL WIN: Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace (FX)

    One of Versace's six acting nominees will leave a winner, and Criss, playing against type as its twisted villain, seems likeliest. He'll have to fend off Melrose's Cumberbatch, Genius: Picasso's Antonio Banderas, The Looming Tower's Jeff Daniels, USS Callister's Jesse Plemons and Jesus himself, Jesus Christ Superstar's John Legend.

    SHOULD WIN: Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose (Showtime)

    The cycles of addiction and depression in Patrick Melrose become 
repetitive, but it isn't the fault of Cumberbatch's varied performance, which evokes larger-than-life shades of misery in a grounded way. (Darren Criss 
in Versace and Jeff Daniels in The Looming Tower are also tremendous.)

  • Best Actress in a Limited Series or a Television Movie

    Courtesy of USA Network

    WILL WIN: Jessica Biel, The Sinner (USA)

    This field includes past winners Laura Dern (The Tale), Edie Falco (Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders), Regina King (axed Seven Seconds) and Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story: Cult). Dern could prevail, but I suspect a first-time winner will be crowned, either Godless' Michelle Dockery or The Sinner's Jessica Biel.

    SHOULD WIN: Michelle Dockery, Godless (Netflix)

    Other than Edie Falco, who was upstaged by her wig in 
The Menendez Murders, this is a worthy group. Dockery's portrait 
of de-glammed frontier resilience gets the slimmest of 
edges over Laura Dern's vivid portrayal of personal trauma.

  • Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Television Movie

    Courtesy of Netflix

    WILL WIN: Jeff Daniels, Godless (Netflix)

    Jeff Daniels, nominated for lead actor in a limited series or TV movie category for The Looming Tower and here for Godless, appears to stand his better shot in this race, for his portrayal of an outlaw in the Old West — but he'll have to fend off a field including three Versace thesps, including the actor who plays Versace himself, Edgar Ramirez.

    SHOULD WIN: Brandon Victor Dixon, Jesus Christ Superstar (NBC)

    It's hard to compare the very different things the fine actors in this category are doing. Godless' Jeff Daniels has the showiest role and Versace's 
Finn Wittrock the best stand-alone episode, but no actor this year can equal the "Holy cow, who is he?" impact of Brandon Victor Dixon's Judas.

  • Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Television Movie

    Courtesy of Netflix

    WILL WIN: Merritt Wever, Godless (Netflix)

    Of two Versace nominees, Penelope Cruz has a flashier part and more screen time, but Judith Light owns every moment she has. Jesus Christ Superstar's Sara Bareilles shines, as do two lesser-knowns, American Horror Story: Cult's Adina Porter and Black Mirror: Black Museum's Letitia Wright. But past winner Wever is a cut above.

    SHOULD WIN: Merritt Wever, Godless (Netflix)

    Penelope Cruz nails so many of Donatella Versace's 
mannerisms and deserves applause for not riding her movie-star status to the lead category. Wever 
just happens to have the meatier, more nuanced role.

  • Best Variety Sketch Series

    Screengrab/NBC

    WILL WIN: Saturday Night Live (NBC)

    Portlandia is nominated for its final season, while At Home With Amy Sedaris and I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman are up for their first seasons, but this is still SNL's to lose. It landed 21 noms, just one fewer than last year (when election insanity propelled it to a show-record 22) and one fewer than this year's field leader Thrones.

    SHOULD WIN: At Home With Amy Sedaris (TruTV)

    We're done with the whole Saturday Night Live comeback narrative, 
right? The last season of Portlandia deserves consideration, 
but the gem of this group is Amy Sedaris' unexpectedly strange, 
sad and deranged winking take on the home advice genre.

  • Best Variety Talk Series

    WILL WIN: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)

    The nominees are almost the same as they were the last two years, when HBO's Brit-wit John Oliver prevailed. One should never count out broadcast network contenders (Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert), and James Corden's The Late Late Show got hot when it counted. But it's hard to bet against Oliver.

    SHOULD WIN: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)

    Colbert maintained momentum, Kimmel expanded his 
topicality, Samantha Bee withstood a torrent of 
controversy, and Trevor Noah staked out his own unique Daily Show space. But, the champ remains the champ.

  • Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special

    Larry Watson/HBO

    WILL WIN: The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling (HBO)

    This category's last two winners were Oscar nominees from Netflix (What Happened, Miss Simone? and 13th), so there's no reason why the service's timely Oscar winner Icarus can't win this year. But my sense is Judd Apatow's more recent, heartfelt tribute to his enigmatic mentor, a late TV legend, will resonate more with this group.

    SHOULD WIN: The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling (HBO)

    Judd Apatow's four-hour exploration of and tribute to the late Garry Shandling is perceptive, heartfelt and introspective. It's perhaps the best thing Apatow has ever directed and it's very much the measured celebration Shandling deserved.

  • Best Documentary or Nonfiction Series

    Courtesy of Netflix

    WILL WIN: Wild Wild Country (Netflix)

    No show has more wins in this category than PBS' American Masters, and few nature docuseries have been nominated but not won, so keep an eye on BBC America's Blue Planet II, too. But HBO's The Defiant Ones and Netflix's Wild Wild Country were also widely watched and more heavily promoted, so I suspect it's between them.

    SHOULD WIN: Blue Planet II (BBC America)

    Leaving aside that I don't get why The Defiant Ones and The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling are in different categories, there's no wrong choice here. My instinct is to honor the patience, persistence and dedication behind BBC America's Blue Planet II, which is breathtaking from the first frame to the last.

