The Emmy Awards are just two days away. That means it’s crunch time for those attempting to handicap the trophy show that honors the best in TV by nominating pretty much everyone on “Modern Family,” minus the kids, and also giving Jon Stewart at least one statuette per year.

View Photo Gallery: A look at the 2011 Emmy nominations, with commentary from TV Column writer Lisa de Moraes.

What will happen come Sunday night at 8 p.m. when the ceremony gets underway on ABC? Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes says that maybe things will be different this year, perhaps even in the form of a “Mad Men” upset in the best drama category.

I agree that this is a distinct possibility, one that I explore in the following list of Emmy predictions/superlatives that will make filling out your Emmy ballot infinitely easier. (Note: I did not say “guaranteed to be accurate.” I just said “easier,” in the sense that you can just copy some of what I projected below and then yell at me in the blog comments on Monday if I wind up being wrong. Super-efficient.)

Let’s get down to business. Oh, and if you want to make predictions yourself in online-poll form, you can do that here.

The Best Comedy Lock: “Modern Family.”

“Modern Family” has taken the Emmy for best comedy for the past two years. While some are hedging their bets by suggesting that perhaps “The Big Bang Theory” or — if the Emmy voters are feeling a little edgy — “Girls” could run away with this one, that seems highly unlikely. Unlike Claire Dunphy’s bid for city council, “Modern Family’s” race for best comedy looks like a definite winner.

The (Potentially) Unbeatable Actress in a Drama: Claire Danes in “Homeland”

(Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Elisabeth Moss was wonderful on the most recent season of “Mad Men.” Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley? Love her. But there is no way that either of these actresses — or Julianna Margulies, or Glenn Close, or Kathy Bates — is going to win the Emmy over Danes’s remarkable portrayal of a bipolar CIA agent driven by paranoia and an uber-meticulous attention to detail.

The (Potentially) Unbeatable Actor in a Drama: Bryan Cranston in “Breaking Bad”

(Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Cranston has won an Emmy for every single season he has spent portraying Walter White, increasingly power-hungry manufacturer of blue meth. He took a brief break last year because of the hiatus between seasons. But given his work in season four, arguably “Breaking Bad’s” most intense run of episodes, he seems poised to reclaim his position as an Emmy winner. Caveat: There is a small chance that Jon Hamm could pull off an upset here since he has not won for “Mad Men” before, or that Damian Lewis could do the same if Emmy voters go completely ga-ga for “Homeland.” But that chance is indeed small.

The Category Switch That Could Pay Off: “Downton Abbey”


Last year, the Crawley crew competed in the miniseries category. This year, everyone’s favorite saga about wealthy Brits and “a whole bunch of tuxedo people that live in the basement” is competing against all the other series dramas, a change-up that earned the show 16 nominations. If “Mad Men” fails to clinch its fifth consecutive best drama trophy, “Downton Abbey” could very well be the show that steals it away. Again, assuming voters don’t go “Homeland” gaga. (“Breaking Bad” is another strong contender in the drama category, which may be the toughest race of all to call this year, if you don’t subscribe to the “Mad Men” Always Wins and Will Again Theory of Emmy voting.) Still, my gut tells me “Downton,” and I am sticking with that.

The Category Switch That May Not Pay Off: “American Horror Story”

(Ray Mickshaw for FX/AP)

Ryan Murphy’s show about S&M boogeymen and creepy Frankensteined babies pursued a strategy similar to “Downton Abbey’s”: instead of joining the crowded drama field, it submitted as a miniseries on the grounds that its entire premise and setting changes in season two. Nominations-wise, it worked; “AHS” snagged 17 nods. But given its weirdness — which viewers found delicious but Emmy voters aren’t always inclined to embrace — it may be tough for it to triumph against more traditional competition like “Game Change,” “Sherlock” or “Hatfield & McCoys.” The category where it has the best shot: best supporting actress, which could give Jessica Lange the second Emmy of her career for being the nosiest neighbor in haunted-house-television history.

The Culturally Significant Acting Win: Giancarlo Esposito for “Breaking Bad.”

(Ursula Coyote)

If, as expected, Esposito wins the Emmy for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Los Polles Hermanos manager — oh yeah, and drug lord — Gus Fring, this son of an Italian father and African American mother will become the first African American actor to triumph in this category. He’s got to get past his co-star Aaron Paul and last year’s winner, Peter Dinklage, to do it. I think he will.

The Underdog Winner: Amy Poehler for “Parks and Recreation”

(Tyler Golden/NBC)

I am not sure if I am predicting that Amy Poehler will finally win the award for best actress in a comedy because I think it will happen (which I do) or because I really want it to happen (which I also do). But I think it’s the former, and also the fact that she submitted the “Win, Lose or Draw” episode to Emmy voters, one that showed off her capacity to crack us up and make us teary within the span of 25 minutes.

The Lena Dunham moment: A win for best writing

(© Carlo Allegri / Reuters)

Since, based on the previous entry, Dunham won’t win for her starring role on “Girls,” I predict she will be recognized in the comedy writing category.

The Lead Acting Upset: Louis C.K. for “Louie

(Eric Leibowitz/FX)

Jim Parsons has won this thing two years in a row. If Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly and other prognosticators are correct, Louis C.K. will dethrone Sheldon Cooper and take the prize for best actor in a comedy. This will be a good thing, especially since it means we get to listen to a C.K. acceptance speech.

The Supporting Actress Upset: Christina Hendricks for “Mad Men”

(Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Most people will mark down Maggie Smith for the win in the supporting actress in a drama category. Why? Because she’s Maggie Smith, fer cryin’ out loud. But Hendricks brought a lot of layers to Joan in this season of “Mad Men,” arguably more than were demanded of Smith’s “Downton” matriarch. Hendricks’s submission to voters was “The Other Woman,” the episode in which Joan had to be offended by Pete Campbell, destroyed by her decision to give away her body to a sleazy client and resolute that, by becoming a partner, she did the right thing. Don’t be surprised if her name gets called instead of the Dowager Countess’s.

Join The Washington Post for Emmy coverage on Emmy night. Lisa de Moraes will live-blog all the action at while I will provide ongoing updates in Celebritology and award-worthy (maybe?) tweets @chaneyj.