THR's Emmy Awards Cheat Sheet


A category-by-category breakdown of potential milestones, upsets and favorites to watch for during the ceremony.

* = 2011 winner


The Nominees: *Modern Family (ABC), The Big Bang Theory (CBS), Girls (HBO), Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO), Veep (HBO), 30 Rock (NBC)

HBO has not won this category since Sex and the City. If any of its three contenders wins, it will be huge, namely Girls. A Big Bang win would also be a huge upset.


*Mad Men (AMC), Boardwalk Empire (HBO), Game of Thrones (HBO), Downton Abbey (PBS), Breaking Bad (AMC), Homeland (Showtime)

If Mad Men wins, it will be the first show in history to win five consecutive series trophies. If Homeland wins, it will be Showtime's first-ever Emmy for an original series -- comedy or drama. The biggest upsets would be Breaking Bad, Thrones or Boardwalk.


*The Amazing Race (CBS), Dancing With the Stars (ABC), The Voice (NBC), Project Runway (Lifetime), So You Think You Can Dance (Fox), Top Chef (Bravo)

With the exception of 2010’s win for Top Chef, Race has always won this category. Any other show winning here would be an upset, especially first-time nominee The Voice, which landed American Idol's slot in the category.


American Horror Story (FX), Hatfields & McCoys (History), Game Change (HBO), Hemingway & Gelhorn (HBO), Luther (BBC America), Sherlock (Masterpiece)

HBO dominates this category every year. It’s definitely Horror Story vs. Hatfields for the upset over Game Change. FX has never had a minis/movies entry, nor has History ever had a scripted entry in contention in any category.


*The Daily Show (Comedy Central), Colbert Report (Comedy Central), Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC), Saturday Night Live (NBC), Jimmy Fallon (NBC), Real Time/Bill Maher (HBO)

It goes without saying, any show that beats Daily Show is making history here. Colbert has never won the series trophy here, same for Maher, Fallon and Emmys host Kimmel.



Lead Actor/Comedy

*Jim Parsons, Big Bang Theory; Louis C.K., Louie; Alec Baldwin, 30 RockLarry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm; Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men; Don Cheadle, House of Lies

This category is wide open for a spoiler. Parsons has won two years in a row. Cryer is competing for the first time as a lead actor. Cheadle is the first black actor to compete here since Bernie Mac. Anyone who isn’t Parsons is making news if they win.


Supporting Actor/Comedy

*Ty Burrell, Modern FamilyJesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family; Ed O’Neil, Modern Family; Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family; Max Greenfield, New Girl; Bill Hader, SNL

Any non-Modern Family actor winning here is huge, especially Hader. A SNL actor has never won here. 

Lead Actor/Drama

Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire; Michael C. Hall, Dexter; Jon Hamm, Mad Men; Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad; Damian Lewis, Homeland; Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey

This category is the most unpredictable. Last year’s winner Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) is gone; Cranston is back after a hiatus. A win for Lewis or Bonneville would be most meaningful. If Hamm wins, he will be the first Mad Men actor to ever win.

Supporting Actor/Drama

*Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones; Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad; Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad; Brendan Coyle, Downton Abbey; Jim Carter, Downton Abbey; Jared Harris, Mad Men

The biggest match-up here is between co-stars Paul and Esposito. But Esposito and Harris both died on their series, so it’s their last chance to win. If Harris wins (this award will likely be toward the top of the show), he will be first Mad Men actor to win an Emmy.

Lead Actor/Minis-Movie

Woody Harrelson, Game Change; Kevin Costner, Hatfields & McCoys; Bill Paxton, Hatfields & McCoys; Clive Owen, Hemingway; Idris Elba, Luther; Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock

This is Harrelson’s to lose and Costner’s to spoil. This would be Costner’s first ever Emmy (his first ever major TV role, to boot) and if a Hatfields actor wins, it will be him.

Supporting Actor/Minis-Movie

Denis O’Hare, Horror Story; Ed Harris, Game Change; Tom Berenger, Hatfields; David Straitharn, Hemingway; Martin Freeman, Sherlock

No major expected winner here, but if Harris wins, could signal a Game Change sweep.



Lead Actress/Comedy

*Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly; Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie; Zooey Deschanel, New Girl; Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation; Lena Dunham, Girls; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep; Tina Fey, 30 Rock

McCarthy’s win last year was a shocker; Louis-Dreyfus is the expected winner; a Deschanel win would be a huge victory since New Girl isn’t nominated in the comedy series category. Similarly, a Dunham win would be huge as HBO has never had a comedy actress win.

Supporting Actress/Comedy

*Julie Bowen, Modern Family; Sofia Vergara, Modern Family; Kristen Wiig, SNL; Mayim Bialik, Big Bang Theory; Merritt Weaver, Nurse Jackie; Kathryn Joosten, Desperate Housewives

It’s Vergara's turn, so if anyone else wins here, that’s a huge upset. A posthumous win for Joosten would be a huge spoiler.

Lead Actress/Drama

*Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife; Michelle Dockery, D. Abbey; Glenn Close, Damages; Claire Danes, Homeland; Kathy Bates, Harry’s Law; Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

If Danes doesn’t win, that will be the shock of the night.

Supporting Actress/Drama

Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad; Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey; Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey; Archie Panjabi, Good Wife; Christine Baranski, Good Wife; Christina Hendricks, Mad Men

It’s Gunn vs. Hendricks, with the latter definitely the favorite. If Downton actresses spoil that’s huge. Smith won here last year, but that’s when Downton was in the minis/movies category.

Lead Actress/Minis-Movie

Connie Britton, Horror Story; Nicole Kidman, Hemingway; Ashley Judd, Missing; Emma Thompson, Song of Lunch; Julianne Moore, Game Change

It’s an HBO movie actress showdown between Kidman and Moore (remember Winslet won here last year), with Moore definitely the frontrunner. Anyone else is a spoiler.

Supporting Actress/Minis-Movie

Frances Conroy, Horror Story; Jessica Lange, Horror Story; Sarah Paulson, Game Change; Mare Winningham, Hatfields & McCoys; Judy Davis, Page Eight

Lange is a clear frontrunner. Anyone else is a spoiler.