Sunday night's Emmy Awards telecast on ABC will surely be the most unique in history, being virtual that is. But even a global pandemic can't stop surprises from host Jimmy Kimmel, winners giving remote acceptance speeches and shows that will finally get their due now that last year's big winners "Fleabag" and "Game of Thrones" are out of the running.
Here are the races stirring up the most excitement. Place your bets.
Outstanding Comedy Series
- "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO)
- "Dead to Me" (Netflix)
- "The Good Place" (NBC)
- "Insecure" (HBO)
- "The Kominsky Method" (Netflix)
- "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Prime Video)
- "Schitt's Creek" (Pop TV)
- "What We Do in the Shadows" (FX)
Will win: "Schitt's Creek" totally deserves a massive victory lap for its sixth and final season. All 80 episodes probably cost less than the snack budget on "The Marvelous Ms. Maisel." But there's no putting a price on the comic inspiration of Eugene Levy and his son Dan Levy, who created the show and costarred in it with fellow acting nominees Catherine O'Hara and Annie Murphy. This little Canadian engine that could made us all fall in love with the once wealthy and forever spoiled Rose family as they suffered the hilarious slings and arrows of living poor in a small town that never heard of any of them.
Should win: See above. It feels like a "Schitt's Creek" year, doesn't it?
Possible spoiler: Some people think that "The Good Place," the only network sitcom with a place in the race, deserves its own victory lap after four fab seasons. They're not wrong. But it's a long shot in a category with a surefire front-runner.
Outstanding Drama Series
- "Better Call Saul" (AMC)
- "The Crown" (Netflix)
- "The Handmaid's Tale" (Hulu)
- "Killing Eve" (BBC America)
- "The Mandalorian" (Disney+)
- "Ozark" (Netflix)
- "Stranger Things" (Netflix)
- "Succession" (HBO)
Will win: "Succession" got shut out for a terrific season one. That's not going to happen to an even better season two as the Roy family of media predators go at each other like sharks at a beach party. Has a better cast of actors ever played people you love to hate with more joy in their malice? Right, I don't think so either.
Should win: "Better Call Saul," the prequel to "Breaking Bad," never gets the respect it deserves, with the peerless Bob Odenkirk leading a great ensemble in a legal morality tale that has no right being as funny as it is. I'm disgruntled, too. But "Succession" is on a roll.
Possible spoiler: "Ozark" fans are getting impatient. And "The Mandalorian" addicts think Baby Yoda just might pull an upset miracle out of his pointy ears. Sorry. Happening, it's not.
Outstanding Limited Series
- "Little Fires Everywhere" (Hulu)
- "Mrs. America" (FX)
- "Unbelievable" (Netflix)
- "Unorthodox" (Netflix)
- "Watchmen" (HBO)
Will win: "Watchmen." Somehow a futuristic, comic-book adaptation was transformed into a stinging commentary on why Black Lives Matter and why a divided country is still debating the issue. A provocation that helped define the year on TV and in the real world.
Should Win: "Mrs. America" used the 1970s fight against the Equal Rights Amendment, led by conservative activist Phyliss Schlafly (Cate Blanchett), to mirror the anti-feminist resurgence of the Trump era. "Watchmen" will still win, but "Mrs. America" will be nipping at its heels.
Possible spoiler: "Unorthodox" told the seemingly simple story of a Hasidic-Jewish woman (a sublime Shira Hass) fleeing an arranged marriage in Brooklyn. It won't win this Emmy, but its exceptional quality remains indisputable.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
- Anthony Anderson, "black-ish"
- Don Cheadle, "Black Monday"
- Ted Danson, "The Good Place"
- Michael Douglas, "The Kominsky Method"
- Eugene Levy, "Schitt's Creek"
- Ramy Youssef, "Ramy"
Will win: Eugene Levy has never won an Emmy for his comic genius as an actor -- on full and glorious display in "Schitt's Creek." The wait is over. And with "Barry"'s Bill Hader on hiatus, nothing should stand in his way.
Should win: Ramy Youssef, as a first-generation Egyptian American living in New Jersey, is the heart and soul of this sharply observed comedy about the immigrant experience. But this is Levy's year.
Possible spoiler: There won't be any. But Ted Danson devotees know how fine he is in "The Good Place" even if he'll have to wait for a bookend to the Emmy he won for "Cheers" 30 years ago.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
- Christina Applegate, "Dead to Me"
- Rachel Brosnahan, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"
- Linda Cardellini, "Dead to Me"
- Catherine O'Hara, "Schitt's Creek"
- Issa Rae, "Insecure"
- Tracee Ellis Ross, "black-ish"
Will win: Catherine O'Hara, because her talent to amuse is off the charts (just think of her in papal drag in the "Schitt's Creek" wedding finale) and because if there's any justice, this comedy goddess deserves to win her first acting Emmy crowned in gold. No arguments, please.
