Think of Emmy nominations as a game of musical chairs, and when the music stops... only so many seats left. Or another way of putting this: The nominations for the 65th Primetime Emmys are out Thursday morning, and expect most of the nominees from the 64th to repeat.
But there will be surprises -- that's a guarantee -- filling a few of the open chairs. And with that, on to my predictions:
"Modern Family" (ABC); "Girls" (HBO); "Arrested Development" (Netflix); "Louie" (FX); "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS); "30 Rock" (NBC)
My say "30 Rock," again! But how could it not be here (nominated for every year on the air), particularly after the excellent final season? The key addition will be "Arrested Development," as the Emmys embrace Netflix. "Veep," despite a great season, gets overlooked.
Possible surprise "Veep" doesn't get overlooked! Plus, a possible nod for "The Mindy Project."
Tina Fey ("30 Rock"); Zooey Deschanel ("New Girl"); Lena Dunham ("Girls"); Julia Louis-Dreyfus ("Veep"); Amy Poehler ("Parks & Recreation"); Laura Dern ("Enlightened")
My say A facsimile list from 2012 with one obvious exception -- yes, Laura Dern, who, I think, convinces Emmy voters that if the Globes got it right, so can they.
Possible surprise Will this be the year Mindy Kaling ("The Mindy Project") gets her first acting nomination? Very possible, which may mean either Dern or Deschanel gets edged off this list.
Alec Baldwin ("30 Rock"); Don Cheadle ("House of Lies"); Jim Parsons ("Big Bang Theory"); Louis C.K. ("Louie"); Jake Johnson ("New Girl"), Jason Bateman ("Arrested Development")
My say Another category with almost no breathing room for newbies. And where's Jon Cryer ("Two and a Half Men"), who won last year? But I suspect the Academy is so enamored of "A.D." that Bateman -- who was last nominated in 2005 for the original version -- will find a way back in here.
Possible surprise Can't imagine what it would be, unless Johnson gets dropped, which seems unlikely. Highly.
"Breaking Bad" (AMC); "Game of Thrones" (HBO); "Mad Men" (AMC); "Homeland" (Showtime); "Downton Abbey" (PBS); "House of Cards" (Netflix)
My say The Year of Netflix continues, with "House of Cards" breaking into the nominee's circle.
Possible surprise Could BBC America's "Orphan Black" or FX's "The Americans" break into this tight little circle? I don't think so -- yet. Emmy voters often take care of good shows by rewarding their leads in other categories. That may happen this year, while these two (and others) wait for "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" to finally leave the air.
Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad"); Jon Hamm ("Mad Men"); Ving Rhames ("Monday Mornings"); Kevin Spacey ("House of Cards"); Jeff Daniels ("The Newsroom"); Jonny Lee Miller ("Elementary")
My say Finally, a shake-up. Or maybe a shake-up -- I'm probably in the minority here, but I see Miller and Rhames busting in (they certainly deserve to), and Spacey, who is a dead certainty to join. Michael C. Hall ("Dexter") is finally dropped.
Possible surprise Hall is not dropped, and he returns for another Emmy tease.
Kerry Washington ("Scandal"); Claire Danes ("Homeland"); Connie Britton ("Nashville"); Keri Russell ("The Americans"); Robin Wright ("House of Cards"); Julianna Margulies ("The Good Wife")
My say I'm expecting some fun, exciting changes this year, and all you have to do is look at my list to see how fun/exciting. Washington! Britton! Russell! Wright! This is this year's best category, or at least most competitive category I'm most excited about -- by far. With so many worthy contenders on so many shows, 2013 is the Year of the Actress.
Possible surprises Tatiana Maslany ("Orphan Black"), Michelle Dockery ("Downton Abbey") or Khandi Alexander ("Treme") could sneak in.