Emmy Awards crystal-ball gazing was so much easier in the old days, circa the last few years: ABC’s “Modern Family” would be honored as best comedy series and a cable show, “Homeland” or “Mad Men” or such, would win best drama.
“Modern Family” may earn its fourth consecutive trophy at Sunday’s ceremony. But the drama picture is murkier because of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” the first online program to be nominated for top series honors under a 2007 Emmy rule allowing digital contenders.
It’s as big a revolution as the 1993 best comedy series nod for HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show,” which came after the TV academy opened its arms to cable as well as broadcast fare.
“We didn’t believe it would take as long as six years-plus for the world to start looking to this new explosion of original content,” said Rob Barnett, who moved his career from cable (MTV, VH1) to online as founder and CEO of My Damn Channel. “But it’s clearly happening.”
Whether “House of Cards” will actually claim the trophy is another matter. It took more than a decade before a cable show, HBO’s “Sex and the City,” prevailed as a top series winner; in an impatient world, might “House of Cards” compress the time frame?
Or it is possible that astute Emmy voters smacked their foreheads, realized they had yet to crown AMC’s “Breaking Bad” as TV’s best drama and made amends?
They should have, we say in unison. Here’s what else we’re predicting for the 8 p.m. ceremony on CBS hosted by Neil Patrick Harris — who, no Ouija board needed, will be reliably outstanding.
Should win: “Breaking Bad.” At the height of its power, and Walter White knows where you live.
Will win: “House of Cards.” Ambitious politician trumps ambitious drug dealer in Washington-bedazzled Hollywood.
Should win: “Breaking Bad.” TV’s best drama has never won!
Will win: “Breaking Bad.” With hysteria building in its final year, it’s going to cook up a win this time.
Should win: “Louie.” Life can be brutal, but also brutally funny in Louis C.K.’s hands.
Will win: “Modern Family.” It’s comfortably amusing and academy voters like it, they really like it.
Should win: “Louie.” This groundbreaking comedy has continued to, well, break ground.
Will win: “Modern Family.” Habits are hard for Emmy to break.
ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES:
Should win: Jon Hamm, “Mad Men.” Don Draper finally confronts his pain and what he’s done to others. Hamm’s trophy is even more overdue.
Will win: Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards.” Take that, movies! TV is better than ever, and honoring a visiting big-screen star drives the point home.
Should win: Jon Hamm, “Mad Men.” Besides all the other reasons, his Hershey bar meditation clenched it.
Will win: Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards.” High-profile star in a high-profile series on a high-profile new channel.
ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES:
Should win: Kerry Washington, “Scandal.” A powerhouse performance that keeps the madcap series spinning but not out of control.
Will win: Kerry Washington, “Scandal.” Don’t overthink what will be an unprecedented African-American victory; she simply deserves it.
Should win: Kerry Washington, “Scandal.” Great work propelling an outrageously compelling show.
Will win: Kerry Washington, “Scandal.” Emmy voters get it, and so will Kerry.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES:
Should win: Bobby Cannavale, “Boardwalk Empire.” Of course he can bring a fresh spin to a gangster role; what can’t this actor do?
Will win: Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad.” His character’s vulnerability is habit-forming, and he’s poised for his third consecutive win.
Should win: Jim Carter, “Downton Abbey.” Unparalleled charm, understatement, nuance and heart.
Will win: Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad.” Yet another twist on his ever-evolving portrayal.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES:
Should win: Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men.” When the going got tougher so did her character, and Hendricks soared.
Will win: Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad.” It’s the embattled Mrs. White’s turn to shine.
Should win: Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men.” Joan Harris gained extra oomph this season, and so did Hendricks playing her.
Will win: Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men.” Take-charge Joan will help Hendricks take this trophy.
ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES:
Should win: Don Cheadle, “House of Lies.” There was a reason for his upset Golden Globe victory over Alec Baldwin and other past winners.
Will win: Louis C.K. The sad clown made irresistible.
Should win: Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes.” He plays himself, and then some, and does it winningly.
Will win: Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory.” Three bids and two statues the past five seasons, but it’s been since 2011 since he last won. Too long?
Should win: Laura Dern, “Enlightened.” If you’re looking for layered humanity in any character, she’s your woman.
Will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep.” She wears power and the lunacy of ambition well. Elaine who?
Should win: Laura Dern, “Enlightened.” Few viewers watched the show and it’s been axed, but her performance was perfection.
Will win: Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation.” She’s forged a character that’s the bullet train of the little engine that could.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES:
Should win: Ed O’Neill, “Modern Family.” He’s the paterfamilias of modern TV dads. Show some respect.
Will win: Ed O’Neill, “Modern Family.” Respect will be paid.
Should win: Bill Hader, “Saturday Night Live.” A fine, final season on “SNL” deserves to be rewarded.
Will win: Ed O’Neill, “Modern Family.” It’s his turn in the “Modern Family” rotation.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES:
Should win: Jane Krakowski, “30 Rock.” She never let down her side as the role model for self-involved TV stars, and Emmy shouldn’t let her down.
Will win: Julie Bowen, “Modern Family.” A two-time consecutive winner for her beleaguered mom. Voters will be charmed again.
Should win: Jane Krakowski, “30 Rock.” A sexy, multi-talented comedic treasure so far overlooked, her fourth nomination as Jenna ought to be the charm.
Will win: Sofia Vergara, “Modern Family.” Her fourth nomination as Gloria will be the charm.