Sunday night marks the glittery broadcast of the Primetime Emmy Awards, television's low-rent version of the Oscars, so it's time to pick out winners so you can win that big pool you have going with yourself and your cat. Who will win? Who should win? Let's take a look at all the major categories.
For space reasons, we won't be naming all the nominees, but as a refresher you can consult the full list here.
What Will Win: Modern Family seems to win this damn thing every year, so why should 2012 be any different? There could be a groundswell of populist support for The Big Bang Theory, what with Blossom and the skinny guy and all that, but we think this is still The Dunphy-Prichetts' to lose.
What Should Win: No comedy this year was wittier, smarter, more profane than Armando Ianucci's Veep, a miraculous American debut for a man who mostly deals in exacting British humor. Plus Louie and Enlightened weren't nominated, so.
BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY
Who Will Win: We have a feeling that the Academy will give it to longtime favorite Julia Louis-Dreyfus for her sharp, prickly work on Veep. It'd be a good way to award the show without giving it the top trophy.
Who Should Win: The Academy might get this one right! The year's best actress in anything, Laura Dern on Enlightened, was criminally not nominated, so Louis-Dreyfus will do in a pinch. She's terrific on her show, which is the perfect vehicle for all that compact pointiness she was so good at employing on Seinfeld. Emmy number three for Julia Louis.
BEST ACTOR, COMEDY
Who Will Win: The Emmys tend to be conservative in this category, so our bet is that either Jim Parsons will win for being the skinny guy on Big Bang Theory or they'll throw a real softball and give it to Alec Baldwin for yet another solid year of 30 Rock. All of these dudes should be grateful that Modern Family actors submit in the supporting category rather than lead.
Who Should Win: Without a doubt, Louis C.K. With all the writing and directing and whatever else C.K. is doing on the downright brilliant Louie, the quiet strength of his acting is often overlooked. He's hangdog and beaten down in such a human, morosely familiar way. There's a chance he could actually eke out a win here, which would be justice on an epic scale.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY
Who Will Win: Though they hardly ever award Saturday Night Live regular players with Emmys — Gilda Radner and Chevy Chase are rare exceptions — we think that, because she ended an incredible seven-year run this past May, the Academy will give the award to MVP Kristen Wiig. They could go a different sentimental route and award it posthumously to Desperate Housewives' Kathryn Joosten, but we smell a win for Wiig here.
Who Should Win: It's hard to argue that Wiig shouldn't get some kind of prize for propping up that often sagging show for as long as she did, so we'd be happy to see her win. But just for the sheer mind boggling-ness of seeing Blossom win an Emmy in the year 2012, we kinda hope Mayim Bialik gets it for Big Bang.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY
Who Will Win: Let's just go with the easy odds here and say someone from Modern Family. All four adult male regulars are up for this category, so it's bound to be one of them, statistically speaking, right? Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Ed O'Neill are the two Modern men who haven't won yet, so it'll probably be one of them. Let's say Ed O'Neill. Everyone loves Ed O'Neill.
Who Should Win: While aspects of the show are a little grating (cough, Zooey, cough), Max Greenfield is so lovable on New Girl that he nearly makes the show a must-watch. His character, the prissy himbo Schmidt, leaps off the page because of Greenfield's weird, idiosyncratic, but never forced performance. He brings beautiful nuances to what is mostly unsubtle material.
What Will Win: With all the hype surrounding the long-awaited first half of the final season, we think Breaking Bad might actually snatch a win out of the jaws of perpetual victor Mad Men. There's a feeling of cultural momentum surrounding the terrific series, while Mad Men's own engines seems to be slipping into neutral.
What Should Win: Every series on this list is good. Boardwalk Empire wholly redeemed itself with an excellent second season, Game of Thrones gorgeously expanded its world without losing itself, Downton Abbey was a soapy delight, and Homeland rattled with surprising intelligence. So any of these would be fine choices. But we'd like to see Game of Thrones take the prize, if only because that will give HBO even more reason to soldier on into the incredibly complex story lines of the later books.
BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA
Who Will Win: Claire Danes has already won a Golden Globe for her frantic but focused work on Homeland, and she has the Emmy momentum of her Temple Grandin win behind her, so we think this is hers to lose. Either her or Kathy Bates for Harry's Law. Haha, just kidding.
