I've been checking my mailbox, and it appears that the TV Academy of Arts and Sciences has failed to send out Emmy ballots to TV critics. Again.

Too bad, because this year's slate consists of a commendable blend of wily veterans, deserving newcomers and pleasant surprises. Not that I don't have my gripes. How can you shower love on Louie C.K. in just about every eligible category and yet fail to include him among the best comedy series? How can you completely ignore the stellar work of Nick Offerman and Laura Linney? And then there's the alarmingly low number of minorities in key categories. Weren't we supposed to be further along on diversity by this time?

That being said, I could manage to fill out a ballot this year without holding my nose at the same time. Since votes aren't due until this Friday -- and the ceremonies aren't until Sept. 23 -- there's still time to pass along these recommendations to those worthier of being on the Academy's mailing list.

Drama series

Nominees: "Boardwalk Empire," "Breaking Bad," "Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones," "Homeland," "Mad Men."

Who should and will win: "Men" has a chance to be victorious for a record-breaking fifth time, but expect things to break well for "Bad."

Comedy series

Nominees: "The Big Bang Theory," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Girls," "Modern Family," "30 Rock," "Veep."

Who should and will win: It'd be très cool to go out on a limb and root for the edgy "Girls," but the truth is the category's truest "Family" comedy deserves the continued love. Emmy voters are bound to agree.

Drama actress

Nominees: Glenn Close, "Damages"; Michelle Dockery, "Downton Abbey"; Julianna Marguiles, "The Good Wife"; Kathy Bates, "Harry's Law"; Claire Danes, "Homeland"; Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men."

Who will win: Danes is about as close to a lock as there is this year.

Who should win: While I admired "Homeland," I never quite swallowed the concept that Angela Chase would grow up to be an unhinged CIA operative. I'm compelled to go with Dockery's nuanced performance.

Drama actor

Nominees: Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"; Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"; Michael C. Hall, "Dexter"; Hugh Bonneville, "Downton Abbey"; Damian Lewis, "Homeland"; Jon Hamm, "Mad Men."

Who should and will win: Um, have you seen what happens to people who tick off Walter White on "Breaking Bad"? For his sake -- and ours -- let's hope Cranston picks up his fourth Emmy.

Comedy actor

Nominees: Jim Parsons, "Big Bang Theory"; Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"; Don Cheadle, "House of Lies"; Louis C.K., "Louie"; Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"; Jon Cryer, "Two and a Half Men."

Who should and will win: Parsons could make it three in a row, but Louie's bravado turn as the world's most vulnerable human being is why the Emmys were invented.

Comedy actress

Nominees: Lena Dunham, "Girls"; Melissa McCarthy, "Mike & Molly"; Zooey Deschanel, "New Girl"; Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"; Amy Poehler, "Parks & Recreation"; Tina Fey, "30 Rock"; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep."

Who will win: Dunham or Deschanel may prove victorious in one of the most talent-rich fields in recent history, but Emmy is rarely kind to the youngsters. Consider Louis-Dreyfus, who has already won for "Seinfeld" and "Old Christine," as the front-runner.

Who should win: Louis-Dreyfus is a goddess, but the underappreciation for "Parks" makes me want to give Poehler a hug -- as well as an Emmy.

Mini-series or TV movie

Nominees: "American Horror Story," "Game Change," "Hatfields & McCoys"; "Luther"; "Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia."

Who will win: Making fun of Sarah Palin did wonders for Tina Fey; the stunt should do the same for "Game Change."

Who should win: It may have been just another Sherlock Holmes mystery, but it's the most memorable piece in an otherwise weak field.

njustin@startribune.com • 612-673-7431 • Twitter: @nealjustin