This year, it's not easy to be an Emmy voter.
Many seasons they're handed one obvious favorite each for best drama and comedy, and many more years they've really only have to choose between two. But three or four viable contenders in both categories, all with equal right to claim victory Sunday (8 ET/PT, ABC)? That's tough.
The comedy choice for Best Comedy is a bit more clear cut. You can make very good arguments for the distinctive art-house stylings of Girls or the broad, crowd-pleasing antics of The Big Bang Theory. But it's hard to see either winning when ABC's Modern Family combines the best of both: as smart and singular as Girls, as funny and popular as Big Bang, and more all-embracing than either.
Where the going really gets tough is in drama, where voters must first decide if Mad Men deserves the record for consecutive drama series wins in a row with five. The Emmy rules don't allow records to be taken into consideration, but no one really votes in a vacuum. It will surely occur to many voters that giving the nod to Mad Men will elevate it over all past winners. And, while it's a great series (though some may question whether it had a great season), is it so much better than every other great series on the air that it deserves to win yet again? The answer here: "no."
Which leaves the tough choice: Where will they go instead? Assumming Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones are not in serious contention (the Creative Arts Emmys were their reward), that leaves Homeland, Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad to battle it out. Considering Emmy's Anglophile leanings, the smart money may be on Downton, which pulled off a surprise win last year as a miniseries.
But I'm betting on Homeland, both because it's American made (though Israeli inspired) and because it was such a compact, flawless, difficult-to-pull-off gem. I know that means slighting Bad, a terrific series that has played second fiddle at the Emmys to Mad Men for far too long.
Told you it wasn't easy.