Emmy Awards Nominations 2012: Our Predictions!

Ahead of Thursday's 64th Primetime Emmy Awards announcement, our top contenders' list includes both recurring nominees and new faces.

The nominations for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards will be announced bright and early Thursday morning, and we’re dying to know which of our favorites will be named among television’s best and brightest.

Long-running, award-hoarding hits “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “Modern Family” are expected to rule the nominations again this year, but with buzzed-about new shows like “Homeland,” “New Girl” and “Veep” in the game, several former Emmy favorites might find themselves left out of the race. Here are MTV News’ predictions for this year’s Emmy nominations:

Outstanding Drama Series
“Mad Men”
“Game of Thrones”
“Breaking Bad”
“Downton Abbey”
“The Good Wife”
“Homeland”
Dark Horse: “Boardwalk Empire”

“Men,” “Thrones” and “Bad” are all locks for Drama Series nods. “Men” has won this category for the past four consecutive years and is coming off yet another strong season; “Bad” was ineligible for last year’s awards, meaning voters will be doubly ready to honor it; and “Thrones” has become HBO’s biggest zeitgeist show in a very long time.

“Abbey” scored six Emmys last year in the miniseries/TV movie categories, but was submitted as a drama series this time around. While its second season was all over the map, the Emmys famously love repeat nominees and winners, meaning there should be enough love left over from last year to easily secure a nod. Older voters can’t resist CBS’ smart, well-acted political drama “The Good Wife,” leaving just one spot open for a new show. Showtime’s thriller “Homeland,” winner of the Golden Globe earlier this year for Best TV Drama, seems the most likely candidate to break into this tight race.

Either “Wife” or “Homeland” could lose its nomination to “Boardwalk Empire,” but with ratings for its second season down and “Thrones” and “Girls” monopolizing the conversation about HBO, “Empire” seems to have lost much of its swagger.

Best Actor – Drama
Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”
Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”
Damian Lewis, “Homeland”
Steve Buscemi, “Boardwalk Empire”
Hugh Laurie, “House”
Timothy Olyphant, “Justified”
Dark Horse: Kelsey Grammer, “Boss”

Cranston has won in this category three times and continues to thrill on “Breaking Bad,” while Hamm has landed four consecutive nods — but no wins! — for his work on “Mad Men.” The other contenders are a little tougher to call. Damian Lewis seems likely for his work on “Homeland,” since much of that show’s acclaim has centered on the performances of its leads (Lewis and Claire Danes). That same thing can be said for Buscemi on “Empire”: Even if it doesn’t score a Best Drama nod, Buscemi’s Atlantic City boss Enoch “Nucky” Thompson remains one of TV’s most-compelling characters.

The final two nods could be all over the map. “House” concluded its eight-season run in May, meaning this will be the prone-to-sentiment Academy’s last chance to nominate Laurie, who has earned five nods for the show. Olyphant landed a nomination in this category last year, one of the four acting Emmy nods “Justified” scored, and his show has become cornerstone programming for FX since “Rescue Me” went off the air last fall. The Net has been campaigning hard for Olyphant, and he will likely be rewarded with a nod.

Best Actress – Drama
Claire Danes, “Homeland”
Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”
Michelle Dockery, “Downton Abbey”
Glenn Close, “Damages”
Elizabeth McGovern, “Downton Abbey”
Dark Horse: Debra Messing, “Smash”

The Best Actress – Drama race is pretty stacked with favorites without much wiggle room for anyone else to sneak in. Last year’s winner, Julianna Margulies, is assured a spot. The same seems true for Golden Globe winner Danes, three-time nominee Moss and two-time “Damages” winner Close.

That leaves two open spots. With “Downton Abbey” now in the series competition, expect Elizabeth McGovern, a nominee last year for Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie for “Downton,” and this season’s breakout, Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary), to claim them.

