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2013 Emmy Awards: Predicting this year's winners
From Breaking Bad to Modern Family, your comprehensive guide to the top contenders at Sunday's ceremony
It's Breaking Bad's year.
It's Breaking Bad's year. (Frank Ockenfels/AMC)
T

he 65th annual Emmy Awards will air on CBS at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday night. In case you're busy that night (or just want to win your office's Emmy pool), we've analyzed every major category and come up with the likeliest contenders for Emmy gold. Will Breaking Bad earn its first-ever Outstanding Drama award? Will Modern Family continue its inexplicable sweep of the comedy categories? All your Emmy questions answered right here:

Outstanding Drama Series

Will win: Breaking Bad
Should win: Breaking Bad

(Ursula Coyote/AMC)

Breaking Bad has spent the past year riding a wave of critical accolades that have earned the show its all-time highest ratings — which makes it all the more surprising that Breaking Bad has never won the trophy for Outstanding Drama Series.

That's about to change. In previous years, Breaking Bad lost to Mad Men and Homeland, but both shows are coming off their weakest seasons yet. And even if Mad Men and Homeland had been at full strength, they would have had a hard time measuring up against Breaking Bad's mesmerizing fifth season. Breaking Bad's penultimate episode is actually airing opposite the Emmys, but anyone who can pull themselves away from AMC long enough to check out the Emmy telecast can count on seeing Breaking Bad take home the big prize.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Will win: Modern Family
Should win: Louie

(Facebook.com/ModernFamily)

Though cable shows have officially taken over the Outstanding Drama categories, network sitcoms still tend to rule the Outstanding Comedy category — even if they don't deserve it. ABC's Modern Family has won the Outstanding Comedy Emmy for the past three years, and there's no reason to believe the show won't earn a fourth trophy despite its steep decline in quality over the past two seasons.

That's a shame, because there are several nominees that are far more deserving. NBC's 30 Rock ended its seven-season run with a final season that returned the show to the buoyant heights of its earlier years. HBO's Veep offered some of the sharpest, wickedest satire on the small screen. And FX's Louie remained hilarious while challenging the boundaries of the conventional sitcom. (Meanwhile, the actual best comedy on television — NBC's Parks & Recreation — wasn't even nominated.)

But as it stands, it's hard to imagine any show holding up against the Modern Family steamroller. Let's just hope Emmy voters wake up to the shows they're overlooking next year.

Outstanding Lead Actor (Drama)

Will win: Bryan Cranston for Breaking Bad
Should win: Bryan Cranston for Breaking Bad

(Ursula Coyote/AMC)

Unlike the Outstanding Drama Series category, Breaking Bad has consistently owned the top prize for Lead Actor in a Drama. Bryan Cranston earned three consecutive Emmys for Breaking Bad's first three seasons, but lost last year to Damian Lewis, who won the award as part of Homeland's big sweep.

Lewis won't repeat this year — if anyone can challenge Cranston's return to the throne, it's Kevin Spacey for his flashy, overrated performance in Netflix's House of Cards. But while complacence is often to blame for years of repetitive, unwarranted victories for certain shows and performers (Hi, Modern Family!), Cranston's astonishing, chameleon-like performance fully deserves a fourth Emmy.

Outstanding Lead Actress (Drama)

Will win: Claire Danes for Homeland
Should win: Elisabeth Moss for Mad Men

(Kent Smith/SHOWTIME)

Lead Actress in a Drama is a close race this year, which is partially because this is the only major drama category that doesn't feature a nominee from Breaking Bad. While there's no clear standout, there are no shortage of deserving performances. Claire Danes remained strong during Homeland's sophomore slump; Kerry Washington managed to anchor Scandal despite its ludicrous plot twists; and Vera Farmiga's layered Bates Motel performance showed that there's still some juice left in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.

In the end, the smart money is on Danes to repeat, though Washington certainly stands a chance of edging her out. But if I were an Emmy voter, I'd give it to Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss. Incredibly, no one has ever won an acting Emmy for Mad Men — and if anyone deserves it this year, it's Moss, who managed to shine during Mad Men's weakest season ever.

Outstanding Lead Actor (Comedy)

Will win: Louie C.K. for Louie
Should win: Louie C.K. for Louie

(FX)

Louie may not have an Outstanding Comedy Emmy in its future, but it's more likely than not that creator/writer/director/star Louie C.K. has a pretty significant consolation prize on the horizon.

Between C.K., Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Jason Bateman (Arrested Development), and Matt LeBlanc (Episodes), there are plenty of deserving contenders for Outstanding Lead Actor in a comedy. But Emmy voters tipped their hand in the sheer number of nominations for Louis C.K. this year. The comedian earned a staggering nine nominations for his various projects in 2013 — including Louie, the HBO comedy special Oh My God, and a well-received turn as guest host on Saturday Night Live — which shows just how much love voters have for his distinctive brand of comedy.

