A whole lot has changed in the two-plus decades since Bruce Springsteen lamented that there were "57 channels and nothing on."
First of all, for any TV-watcher with an average-or-larger cable bill, 57 channels probably seems like a quaint, long-ago notion, as a lap through the average on-screen menu these days scrolls through hundreds, rather than dozens, of channels.
And second to that is the undeniable, inarguable fact that there's more on TV now than at any time in the history of the medium -- more great dramas, more great comedies, more great miniseries and documentaries and movies -- or, as Jerry Seinfeld once said during a memorable first-class airplane trip, "More everything!"
For evidence, just look at the roster of potential trophy-grabbers at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, which air Sunday at 7 p.m. on CBS and CTV. Hosted by the multi-talented Neil Patrick Harris, this year's Emmys promise to be a celebration of some pretty darned great television programming.
Of course, with every Emmycast comes the annual round of fearless (but hopelessly flawed) Emmy predictions. Here are this year's picks, accompanied by the usual "No wagering, please" warning and a pre-emptive promise to really, truly try to do better next year:
Outstanding lead actress in a drama series
Connie Britton, Nashville
Claire Danes, Homeland
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Lowdown: Kind of a weird field this year, given the mishmash of cable/broadcast/PBS/online series from which the nominees are drawn. Danes has won before for Homeland, and many would consider Moss overdue for Mad Men. Britton, lamentably overlooked in this category during her Friday Night Lights run, is in tough and would be a very, very long-shot choice. Washington has straddled the TV/movies divide (Scandal, Django Unchained) recently and become something of a media darling, so she must be taken seriously.
The envelope, please: Washington
Outstanding lead actor in a drama series
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
Damian Lewis, Homeland
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
Lowdown: An incredibly competitive category, in which any of the above could be considered a worthy winner. Cranston, a three-time winner, should be considered a front-runner because Emmy voters are creatures of habit, but Hamm is overdue and Lewis is a known and respected commodity. Spacey, a big-screen performer who appeared in a not-quite-TV (Netflix) show, could pull an upset if voters get all starstruck.
The envelope, please: Cranston
Outstanding lead actress in a comedy series
Laura Dern, Enlightened
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Lowdown: This one feels very much like a two-horse race, with the also-rans being cable-series stars Dern, Dunham and Falco and 30 Rock alumna Fey; Louis-Dreyfus and Poehler are leading the field with unquestionably hilarious performances in shows that are clearly and undeniably laugh-generating comedies. It's a well-deserved photo finish.
The envelope, please: Louis-Dreyfus
Outstanding lead actor in a comedy series
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Louis C.K., Louie
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Lowdown: Baldwin is an Emmy favourite, and could generate some thanks-for-the-memories votes now that 30 Rock is done, and Parsons has established himself as the funniest player on a mainstream network sitcom. Bateman could attract a block of votes because of all the attention Netflix's revival of Arrested Development generated, and C.K., a one-man creative juggernaut on a lesser-known cable comedy, certainly deserves serious consideration.
The envelope, please: Parsons
Outstanding drama series
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Lowdown: Once again, the drama-series category produces a list of nominees that should be kept handy as a primer sheet for anyone who says there's nothing good on TV these days. This is the golden age of television, and here's all the proof you need. Top to bottom, a great collection of shows, but there's really only one choice here.
The envelope, please: Breaking Bad
Outstanding comedy series
The Big Bang Theory
Lowdown: It's the cable comedies vs. the network sitcoms -- did Emmy voters opt for safer, traditional broadcast fare, or edgier, more out-there specialty-net offerings? Modern Family and Big Bang are even money on the network side, and Louie and Veep are equally worthy atop the made-for-cable bracket. If this is a play-it-safe vote, Big Bang will triumph ... but the betting here is that it won't be.
The envelope, please: Veep
Outstanding miniseries or movie
American Horror Story: Asylum
Behind the Candelabra
Top of the Lake
Lowdown: Not surprisingly, a very diverse collection of nominees -- AHS: Asylum topped all programs with 17 nominations, but that won't be enough to earn it the big prize. Top of the Lake was a beautifully crafted but largely unnoticed crime drama, and Al Pacino's performance in Phil Spector definitely caused a stir. Michael Douglas and Matt Damon delivered fearless performances that turned Candelabra into the most talked-about movie of the year.
The envelope, please: Behind the Candelabra
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @BradOswald