This Sunday, FOX presents the 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, starting at 7 p.m. This year's race for some of the big prizes has likely resulted in some close votes, as a number of first-time nominees with recognizable names are pitted against a host of returning favorites. Without further ado, here are my picks: who will win, who should win and who could play the spoiler.
Outstanding Drama Series
"Friday Night Lights"
"Game of Thrones"
"The Good Wife"
WILL & SHOULD WIN: "Mad Men" will pick up its fourth straight Drama Series trophy. There's nothing else quite like it on TV; while the others are all fine programs, they're still all running second (particularly in Emmy's eyes).
SPOILER: "Boardwalk Empire" is, as I've said earlier, practically built to win Emmys. If there's any wind of change blowing this year, it'll be blowing the "Boardwalk" direction.
Outstanding Comedy Series
"The Big Bang Theory"
"Parks and Recreation"
WILL & SHOULD WIN: "Modern Family" somehow managed to beat the sophomore curse and produce a season that made me laugh just as long and as loudly as the first. Much like "Mad Men," I think that "Family" is a show that Emmy voters are going to support for several more years to come.
SPOILER: I don't even think this is a competitive race, but if there's an upset, I think it comes from the previous Emmy darling "30 Rock."
Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Kathy Bates, "Harry's Law"
Connie Britton, "Friday Night Lights"
Mireille Enos, "The Killing"
Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men"
SHOULD & WILL WIN: Elisabeth Moss delivered one of the most acclaimed performances of this year - perhaps the most acclaimed by any actor in any program that aired on television this year, in the "Mad Men" episode "The Suitcase."
SPOILER: Connie Britton's five years on "Friday Night Lights" has earned her so much consistent praise from the critical community that the TV Academy may very well give her a going-away present. I doubt it, but stranger things have happened on Emmy night.
Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"
Kyle Chandler, "Friday Night Lights"
Michael C. Hall, "Dexter"
Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"
Hugh Laurie, "House"
Timothy Olyphant, "Justified"
NOTE: No Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad" means that we will have a new winner in this category - and not one of the nominees has ever won before.
WILL & SHOULD WIN: Jon Hamm has sat behind Cranston the last few times out, but this time it will be his name in the envelope. Like his "Mad Men" co-star Moss, he'll win for his work in "The Suitcase" - and also like her, he'll absolutely deserve it.
SPOILER: This is likely one of the tightest ballots in several years. Of all the people who could spoil the race for Hamm, I'm going to pick Steve Buscemi. He has name recognition among voters from his movie career, plus he was the star of an Emmy darling.
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Kelly Macdonald, "Boardwalk Empire"
Archie Panjabi, "The Good Wife"
Christine Baranski, "The Good Wife"
Margo Martindale, "Justified"
Michelle Forbes, "The Killing"
Christina Hendricks, "Mad Men"
WILL WIN: I think Kelly Macdonald will take home the Emmy. "Boardwalk Empire" was one of the buzziest shows of the season, a program practically designed to win awards. Macdonald is excellent in the role, to be sure; there won't be embarrassed applause when her name is called. But...
SHOULD WIN: ...Margo Martindale deserves this one. She's created an indelible character on one of TV's more unique and vibrant series.
SPOILER: It's tough to pick among the other fine performers here, but as a rule of thumb regarding Emmy picks, when in doubt, go with last year's winner. So my spoiler pick is Archie Panjabi.
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones"
Josh Charles, "The Good Wife"
Alan Cumming, "The Good Wife"
Walton Goggins, "Justified"
John Slattery, "Mad Men"
Andre Braugher, "Men of a Certain Age"
WILL WIN: Andre Braugher is the kind of actor Emmy loves. Even though "Men of a Certain Age" is over and done, I think Braugher's reputation - and fine, nuanced work on the series - has carried his name to the inside of the envelope.
SHOULD WIN: Walton Goggins, like his counterpart Ms. Martindale on "Justified," puts on something of an acting clinic week-to-week on the FX drama.
SPOILER: "The Good Wife" surprised last year in the supporting actress category; I think that Josh Charles may very well be the surprise winner for the show this year.
Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"
Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Laura Linney, "The Big C"
Melissa McCarthy, "Mike & Molly"
Martha Plimpton, "Raising Hope"
Amy Poehler, "Parks and Recreation"
WILL WIN: I can't believe I'm writing this, but here will be the one win that almost no one will be happy about the morning after - Edie Falco will win for the second year in a row.
SHOULD WIN: Amy Poehler ought to win this prize, though. She has built a very roughly sketched character into one of TV's more interesting comic creations. While "Parks & Recreation" won't win the Comedy Series Emmy, she deserves to take this one home.
SPOILER: Melissa McCarthy's series isn't even close to being Emmy-worthy, but she is; more importantly, the Emmy voters like to give prizes to performers whose movie careers are getting hot. McCarthy's buzzed-about role in this past summer's "Bridesmaids" has made her the perfect candidate for a spoiler win.
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
Steve Carell, "The Office"
Louis C.K., "Louie"
Johnny Galecki, "The Big Bang Theory"
Matt LeBlanc, "Episodes"
Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory"
WILL & SHOULD WIN: Steve Carell deserves to take home an Emmy as a reward for his years of service on "The Office." His work on his character's final episode was graceful and touching, as well as funny.
SPOILER: Alec Baldwin has a better-than-average shot at winning this over Carell, mainly because the TV Academy holds its favorite performers close.
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Jane Lynch, "Glee"
Betty White, "Hot in Cleveland"
Julie Bowen, "Modern Family"
Sofia Vergara, "Modern Family"
Kristen Wiig, "Saturday Night Live"
Jane Krakowski, "30 Rock"
WILL WIN: Jane Lynch is hosting the awards this year. She's also last year's winner. The voters love her. As much as it pains me to say this, I think she wins again. But...
SHOULD WIN: ...this Emmy ought to go to Sofia Vergara. (I know, I know - it's my same spiel over and over.) I think her work as Gloria, this season in particular, has been stellar.
SPOILER: Betty White, because the industry simply adores her. I think the nomination is her award, but it also wouldn't shock me if her name was called.
Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Chris Colfer, "Glee"
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, "Modern Family"
Ed O'Neill, "Modern Family"
Eric Stonestreet, "Modern Family"
Ty Burrell, "Modern Family"
Jon Cryer, "Two and a Half Men"
WILL & SHOULD WIN: Ty Burrell is, in my mind, the funniest actor on television, playing one of the most inspired - yet surprisingly human - comic creations in memory. While his co-star Eric Stonestreet won last year, I think this is the year that Emmy voters pick Burrell.
SPOILER: If anybody beats Burrell, it ought to be another of his co-stars, Ed O'Neill, who smartly gives his outwardly rough and gruff patriarchal character a warmth and tenderness that is a constant source of delight.