  • Best Variety Special (Live)

    Peter Kramer/NBC

    WILL WIN: Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert (NBC)

    The nominees in this category (formerly best special class program) include the Golden Globes, Grammys and Oscars, plus the HBO fundraiser Night of Too Many Stars: America United for Autism Programs. But for the first time, I think an NBC live musical, Jesus Christ Superstar (co-produced by the just-deceased Craig Zadan), will win.

    SHOULD WIN: Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert (NBC)

    Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert exceeded all expectations and is the only justifiable choice in this category, and I'm not even a particularly big fan of the musical.

  • Best Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

    Terence Patrick/CBS

    WILL WIN: Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special 2018 (CBS)

    The field includes Netflix standup specials by Dave Chappelle and the team of Steve Martin and Martin Short, plus a Samantha Bee Puerto Rico show. But bet on The Carol Burnett Show: 50th Anniversary Special or James Corden's Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special (which won the then-unified variety special Emmy in 2016 and '17). 

    SHOULD WIN: Carol Burnett Show 50th Anniversary Special (CBS)

    I'm not sure why Scott wanted to make sure we did this category. My vote would go to anything other than Carpool Karaoke. So it's either the Carol Burnett special if you're feeling sentimental or the Samantha Bee special if you're feeling angry.

  • Best Informational Series or Special

    Courtesy of CNN

    WILL WIN: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN)

    2017's winner, A&E's Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, returns, as does the winner of the four prior years (no show has won more), CNN's Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Netflix hopes David Letterman's comeback, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, will surprise. But Bourdain's death probably tips the scales.

    SHOULD WIN: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN)

    The late Anthony Bourdain's CNN series has won this category multiple times so you wouldn't be able to accuse voters of giving in exclusively to sentiment. It deserves to win again, no matter what steers your vote.

  • Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

    Patrick Harbron/Netflix

    WILL WIN: Cameron Britton, Mindhunter (Netflix)

    With this category, voters have tended to reward true character actors, as opposed to stars who cameo on someone else's show. I wouldn't rule out one of the This Is Us nominees, Ron Cephas-Jones, a supporting nominee last year, or defending winner Gerald McRaney. But my chips are on Cameron Britton, Mindhunter's creepiest serial killer.

    SHOULD WIN: Cameron Britton, Mindhunter (Netflix)

    Gerald McRaney deservedly won last year, so that lets me concentrate on both my annoyance at F. Murray Abraham's totally unwarranted presence and the reality that either Matthew Goode or Cameron Britton would be a great winner. My advantage goes to Britton, taking a role that could have been a serial killer cliche and making it disarming and chilling in a unique way.

  • Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

    ABC/Mitch Haaseth

    WILL WIN: Viola Davis, Scandal (ABC)

    2017's winner hailed from Handmaid's, which could bode well for Cherry Jones, Kelly Jenrette or Samira Wiley — but a split seems likelier. A fourth nom in this category could prove the charm for Thrones' Diana Rigg or How to Get Away With Murder's Cicely Tyson. However, stars often win here, so Viola Davis (Scandal) seems likelier.

    SHOULD WIN: Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones (HBO)

    I'm not sure how much screentime Diana Rigg even had in her nominated episode, but she owns one of the year's single best scenes and that should be enough to make the fourth time the charm for her Game of Thrones work. She previously won in 1997 for Rebecca, but I won't hold that against her.

  • Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

    Screengrab/NBC

    WILL WIN: Donald Glover, Saturday Night Live (NBC)

    In five of the last 10 years this winner has been an SNL host, and with two nominated this year — Donald Glover and Bill Hader — there's no reason to think that won't happen again. Glover did double-duty as host and musical guest (the latter job under the name Childish Gambino), and had everyone buzzing, so he has the edge.

    SHOULD WIN: Sterling K. Brown, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)

    We don't see voting results, obviously, but if we did I'd hope that Brown would receive 95 percent of the tally for a guest stint that was both eerily scary and hilarious, a part that allowed him to go head-to-head with Andre Braugher in full Homicide mode and come out on top.

  • Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

    Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Studios

    WILL WIN: Jane Lynch, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)

    Tina Fey twice previously won for SNL and could easily do so again, even while sharing the category with another memorable host, Tiffany Haddish. Jane Lynch, Maya Rudolph, Molly Shannon and Wanda Sykes have also all been nominated in this category before, but Lynch has never been better than as a dark Sophie Tucker-inspired character.

    SHOULD WIN: Jane Lynch, The Marvelous Mr. Maisel (Amazon)

    This category feels like a good opportunity for Emmy voters to honor the tremendous year Tiffany Haddish had and that won't be a bad call by any means. It isn't like Jane Lynch needs another Emmy, but her Mrs. Maisel appearance is more in the spirit of this category, a great one-off performance elevating everything around her for a single episode.

  • Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking

    Robert Gray/Getty Images

    WILL WIN: Jane (Nat Geo) 

    There are just four nominees. Only one of them hails from Netflix and was Oscar-nominated: Strong Island. A&E's City of Ghosts and Starz's What Haunts Us will have their champions. But I expect the appeal of chimp whisperer Jane Goodall and the strong campaign mounted by Nat Geo to put Jane over the top.

    SHOULD WIN: Jane (Nat Geo) 

    I'm still angry that OJ: Made in America didn't win this category, basically because it won the Oscar and Emmy voters got snobby about ESPN's medium-hopping. So angry. At least Jane got snubbed by the Oscars and thus it'll get to be honored here. These documentary categories all need fixing.

    A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.