As the 67th annual prime-time Emmys get underway at Los Angeles' Microsoft Theater Sunday (8 p.m., Fox/5), more than a famous theater's name will have changed over the last year. (That's right -- the Nokia is now called the Microsoft.)
Rules have changed.
Nominees have been added.
Thousands -- many thousands -- of votes have been cast.
Yes, real change is in the air. Maybe some surprises, too.
Before I get to my annual picks, a brief word on what all this could mean. Last year, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences -- mindful of what TV audiences and apparently its own members have been mindful of for years -- recognized that the awards process was broken, or at least inadequate to the times. It opened up the drama and comedy category to more nominees, from six to seven, and allowed all 20,000 members to vote for winners. In the past, comedy and drama winners had been selected by "blue ribbon panels" composed of a few dozen members.
The full voice of the Emmy membership is about to speak, or possibly roar. Sunday night promises to be interesting indeed.
My picks in major categories:
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
"Better Call Saul," "Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones," "Homeland," "House of Cards," "Mad Men," "Orange Is the New Black"
SHOULD WIN "Game of Thrones." TV's gold standard in terms of storytelling and production is long, long overdue.
WILL WIN "GoT." Switching from comedy to drama probably didn't help "OITNB" in what was an otherwise excellent third season. "Cards" had a subpar season. "Men's" Emmy-winning glory years are behind it. Wonderful as it is, "Downton" doesn't quite deserve this. "Homeland" had a terrific season. Nevertheless, I still think the Emmys' vox populi will correct the academy's error. "Thrones" scores.
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
"Louie," "Modern Family," "Parks and Recreation," "Silicon Valley," "Transparent," "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "Veep"
SHOULD WIN "Parks and Recreation." It not only grew in complexity over seven seasons but grew in depth, intelligence, humor, character and -- most of all -- love. Yes, "Modern Family" had a fine season, too, and at least one of the submitted episodes, "The Day We Almost Died," is a comic gem. But "Family" still has time to make history (it already has five best comedy awards). Time's run out on "P&R."
WILL WIN "Parks and Recreation." Most critics think this award will go to "Transparent," but they're not voting members. Members may likely want to reward the last (and stellar) season.
LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA
Kyle Chandler, "Bloodline"; Jeff Daniels, "The Newsroom"; Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"; Bob Odenkirk, "Better Call Saul"; Kevin Spacey, "House of Cards"; Liev Schreiber, "Ray Donovan"
SHOULD WIN Hamm. The easiest call of the 67th Annual Primetime Emmys. Let's hope the membership sees it that way, too.
WILL WIN Hamm
LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA
Claire Danes, "Homeland"; Viola Davis, "How to Get Away With Murder"; Taraji P. Henson, "Empire"; Tatiana Maslany, "Orphan Black"; Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men"; Robin Wright, "House of Cards"
SHOULD WIN Viola Davis. The second-easiest call of the 67th Annual Primetime Emmys. Davis will, in fact, make history, as the first African-American actress to win this award.
WILL WIN Davis
LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY
Anthony Anderson, "black-ish"; Don Cheadle, "House of Lies"; Will Forte, "The Last Man on Earth"; Matt LeBlanc, "Episodes"; Louis C.K., "Louie"; William H. Macy, "Shameless"; Jeffrey Tambor, "Transparent"
SHOULD WIN Tambor. As much as I'd like to put Macy in this space, Tambor managed something extraordinary. Plus, the transgender moment has fully arrived in Hollywood, and the culture.
WILL WIN Tambor
LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY
Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"; Lisa Kudrow, "The Comeback"; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"; Amy Poehler, "Parks and Recreation"; Amy Schumer, "Inside Amy Schumer"; Lily Tomlin, "Grace and Frankie"
SHOULD WIN Falco. Maybe a lot of viewers didn't catch the final season, but those who did witnessed arguably her best season.
WILL WIN Tomlin. There's magic in this name, and there was even some in the performance. Plus, the last time she won a major Emmy was way back in '81. If the Emmys were the People's Choice Awards, Schumer might get this. Louis-Dreyfus? Great as always, but my hunch is that voters want to spread the wealth this year.