The problem with saying who should win at the Emmys is that such choices inevitably come at the expense of someone else, who often will, and is just as deserving.
Still, having watched more of the nominees than is probably healthy, here’s one ballot covering key categories and preferences among the 26 awards slated to be handed out during Monday night’s ceremony, which will be televised live on NBC:
Best drama: This really feels like a two-horse race between “Game of Thrones” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and frankly, either one would be fine. Still, the Hulu series pulled off an extremely strong second season while operating largely without the benefit of Margaret Atwood’s book, which is no small feat. Besides, “Thrones” can still nab a final Emmy for its upcoming swan-song season, which would bring an appropriate note of closure for what has been the most cinematic exercise ever mounted for TV.
Best comedy: “Atlanta’s” second season wasn’t quite as good as its first, while “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” felt a bit less marvelous than its Golden Globe victory would suggest. Surveying the rest of the field, that leaves “Barry,” an HBO show that took what seemed like a silly premise – hitman decides he wants to become an actor – and turned it into one of the most unexpectedly satisfying shows on TV.
Limited series: “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” was very good, but the latest iteration of the “American Crime Story” franchise didn’t match the first edition devoted to O.J. Simpson’s trial. There’s a stronger case to be made for “Godless,” a brutal, beautifully shot and cast Netflix western, which offered a reminder as to why that underappreciated genre once dominated television.
Variety talk series: John Oliver is the two-time defending champ for “Last Week Tonight,” and it’s hard to argue with a threepeat. Even so, Stephen Colbert has truly come into his own since Trump’s inauguration, providing an essential mix of comedy, astute political satire and humanity – sometimes, in the case of the recent departure of CBS chief Leslie Moonves, while facing a pretty high degree of difficulty. Moreover, he’s done so on a five-night-a-week basis, a distinction that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Lead actress, drama: This is one of those categories where you really can’t go wrong, and Elisabeth Moss is a likely repeat winner for “Handmaid’s Tale.” Still, Claire Foy’s regal, wonderfully restrained performance in “The Crown” – headwear that she’s handing over after two seasons – shouldn’t go unnoticed, even if it probably will.
Lead actress, comedy: Rachel Brosnahan is the odds-on favorite for “Mrs. Maisel,” and she’s terrific. But Issa Rae has really blossomed in the lead role in “Insecure,” an HBO series whose current sophomore season helps buttress the case for her – eventually, if not now.
Supporting actor, comedy: Somehow, Henry Winkler has never won an Emmy (there were nods for “Happy Days,” as well as Golden Globes), something that his sixth nomination – a wonderfully quirky turn as an eccentric acting coach in “Barry” – not only is likely to remedy, but should.
Supporting actress, drama: Both supporting categories in drama are completely loaded, but nobody was better than Yvonne Strahovski, whose subtle, heartbreaking work in “The Handmaid’s Tale” exposed new facets of her complicated character that the first season didn’t.
Writing, drama series: “The Americans” likely won’t win for best drama, but the FX show’s riveting series finale desperately merits recognition, and honoring creators Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg for the graceful way in which they sent their Russian spies into the sunset would be a fitting consolation prize.