Emmys: Who Will Win, Who Should Win

8:00 AM 9/16/2019

by Scott Feinberg and Daniel Fienberg

It's time for a Feinberg  vs.  Fienberg face-off! Scott, the awards expert, considers the odds, while Daniel, the critic, shoots from the heart — with some strong consensus ('When  They  See  Us') and a few surprising divides (Sandra  Oh vs. Jodie  Comer).

Courtesy Photos

  • Best Drama Series

    Courtesy of HBO

    WILL WIN: Game of Thrones (HBO)

    Like the three seasons before it, the final season of HBO's landmark show will take top honors. It ran just six episodes (its prior season won for a record-low seven) but still garnered a drama-record 32 noms, and voters haven't rallied behind any one of its competitors. — Scott Feinberg

    SHOULD WIN: Succession (HBO)

    The race to lose to Game of Thrones pits the inclusive joy of Pose against the stylish flair of Killing Eve and the unfolding heartbreak of Better Call Saul, but it's HBO's other, less dragon-filled family saga that's the profane, dysfunctional class of the category. Even if it's really a dark comedy. — Daniel Fienberg

  • Best Comedy Series

    Nicole Rivelli/Amazon

    WILL WIN: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)

    The conventional wisdom is that HBO's other departing show, Veep, will get a grand sendoff (its past three seasons won). But Maisel charmed voters last year, and this year — with a comedy-high 20 noms (versus Veep's nine) and a ferocious campaign — it will not give up its title quietly. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Fleabag (Amazon)

    The second season of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's emotionally raw, spiritually ambitious comedy required only six episodes to give us several nightmarish family gatherings, an iconic jumpsuit, a stylish haircut, one hot priest and endlessly rewatchable depth. — DF

  • Best Limited Series

    Courtesy of Netflix

    WILL WIN: When They See Us (Netflix)

    Netflix will snag its first-ever series win for Ava DuVernay's dramatization of the Central Park Five case. It doesn't have as many noms as Chernobyl or Fosse/Verdon (19 and 17, respectively, versus 16), but it has the most acting noms (eight) and feels the most urgent. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: When They See Us (Netflix)

    Look at the drama nominees and look here. This is where TV's dramatic ambition and depth are going. In a race between period snapshots with contemporary resonance, Ava DuVernay's triumphant reclaiming of the young men dubbed the Central Park Five edges out Chernobyl's terrors. — DF

  • Best Television Movie

    Courtesy of Netflix

    WILL WIN: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (Netflix)

    One can't rule out Deadwood: The Movie, but episodes of the Netflix anthology series Black Mirror won this prize in the past two years, and I expect a three-peat — although the streamer argues that this one, a choose-your-own-ending experience, is genuinely a stand-alone movie. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Deadwood: The Movie (HBO)

    This remains one of the weakest categories on the board, even if it's less embarrassing than in 2018. There's no topping David Milch's achievement in somehow giving Deadwood an emotionally satisfying conclusion more than a decade after the foul-tongued Western's truncated end. — DF

  • Best Variety Talk Series

    Lloyd Bishop/HBO

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

    It's the same nominees as last year, and likely the same winner: John Oliver, who comes in with nine noms (a category and series high), including directing and writing (which only The Late Show With Stephen Colbert also can claim) and will leave with a fourth consecutive victory. — SF

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

    It would be nice to recognize the great work being done by Trevor Noah or Samantha Bee and shake this category's repetition, but week in and week out, nobody's commentary on the modern condition is more essential than that of John Oliver. — DF

  • Best Variety Sketch Series

    Will Heath/NBC

    WILL WIN: Saturday Night Live (NBC)

    Sacha Baron Cohen's Showtime one-off Who Is America? is a worthy alternative, but voters are far likelier to rally behind Lorne Michaels' institution, which has 18 noms, more than any other variety show and indeed any other show, save for Thrones, Maisel and Chernobyl. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Documentary Now! (IFC)

