Who will take home the Em­mys this week­end?

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn El­ber Lynn El­ber is a na­tional tele­vi­sion colum­nist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lel­ber@ap.org and on Twit­ter at http://twit­ter.com/lyn­nel­ber.

“Game of Thrones,” “Veep” de­fend their Emmy crowns against crit­i­cal dar­lings like “Mr. Robot.”

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OS ANGELES » Tele­vi­sion has be­come a Wild West of ad­ven­tur­ous chan­nels and boom­ing dig­i­tal plat­forms, with in­trigu­ing new shows pour­ing into its wide-open spa­ces.

But TV’s chief cur­rency re­mains the con­tin­u­ing se­ries, which feeds into Emmy Awards rep­e­ti­tion and sta­tis­tics like these: “Mod­ern Fam­ily” and “Frasier” each own five top com­edy tro­phies, with a quar­tet of awards held by “Mad Men” and three other dra­mas.

Re­lief from this eye-glaz­ing “Ground­hog Day” same­ness, how­ever, may be at hand when the 68th prime-time Em­mys air Sunday on ABC (8 p.m. EDT). Two big changes in TV academy rules could com­bine to bring up­sets to a field of con­tenders from broad­cast­ing, cable and stream­ing ser­vices, in­clud­ing Net­flix and Ama­zon.

More to watch for in the cer­e­mony, hosted by Jimmy Kim­mel:

— Whether the Em­mys will con­tinue to out­pace the much-crit­i­cized Academy Awards when it comes to diver­sity. Each of the ma­jor act­ing cat­e­gories in­cludes at least one mi­nor­ity nom­i­nee, in­clud­ing last year’s best-drama ac­tress win­ner, Vi­ola Davis.

— How much of an ir­re­sistible topic the in­cen­di­ary pres­i­den­tial cam­paign will prove for pre­sen­ters and win­ners. With Kim­mel, the ques­tion is how many punch­lines it pro­vides.

— Whether the broad­cast net­works can achieve any re­ver­sal of their dwin­dling share of Emmy gold. Net­work shows that once dom­i­nated the awards have been re­duced largely to on­look­ers, es­pe­cially in the top drama se­ries cat­e­gory where they’ve been shut out of the nom­i­na­tions since a nod for “The Good Wife” in 2011. A salute, how­ever, to pub­lic broad­caster PBS’ “Down­ton Abbey,” a con­tender for its sixth and fi­nal sea­son.

Epic fantasy “Game of Thrones” and bit­ing po­lit­i­cal satire “Veep” are poised to re­peat as top se­ries for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year, and Ju­lia Louis-Drey­fus is a fa­vorite to earn her fifth best-ac­tress tro­phy for her role in the White House romp.

But they’ve got se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion, in­clud­ing on the drama side from top­i­cal “Mr. Robot” and an in­vig­o­rated “The Amer­i­cans,” and from sopho­more sit­com “black-ish” — just some of po­ten­tial ben­e­fi­cia­ries of re­vi­sions in Emmy voting.

The stream­ing ser­vices, which have be­gun to make in­roads with shows in­clud­ing “Trans­par­ent,” might also reap more honors for shows in­clud­ing “House of Cards.”

This year, the academy re­vised how votes are cast and counted, switch­ing from a rank­ing and points sys­tem to let­ting vot­ers sim­ply check off their top choice. That sharp­ens the se­lec­tion process and per­haps af­fects past win­ners who man­aged to col­lect enough sec­ond-place votes to over­come the com­pe­ti­tion.

In another change, this one im­ple­mented last year, voting was ex­panded from blue-rib­bon pan­els to — de­pend­ing on the award — giv­ing sub­stan­tially more or all of the academy’s 20,000-plus mem­bers the chance to vote for fi­nal­ists.

Best ac­tors, for ex­am­ple, had been de­cided by pan­els made up of 75 to 250 peo­ple in the academy’s act­ing branch, said Tom O’Neil, au­thor of “The Em­mys” ref­er­ence book and ed­i­tor of Gold Derby, an awards hand­i­cap­ping web­site.

Now, all 2,500 branch mem­bers can jump in if so in­clined — but they have to agree to view all episodes in con­tention be­fore voting, as the pan­els did. In the pro­gram cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing best com­edy and drama, all academy mem­bers are el­i­gi­ble to vote.

Last year’s “Game of Thrones” top-drama vic­tory might have been a sign of the dif­fer­ence the new ap­proach made: Vot­ers in the past have been stub­bornly re­sis­tant to hon­or­ing fantasy or sci-fi shows, with “Lost” a rare ex­cep­tion. The rules change could also make hack­ing thriller “Mr. Robot” a “Game of Thrones” spoiler. It can claim both mo­men­tum, with this year’s Golden Globe for best drama se­ries in hand, and the­matic time­li­ness.

But the pos­si­bil­ity that not all new vot­ers are do­ing their home­work by faith­fully watch­ing DVDs of the nom­i­nees is cause for con­cern, said awards maven O’Neil, giv­ing buzz the po­ten­tial to sway un­in­formed vot­ers. In the 1960s, he re­called, the TV academy was forced to call in re­spected writer-pro­ducer Rod Ser­ling (“The Twi­light Zone”) to over­haul a voting ap­proach that had sim­i­larly veered off course.

“I’m look­ing for any up­set by an un­der­dog that tells me that the in­tegrity of the award is still in­tact,” O’Neil said. “If not, if it’s just all the pop­u­lar stuff that pre­vails, then the Em­mys are in trou­ble.” On­line: http://www.em­mys.org

HBO VIA AP

In this im­age re­leased by HBO, Lena Headey ap­pears in a scene from “Game of Thrones.” On Thurs­day Headey is nom­i­nated for out­stand­ing sup­port­ing ac­tress in a drama se­ries for her role. The 68th Prime­time Emmy Awards will be broad­cast live Sunday on ABC be­gin­ning at 8 p.m.

LACEY TER­RELL — HBO VIA AP

In this im­age re­leased by HBO, Tony Hale, left, and Ju­lia Louis-Drey­fus ap­pear in a scene from the com­edy se­ries “Veep.”

PETER KRAMER — USA NET­WORK VIA AP

Rami Malek ap­pears in a scene from “Mr. Robot.” On Thurs­day Malek is nom­i­nated for out­stand­ing ac­tor in a drama se­ries for his role.

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