Who Should Win: We're pretty comfortable with a Danes win here. Everyone else in this category has already been well-decorated, with the exception of Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery and Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss. Those two are great in their respective roles, but they really should be in the supporting category. (Where Moss would definitely be our favorite to win.)
BEST ACTOR, DRAMA
Who Will Win: For [SPOILER ALERT] killing off his costar with such cold-eyed determination, we think Boardwalk Empire's Steve Buscemi, who's already got Golden Globe and SAG awards for his performance, will take the top prize this year.
Who Should Win: Would you believe that Jon Hamm has never won an Emmy for playing Don Draper? Yup, the Mad Men star has a Golden Globe on his mantle, but not the elusive Emmy. So we'd like to see him finally win one, because he really is just so good on that show, this excellent season being no exception.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA
Who Will Win: This feels like Maggie Smith's year? Everyone loves her zinger-hurling old dowager on Downton Abbey, and she doesn't travel to America so they can cut some speech time off the ceremony. Smith is surrounded by other strong actresses in good roles, but she's too much of a crowd favorite to lose this one, we're guessing.
Who Should Win: Anna Gunn has been quietly toiling away as Breaking Bad's emotional center for all these brutal seasons, so it'd be nice to see her get something shiny as a reward. Joanne Froggatt is lovely on Downton Abbey, but the repetitiveness of her story line this season — Bates, no Bates, Bates, no Bates — cools our affection a bit.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA
Who Will Win: Two of the six guys in this category can never play their parts again so (again, SPOILER ALERT) we think that either Mad Men's Jared Harris or Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito might be given a nice piece of hardware to put on their funeral pyre. Between the two, we're gonna go with Esposito, who had the flashier role. And certainly the flashier death.
Who Should Win: Esposito was certainly good as cool-cat monster Gus Fring, so we'd cheer a win for him. But Jared Harris was so mutedly affecting as poor doomed Lane Pryce that he might deserve it a little more. Then again, Aaron Paul had such an elegant psychic breakdown on Breaking Bad's fourth season that it'd be a crime to ignore his work. This is a tough category! Basically we'd be happy with anybody, even the old dudes from Downton.
BEST MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
What Will Win: While Game Change earned some critical praise and Hatfields & McCoys was a ratings bonanza, nothing in this category was as buzzed about and ultimately appreciated as American Horror Story. They kinda sneaked into this category on a technicality, but that's fine by us. They couldn't compete against the formal dramas, so here they are with this eclectic mix. We suspect the trick will pay off.
What Should Win: Yeah, American Horror Story. It's not prestigious and British and it doesn't involve anything historical (well, it sort of does), but it was some of the most gunkily entertaining stuff on television this past year. Plus, maybe the Infantata will accept if they win?
BEST ACTRESS, MINISERIES/MOVIE
Who Will Win: While Connie Britton was certainly good on American Horror Story, we don't think her role was quite showy enough to beat Julianne Moore, who did a balls-out, breakneck, and ultimately eerily effective Sarah Palin in Game Change. It doesn't hurt Moore's chances that it's an election year, when all of these jokers are in everyone's mind already.
Who Should Win: Julianne Moore was pretty good. And she's always nominated for awards but never winning them. Let's have her win one for god's sake.
BEST ACTOR, MINISERIES/MOVIE
Who Will Win: There are a bunch of big names in this category, from Kevin Costner to Bill Paxton to Woody Harrelson, but we think two of the lesser-knowns, Luther's Idris Elba and Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch, have the edge over the movie stars. Between the two of them we'd guess that Cumberbatch will win for all of his charmingly mannered fussy fopping.
Who Should Win: Idris Elba should win because nobody ever won any Emmys for The Wire so a win now could be a kind of mea culpa for that travesty, and also who doesn't want to watch Idris Elba saying things in a tux? Nobody, that's who.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, MINISERIES/MOVIE
Who Will Win: Because he also has done such fun work on True Blood in recent seasons, we're thinking the Academy will reward American Horror Story's Denis O'Hare. His character on that show was pretty unlikable, but O'Hare still brought his trademark sneaky charm to the role. Plus, who's gonna beat him, Tom Berenger? Not bloody likely.
Who Should Win: Evan Peters from American Horror Story isn't nominated in this category but he should be and he should win because don't you just want to give him a hug? You do, don't you. Don't lie. Everyone wants to hug Evan Peters.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, MINISERIES/MOVIE
Who Will Win: Duh, Jessica Lange.
Who Should Win: Jessica Lange, duh.