    IFC's comic salute to the world of documentary film, where no reference is too arcane and no homage too niche, had another spectacular season of offering gloriously nerdy fodder to an audience starved for a takeoff on Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present. — DF

  • Best Actor in a Drama Series

    Jessica Miglio/Netflix

    WILL WIN: Jason Bateman, Ozark (Netflix)

    Past winner Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), perennial bridesmaid Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) and inimitable Billy Porter (Pose) all are plausible winners. But a tie goes to the popular TV vet, whose second acting and directing and first producing nom could result in his first win. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul (AMC)

    It's a battle of singing submission episodes with Billy Porter's heartbreaking "Home" facing off against Bob Odenkirk's epically bad "The Winner Takes It All." Here, ineptitude reigns as Odenkirk capitalizes on a key hour in Jimmy McGill's descent into Saul Goodman. — DF

  • Best Actress in a Drama Series

    Taghizadeh/BBCAmerica

    WILL WIN: Sandra Oh, Killing Eve (BBC America)

    For her portrayal of the title character, and despite having to compete against co-star Jodie Comer and past winner Laura Linney (Ozark), the winner of this year's Golden Globe, SAG and Critics' Choice awards will become the first woman of Asian descent ever to bag this Emmy. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Jodie Comer, Killing Eve (BBC America)

    Somehow, Sandra Oh won everything but the Emmy last year. Will TV Academy voters play catch-up or will they recognize that as good as Oh continues to be, the dynamic arc of the second Killing Eve season belonged to Jodie Comer's stylish, increasingly unhinged Villanelle? — DF

  • Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

    Courtesy of HBO

    WILL WIN: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones (HBO)

    Although his competition includes co-stars Alfie Allen and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, I expect Peter Dinklage will wind up in the winner's circle for the fourth time for his portrayal of Tyrion, who was as memorable as ever in Thrones' final season. (No other performer has ever won for the show.) — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul (AMC)

    This is all about submission episodes. Giancarlo Esposito's pick, "Piñata," features Gus Fring standing over semi-vanquished adversary Hector's hospital bed recounting a chilling story about a fruit-stealing coatimundi. It's spectacular. — DF

  • Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

    Courtesy of Netflix

    WILL WIN: Julia Garner, Ozark (Netflix)

    Thrones fans are likely to split their support among its four nominees, which bodes well for either Killing Eve's Fiona Shaw, or the 25-year-old breakout who beat out a host of leads to garner a SAG Award nom. With Netflix's backing, the edge goes to the latter. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Julia Garner, Ozark (Netflix)

    Maisie Williams probably deserves a win, but she submitted an episode ("The Long Night") in which Arya is a plot point, not a character. Oh well. Instead, let's go with the always tremendous Julia Garner, whose Ruth is the only good and consistently interesting part of Ozark. — DF

  • Best Actor in a Comedy Series

    Aron Epstein/HBO

    WILL WIN: Bill Hader, Barry (HBO)

    The Kominsky Method's Michael Douglas and Schitt's Creek's Eugene Levy can't stop last year's surprise winner, who returns to contention for — and also is nominated for producing, directing and writing on — his show's second season, which snagged 17 nominations. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Bill Hader, Barry (HBO)

    Barry's Bill Hader probably absconded with Donald Glover's (Atlanta) acting trophy last year. Teddy Perkins, man! But this year, the Emmy fully belongs to Hader, who showed new depths of rage and range, mixed with his expected comic dexterity. — DF

  • Best Actress in a Comedy Series

    Courtesy of HBO

    WILL WIN: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO)

    2018's winner and 2019's breakout will fall to the actress who won for all six previous seasons of her HBO comedy and returned from cancer for its final season. A seventh win will extend the record for most wins by an actress for the same role on the same series and set one for most wins by an actress. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll (Netflix)

    Several months ago, it seemed like Julia Louis-Dreyfus was unbeatable. Now? There's no wrong choice, but I give a slight edge to Natasha Lyonne in a quintessential "If Hollywood can only see me in one way, I'll write myself a part that shows all I can do!" role. — DF

  • Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

    Courtesy of HBO

    WILL WIN: Henry Winkler, Barry (HBO)

    Last year's winner must this year compete against two co-stars, Anthony Carrigan and Stephen Root; two Tonys, Hale (Veep) and Shalhoub (Maisel); and a legend, Kominsky's Alan Arkin. But people truly love both the 73-year-old actor, aka "The Fonz" — and the guy he plays on the show. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method (Netflix)

    In a category of scene-stealers — nobody gets more laughs-per-line than Barry's Anthony Carrigan — Kominsky's Alan Arkin is on his own as a co-lead with a beautifully written and performed showcase episode mourning his late wife. — DF

  • Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

    Courtesy of Amazon Studios

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

    Last year's victor must this year beat not only past winner SNL's Kate McKinnon but also her own co-star, Marin Hinkle, not to mention Anna Chlumsky for the final season of VeepFleabag breakout Sian Clifford and Barry's Sarah Goldberg, among other scene-stealers — and she will. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Anna Chlumsky, Veep (HBO)

    Veep shouldn't reach its end without Anna Chlumsky winning an Emmy, and Chlumsky's Amy had an eventful and well-played final season complete with an abortion arc and a transformation basically into Kellyanne Conway. — DF

  • Best Actor in a Limited Series or a Television Movie

    Courtesy of Netflix

    WILL WIN: Jharrel Jerome, When They See Us (Netflix)

    A field of respected vets — Sam Rockwell, Jared Harris, Hugh Grant, Benicio Del Toro and Mahershala Ali — will be upended by the 21-year-old who was the only member of his show's ensemble to play a character (one of the Central Park Five) as a child and an adult. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Mahershala Ali, True Detective (HBO)

    It's down to Mahershala Ali and Jared Harris here for me, one part showy and externally driven, the other intellectual and astonishingly quiet. Probably Chernobyl still works without Harris. Without Ali, though, True Detective might as well have stayed in hibernation. — DF

  • Best Actress in a Limited Series or a Television Movie

    Wilson Webb/Showtime

    WILL WIN: Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)

    We have yet to see this past Emmy winner — who took home Globe, SAG and Critics' Choice awards this year — go head-to-head with Fosse/Verdon's Michelle Williams, whose show has late momentum. But a total physical transformation and a wacky character make her hard to beat. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)

    This is Emmy night's best category. Give it to Patricia Arquette, though, in a role that starts with a character-acting bag of tricks — weight gain, wigs, an accent to die for — and reveals new layers and new questions with each episode. — DF

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

    Robert Viglasky

    WILL WIN: Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal (Amazon)

    All six actors in this category played real people. Three starred on When They See Us, making a split likely. Chernobyl's Stellan Skarsgard and Escape at Dannemora's Paul Dano were excellent but restrained; this Brit already won a Globe for his performance as a guy who was anything but. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal (Amazon)

    It's a co-lead, so it's a cheat, but Ben Whishaw's work as Norman Josiffe in A Very English Scandal is tragic and comic and flamboyant and underplayed, matching the marvelous Hugh Grant (as Jeremy Thorpe) at every turn. — DF

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

    Anne Marie Fox/HBO

    WILL WIN: Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects (HBO)

    The two-time Emmy winner for guest acting on another HBO offering, Six Feet Under, will pick up her third statuette for one of the juiciest roles of her career — a woman afflicted with Munchausen syndrome by proxy — which already has brought her a Golden Globe. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Patricia Arquette, The Act (Hulu)

    The two Patricias — Arquette and Clarkson — explore variations on the same mother-from-hell character, but it's Arquette, in The Act, who keeps you guessing and changing your sympathies throughout. Tragic victim? Manipulative villain? What a year! — DF

  • Best Reality Competition

    Courtesy of VH1

    WILL WIN: RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1)

    A year after the flagship show of RuPaul’s counterculture franchise won this prize for the first time, it returns with a field-leading nine noms (the franchise landed 14 overall), and is now the odds-on favorite to win over a field that includes three fellow past winners: NBC’s The Voice, CBS’s The Amazing Race and Bravo’s Top Chef. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Top Chef (Bravo)

