The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards are coming at us in just a short few weeks. And whether you're gearing up for an office pool, or just playing a private game of "told ya so" with the know-it-alls on Twitter, it's good to know how the races are shaping up. It's so much better to go into an awards show being able to tell the favorites from the underdogs. Then, when a Melissa McCarthy, a Merritt Wever, or a Kyle Chandler end up winning, you'll have an even better appreciation of what this moment means to the people involved.
With that in mind, Primetimer is breaking down this year's major Emmy categories. Who are the favorites? The underdogs? What's the story in each of these competitions.
As with the supporting actresses, a small handful of shows dominate these categories: between Game of Thrones, Barry, Better Call Saul, and When They See Us, 9 of the 19 supporting-actor nominations are spoken for. Still, there's excitement to be found on the ballot, from previously unsung scene-stealers getting their moment in the spotlight, to veteran character actors receiving their very first Emmy nominations. Among them, a pair of big-time Emmy faves — Tony Shalhoub and Peter Dinklage — will attempt to win their fourth respective Emmys. Is there any stopping them?
Last Year's Winner: Henry Winkler took home his first ever Emmy Award for his role as an acting teacher unwittingly instructing a violent killer.
The Frontrunner: The experts at Gold Derby are split between Golden Globe winner Alan Arkin and 3-time Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub (for Monk), with the slight edge going to Shalhoub, who everybody thought would win last year, on account of how Emmy voters have always loved him, and the fact that he plays the loudest character in the category by far.
The Likeliest Spoiler: Behind Arkin and Shalhoub lurks Winkler, who should seem like a bigger threat to win, considering how often the Emmys like repeat winners. But with internal competition from both Stephen Root (earning his first Emmy nomination in a long career of excellent character acting) and the scene-stealing Anthony Carrigan, Winkler's run as an Emmy winner may have jumped the shark.
The Feel-Good Long-Shot: One-for-the-road Emmys can be very heart-warming, but Tony Hale has already won a bunch for Veep. It's Anthony Carrigan's NoHo Hank or bust for me this year.
Stat to Chew On: With a win in this category, Alan Arkin would move into 3/4 territory towards an EGOT, having won an Oscar for 2006's Little Miss Sunshine and a Tony Award in 1963 for Enter Laughing.
Prediction: Sometimes Emmy voters are a year late to the party. It happens. If that's the case here, then all of our Tony Shalhoub predictions from last year will finally come true.
Last Year's Winner: Peter Dinklage won his third Emmy for playing Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones.
The Frontrunner: Almost everybody is predicting a fourth Emmy for Dinklage, an eventuality that is made even more likely by how thoroughly Tyrion presided over the show's finale, which prompted some of us, ahem, to suggest that he'd have been more appropriately submitted as a lead.
The Likeliest Spoiler: You'd think that with all these Game of Thrones actors splitting votes, they'd open up the door for an insurgent candidate, but the Better Call Saul folks will split their own vote. And while I can't imagine House of Cards generating enough excitement to push Michael Kelly — the least-inspired nominee on the entire Emmy ballot — to a win after all these years. Perhaps Chris Sullivan is lined up for an Archie Panjabi/Zjelko Ivanek-style "they must really love him to have nominated him" win, but we doubt it. If it's not Dinklage (it will be), it'll be his on-screen brother, Nokolaj Coster-Waldau.
The Feel-Good Long-Shot: Jonathan Banks has put in so many years being one of the best things about first Breaking Bad and now Better Call Saul. He deserves a trophy.
Stat to Chew On: The last time this category saw three nominees from one show and two from another, it was 2001, and there were only five nominees total. The West Wing's Bradley Whitford beat out co-stars Richard Schiff and John Spencer, and Sopranos stars Michael Imperioli and Dominic Chianese.
Prediction: It's Peter Dinklage, come on.
The Frontrunner: Having won the Golden Globe and BAFTA for his performance in the Amazon miniseries A Very English Scandal, the experts have Ben Whishaw poised to win the Emmy as well.
The Likeliest Spoiler: Michael Kenneth Williams gets one of the most emotionally resonant beats in When They See Us, which could be enough to push him to victory, though internal competition (especially from Leguizamo) could hold him back.
The Feel-Good Long-Shot: If you're of the disposition that watching long-serving character actors finally get their due is half the fun of the Emmys, then you've gotta be pulling for Stellan Skarsgard at least a little bit. It's his first Emmy nomination — his first major nomination of any kind, really — despite having been in [checks notes] every movie.
Stat to Chew On: A win for Michael Kenneth Williams would be the third alumnus of The Wire to win an Emmy, after Glynn Turman (Guest Actor, In Treatment, 2008) and Reg E. Cathey (Guest Actor, House of Cards, 2015) .
Prediction: Whishaw has the precursors and would be a very worthy winner, but my gut says upset here. Flip a coin between Michael K. Williams and Stellan Skarsgard, but I'll go with Skarsgard to win the award that his son Alexander took home two years ago.
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.
TOPICS: 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, Barry, Better Call Saul, Chernobyl, Game of Thrones, The Kominsky Method, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, When They See Us, Alan Arkin, Anthony Carrigan, Henry Winkler, Michael K. Williams, Peter Dinklage, Stellan Skarsgård, Stephen Root, Tony Shalhoub