(CNN) — It’s almost time for the Emmy Awards, folks. You know, TV’s biggest night!
Well, except for the Super Bowl. Or the Grammys. Or Wednesday’s GOP debate.
But still … really big. The primetime Emmys may not clean up in the ratings, but an award can burnish an actor’s career and, as with “Homeland” three years ago, suddenly elevate a show to “must-watch” status. Plus the Emmy statuette is a winged woman holding an atom.
This year’s show, the 67th, airs live Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox. The telecast isn’t as freewheeling as the VMAs or as weighty as the Oscars, but the Emmys do a pretty good job of honoring the year’s top achievements on TV.
For those keeping score, HBO leads all networks with 126 nominations, led by multiple nods for “Game of Thrones” and “Veep.” (HBO is a unit of Time Warner, as is CNN.) Far behind in second is ABC with 42, followed by CBS and NBC with 41 each.
Here’s a look at what to watch for on Sunday.
In recent years, the biggest prize of the night, for outstanding drama series, has honored “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” — arguably the best three shows in this so-called new Golden Age of television. (A legacy network such as ABC or CBS hasn’t won here since Fox’s “24” in 2006.)
The slate of dramas this year are again packed with strong contenders, from “Game of Thrones” to “Better Call Saul” to “Orange is the New Black,” moving over from the comedy category, where it was inexplicably listed last year.
“Game of Thrones” has not won in five seasons and has legions of fans. But many observers predict that “Mad Men,” which drew accolades for its final season, will claim its fifth best-drama Emmy.
Somehow in more than six decades an African-American woman has never won an Emmy for lead actress in a drama.
Viola Davis, who plays a ruthless attorney in ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder,” and Taraji P. Henson, the matriarch of a hip-hop family in Fox’s “Empire,” are vying to be the first.
But they face formidable competition from “Mad Men” star Elisabeth Moss and Tatiana Maslany, who plays multiple characters on cult favorite “Orphan Black.”
A comedy transition
Can anyone take down “Modern Family”?
The ABC sitcom has been an awards-season juggernaut, winning the best-comedy award each of the past five years. It’s a clever show, but in 2015 it feels like someone else’s turn.
That someone is likely “Transparent,” the Amazon series about an aging father (Jeffrey Tambor) transitioning to life as a woman.
Tambor is excellent, the show is topical and it won the Golden Globe in January.
Is this finally the year for Jon Hamm, Amy Poehler?
Yes. And … maybe.
Don Draper has been the cheatin’ heart of “Mad Men” since its beginning, and yet Hamm has never won an Emmy for the role. With the apologies to the darkly brilliant Kevin Spacey, that should change Sunday.
Poehler’s task is tougher. In “Parks and Recreation’s” relentless chipper Leslie Knope, she created an indelible character.
Poehler is highly respected in Hollywood as a comic force — witness her co-hosting gigs with Tina Fey — and she is due.
But blocking her path is a higher-level TV politician: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who has won each of the past three years for “Veep” and is Emmy’s all-time favorite comedienne.
Host with the most
Quick: Who hosted the Emmys last year?
Exactly. (It was Seth Meyers.)
Unlike the Oscars, nobody really remembers who headlines the Emmys, which have been hosted over the years by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Angela Lansbury to, gulp, Bill Cosby.
This year’s gig goes to comic manchild Andy Samberg, a former colleague of Meyers on “Saturday Night Live” and the current star of Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
In various pre-Emmy interviews, Samberg has already promised to tell a fresh Donald Trump joke, toss in some celebrity cameos and just “soak up the experience and maybe some tequila.”
And maybe a clever “Lazy Sunday”-style video? Please.
Many of us watch awards shows not for the awards but for the inherent risks of live TV: the chance that someone will do or say something crazy.
During the Emmys, nominees and presenters will be seated politely in Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater, not boozing it up in a hotel ballroom like at the Golden Globes. Unfortunately.
But we can still hope for some memorable moments. Amy Schumer is a presenter. So is Ricky Gervais, who is usually good for a bitchy quip or two. And whatever Lady Gaga is wearing, it won’t be boring. We hope.