Perhaps appropriately given how unpredictable this year's Emmy-nominated dramas have been, nothing would really shock me when the "And the Emmy goes to..." envelope gets opened on Sunday night.
Usually, I head into the Emmys with a pretty good idea what's going to happen, or at least an either/or proposition. That's certainly true in comedy, where it's hard to imagine "Modern Family" not scoring a threepeat.
By contrast, almost any of the dramas -- based on history and intuition -- have a reasonable shot. Or at least, nothing would completely surprise me.
"Mad Men," obviously, has won four years in a row, and could equal "Frasier's" five-time plateau. Yet it faces a formidable challenge, including fellow AMC drama "Breaking Bad," which sat out the 2011 voting and has perhaps its most-talked-about season in contention, thanks to the explosive (heh heh) showdown between Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).
Of course, academy voters have already demonstrated their love for "Downton Abbey," the 2011 winner as best movie or miniseries, which shifts into the series voting after a very strong second season. Showtime's "Homeland" has also enjoyed enormous buzz, and already won the Golden Globe, though the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. does have a way of getting hypnotized by shiny new objects, with the emphasis on "new."
Finally, there are the two HBO dramas, "Boardwalk Empire" -- which won the most Emmys last year, only to lose the top prize to "Mad Men" -- and "Game of Thrones," which just cleaned up at the Creative Arts ceremony.
There's plenty of precedent for shows being honored in their second seasons (see "NYPD Blue," "ER"), as if Emmy voters like to see producers prove they're not one-trick ponys before handing out the gold. And while "Thrones" faces the highest hurdle as a genre show, the cast stands with any on TV, and I'm not sure there's a series I consistently looked forward to watching more.
Put all that together, and even if the first three hours of the show are a bit of snooze (which based on history, also wouldn't surprise me), the last few minutes should be awfully interesting. And with a field this deserving, no matter who wins there will be no legitimate reason to say of the also-rans, "They wuz robbed!"