The keys to the kingdom won’t be trading hands any time soon. “Game of Thrones,” the most complex, bloodiest smash to ever be embraced by both critics and fans, is almost certain to repeat as best drama at the 68th Emmy Awards. The HBO drama saw big success during last week’s preliminary ceremony, where it picked up nine technical awards, and the series is coming off its most accessible season to date.

The Emmys also favor repeat winners. Since 1979, only eight dramas have been one-and-out champs, including “Northern Exposure,” “Lost” and “24.” With the competition less formidable than in years past, there’s about as much chance of “GoT” joining that club as there is of King Joffrey returning from the dead and opening up a curry shop.

The other races in Sunday’s prime-time broadcast aren’t quite as easy to call.

Comedy series

Nominees: “Black-ish,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Master of None,” “Veep,” “Silicon Valley,” “Transparent,” “Modern Family.”

Should win: Netflix contenders “Schmidt” and “Master” are the cream of the crop, but the streaming service has yet to break through with a win for either top drama or comedy.

Will win: Emmy likes repeat business here as well; “Modern Family” and “30 Rock” dominated for eight years until President Selina Meyer took office last time around.

Actress, comedy

Nominees: Elle Kemper, “Schmidt”; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”; Laurie Metcalf, “Getting On”; Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer”; Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”; Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish.”

Should win: Kemper’s unbreakable perkiness deserves recognition, if not a post as Disney World’s official greeter.

Will win: An eighth trophy will tie Louis-Dreyfus with Cloris Leachman as the most honored female performer in Emmy history. Just try stopping her.

Actor, comedy

Nominees: Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”; Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”; Aziz Ansari, “Master”; Thomas Middleditch, “Silicon Valley”; Will Forte, “Last Man on Earth”; William H. Macy, “Shameless.”

Should win: Ansari’s key contributions were as writer and director, which means I can root for Tambor without hesitation.

Will win: No reason to believe Tambor won’t return to the podium, although Anderson has a chance-ish.

Actress, drama

Nominees: Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”; Keri Russell, “The Americans”; Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”; Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”; Claire Danes, “Homeland”; Robin Wright, “House of Cards.”

Should win: Overlooked performers dominate the slate, most notably Maslany, who continues to juggle multiple roles without dropping a ball.

Will win: The buzz has died down considerably for both Davis and Henson, which leaves room for Wright to hold the winning hand after three previous nominations.

Actor, drama

Nominees: Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”; Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”; Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”; Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”; Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline”; Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan.”

Should and will win: It’s hard to be passionate about any of the performances, but it’d be nice to have some fresh young blood at the podium. The 35-year-old Malek would be the youngest champ in this category since Bruce Willis was honored nearly 30 years ago for “Moonlighting.”

TV Movie

Nominees: “A Very Murray Christmas”; “Confirmation”; “All the Way”; “Luther”; “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride.”

Should win: “All the Way” had Bryan Cranston; “Confirmation” had everything else.

Will win: HBO has triumphed in this category every year since 2004 and it will again — but for “Confirmation” or “All the Way”? Edge goes to Cranston’s “Way.”

Limited series

Nominees: “The People v O.J. Simpson”; “Fargo”; “The Night Manager”; “Roots”; “American Crime.”

Should win: “Fargo” avoided the sophomore slump with another great yarn, but it’d be nice to see ABC get some support for programming such a rich, challenging miniseries like “Crime.”

Will win: The verdict already appears to be in with “Simpson” being a virtual lock.

Variety talk series

Nominees: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”; “The Late Late Show With James Corden”; “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon”; “Jimmy Kimmel Live”; “Real Time With Bill Maher”; “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

Should and will win: With David Letterman, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert out of the running — their shows have won since 1998 — this contest has become tantalizing, and a golden opportunity to recognize a fresh voice in Oliver.

 

njustin@startribune.com