2014 Emmy Awards predictions: Who will win, who deserves to win, and dark horses who could surprise everyone

And yet that’s exactly what we’ve got this year with the 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards, which air Aug. 25 and honor the best in the best in the TV industry. Seth Meyers of NBC’s “Late Night” hosts the proceedings and tries to spice up a three-hour show that generally remains pretty similar year after year.

But there could be some shake-ups, thanks to HBO’s fancy new mystery anthology, “True Detective,” going up against the last season of “Breaking Bad” for the best drama series crown. And Netflix’s critically beloved women’s prison show, “Orange Is the New Black,” might be just the series to take down “Modern Family,” which has won the comedy series trophy for the past four years. (If the ABC sitcom triumphs again, it will tie”Frasier” for the most wins in that category.)

Meanwhile, “Orange Is the New Black” star Taylor Schilling is running a close race with “Veep” lead Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who has landed the comedy actress prize two years running. Throw in movie stars such as Matthew McConaughey (“True Detective”) and Jon Voight (“Ray Donovan”) competing with steadfast TV favorites such as Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) and Josh Charles (“The Good Wife”) and you’ve got one intriguing night.

Here are our predictions about who could take home the gold:

DRAMA SERIES

“Breaking Bad” (AMC)
“Downton Abbey” (PBS)
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“Mad Men” (AMC)
“True Detective” (HBO)
“House of Cards” (Netflix)

Will probably win: “Breaking Bad.”
This is the biggest question of the Emmys: Will the last season of “Breaking Bad” or the first season of “True Detective” dominate in the night’s most celebrated category? “True Detective” made waves, but the Television Academy should award “Breaking Bad” for its stellar season.

Deserves to win: “Breaking Bad.”
Not only did it go out on top, but the excellent series has simply earned this for its unprecedented run from cult favorite to actual hit.

Dark horse: “Game of Thrones.”
HBO’s fantasy epic gets buzzier and more intense every year – it has lots of fans, and many of them are likely in the TV academy.

LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA

Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad” (AMC)
Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom” (HBO)
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards” (Netflix)
Jon Hamm, “Mad Men” (AMC)
Matthew McConaughey, “True Detective” (HBO)
Woody Harrelson, “True Detective” (HBO)

Will probably win: Cranston.
Yeah, it feels like “Breaking Bad” ended a million years ago – but Cranston was unforgettable and should win, unless McConaughey stealthily steals the prize.

Deserves to win: Cranston.
Walter White is now too iconic despite the great performances in “True Detective.”

Dark horse: Harrelson.
McConaughey got all the attention for playing the damaged philosopher-detective Rust Cohle – but his partner, Harrelson’s self-destructive Marty Hart, frequently stole the show.

LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA

Michelle Dockery, “Downton Abbey” (PBS)
Claire Danes, “Homeland” (Showtime)
Robin Wright, “House of Cards” (Netflix)
Kerry Washington, “Scandal” (ABC)
Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife” (CBS)
Lizzy Caplan, “Masters of Sex” (Showtime)

Will probably win: Margulies.
“The Good Wife” had an epic Season 5 – the absence of it in the best drama category is somewhat unforgivable – and Margulies led the charge.

Deserves to win: Margulies.
She pretty much landed the trophy the minute her character found out about Will Gardner’s demise.

Dark horse: Caplan.
The first-time nominee landed the lone major nod for the excellent Showtime drama, and the other veterans could split the vote.

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA

Jon Voight, “Ray Donovan” (Showtime)
Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)
Mandy Patinkin, “Homeland” (Showtime)
Josh Charles, “The Good Wife” (CBS)
Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad” (AMC)
Jim Carter, “Downton Abbey” (PBS)

Will probably win: Paul.
Again, the final season of Jesse Pinkman and “Breaking Bad” just cannot be denied.

Deserves to win: Charles.
His Season 5 portrayal of vengeful, heartbroken Will Gardner deserves the trophy, especially in light of his character’s final episode.

Dark horse: Voight.
Even on a show without a ton of buzz, never count out an academy favorite. Voight won the Golden Globe for this role this year.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA

Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad” (AMC)
Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey” (PBS)
Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones” (HBO)
Christine Baranski, “The Good Wife” (CBS)
Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men” (AMC)
Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey” (PBS)

Will probably win: Gunn.
This category is always a bit of a tossup, but this really seems like the year for “Breaking Bad” to take a victory lap in any way possible: Look for Gunn (2013 winner) to triumph over Smith (2012 winner).

Deserves to win: Hendricks.
Joan Holloway had a standout year in the “Mad Men” universe, but as usual, it’s likely that the academy will overlook it.

Dark horse: Headey.
You never know when “Game of Thrones” is going to break through, and Headey landed the nod over her previously nominated co-star Emilia Clarke.

COMEDY SERIES

“The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
“Louie” (FX)
“Modern Family” (ABC)
“Veep” (HBO)
“Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix)
“Silicon Valley” (HBO)

Will probably win: “Orange Is the New Black.”
Will the Netflix favorite snap “Modern Family’s” four-year winning streak? It has to end sometime, and even though the inmates at Litchfield aren’t exactly hilarious, it is a stellar show.

Deserves to win: “Modern Family.”
As much as “Orange Is the New Black” has excelled in the art of darkly twisted humor, the ABC sitcom delivers a genuinely funny, laugh-out-loud episode every week – even if it’s not cool to think so anymore.

