09/16/2011 01:53 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2011

Emmy 2011: The Winners Are Tougher to Call Than Usual

Few will dispute that voting members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences largely got it right this year. In most categories they chose the best shows and performers for Emmy nominations and kept their usual oversights to a minimum. That makes the competition tougher than usual and the winners more difficult to call, as we'll see on Sunday during the 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

Nowhere is this challenge more obvious than in the category of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Bryan Cranston of AMC's Breaking Bad deservedly nabbed this one three years in a row, but Bad wasn't on during the qualifying period for this year's Emmys, so that leaves an open field for the three men who have repeatedly lost out to him: Hugh Laurie of Fox's House, Michael C. Hall of Showtime's Dexter and Jon Hamm of AMC's Mad Men, plus Kyle Chandler of DirecTV/NBC's Friday Night Lights (who also lost to Cranston last year) and first-time nominees Steve Buscemi of HBO's Boardwalk Empire and Timothy Olyphant of FX's Justified. Hamm is the front-runner here, but it can be argued that every one of these men has earned the award, especially Laurie, who inconceivably has never won, and Chandler, because the quietly brilliant Lights deserves some last chance recognition.

Prediction: Jon Hamm or Steve Buscemi. Preferences: Jon Hamm, Kyle Chandler.

The category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series is no less challenging. Kathy Bates of NBC's Harry's Law, Connie Britton of Friday Night Lights, Mireille Enos of AMC's The Killing, Mariska Hargitay of NBC's Law & Order: SVU, Julianna Margulies of CBS' The Good Wife and Elisabeth Moss of Mad Men were all simply sensational, though I would have preferred to see Kyra Sedgwick of TNT's The Closer in Hargitay's place. A win for Margulies seems inevitable, but when I first saw the first episode of The Killing I predicted that Enos would take home an Emmy, so I'll stand by that -- though part of me would like to see Britton win, for the same general reasons that have me rooting for Chandler.

Prediction: Julianna Margulies or Mireille Enos. Preferences: Connie Britton, Mireille Enos.

For more Emmy predictions please go here.