Th­ese are our fear­less Emmy pre­dic­tions

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Chuck Bar­ney Bay Area News Group Con­tact Chuck Bar­ney at cbar­ney@ba­yare­anews­group.com. Fol­low him at Twit­ter. com/chuck­bar­ney and Face­book.com/ ba­yare­anews­group. chuck­bar­ney.

And you thought the bat­tle for the Iron Throne was bru­tal.

On Sun­day, Sept. 17, they’ll be crown­ing tele­vi­sion roy­alty at the an­nual Emmy Awards, and sev­eral of the mar­quee races fea­ture for­mi­da­ble con­tenders. Mak­ing things even more in­trigu­ing is the ab­sence of drama pow­er­house “Game of Thrones,” which is in­el­i­gi­ble this year be­cause its lat­est sea­son ar­rived too late.

Of course, pre­dict­ing what will go down on Emmy night is al­ways an iffy deal. Just when you think vot­ers are stuck in a rut, they stun you by show­er­ing their love on a new­bie or two.

Still, there’s no harm in try­ing. Here’s a break­down of the ma­jor cat­e­gories, along with our best guess­work. Wa­ger at your own risk.

Drama se­ries

“Bet­ter Call Saul” (AMC); “The Crown” (Net­flix); “The Hand­maid’s Tale” (Hulu); “House of Cards” (Net­flix); “Stranger Things” (Net­flix); “This Is Us” (NBC); “West­world” (HBO).

Should win: “The Hand­maid’s Tale” Will win: “This Is Us” With “Game of Thrones” side­lined, the field ap­pears to be wide open with five fresh­man se­ries tak­ing on es­tab­lished vet­er­ans “Bet­ter Call Saul” and “House of Cards.” Hulu’s riv­et­ing adap­ta­tion of Mar­garet At­wood’s dystopian thriller struck a nerve amid a year of po­lit­i­cal ten­sion. It’s cer­tainly a wor­thy can­di­date. But my gut tells me that the heart­warm­ing block­buster hit “This Is Us” will take the prize. If it does, it would be the first broad­cast net­work se­ries to pre­vail in the cat­e­gory since “24” did in 2006.

Com­edy se­ries

“At­lanta” (FX); “Black­ish” (ABC); “Master of None” (Net­flix); “Mod­ern Fam­ily” (ABC); “Sil­i­con Val­ley” (HBO); “Un­break­able Kimmy Sch­midt” (Net­flix); “Veep” (HBO). Should win: “At­lanta” Will win: “Veep” It’s great to see the vot­ers rec­og­nize the work of ac­torauteurs, as rep­re­sented by Don­ald Glover’s “At­lanta” and Aziz An­sari’s “Master of None.” Both are out­stand­ing shows that re­ject the pre­dictable pace and rhythms of the stan­dard sit­com in fa­vor of a nat­u­ral­is­tic, in­die film-like ap­proach. “At­lanta,” in par­tic­u­lar, has some mo­men­tum af­ter be­ing hon­ored by the Golden Globes and the TV crit­ics. Still, it’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine that the con­sis­tently bril­liant “Veep” — with its bit­ing po­lit­i­cal satire — won’t pull off a three-peat.

Limited se­ries

“Big Lit­tle Lies” (HBO); “Fargo” (FX); “Feud: Bette and Joan” (FX); “The Night Of” (HBO); “Ge­nius” (Na­tional Geo­graphic).

Should win: “Big Lit­tle Lies” Will win: “Big Lit­tle Lies” I’ve long been a “Fargo” guy. Few pieces of tele­vi­sion are as mas­ter­ful as the first two in­stall­ments of the snow-capped saga in­spired by the Coen brothers clas­sic. But in its third out­ing, “Fargo” ex­pe­ri­enced a bit of a drop-off, leav­ing “Feud” and “Big Lit­tle Lies” to bat­tle it out here. “Feud” was a wickedly de­li­cious guilty plea­sure set in old Hol­ly­wood. But “Big Lit­tle Lies,” a smartly crafted adap­ta­tion of Liane Mo­ri­arty’s best-seller, was so provoca­tive, re­lent­lessly mes­mer­iz­ing and packed with star power. In a close call, it gets the nod.

Best ac­tress, drama

Vi­ola Davis (“How to Get Away with Mur­der,” ABC); Claire Foy (“The Crown”); Elis­a­beth Moss (“The Hand­maid’s Tale”); Keri Rus­sell (“The Amer­i­cans,” AMC); Evan Rachel Wood (“West­world”); Robin Wright (“House of Cards”).

Should win: Elis­a­beth Moss Will win: Elis­a­beth Moss It’s hard to be­lieve that Moss has racked up seven Emmy nom­i­na­tions over her ca­reer and never won. That shut-out streak should end on Sun­day. Yes, she’s part of an im­pres­sive field that in­cludes a pre­vi­ous win­ner (Davis), but Moss hit new peaks with her stun­ningly mag­netic per­for­mance as Of­fred. It’s time for the vot­ers to make amends for fail­ing to honor her all those years for “Mad Men.”

Best ac­tor, drama

Ster­ling K. Brown (“This Is Us”); An­thony Hop­kins (“West­world”); Bob Odenkirk (“Bet­ter Call Saul”); Matthew Rhys (“The Amer­i­cans”); Liev Schreiber (“Ray Dono­van,” Show­time); Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”); Milo Ven­timiglia (“This Is Us”).

