“Game of Thrones” won’t win any Emmys this year.
The reason? “Game of Thrones” didn’t air during the qualifying period, opening the door for other series to take its perch.
Will that be something as prestigious as “The Crown”? Or as popular as “This is Us”? Toss in a buzzworthy “Stranger Things,” a creative “Westworld,” a chilling “Handmaid’s Tale” and two respected dramas (“Better Call Saul” and “House of Cards”) and it’s clear this is not going to be a walk in the Westeros.
Also at play? The ability of broadcast networks to bloc vote and beat streaming and cable series. If “This is Us” wins Best Drama, it’ll be the first network drama to tower since “24” in the 2005-2006 season.
The Limited Series category is hard to call, too, because it has such strong entries: “Big Little Lies,” “Fargo, “Feud: Bette and Joan,” “The Night Of” and National Geographic’s first drama series, “Genius.”
The Best Comedy trophy looks like it’s destined to return to “Veep,” one of the smartest series of this or any decade. If there’s a spoiler, it’s newcomer Donald Glover’s “Atlanta,” which got glowing reviews and plenty of traction for the former “Community” star. He’ll get something, but the Best Comedy prize doesn’t seem his just yet. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, with five consecutive Best Actress Emmys to her credit, could make history if she gets the sixth, pulling ahead of Candice Bergen who also has five for the same role.
Consider it done. While there are worthy competitors, Louis-Dreyfus is an unimpeachable winner, thanks to “Veep.”
Who’s also likely to win? By category, here are the frontrunners:
BEST COMEDY: “Veep.” It has two wins and deserves a third. Only “Atlanta” seems strong enough to pull off an upset.
BEST COMEDY ACTOR: Donald Glover, “Atlanta.” Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”) is the incumbent, but it could be time for a sea change.
BEST COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTOR: Alec Baldwin for his run as Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live”; If Louie Anderson hadn’t made last year’s win for “Baskets” seem like a once-in-a-lifetime thing, he could have had a chance to double up.
BEST COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”); either Anna Chlumsky (“Veep”) or Judith Light (“Transparent”) could slip in if three from “SNL” split the vote.
BEST DRAMA: “This is Us.” It’s on a roll. If voters want prestige, they’ll pick “The Handmaid’s Tale.” “The Crown” should do well in creative categories.
BEST DRAMA ACTOR: Sterling K. Brown, “This is Us.” He won an Emmy last year for “People v. O.J. Simpson” and proved a worthy choice. He should score here, too.
BEST DRAMA ACTRESS: Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) should win but Claire Foy (“The Crown”) could nudge her if her series does well in a host of categories.
BEST DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTOR: John Lithgow, “The Crown.” Winston Churchill? Come on, they don’t get better. Ron Cephas Jones (“This is Us”) is an outside threat.
BEST DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Chrissy Metz (“This is Us”) is a popular choice but Millie Bobby Brown attracted attention with “Stranger Things.” The others should be glad they’re in the category.
BEST LIMITED SERIES: My choice is “Feud” or “Fargo” but “Big Little Lies” has the clout of HBO behind it. Plus, a win for “Lies” would give stars Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman (who also produced) trophies, clearing the way for someone else to win in the Actress category. Think: “Lies.”
BEST LIMITED SERIES ACTOR: Impossible to call. Ewan McGregor (“Fargo”) played two roles; Robert De Niro (“The Wizard of Lies”) gave one of his best performances in years; Geoffrey Rush (“Genius”) made Albert Einstein cool again. Benedict Cumberbatch and two “Night Of” stars are also in the hunt. Anyone winning is fine with us.
BEST LIMITED SERIES ACTRESS: Nicole Kidman has her fans but Carrie Coon (“Fargo”) would be a superb choice. She had two strong series this year (“The Leftovers” is the other) and a command of the “Fargo” accent that was admirable. She’s our choice. But if Emmy plays it safe, Jessica Lange returns to the stage for her work as Joan Crawford in “Feud.”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR/MOVIE, LIMITED SERIES: Alexander Skarsgard (“Big Little Lies”). Alfred Molina (“Feud”) finishes in second.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS/MOVIE, LIMITED SERIES: Laura Dern (“Big Little Lies”); Judy Davis (“Feud”) is a good alternate but Regina King (“American Crime”) has two trophies on her shelf to press her case. Guilty pleasure: Jackie Hoffman winning for “Feud.”
BEST TV MOVIE: “Black Mirror: San Junipero” is the critics’ choice. “The Wizard of Lies” could be a way of rewarding De Niro without giving him Best Actor.
BEST VARIETY TALK SERIES: “Jimmy Kimmel Live” is our fave but “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” made waves this year.
BEST VARIETY SKETCH SERIES: “Saturday Night Live.” If it’s ever going to return to the winners’ circle, it’s this year.
In other categories, look for “The Crown,” “Feud” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” to duke it out for creative awards. Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe should get a comedy trophy for writing “Master of None” and Bruce Miller should get the drama one for “Handmaid’s Tale.”
If Donald Glover has a big night, he could go home with Best Comedy, Best Comedy Actor, Best Directing and Best Writing. But that kind of run rarely happens at the Emmy Awards.
The 69th Annual Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 17 on CBS. Stephen Colbert hosts.