By Jill Serjeant
(Reuters) - Egotistical politicians, conflicted advertising executives, a prison full of devious women and the bloodthirsty nobles of warring kingdoms.
Welcome to the Primetime Emmy Awards, the biggest honors in television, and a ceremony on Sunday that holds the promise of a history-making evening and a winner's podium packed with new faces.
"Television right now is chock-a-block with great stories and performances so there is almost too much great TV to pick winners," said Mary McNamara, TV critic for the Los Angeles Times.
"The question is, are we going to see the expanded universe of television better reflected in the winners?" McNamara added.
Will voters embrace transgender drama series "Transparent," and give Amazon Studios its first ever Emmy statuette? Can HBO's Washington political satire "Veep" get a bump from the 2016 White House campaign, now in full swing, to take the comedy series crown?
Awards pundits say nothing is predictable this year due to a rule change that mandates online voting for the first time and expands voting in some top categories to all 18,000 members of the Television Academy.
"It is a complete game changer. It really is anything can happen and that was instituted so that there would be change and a wider selection of winners on Emmy night," said Debra Birnbaum, executive editor of television at Variety.
The Television Academy may finally name the first African-American actress in the best drama category where Viola Davis (ABC's,"How to get Away with Murder") and Taraji P. Henson (Fox's "Empire") are favorites.
"Viola brings Oscar caliber, and a lot of people were really surprised that 'Empire' didn't get a nomination for best drama series," said Birnbaum.
"'Empire' was the talk of last season and if people really want to honor that show, they will throw their support behind Taraji," she said.
"Mad Men" may get a sentimental send-off after ending its eight year run on AMC and make history with five best drama series Emmys - if the 1960s advertising show can hold off popular HBO fantasy series "Game of Thrones."
ABC's "Modern Family" has won five for five comedy series Emmys, and a sixth win on Sunday would mark a new record.
Most pundits agree that Jon Hamm will finally take home an Emmy for his role as Don Draper in "Mad Men," and that Jeffrey Tambor will win his first Emmy for playing an elderly dad who transitions to a woman in "Transparent."
Otherwise award watchers are prepared for upsets in a diverse field that reflects what has been dubbed a new golden age of television.
"There are upwards of 400 scripted series on air right now, so there is a tremendous amount of competition," said Birnbaum.
"People are coming in and re-inventing the form, and there is no such thing as 'this is only way we can do it'."
(Editing by Marguerita Choy)