Should win: Ster­ling K. Brown

Will win: Ster­ling K. Brown

Brown was a win­ner last year for his re­mark­able work in “The Peo­ple v. O.J. Simp­son.” The Stan­ford grad has been just as good, if not bet­ter, in “This Is Us” — es­pe­cially through his arc as the adopted son bond­ing with his can­cer­stricken birth fa­ther. He sim­ply has a way of crack­ing your heart open. Then again, the “This Is Us” vote pos­si­bly could be split be­tween

Best ac­tress, com­edy

Pamela Ad­lon (“Bet­ter Things,” FX); Tracee El­lis-Ross (“Black-ish”); Jane Fonda (“Grace and Frankie,” Net­flix); Lily Tom­lin (“Grace and Frankie”); Al­li­son Jan­ney (“Mom,” CBS); El­lie Kem­per (“Un­break­able Kimmy Sch­midt”); Ju­lia Louis-Drey­fus (“Veep”).

Should win: Ju­lia LouisDrey­fus

Will win: Ju­lia LouisDrey­fus

First, let’s ap­plaud the vot­ers for rec­og­niz­ing Ad­lon for her great work in a fresh­man show that wasn’t ex­actly on ev­ery­one’s radar. Now on to the rein­ing queen. My God, LouisDrey­fus has al­ready won the prize five years in a row! And, yes, Emmy re­runs usu­ally bore us to tears. Then again, ev­ery one of her prizes has been earned and her live-wire per­for­mance as Selina Meyer con­tin­ues to be TV hall-of-fame stuff. Louis-Drey­fus is com­edy per­fec­tion.

Best ac­tor, com­edy

An­thony An­der­son (“Black-ish”); Aziz An­sari (“Master of None”); Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis (“Bas­kets,” FX); Don­ald Glover (“At­lanta”); Wil­liam H. Macy (“Shame­less,” Show­time); Jef­frey Tam­bor (“Trans­par­ent,” Ama­zon).

Should win: Don­ald Glover Will win: Jef­frey Tam­bor Tam­bor has posted backto-back vic­to­ries, so he’s the clear fa­vorite. On the other hand, “Trans­par­ent” failed to earn a best-com­edy se­ries nom­i­na­tion for the first time, so maybe some of the show’s buzz is wan­ing. Ei­ther way, I’d love to see Glover cap­ture the prize for his tex­tured and pre­cisely ren­dered per­for­mance as a rest­less drifter strug­gling to gain some trac­tion in life. He’s a star on the rise.

Best ac­tress, limited se­ries or movie

Car­rie Coon (“Fargo”); Felic­ity Huff­man (“Amer­i­can Crime,” ABC); Ni­cole Kid­man (“Big Lit­tle Lies”); Jes­sica Lange (“Feud”); Su­san Saran­don (“Feud”); Reese Wither­spoon (“Big Lit­tle Lies”).

Should win: Ni­cole Kid­man Will win: Ni­cole Kid­man This is the glamor cat­e­gory, packed with Os­car win­ners and big-name per­form­ers. It’s also the most dif­fi­cult race to call. Will the “Feud” and “Lies” women can­cel each other out, paving the way for Coon or Huff­man? Among the “Feud” leads, Lange had the juicier role, and the same goes for Kid­man in “Lies.” Her quiet storm of a per­for­mance as a bat­tered wife caught in a tur­bu­lent mar­riage was the kind of raw and emo­tion­ally dev­as­tat­ing por­trayal rarely seen on tele­vi­sion. So I’ll go with her, but won’t put any money on it.

Best ac­tor, limited se­ries or movie

Riz Ahmed (“The Night Of”); Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch (“Sher­lock: The Ly­ing De­tec­tive,” PBS); Robert De Niro (“The Wiz­ard of Lies,” HBO); Ewan McGre­gor (“Fargo”); Ge­of­frey Rush (“Ge­nius”); John Tur­turro (“The Night Of”).

Should win: Ewan McGre­gor Will win: Robert De Niro Don’t get me wrong, De Niro was ex­cel­lent as fi­nan­cial swindler Bernie Mad­off. But I’m pick­ing him mainly be­cause Emmy vot­ers of­ten seem to go ga-ga over ma­jor movie stars. The guy who re­ally stood out was McGre­gor, who played not one, but two, ma­jor char­ac­ters. And he not only drew dis­tinc­tive per­son­al­i­ties from each man, but man­aged to find both the hu­mor and pathos in both.

And the Emmy should also go to …

Sup­port­ing ac­tress, drama: Chrissy Metz, “This Is Us”

Sup­port­ing ac­tor, drama: John Lith­gow, “The Crown”

Sup­port­ing ac­tress, com­edy: Kate McKin­non, “Satur­day Night Live”

Sup­port­ing ac­tor, com­edy: Alec Bald­win, “Satur­day Night Live” (NBC)

Sup­port­ing ac­tress, limited se­ries or movie: Regina King, “Amer­i­can Crime”

Sup­port­ing ac­tor, limited se­ries or movie: Alexan­der Skars­gard, “Big Lit­tle Lies”

TV movie: “Wiz­ard of Lies”

Va­ri­ety talk se­ries: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” (HBO)

Va­ri­ety sketch se­ries: “Satur­day Night Live”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF FX

Brown and co-star Ven­timiglia, which would most likely leave the door open for Odenkirk. “At­lanta,” star­ring Don­ald Glover, left, and Tyree Henry, has won raves, but can it up­end peren­nial fa­vorite “Veep” at the Emmy Awards?

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF HULU

Sun­day’s Emmy Awards could be a big night for “The Hand­maid’s Tale” star Elis­a­beth Moss.

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