John Byrne looks forward to The 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, which take place this Sunday at the Microsoft Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.

The American TV version of the Oscars, the Emmy Awards take place this Sunday night and have rarely been as tightly-contested as they are this year. The standard is just incredible.

From superb dramas such as Netflix favourites Better Call Saul and House of Cards, to the network drama comeback hit This is Us, and on to HBO's prescient adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale, TV's pretty amazing these days.

And what about the women? With all the talk of gender pay inequality and glass ceilings, female actors have had an amazing 2016 and 2017. Elisabeth Moss, Carrie Coon, Nicole Kidman and Violet Davis are all knocking it out of the park on TV these days.

And that's leaving out the comic genius that is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who's nominated for what could be an outrageous sixth win in a row for her benchmark run on Veep.

From superb new shows such as Atlanta and Westworld, outstanding anthology series as diverse as Fargo and Big Little Lies, to perennial performers as wide-ranging as The Americans and Modern Family, it's all there.

Well, with the notable Emmy nomination absence of The Leftovers, Girls and Game of Thrones...

Even a brief list of shows that didn't make it is impressive.

The 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be on RTÉ2 on Monday at 9.30pm

Here are the nominations and likely winners in the main categories:


Best Drama Series

Better Call Saul; The Crown; The Handmaid’s Tale; House of Cards; Stranger Things; This Is Us; Westworld

As ever, this category is outrageously strong and any one could win – and don't be surprised if The Crown takes the title. The Yanks do love their royal yarns . . .

I'd go for Better Call Saul as the show's third season was not just its best, but better than anything from its predecessor, Breaking Bad, while This Is Us offered first-class, heart-tugging primetime TV.

Meanwhile The Handmaid's Tail presents the Emmy voters with an opportunity to be zeitgeisty and point a finger at Donald Trump. That could be too much to resist.

Who should win: Better Call Saul

Who will win: The Handmaid's Tale

Best Actress in a Drama Series

Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder); Claire Foy (The Crown); Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale); Keri Russell (The Americans); Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld); Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Now this one is always hard to call, and several of these ladies are right at the top of their game.

Viola Davis and Kerrie Russell have been consistently superb, with the latter maybe edging it this time.

The Crown's Claire Foy might nab it as the Americans love anything about the British royals, while Robin Wright is a bit of a go-to for the undecided. Evan Rachel Wood could even nick it for her nuanced contribution to Westworld.

But as far as I'm concerned Elisabeth Moss simply must get the nod for her staggering performances in The Handmaid's Tale. Hers is the face of TV in 2017.

Who should win:  Elisabeth Moss

Who will win: Elisabeth Moss

Best Actor in a Drama Series

Sterling K Brown (This Is Us); Anthony Hopkins (Westworld); Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul); Matthew Rhys (The Americans); Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan); Kevin Spacey (House of Cards); Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)

One thing's pretty much for sure: the fact that they're both from This Is Us could easily push Sterling K Brown and Milo Ventimiglia out of the reckoning. But then again...

As far the other five nominees I'd also omit Kevin Spacey because he was at Ham Central for the recent run of House of Cards. I don't think Anthony Hopkins did enough either.

After that, it's a toss-up between Live Schreiber, Bob Odenkirk and Matthew Rhys, with the latter overdue a win. He's been nominated for eleven awards and hasn't won yet. And he's brilliant in The Americans.

Who should win: Matthew Rhys

Who will win: Sterling K Brown

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama

Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul); David Harbour (Stranger Things); Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us);  Michael Kelly (House of Cards); John Lithgow (The Crown); Mandy Patinkin (Homeland); Jeffrey Wright (Westworld)

I really don't care what anyone else has done; never has an actor in a TV show achieved so much by saying as little as Jonathan Banks did in season three of Better Call Saul.

Who should win: Jonathan Banks

Who will win: John Lithgow

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama

Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black); Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things); Ann Dowd (The Handmaid's Tale); Chrissy Metz (This Is Us); Thandie Newton (Westworld); Samira Wiley (The Handmaid's Tale)

Another crowded marketplace this, but if anyone deserves a win it's the woman who put in two fine turns in recent years: Ann Dowd, who was great in The Leftovers and Nick Cotton-nasty in The Handmaid's Tale.

Who should win: Ann Dowd

Who will win: Thandie Newton


Best Comedy Series

Atlanta; Black-ish; Master of None; Modern Family; Silicon Valley; Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Veep

Again, this is a superb line-up that could produce a winner from almost anywhere - although Modern Family is beginning to creak a little.

My personal favourite would be Master of None, simply because it's the show that mostly mirrors my own sense of humour, but Veep has been magnificent once again. Can it win again?

Silicon Valley took a few nice turns that last season, while the super-smart Atlanta would be the show of choice for the more discerning comedy fan.

Who should win: Atlanta

Who will win: Veep

Best Actress in a Comedy Series

Pamela Adlon (Better Things); Jane Fonda (Grace and Frankie); Allison Janney (Mom); Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt); Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep); Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish): Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie)

Or the Julia Louis-Dreyfus award as it's become known these days. She's won it for the last five years and given yet another outstanding contribution to Veep, who'd bet against her?