Dark horse: “Veep.”
Never count out an HBO show, even if it’s a half-hour comedy.

LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY

Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes” (Showtime)
Don Cheadle, “House of Lies” (Showtime)
Louis C.K., “Louie” (FX); William H. Macy
“Shameless” (Showtime)
Ricky Gervais, “Derek” (Netflix)

Will probably win: Parsons.
With three trophies in this category, Emmy voters clearly have a favorite.

Deserves to win: C.K.
Enough with Jim Parsons already. C.K. is waiting right there with plenty of acclaim – even if this season of “Louis” was very controversial.

Dark horse: Macy.
“Shameless” lobbied hard to get into the comedy category this year, and Macy’s nomination is basically the only way it paid off.

LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY

Lena Dunham, “Girls” (HBO)
Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie” (Showtime)
Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation” (NBC)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” (HBO)
Melissa McCarthy, “Mike and Molly” (CBS)
Taylor Schilling, “Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix)

Will probably win: Schilling.
This is a tough one, but we’re going to give the slight edge to Schilling based purely on the solid buzz and the Netflix “hip” factor. If she loses to anyone, it’s going to be Louis-Dreyfus, but the “Veep” star has won two years in a row.

Deserves to win: Poehler.
Seriously, people. Let’s take a lesson from the Golden Globes and give Leslie Knope an overdue prize on the eve of the show’s final season.

Dark horse: Falco.
We can’t explain it, either.

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY

Adam Driver, “Girls” (HBO)
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, “Modern Family” (ABC)
Fred Armisen, “Portlandia” (IFC)
Ty Burrell, “Modern Family” (ABC)
Tony Hale, “Veep” (HBO)
Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Fox).

Will probably win: Hale.
We’re calling a repeat winner for Hale, who picked up the award last year as the vice president’s wacky assistant.

Deserves to win: Braugher.
Looking dead serious at all times, Braugher goes one on one with the frenetic Andy Samberg every week. It’s impressive and delightful.

Dark horse: Burrell.
Always a solid choice (and previous winner) if none of the other nominees stands out.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY

Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
Julie Bowen, “Modern Family” (ABC)
Anna Chlumsky, “Veep” (HBO)
Allison Janney, “Mom” (CBS)
Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
Kate Mulgrew, “Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix).

Will probably win: Janney.
Voters love Janney (she already won for guest actress in a drama for “Masters of Sex”), and we wouldn’t put it past them to honor her again.

Deserves to win: Mulgrew.
Her character, the mischievous prison chef Red, always manages to get her way – and also lands the best one-liners.

Dark horse: McKinnon.
Because who even thought she would score a nomination?

MINISERIES

“American Horror Story: Coven” (FX)
“Fargo” (FX)
“The White Queen” (Starz)
“Bonnie and Clyde” (Lifetime)
“Treme” (HBO)
“Luther” (BBC America)

Will probably win: “Fargo”
The show based on the Coen brothers movie tested the boundaries of television this year, even if it’s skating by in the miniseries category instead of competing as a drama.

Deserves to win: “Fargo”
The excellent wasn’t quite like anything else on television with a truly compelling story, and thanks to a stellar cast in Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman.

Dark horse: “American Horror Story: Coven”
We can never escape Ryan Murphy.

TELEVISION MOVIE

“The Normal Heart” (HBO)
“The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime)
“Killing Kennedy” (National Geographic Channel)
“Sherlock: His Last Vow” (PBS)
“Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight” (HBO)

Will probably win: “The Normal Heart”
Again, it’s touch to escape Ryan Murphy. His directorial effort, based on the 1985 play about the AIDS crisis in New York, got lots of rave reviews.

Deserves to win: “The Normal Heart”
A difficult subject that stood out from the others in this tough category.

Dark horse: “Killing Kennedy”
Hey, Rob Lowe was pretty convincing as JFK.

VARIETY SERIES

“The Colbert Report” (Comedy Central)
“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” (Comedy Central)
“Jimmy Kimmel Live” (ABC)
“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” (NBC)
“Real Time With Bill Maher” (HBO)
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC)

Will probably win: “The Colbert Report”
This is Stephen Colbert’s year in every sense of the word.

Deserves to win: “The Colbert Report”
The comedian consistently proves why he’s the only natural choice to take over for David Letterman.

Dark horse: “Jimmy Kimmel Live”
He’s really found his niche this year. Okay, with dumb fake Internet hoaxes, but still, he embraces his role in the late-night universe.

REALITY-COMPETITION PROGRAM

“The Amazing Race” (CBS)
“Dancing With the Stars” (ABC)
“Project Runway” (Lifetime)
“So You Think You Can Dance” (Fox)
“Top Chef” (Bravo)
“The Voice” (NBC)

Will probably win: “The Voice”
Great ratings, good buzz, and hey, it won last year.

Deserves to win: “Dancing With the Stars”
Mock it if you must, but it is not easy to put on that caliber of performances every week while expertly amping up the drama with stressed-out celebrities.

Dark horse: “So You Think You Can Dance”
Maybe this is the year? Finally? Okay, probably not, but this long-running series deserves some props as it changes with the times.

Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter and pop culture blogger for the Style section. She joined the Post in May 2008, a week before she graduated from the University of Maryland, and worked on Lisa de Moraes' TV Column and blog.
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Emily Yahr | August 21