'All signs point to Game of Thrones picking that up'
Game of Thrones will seek to make Emmy history one final time Sunday when television's best and brightest gather at a glamorous ceremony in Los Angeles to bid farewell to a number of long-running hit shows.
Despite its misfiring finale which divided fans, the fantasy epic about feuding families and flame-shooting dragons secured a whopping 32 nominations for this year's Emmys, television's version of the Oscars.
The most decorated fictional show in Emmys history, Thrones has twice won 12 awards in a single season.
It is well on its way to beating that record this year, with 10 awards already bagged in lesser categories at last week's Creative Arts Emmys, including for the show's blockbuster special effects and mock-medieval swords-and-bodices costumes.
It is the overwhelming favorite to add the top drama series prize to its haul on Sunday.
"All signs point to Game of Thrones picking that up," predicted Variety's Michael Schneider.
"Even if fans weren't necessarily loving that final season ... it doesn't matter -- if the voters love it, then that's what's going to win the Emmy," he added.
The Television Academy's 24,000-plus voters had two weeks in August to pick their favorites.
To get across the line Sunday, Thrones has 14 contenders across seven categories.
Serial winner Peter Dinklage is a front-runner for sharp-tongued dwarf Tyrion Lannister, as is Maisie Williams as princess-turned-assassin Arya Stark.
Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) and Kit Harington (Jon Snow) are among the others in the running.
Thrones was not just a critical hit but a sweeping cultural phenomenon, more than 40 million tuned in to watch each episode of the final season.
Emmys organizers, who have copied the Oscars by eschewing a host this year, will hope that such wild popularity lifts the ceremony's viewing figures.
All 10 Thrones acting nominees will serve as guest presenters, as will the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and the Kardashians.
Further star power among the acting nominees will be provided by Oscar-winners Michael Douglas, Olivia Colman, Mahershala Ali and Patricia Arquette.
Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and HBO's Chernobyl have also emerged as powerhouse contenders.
Mrs Maisel, Amazon's story of a 1950s housewife-turned-stand up comic, won the best comedy Emmy last year, and the second season is well-placed to add further prizes Sunday.
It is locked in a fierce showdown for the overall comedy gong with Veep and Fleabag.
Like Thrones, US political satire Veep is contending its final Emmys after a stellar run, including 17 statuettes.
The show won best comedy in 2015, 2016 and 2017, but took a forced hiatus last year as Julia Louis-Dreyfus battled breast cancer.
She would claim the standalone record for acting Emmys with a ninth win.
Another long-running popular show taking its final Emmys bow is The Big Bang Theory, the throwback sitcom about a group of geeky, young California scientists.
It earned only one nomination, for directing, but its creators are unlikely to mind after all 12 seasons were purchased by HBO Max streaming service this week for a reported $500 million.
In the limited series categories, Chernobyl, HBO's drama about the 1986 nuclear disaster, won seven technical Emmys last weekend. It even inflicted a rare defeat on Thrones in production design.
But it may struggle to add to that tally on Sunday, when it competes with Netflix's When They See Us, the searing true story of five men wrongly accused of raping a Central Park jogger, which has eight acting nominations.
In the variety sections, HBO's political satire Last Week Tonight starring British comedian John Oliver is again front-runner, while NBC's all-time leading Emmys winner Saturday Night Live remains formidable.
National Geographic's Free Solo does not compete Sunday, but scooped an impressive seven Emmys last weekend.
The Oscar-winning documentary about a hair-raising, free solo climb of El Capitan in California's Yosemite swept the non-fiction categories.