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Emmys 2011: Who will win?
Will Steve Carell (finally) win for The Office? Is Mad Men predictably unstoppable? Critics take their bets on this year's TV awards
AMC's "Mad Men" has taken the Best Drama Emmy for three years running and should win again, unless HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" gets in the way, say critics.
AMC's "Mad Men" has taken the Best Drama Emmy for three years running and should win again, unless HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" gets in the way, say critics.
Frank Ockenfels/AMC
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he 2011 Emmy Awards air Sunday night, hosted by Glee's Jane Lynch (an Emmy-winner herself last year for her performance as megalomaniac Sue Sylvester). Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Modern Family, and Glee are all competing for major awards and TV critics, as is their wont, are venturing predictions. Here, six talking points:

1. Mad Men will continue its winning streak
Mad Men — AMC's critically revered '60s drama —  won Best Drama for each of its first three seasons. Expect the show to take home a fourth, says Alex Strachan at The Vancouver Sun. It's "never wise to bet against Don Draper & Co.," and the show is coming off its finest season yet. If any series can take it down, though, it's Boardwalk Empire, says New York. The conspicuously ambitious Steve Buscemi period-drama about gangsters in Atlantic City "was basically made for awards shows." Also nominated are Friday Night Lights, Game of Thrones, Dexter, and The Good Wife, the only network contender.

2. Modern Family will also repeat in the comedy category
So much for the sophomore slump, says Stratchan. The second season of ABC's ensemble was "even fresher and more lively" than its Emmy-winning first, says Stratchan. That should help it trounce fellow comedy frontrunners Glee — if it didn't win for its first season, says New York, it won't for its "inferior second" — and past-their-prime sitcoms 30 Rock and The Office. Though The Big Bang Theory is the highest-rated contender, if any series should top Family it's Amy Poehler's hilarious city government sitcom Parks and Recreation, says Ken Tucker at Entertainment Weekly, "for consistency, intensity, and density of laughs."

3. Jon Hamm will finally get his Mad Men due
Critics agree that Mad Men's Jon Hamm will finally win Best Actor in a Drama this year, after four consecutive nominations. His episode submission, "The Suitcase," in which an all-night brainstorming session reveals a more vulnerable Don Draper than ever, is "one of the finest Mad Men episodes ever," says Jordan Bartel at The Baltimore Sun. If he doesn't win this year, "what does this guy need to do?" Should Hamm triumph, Boardwalk Empire's Steve Buscemi, Dexter's Michael C. Hall, Friday Night Light's Kyle Chandler, House's Hugh Laurie, and Justified's Timothy Olyphant will all go home empty handed.

4. Best Actress in a Drama is the year's most competitive race
Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss, who plays tartly tenacious secretary-turned copywriter Peggy, also submitted "The Suitcase." The episode is "as good an acting duet as you'll find" — and should win her the Best Actress trophy, says Stratchan. But she faces potent competition. Julianna Marguilies' "scintillating work as a betrayed — and now emboldened — spouse" on The Good Wife should have won last year, and will this year, says Chuck Barney at The Seattle Times. But it only took two words — "18 years" — in the series finale of Friday Night Lights for Connie Britton to "bring us to tears," says Jenna Mullins at E! Online. That's Emmy-worthy. The Killing's Mireille Enos, Harry's Law's Kathy Bates, and Law and Order: SVU's Mariska Hargitay — a former winner— round out the field.

5. Steve Carell will win a farewell Emmy
The "it-was-his-final-season" vote will secure Steve Carell an elusive Best Actor in a Comedy Emmy after seven seasons on The Office, says Tucker. Nevertheless, he deserves it, says Jen Chaney at The Washington Post. Carell was not only hilarious, but "consistently convincing and even moving" this season. A Carell score would be bad news for last year's winner, The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons, and 30 Rock's Alec Baldwin, who's won twice. Also nominated: Episodes' Matt LeBlanc, Bang Theory's Johnny Galecki, and Louie's Louis C.K., whose portrayal of an Everyman shlub is "comic genius," says Stratchan.

6. Tears may trump laughs in comedy's Best Actress category
The Emmys loves to reward actresses who "walk the drama-comedy line," says Mullins. See: Last year's win by Edie Falco in Showtime's seriocomic (though more serio) Nurse Jackie. If that pattern continues, the odds favor The Big C's Laura Linney for playing a woman reeling from her cancer diagnosis "and finding the humor in it," says Barney. It's too bad, says Mullins, because Amy Poehler's "adorable and constantly optimistic" performance on Parks and Recreation was the season's most enjoyable. Also nominated: Falco, 30 Rock's Tina Fey, Mike & Molly's Melissa McCarthy, and Raising Hope's Martha Plimpton.

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