x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

As TV stars assemble for the annual Emmys, we speculate on who will walk away with the coveted prize

TV stars team up for the annual celebration of the best of the small screen in a year defined by sizzling drama and viewing habits driven by new technology.

Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad. Courtesy AMC / AP Photo
Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad. Courtesy AMC / AP Photo

Angelic statuettes with lightning-bolt wings will take flight, along with the dreams of television royalty, when the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards hit the global airwaves to honour their finest talent and productions of the past year.

They’re a lot like the Oscars – and you’ll be seeing more of the same faces, too, as Hollywood stars continue to migrate to the small screen where cutting-edge drama now crackles on the cable and broadband networks that are taking the kinds of story chances that few movie studios can risk nowadays.

Zooey Deschanel, Halle Berry, Matthew McConaughey, Gwen Stefani, Viola Davis, Andy Samberg and Julia Roberts are among more than a dozen top stars – including Emmy, Oscar, Grammy, Tony and Golden Globe winners – who will present awards at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Monday night. Presiding over the glitz will be the first-time host and talk-show funnyman Seth Meyers (Late Night with Seth Meyers), who promises to play somewhat nice with the stars, taking the kindly advice of his former Saturday Night Live (SNL) boss Lorne ­Michaels to heart.

“[Michaels] always stresses: ‘Try not to tell a joke about somebody that you then would want to leave the cocktail party if they showed up,’” says Meyers. “Try to be fair enough about it that even if it’s maybe a little negative, as long as it seems fair, you can get away with it .”

Game of Thrones scored the most nominations this year with 19 nods. Other leading contenders include: Fargo (18), Breaking Bad (16); SNL (14); House of Cards (13); and True Detective and Downton Abbey with 12 apiece.

The Netflix streaming series, Orange Is the New Black, also racked up an impressive 12 nods in its first season, including a nomination in the Guest Actress category for Laverne Cox, the first transgender actor to receive an Emmy nomination in an acting category.

In what is perhaps a bellwether of tonight’s awards, True Detective, Orange Is the New Black, Game of Thrones and SNL have momentum on their side after scoring key wins at the non-televised Creative Arts Emmy Awards on August 16.

Talk wars

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon exploded from the NBC gates with 11 million viewers for his February debut. The affable gabber continues to lord it over Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman with fat ratings in all key demographics and online smarts. His competition for Outstanding Variety Show includes: The Colbert Report, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Real Time With Bill Maher and Saturday Night Live. Only Colbert can stop him.

Such dramatics

This year’s Outstanding Drama Series category is crammed with shows that merit a statuette: Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Mad Men and True Detective. In terms of sheer audacity, True Detective generated enough chatter for a million water coolers – but we’ve also seen a global groundswell of adoration for Game of Thrones, whose audience has grown by leaps and bounds and millions each season. But, oh, the grit of the final moments on Earth of Walter White on Breaking Bad. The slightest edge, however, goes to True Detective for the win. Stay tuned.

Remembering Robin

Fans of Robin Williams will appreciate that his dear friend Billy Crystal will lead the Emmys tribute to the beloved funnyman, who died this month. “We felt we needed to do something powerful and memorable. Billy seemed like the perfect choice,” says the executive producer Don Mischer. Crystal, 66, was friends with Williams for more than 30 years, co-starred with him in the film Father’s Day (1997) and presented televised Comic Relief specials with him and Whoopi Goldberg to help the homeless. Performing with Crystal in the special segment will be the Brave singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.

Just a year ago, the 63-year-old Oscar-winner Williams took part in the Emmy Awards “In Memoriam” tribute to honour his childhood idol and mentor Jonathan Winters, who had recently died.

During his lengthy career, Williams was nominated for eight Emmys and won twice.

GoT sibling rivalry

Lannister bragging rights are at stake as the cunning dwarf Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and his malevolent sister Cersei (Lena Headey) both hope for Emmys in their respective Supporting Actor and Actress Drama nominations for Game of Thrones. This would be a second win for Dinklage, should he prevail. However, just being nominated is much cooler than being cross-bowed to death on the loo, as the siblings’ on-screen dad discovered.

Leading silly ladies

The lioness’s share of the buzz this past year has been for the women-behind-bars comedy of Orange Is the New Black and the outstanding thespian talents of Taylor Schilling – a first-time Emmy nominee for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. But Schilling is competing against the likes of Lena Dunham (Girls), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly) and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation). Louis-Dreyfus appears ripe to repeat last year’s win.

Just for laughs

In seven seasons, The Big Bang Theory has yet to win Emmys’ comedy-series crown despite being a blockbuster fan favourite with stellar ratings – which prompted CBS only weeks ago to triple the salaries of its three stars (Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco) to almost US$1 million (Dh3.67m) per episode to make sure they stay on for three more years. Maybe tonight will be their night, but they’re up against the four-years-in-a-row winner Modern Family, plus Veep, Louie, Orange Is the New Black and Silicon Valley.

Matt vs. Woody

True Detective (12 nominations) delivered vicious intensity and nail-biting thrills as its two leads – Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson – butted brains, fists and bleeding hearts as partners in pursuit of a twisted killer. Now both men lock horns for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. But will they cancel each other out so that Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) can snatch the angel statuette? Also in the contest are: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), last year’s winner Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) and Jon Hamm (Mad Men).

Barbarella vs Emma Peel

They’ve still got “it” in spades. Two goddesses of the Swinging Sixties – Jane Fonda and Diana Rigg – will duke it out for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama series for their work, respectively, in The Newsroom and Game of Thrones. While some are favouring Fonda, the dark horse here may well be their fellow contender Kate Mara, who aced her part as a doomed, ethically challenged journalist in House of Cards.

Eyeballing Seth

In a comic style refined over years on the Weekend Update anchor desk on Saturday Night Live, Seth Meyers wields his eyeballs like Velcro. They attach and cling to you and stare you down until you get the joke, pleading with you to laugh, or else you’re an idiot for not getting the joke. With his comedy-writing chops and penchant for brilliant mocking wit – something he’s able to do without offending the audience as Ricky Gervais did at the Golden Globes – Meyers seems poised to acquit himself superbly during the live broadcast. The best hosts of Emmys past include: the effervescent Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), the grace under pressure (and ‘dead swan’ costume) of Ellen DeGeneres; the crazy aw-shucks fun of Conan O’Brien; and the classy Jimmy Fallon. One of the lowest-rated telecasts occurred in 2008 when Jimmy Kimmel joined Tom Bergeron, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Ryan Seacrest and Jeff Probst. Apparently viewers hate a group-host dynamic. But the lowest point, perhaps, was in 1999 when co-hosts David Hyde Pierce and Jenna Elfman did their (yawn) leotard dance.

How about that?

Could there be a curse on Jon Hamm’s head? The dashing star of Mad Men has lost six times in a row for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Will this, his seventh nod, prove the charm?

How about that?

First-time Emmy nominees this year include Hollywood stars such as Daniel Craig (One Life), Matthew McConaughey (True Detective), Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo), Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dancing on the Edge).

Why not host your own Emmy party?

Superstar event planner Cheryl Cecchetto – the creative genius behind the official Primetime Emmys Governors Ball – suggests guests dress as their favourite characters, vote on Emmy winners for prizes and enjoy Emmy-themed food. Of course, since the Emmys screen in the early hours of the morning here, it might be difficult to get anyone to attend – unless you wait for the repeat showing tomorrow night.

• The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards is broadcast live on Tuesday at 4am and repeated at 7pm on OSN First HD. Live From The Red Carpet is broadcast from 2am on E! Entertainment HD