First up is comedy, where television had yet another very strong year. Veteran series -- and Emmy favorites -- like "30 Rock," "Parks & Recreation," "Modern Family" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" all had reasonably strong seasons. "Louie" -- which managed a best actor nomination last year but not one in the tip category -- became arguably the most praised comedy series on the air, which could push into more extensive contention.
"Community," which has never been nominated in major races, is coming off a big win at the Broadcast Critics' new television-centered awards. Add that to more questionable Emmy regulars like "The Big Bang Theory," and to a wonderful crop of newbies ("Veep," "Girls," "New Girl," "Enlightened," "Life's Too Short" and "Up All Night") and it should make for a pretty interesting Emmy race when it comes to comedy categories (though this is true of all the categories, really).
But getting one's hopes up when it comes to the Emmy's is historically a losing game. The awards have tended to reward the same shows over and over, particularly in the comedy categories (where -- lest we forget -- "Frasier" won the top prize five years in a row while "Roseanne" was never even nominated). That said, the last few years have shown signs of intelligent life in Emmy voters (Louis C.K.'s nomination last year, for example). So perhaps there will be a few happy surprises Thursday morning, even if they might all be disqualified when Jon Cryer gets a best actor nomination for "Two and Half Men" over a few dozen more worthy possibilities.
One category "Modern Family" is not eligible for is lead comedy actress (all its cast members submit in supporting), which is a good thing because the race is already remarkably crowded. While the category's male counterpart is comparatively slim on contenders, the reality that television (comedic or dramatic, really) is the best medium for great roles for women is markedly clear if you scroll through the possibilites.
There's last year's six nominees -- Amy Poehler ("Parks and Recreation"), Laura Linney ("The Big C"), Edie Falco ("Nurse Jackie"), Tina Fey ("30 Rock"), Martha Plimpton ("Raising Hope") and the surprising winner, Melissa McCarthy ("Mike & Molly"). That group in itself is quite impressive (even if some of the shows the actresses are on are much more mediocre than their individual contributions). But add them to the slew of actresses coming in from new series, and one starts to wish the Emmys would expand the nominee count.
There's the exceptional trio from HBO -- Julia Louis-Dreyfus ("Veep"), Lena Dunham ("Girls") and Laura Dern ("Enlightened") as well as a couple strong options from the networks in Christina Applegate ("Up All Night") and Zooey Deschanel ("New Girl"). How these 11 women are narrowed down to six nominees is perhaps Thursday's biggest nail-biter. Other than Amy Poehler, it seems reasonable to wager that everyone is vulnerable.
Shaky predictons in that category and the other major comedy races are on the next page. Check back for Indiewire's take on the drama categories tomorrow.