It could be a ‘Bad’ night at the Emmys

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(CNN) — As the clock ticks down toward Sunday night’s 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, all signs are pointing toward a big evening for “Breaking Bad.”

The AMC series is wrapping up its final season with a bang, with high ratings, breathless news coverage and clamorous social media chatter. Its star, Bryan Cranston, appears to be everywhere.

And the show, which received 13 Emmy nominations this year, is the odds-on favorite to win outstanding drama.

It’s even competing against itself. The show’s second-to-last episode airs at 9 ET tonight, opposite the second hour of the Emmys.

But its victory is by no means assured.

Netflix nudged its way into the Emmy conversation with nine nominations for its series about a clever Washington congressman, “House of Cards.” The service, once best known for its DVDs in red envelopes, received 14 nominations overall, including nods for “Arrested Development” and “Hemlock Grove.”

Also up for best drama: HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” AMC’s “Mad Men,” Showtime’s “Homeland” and PBS’ “Downton Abbey.”

The award for best comedy, which has been the province of ABC’s “Modern Family” for three straight years, is considered a tough race this year. “Family” is up against CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” HBO’s “Girls” and “Veep,” NBC’s “30 Rock” and FX’s “Louie.”

The sentimental favorite might be “30 Rock,” which concluded its seven-season run early this year and also has three best comedy series Emmys to its credit. But don’t count out “Louie,” says awards watcher Tom O’Neil.

O’Neil is predicting star Louis C.K. will win best actor in a comedy series, and the show has a good chance to take the comedy series crown, he says.

“I think that’s where we’re going to have the shakeup on Emmy night — we’re going to see some big surprises in terms of winners,” he says.

There have already been some surprises for TV’s most prestigious award. At the Creative Arts Emmys last week, Bob Newhart — who has been nominated seven times over a more than five-decade career — finally won, for a guest role on “The Big Bang Theory.”

“They wrote an awful good script,” Newhart said of his “Big Bang Theory” colleagues. “They gave me a lot of hanging curveballs, and I kept swinging at them.”

Melissa Leo won a trophy for her turn on “Louie,” and Dan Bucatinsky won for outstanding guest actor for “Scandal.” “Behind the Candelabra,” the HBO film about Liberace and companion Scott Thorsen, did exceedingly well, picking up eight Emmys.

Tonight’s show will have its share of showcases. There will be a segment on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The “In Memoriam” segment will feature tributes to stars by colleagues and friends, including Edie Falco on James Gandolfini and Robin Williams on Jonathan Winters.

But the main attraction of the evening — besides the outfits, of course — is the question: Who’s gonna win?

And in that respect, the stiffest Emmy competition may not come from inside Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre. Not only is the show going up against a new “Breaking Bad” episode, it also has to compete against NBC’s powerhouse “Sunday Night Football.”

Fortunately, the Emmys have a secret weapon, and his name is Neil Patrick Harris. The multitalented star is handling the hosting duties, something he’s done to perfection on the Tonys and previous Emmy broadcasts.

“I want it to be classy and smart,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “If I can make the three-hour show feel even like it’s two and a half hours long, then I’ve done my job.”

The Emmys air at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

By Todd Leopold