Comedy Series
“Modern Family”
“Parks and Recreation”
“Louie”
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Veep”
“30 Rock”
Dark Horse: “Girls”

Like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” in the drama categories, “Modern Family” is a sure thing for an Outstanding Comedy Series nod. Interestingly, with several acclaimed new comedies hitting the tube just as some stalwart favorites started to show their age, it might be the only one. “Parks and Rec” and “Big Bang” both had strong seasons and should ride easily to nods on the backs of locked-in lead-acting nominations for Amy Poehler and two-time winner Jim Parsons. And while “Louie” can be a little button-pushing for typical Emmy tastes, it gets harder and harder for voters to deny it nominations the more “best comedy on TV” plaudits it accumulates.

“30 Rock” has been nominated for this prize every season it has been on the air, winning three out of five times. So, while it had a rough sixth season, it should still be able to fend off competition from new comedies like “New Girl” and HBO’s talked-about “Girls” and older shows like “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Big C” and “Nurse Jackie,” which many critics argue had its best season so far.

The new show with the best shot at a nomination is HBO’s buzzy “Veep.” Sure, it did just OK in the ratings, but it won raves, particularly for 12-time Emmy nominee and two-time winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ performance. Voter love for Louis-Dreyfus should be enough to give “Veep” the edge over “Girls” if only one new show is going to break into the category this year.

Best Actor – Comedy
Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”
Louis C.K., “Louie”
Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”
Johnny Galecki, “The Big Bang Theory”
Adam Scott, “Parks and Recreation”
Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
Dark Horse: Joel McHale, “Community”

Parsons is to the Best Actor – Comedy category what Bryan Cranston is to Best Actor – Drama — a lock. Baldwin, with two wins and several nominations for “30 Rock” behind him, seems in too, despite the show’s middling season. So does Louie C.K., who brings something earnest to the fictionalized version of himself he plays on “Louie,” which he also writes and directs — a fact likely to win him even more supporters.

The other nominations are kind of a crapshoot. This is the first year Steve Carell isn’t in the running for “The Office,” which frees up a spot after six consecutive nominations for the comedian. Galecki, a nominee last year, seems a smart choice, given the popularity of his show — and the balancing act his character plays opposite Parsons’ to keep it watchable. And, if voters are looking to honor a strong season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” they might opt to give Larry David his fifth nomination for the long-running series.

That would create a showdown for the last nod between Adam Scott and Joel McHale. Both are deserving, but Scott’s performance on “Parks and Recreation” is far more relatable than McHale’s on “Community,” a show with an extremely loyal fanbase that seems to get less and less accessible to new viewers the longer it is on the air. Scott had his most-winning season yet on “Parks,” and the show’s past Emmy success stack the deck in his favor.

Best Actress – Comedy
Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
Zooey Deschanel, “New Girl”
Melissa McCarthy, “Mike & Molly”
Lena Dunham, “Girls”
Tina Fey, “30 Rock”
Dark Horse: Laura Dern, “Enlightened”

There are a lot of realistic contenders for Best Actress – Comedy, so predicting the nominees is tough and basically a process of elimination. Unless the Emmys go rogue, last year’s winner (McCarthy) is in. Poehler’s work on this season of “Parks” is perhaps her best yet, and she’s been nominated for the role twice before, so she should be a contender. Louis-Dreyfus is an Emmy favorite giving a career-best performance on “Veep,” which is a recipe for awards-season glory.

Dunham’s “Girls” is contentious, but she is, like Louis C.K. on “Louie,” the driving creative force behind it, and fans of the show looking to reward her achievement on all fronts might rally behind an acting nomination. And whether you think she’s really just playing herself on “New Girl,” Deschanel and her show are incredibly popular. This category needs a zeitgeist-y nominee that comes without the love it-or-hate it stigma of “Girls,” and that is good news for Deschanel, particularly if other possible contenders Laura Linney (“The Big C”), Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie”) or Patricia Heaton (“The Middle”) get enough heat behind them to steal votes away from McCarthy, Poehler and Louis-Dreyfus.

That leaves Fey. In the end, we think the years of good will “30 Rock” has built up should secure her nod, but she is vulnerable to Linney, Falco, Heaton and particularly Dern, whose acclaimed work on the little-seen “Enlightened” earned her a nomination last year.

Who will be nominated for this year’s Emmy Awards? Share your predictions in the comments below!