Should win: Rachel Brosnahan can do laughter and tears with equal dexterity; that's why she already has an Emmy for "Mrs. Maisel." It's O'Hara's turn.
Possible spoiler: I have a dream to see both Christina Appelgate and Linda Cardellini holding trophies because their teamwork makes "Dead to Me" the total blast it is. But Emmy voters rarely do ties, so that's one dream deferred.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
- Jason Bateman, "Ozark"
- Sterling K. Brown, "This Is Us"
- Steve Carell, "The Morning Show"
- Brian Cox, "Succession"
- Billy Porter, "Pose"
- Jeremy Strong, "Succession"
Will win: Brian Cox. As the tycoon patriarch Logan Roy, Cox blends the King Lear gravitas of the role with a cutting humor that reduces enemies, in and out of his immediate family, to rubble. He's the perfect actor in the perfect role.
Should win: Jeremy Strong. As Kendall Roy, the prodigal son to Cox's treacherous Big Daddy, Strong had the pivotal role in season two and rides it to glory. One of these remarkable actors is going to take the prize. But it'll be a fight to the finish.
Possible spoiler: I'd say Bob Odenkirk in "Better Call Saul" is the only one who could give Cox and Strong a run for their money. But, oh wait, he's not nominated.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
- Jennifer Aniston, "The Morning Show"
- Olivia Colman, "The Crown"
- Jodie Comer, "Killing Eve
- Laura Linney, "Ozark
- Sandra Oh, "Killing Eve"
- Zendaya, "Euphoria"
Will win: Jennifer Aniston. As the aging morning anchor being kicked under the bus by network suits, Aniston seized the role of her career, stealing scenes from co-star Reese Witherspoon, who wasn't even nominated. That comedy Emmy Aniston won for "Friends" will look nice perched next to a prize for dramatic emoting. She deserves it.
Should win: Olivia Colman sits on a royal throne as Queen Elizabeth, which makes her the one to beat in this category. But Queen Liz, who still plays it close to the vest, doesn't give Colman the chance to roar like she had playing another queen in "The Favourite," which won her an Oscar. Emmy voters may not be able to resist the urge to bow.
Possible spoiler: Zendaya. Playing an addict straight out of rehab, the 24-year-old singer turned dynamite actress crashes the category with a vital, youthful defiance. But since when does the conservative TV academy give its top prize to youthful defiance?
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
- Jeremy Irons, "Watchmen"
- Hugh Jackman, "Bad Education"
- Paul Mescal, "Normal People"
- Jeremy Pope, "Hollywood"
- Mark Ruffalo, "I Know This Much Is True"
Will win: Mark Ruffalo. Playing identical twins -- one perpetually angry, the other suffering from paranoid schizophrenia -- Ruffalo delivers a dual tour de force. It's the kind of performance that awards are created for. Ruffalo never overacts, he simply inhabits these characters with quietly devastating results. Some voters find the film grindingly depressing, but Ruffalo's acting burns in the memory.
Should win: In a year without two Ruffalos, Hugh Jackman would win in a walk as a closeted gay New York school administrator who robs from the system in "Bad Education." But there are two Ruffalos, so sorry Hugh.
Possible spoiler: Paul Mescal. In the year's sexiest love story, "Normal People," Mescal brought physical heat and heartfelt sensitivity to the role of an Irish student torn apart by breaking up with his first serious love. Daisy Edgar-Jones, who played the other half of this erotic equation, was stupidly denied a nomination. But look for Mescal and his snubbed costar to turn up as future Emmy contenders. They really are that good.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
- Cate Blanchett, "Mrs. America"
- Shira Haas, "Unorthodox"
- Regina King, "Watchmen"
- Octavia Spencer, "Self Made"
- Kerry Washington, "Little Fires Everywhere"
Will win: Regina King. Yes, the Oscar winner for "If Beale Street Could Talk" already has three Emmys, but her role as cop vigilante Sister Night in "Watchmen" is the equal of her finest work. Even among stiff competition, King deserves trophy No. 4.
Should win: Cate Blanchett. As Phyllis Schlafly, the political reactionary who actually fought against equal rights for women, Blanchett uncovered the bruised heart of a political activist in a secret battle with herself. Her nuanced performance would have been a lock in any other year.
Possible spoiler. Shira Haas. The young Israeli actress had critics doing handstands over her performance as Esther Shapiro, a Jewish bride who flees her arranged marriage in America to find her identity in Berlin. Haas' emotive brilliance suggests an actress of limitless possibilities. And the extraordinary work in this category is what makes guessing the Emmy winners, even in these pandemic times, such an eye-opening joy.