The unfortunate Allison Janney – a great actress in both comedy and drama – has lost out several times despite a fantastic run on Mom, while Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda  form a dynamic duo on Grace and Frankie.

Could this be the year Ellie Kemper makes a breakthrough? Sure, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt can be annoying, but she's got the part down so well I'm wondering if she's still acting anymore.

Who should win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Who will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Best Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson (Black-ish); Aziz Ansari (Master of None); Zach Galifianakis (Baskets); Donald Glover (Atlanta); William H Macy (Shameless); Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)

While I'm a great fan of Aziz Ansari – I just love his characters Tom from Parks and Recreation and the current Dev Shah in Master of None – I don't think he's quite done enough to justify an Emmy.

Of the rest, the legend that is Jeffrey Tambor has already been there and done it with Transparent.

William H Macy's missed out despite four nominations since he won back in 2003 so he might get the sympathy vote, but every cent I have would go on Donald Glover. If I was a gambler.

Who should win: Donald Glover

Who will win: Donald Glover

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Louie Anderson (Baskets); Alec Baldwin (Saturday Night Live); Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt); Ty Burrell (Modern Family); Tony Hale (Veep); Matt Walsh (Veep)

My heart says Tony Hale, my head says Louie Anderson will repeat last year's win, but my Hollywood anti-Trump hat says Alec Baldwin must win for the Good of America.

Who should win: Louie Anderson

Who will win: Alec Baldwin

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Vanessa Bayer (Saturday Night Live); Anna Chlumsky (Veep); Kathryn Hahn (Transparent); Leslie Jones (Saturday Night Live); Judith Light (Transparent); Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)

With three SNL heads and two from Transparent in the running you'd imagine they'd cancel each other out. I don't care anyway, because Anna Chlumsky has to be sixth time lucky for being Amy Brookheimer in Veep.

Who should win: Anna Chlumsky

Who will win: Anna Chlumsky


Best Limited Series or TV Movie

Big Little Lies; Fargo; Feud: Bette and Joan; Genius; The Night Of

I've only seen three of the five nominations so I'm taking both Genius (where Geoffrey Rush starred as Albert Einsten) and Ryan Murphy's Feud: Bette and Joan out of consideration.

Big Little Lies packed a mighty punch with some great performances all-round, but like The Night Of it seemed to be ever so slightly less the sum of its brilliant parts.

Fargo was an absolute delight as usual, but it wasn't quite as exceptional as its first two seasons. In fairness, the standard it has set is remarkably high. Doesn't mean it won't win though.

Who should win: Fargo

Who will win: Big Little Lies

Best Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie

Carrie Coon (Fargo); Felicity Huffman (American Crime); Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies); Jessica Lange (Feud: Bette and Joan); Susan Sarandon (Feud: Bette and Joan); Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies)

The standard here is just staggering. And even though I haven't seen it yet, I know that Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon were amazing in Feud: Bette and Joan. They always are in everything they do.

Of the rest, Felicity Huffman would deserve something after being nominated for American Crime's first two seasons, while Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon both rocked in Big Little Lies.

But the biggest Emmy nomination crime this year was the omission of Carrie Coon for her mesmeric performances in The Leftovers. For that, and her understated brilliance in Fargo, she gets my vote.

Who should win: Carrie Coon

Who will win: Nicole KIdman

Best Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie

Riz Ahmed (The Night Of); Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock: The Lying Detective); Robert DeNiro (The Wizard of Lies); Ewan McGregor (Fargo); Geoffrey Rush (Genius); John Turturro (The Night Of)

As I haven't seen either Genius or The Wizard of Lies, I'm discounting Geoffrey Rush and Robert DeNiro. No doubt one of them will win, and probably DeNiro.

Of the rest I'd be amazed if Benedict Cumberbatch won, while the vote could be split between the two Night Of nominees, Riz Ahmed and John Turturro – which would be a shame.

Ewan McGregor played two roles superbly in Fargo, but I still think Night Of can get a winner here with Riz Ahmed.

Who should win: Riz Ahmed

Who will win: Robert DeNiro

Best Supporting Actor, Limited Series or TV Movie

Bill Camp (The Night Of); Alfred Molina (Feud: Bette and Joan); Alexander Skarsgård (Big Little Lies); David Thewlis (Fargo); Stanley Tucci (Feud: Bette and Joan); Michael K Williams (The Night Of)

I have no idea what the Americans made of David Thewlis' performance in Fargo, but for my money he should be in a shoo-in here for his almost panto-esque portrayal of the unscrupulous VM Varga.

Who should win: David Thewlis

Who will win: David Thewlis

Best Supporting Actress, Limited Series or TV Movie

Judy Davis (Feud: Bette and Joan); Laura Dern (Big Little Lies); Jackie Hoffman (Feud: Bette and Joan); Regina King (American Crime); Michelle Pfeiffer (The Wizard of Lies); Shailene Woodley (Big Little Lies)

I'm at the severe disadvantage of having yet to see several of these performances, and can only conclude that Laura Dern will just about beat fellow Big Little Lies' star Shailene Woodley for the award.

Who should win: Shailene Woodley

Who will win: Laura Dern