    This category is really running out of juice as it becomes increasingly clear that Emmy voters don't watch enough reality competition programming to make any sort of educated choice. I don't watch RuPaul's Drag Race, so I can't pick that, but this year's installment of Top Chef was very good. — DF

  • Best Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

    Craig Sugden/CBS

    WILL WIN: Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney Live From Liverpool (CBS)

    This category’s only nominee not from Netflix provides an utterly charming walk down memory — and Penny — lane, went viral (44 million views) and landed five noms (second in the category only to Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce’s six), positioning it well to become the Carpool Karaoke franchise’s third installment to win in four years. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (Netflix) 

    Hannah Gadsby: Nanette was perhaps the year's great out-of-nowhere critical phenomenon, a special Netflix barely pushed on critics at all, but instead turned out to be the most provocative and powerful piece of their increasingly ubiquitous filmed special puzzle. Queen Hannah edges out Queen Bey. — DF

  • Best Variety Special (Live)

    Eric McCandless/ABC

    WILL WIN: Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons (ABC) 

    A collection of award shows (the Oscars, Tonys, Golden Globes and Grammys) and a live musical that went off the rails to the extent that it didn’t air live (Fox’s Rent: Live) will pose no threat to Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear’s star-studded, word-for-word, live reenactment of two classic sitcom episodes, which proved a ratings bonanza. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons (ABC) 

    This category includes four largely forgettable live award shows, one allegedly live music that really wasn't live at all (for the most part) and then the very real and very live amusement and pleasure of watching Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear, plus a cavalcade of stars, pay tribute to All in the Family and The Jeffersons. This should be a rout. — DF

  • Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special

    Courtesy of HBO

    WILL WIN: Leaving Neverland (HBO) 

    While Netflix’s FYRE and HBO’s The Inventor amusingly profile wacky millennials, this two-parter, now one of its network’s most watched docs ever, shatters viewers’ long-held images of a pop icon, employing interviews with men who knew him as boys to compellingly argue that he was a child molester. Its five noms are a category high. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Minding the Gap (Hulu) 

    Minding the Gap was my favorite of these five projects, by a wide margin. Bing Liu's Hulu doc was half meditation on toxic masculinity and half autobiographical reverie. It was funny and emotional and powerful but it's ridiculous that the Emmys and Oscars don't take steps to prevent double-dipping like this — which isn't Minding the Gap's fault. — DF

  • Best Documentary or Nonfiction Series

    Netflix

    WILL WIN: Our Planet (Netflix) 

    This gorgeously shot British nature show, which is narrated by David Attenborough and focuses largely on the effects of climate change, registered an astounding 10 noms, more than any other nominee in this category (NatGeo’s Hostile Planet, with three, is the only other with multiple), and indeed more than most scripted series. — SF

    SHOULD WIN: Chef's Table (Netflix) 

    In the "pretty nature doc" subcategory, I give the advantage to Hostile Planet over Our Planet, and I give, for this year, a slim edge in the "thoughtful biography series" subcategory to American Masters over 30 for 30. But Chef's Table is almost the perfect combination of the two subcategories. — DF

  • Best Informational Series of Special

    CNN

    WILL WIN: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Netflix)

    Netflix has aggressively pushed Letterman and Seinfeld; A&E’s Scientology show won in 2017; and Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly helped bring a sex offender to justice. But the late Bourdain’s show — this field’s only contender with multiple noms, six, for its last season of eligibility — won last year (a record fifth win) and seems inevitable. — SF

     SHOULD WIN: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Netflix) 

    Nope. I don't get what this category even recognizes. At all. Surviving R. Kelly enacted both cultural and legal change. That's hugely important. But Parts Unknown paid final tribute to the late Anthony Bourdain and opened doors to the world in a moment in which American leadership wants to make us more insular and nationalistic. — DF

    A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.