C.K. has been nominated for Louie twice before, but this third time should finally be the charm.

Outstanding Lead Actress (Comedy)

Will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep
Should win: Amy Poehler for Parks & Recreation

(HBO/Lacey Terrell)

This year's Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy is one of the strangest lists of nominees in recent memory. In fact, I'd make the case that half of this year's nominees — Enlightened's Laura Dern, Girls' Lena Dunham, and Nurse Jackie's Edie Falco — belong in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama category (and would probably be there, if the shows they starred in were a full hour long).

With that in mind, let's focus on the three actresses who starred in shows that can unequivocally be called comedies: 30 Rock's Tina Fey, Veep's Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Parks & Recreation's Amy Poehler. All three actresses turned in terrific performances this year, but Fey and Louis-Dreyfus have already taken home Emmys for their starring roles. Poehler is the strongest of the three anyway, delivering a reliably hilarious, occasionally heartwarming, and completely original performance.

However, given Emmy voters' inexplicable aversion to Parks & Rec, I'm betting that Louis-Dreyfus repeats for her starring role in Veep's even stronger second season.

Outstanding Supporting Actor (Drama)

Will win: Aaron Paul for Breaking Bad
Should win: Jonathan Banks for Breaking Bad

(Ursula Coyote/AMC)

In this year of likely Breaking Bad victories, which of the show's two nominated actors truly deserves the Outstanding Supporting Actor Emmy? That's the key question in this year's race, which pits two-time winner Aaron Paul (who plays Jesse Pinkman) against veteran character actor Jonathan Banks (who plays Mike Ehrmantraut). Banks was last nominated for an Emmy for his supporting turn in 1989's Wiseguy.

Assuming that the two Breaking Bad stars don't split the show's voting fans straight down the middle — in which case the likeliest winner is either Homeland's Mandy Patinkin or Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage — Aaron Paul is the safer bet. When faced with a similar choice last year between Paul and Giancarlo Esposito (who played Gus Fring), voters went with Paul. Assuming that voters would rather not spread the Breaking Bad love around, you can probably expect Paul to three-peat.

Outstanding Supporting Actress (Drama)

Will win: Anna Gunn for Breaking Bad
Should win: Anna Gunn for Breaking Bad


(Ursula Coyote/AMC)

In a year with several intriguing new entrants to the Outstanding Supporting Actress race — Homeland's Morena Baccarin (who plays Jessica Brody) and Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke (who plays Daenerys Targaryen) — you can bet on a previous nominee to carry the Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy. Perennial bridesmaids Christine Baranski (The Good Wife) and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), who have four consecutive nominations each, will be passed over in favor of either Maggie Smith, who won last year for Downton Abbey, or Anna Gunn (Skyler White), who turned in series-best work on Breaking Bad.

There's a real chance that Emmy voters will choose, once again, to reward Maggie Smith's cranky Dowager Countess (a solid performance that has always been a little over-praised). But I'm betting that the wave of goodwill for Breaking Bad will extend to Anna Gunn, whose performance has never been more tragic or effective than in the show's fifth season.

Outstanding Supporting Actor (Comedy)

Will win: Ed O'Neill for Modern Family
Should win: Adam Driver for Girls

(Facebook.com/ModernFamily)

For the past few years, the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a comedy has been Modern Family's to lose — and despite several more deserving contenders (including Veep's Tony Hale and Girls' Adam Driver), I don't see any reason the ABC sitcom won't continue its winning streak. Personally, I'd give the edge to Driver, who successfully pulled off one of the year's trickiest "comedic" performances with his deliberately alienating (but sympathetic) performance.

But assuming that Emmy voters will maintain the status quo, that leaves one key question: Which Modern Family star will take the prize this year? A full half of the nominees in the category hail from Modern Family, but I'm betting that this is Ed O'Neill's year. Co-star Ty Burrell won the prize in 2011, and fellow nominee Jesse Tyler Ferguson had far less to do this year than O'Neill.

Outstanding Supporting Actress (Comedy)

Will win: Sofia Vergara for Modern Family
Should win: Anna Chlumsky for Veep

(Facebook.com/ModernFamily)

There's a little more variety in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy category; of the seven nominees, only two of them come from Modern Family. But don't let dark horses like Veep's Anna Chlumsky or Nurse Jackie's Merritt Wever fool you; barring a surprise victory from The Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik, this is still Modern Family's category to lose.

Assuming that voters still aren't burned out on the ABC sitcom, that leaves two contenders: Julie Bowen, who won in 2011 and 2012, and Sofia Vergara, who has been nominated three times without a victory. But Vergara's character, who contended with pregnancy and a newborn baby in season four, had the far more interesting arc this year. Bet on Emmy voters to give her a trophy for it, and leave poor Jesse Tyler Ferguson as the only adult cast member without one.

Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor for TheWeek.com. He has written about film and television at publications including The AtlanticOutside Magazine, and Think Progress.

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