TV fans know: The 2021 Emmy Awards, which will be broadcast in front of a very limited, pandemic-sensitive audience on Sunday, are bound to be both predictable and full of surprises.
It's a year when Netflix may win its first outstanding series award (for "The Crown"); it's a year when the late Michael K. Williams might finally win his first Emmy posthumously (for HBO's "Lovecraft Country") after five nominations; it's a year that might see streaming services take the throne from premium cable and broadcast TV to scoop up the big awards of the night.
Of course, no one can be sure. But awards expert and Turner Classic Movies host Dave Karger has been watching all of the shows, and all of the drama behind the scenes, and thinks he has a pretty good grip on who'll be taking home the statues Sunday.
For one thing, he expects a sweep. "The last couple of years, certain shows seem to sweep the major categories, shows like 'Fleabag' or 'Schitt's Creek' or 'Succession,'" he tells TODAY. "I'm expecting a handful of shows to do very well, and most other shows to get shut out. Voters fall in love with certain shows, and vote for them up and down the ballot."
In addition, he notes that last year's big winners ("Schitt's," "Succession," "Euphoria," "Watchmen") didn't field any new material in the latest eligible season. "That opens the door for a lot of new shows and performers being recognized," he says.
So for those of you planning your Emmy pools, here's the scoop you'll need to predict at least the big awards of the night:
Predicted Winner: "The Crown"
"The Crown" may become the first Netflix series to win a best drama or best comedy series, which will catch them up to other streaming services like Amazon and Hulu. Karger says what pushes this always well-done series is the Prince Charles/Princess Diana storyline.
Predicted Winner: "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+)
With 20 nominations, it has the most of any comedy. But aside from being a hugely-buzzed-about, beloved series, Karger notes that it has something else going for it: "The nominations are for season two, but the second season came out recently so it's on everyone's lips. That only helps," says Karger, who adds that this would be a first series win for Apple TV+.
Predicted Winner: "The Queen's Gambit" (Netflix)
This one's more challenging, says Karger. "'WandaVision' (Disney+) got the most nominations, but it's rare for a genre series to perform exceptionally well," he says. "I think it's between 'Queen's Gambit' and 'Mare of Easttown' (HBO), and I give the edge to 'Queen's.' That show has such uniqueness and energy to it; it's different from anything we've seen recently and it was such a hot show when it premiered."
Lead Actor: Comedy
Predicted Winner: Jason Sudeikis, "Ted Lasso"
Former "Saturday Night Live" performer Sudeikis is "a complete lock," says Karger. "He simply is that show. Not only is he the title character, but he got four nominations for acting, producing and writing. He could win three Emmys this year, and he's never had an Emmy nomination before."
Lead Actress: Comedy
Predicted Winner: Jean Smart, "Hacks" (HBO Plus)
With no one from "Ted Lasso" nominated, Karger gives it to Smart. "At age 70, she's reached the pinnacle of her career. She's won Emmys before, but never been nominated in a lead category. This is the role of a lifetime, and she was so impressive in 'Mare of Easttown,' that helps, too."
Lead Actor: Drama
Predicted Winner: Josh O'Connor, "The Crown"
As Prince Charles, O'Connor helped shape the entire season, thanks to his doomed marriage to Diana and his unceasing love for Camilla. "It comes down to Josh O'Connor and Billy Porter ("Pose," FX). Billy won this two years ago, so I'm giving the edge to Josh; I think he could get caught up in 'The Crown' sweep," says Karger.
Lead Actress: Drama
Predicted Winner: Emma Corrin, "The Crown"
Karger says that Corrin's performance added "shadings and layers" to the story of Charles and Diana that he thinks most people hadn't considered before. "Even though the category has a history-making nomination with the first trans actress to be nominated in a lead category (MJ Rodriguez, "Pose"), I think both Emma and Josh will both win. It's not only a phenomenal portrayal, but Diana is in the zeitgeist right now."
Lead Actor: Limited Series
Predicted Winner: Paul Bettany, "WandaVision"
Karger says this category is "extremely difficult to predict," noting that Hugh Grant has a good shot ("The Undoing," HBO), and that Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom Jr. will likely cancel each other out for "Hamilton" (Disney+). "This could go in many directions," he adds.
Lead Actress: Limited Series
Last year, Taylor-Joy took home a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Critics Choice Award and a Golden Globe, but as Karger notes, "then she wasn't up against Kate Winslet. Now she is, and Kate won the Emmy 10 years ago for 'Mildred Pierce' (HBO)." He adds that he hasn't decided who will win yet, but Winslet is likely to come out on top because "she's a favorite of the Television Academy."
Want to find out for yourself? Tune into the 73rd annual Emmy Awards on CBS Sunday, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. ET.