LOS ANGELES — "Black-ish" star Anthony Anderson may want to practice looking surprised and humble before helping to announce this year's Emmy contenders on Thursday morning.
He and the critically acclaimed comedy series could be getting a lot of TV academy love if voters keep pace with the medium's increasing diversity.
The Emmy Awards have done a better job than their big-screen counterpart, the Oscars, at embracing more of the varied people, programs and platforms that make up the small-screen universe. Although the Emmys can't claim the steroid effect that an Oscar can have on a film's box-office performance, the premiere TV award draws attention to shows trying to stand out in a packed media world.
A statuette also can bestow credibility on emerging outlets. Such was the case in 2002, when FX became the first basic cable channel to win a top Emmy Award — Michael Chiklis' best drama actor trophy for "The Shield" — and earned unprecedented cachet. Streaming service Netflix got its 21st-century Emmy glow on with recognition for "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black," with "Transparent" the breakthrough for Amazon. Hulu, still looking for its first Emmy, is pinning its comedy hopes on the freshman season of "Casual."
On Thursday morning, Anderson will be joined by Lauren Graham to reveal the top 68th Primetime Emmy nominations for the Sept. 18 awards show. The complete field will be posted on the TV academy's website, Emmys.org , and livestreamed beginning at 11:30 a.m. EDT.
The "black-ish" star received the sitcom's sole 2015 nod, for best comedy actor, and is expected to get another. This time, Tracee Ellis Ross, who stars as wife, mom and doctor in the sitcom about an African-American family trying to keep its ethnic heritage alive, may get her own leading actress bid.
The Kenya Barris-created show should get a shot at the best comedy trophy for its sophomore season, with its competitors likely to include last year's winner, the political satire "Veep," five-time champ "Modern Family," transgender-themed "Transparent" and Aziz Ansari's "Master of None."
Randall Park and Constance Wu, the stars of the Asian-American family comedy "Fresh Off the Boat," are contenders for lead acting bids. Their respective competition is likely to include last year's winners, Jeffrey Tambor for "Transparent" and Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the political satire "Veep."
On the drama side, history-making Viola Davis, who last year became the first minority to win a best drama series Emmy, for "How to Get Away with Murder," should get the opportunity to double down on her achievement.
"The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity," Davis said in accepting her award last fall.
When it comes to empire-building, "Game of Thrones" is the one to watch. After long thrilling fans with its plot twists and blood-soaked action, the fantasy saga based on George R.R. Martin's novels finally captured the best drama series prize for its fifth season.
Besides fending off likely competitors "Better Call Saul," ''House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black" (which was switched last year from the comedy to drama category) "GOT" may face a cyber threat: "Mr. Robot," the freshman series about a hacker turned activist that won a Golden Globe last January for best drama series.
"'Mr. Robot' is the coolest new show on TV up against the coolest cult hit, 'Game of Thrones,'" said Tom O'Neil, editor of the Gold Derby awards handicapping website. "Sometimes the Emmys do go for new shows if they have momentum, buzz and suspense, as with 'Homeland' and 'Lost'."
In the limited series field, "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" stands to reap nods for its multiethnic cast that includes Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran; Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson; Sarah Paulson playing Marcia Clark and Kenneth Choi as Judge Lance Ito.
The Sept. 18 Emmy show will be broadcast live on ABC from 8-11 p.m. EDT, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.