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The 2012 Emmys: Top 5 predictions
Perennial, predictable winners like Mad Men and The Daily Show are facing unusually stiff competition — which makes this Sunday's Emmy race the most exciting in years
 
Mad Men has taken the top prize for Best Drama for the past four years, but now the critically acclaimed import Downton Abbey may end its Emmy reign.
Mad Men has taken the top prize for Best Drama for the past four years, but now the critically acclaimed import Downton Abbey may end its Emmy reign.
Michael Yarish/AMC

It's time once again for TV's A-list to squeeze into their tuxes and gowns, practice their strategically "spontaneous" thank-you speeches, and brave Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet. On Sunday night, the 64th annual Emmy Awards will air on NBC, with TV's most acclaimed series vying for the glory — and the ratings bump — that comes with the graceful gold statuette. Unsurprisingly, critics are already second-guessing the night's successes, surprises, and snubs. Here, 5 predictions for the 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards:

1. Whatever your predictions, it's going to be an uncharacteristically unpredictable night
When Survivor host Jeff Probst wasn't even nominated in the Best Reality Show Host category — an award he's won since the category was created in 2008 — it was a sign that "something new" was finally happening with Emmy voters, says Lisa de Moraes at the Washington Post. As a result, the Emmys are looking "particularly treacherous" to previous winners and prognosticators. Previous shoo-ins like The Daily Show may be in for an unpleasant surprise on Sunday night.

2. Mad Men's reign as Best Drama might be over
AMC's Mad Men is gunning for a record-breaking fifth consecutive Best Drama Emmy, but critically-acclaimed British costume drama Downton Abbey — which aired earlier this year on PBS — could break the streak. Historically, says Jill Serjeant at Reuters, "British imports often do well at U.S. awards shows." Another potential bad omen for Mad Men? It "emerged empty-handed from last weekend's Creative Arts portion of the Emmys," which honors achievement in costuming and hairstyling — two aspects of Mad Men that have formerly been recognized as strengths.

3. But Modern Family's reign continues unabated
There's plenty to like about every show in the Best Comedy category, but "it's unlikely anything can stop the glorious Modern Family's march to a third straight Emmy," says TV Guide. The only potential spoiler for the ABC sitcom is CBS' The Big Bang Theory, which "keeps getting better and better as it beefs up the wacky women's roles," but it's far more likely that the Dunphy family will be adding another trophy to ABC's mantel. 

4. The winners for Lead Actor/Lead Actress in a Drama are basically guaranteed
The Lead Actor and Lead Actress categories "are a lock" for Bryan Cranston of AMC's Breaking Bad and Claire Danes of Showtime's Homeland, says Kristin Dos Santos at E! Online. With three consecutive wins, Cranston is "the undefeated heavyweight champ" of the Lead Actor category and his series-best performance in Breaking Bad's fourth season should earn him a fourth trophy. And Danes' starring turn in Homeland is "the indisputable breakout female performance of the year." Do any of her co-nominees stand a chance? Just "try to find a single Emmy expert predicting anyone other than Danes" and you'll have your answer.

5. But Lead Actor/Lead Actress in a Comedy are much harder to guess
Louis C.K. deserves to win for his "balls-to-the-wall" starring role in FX's black comedy Louie, says Jace Lacob at The Daily Beast. But will he earn the Emmy he so richly deserves? Not likely, says Maria Elena Fernandez; Jim Parsons' "huge sentimental moment in the finale" of The Big Bang Theory will earn him a third Emmy award. But the seven strong performances in the Lead Actress in a Comedy category makes it "one of the toughest categories in the entire awards ceremony this year" — though the frontrunners are Julia Louis-Dreyfus for HBO's Veep and Amy Poehler for NBC's Parks and Recreation.

 

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