LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - New faces and bold story-telling challenge old favorites on television's biggest night on Sunday as the stars and creators of scores of comedies, dramas and variety shows gather in Los Angeles for the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards.
Hosted by former "Saturday Night Live" comedian Andy Samberg and shown live on Fox television, more than 20 awards will be handed out with all eyes on the top prizes - best drama and best comedy series.
Sentiment appears to favor stylish 1960s-era advertising show "Mad Men" as it bids for a record fifth drama series win to crown its final season.
No one has ever won an acting Emmy for the influential AMC show in its eight years on the air but Jon Hamm is expected finally to change all that for his role as conflicted ad executive, Don Draper.
"I think that this is going to be the year of 'Mad Men' because it's finished. I think it's a fabulous show, I absolutely love it," Julian Fellowes, the creator of PBS British show "Downton Abbey," told Reuters on the eve of the awards.
However with seven drama series nominated this year - none of them from the big five U.S. broadcasters - the competition is fierce, especially from HBO fantasy series "Game of Thrones" which had a leading 24 nominations.
AMC newcomer "Better Call Saul" - a spin-off of "Breaking Bad" - Showtime's CIA thriller "Homeland," Netflix political drama "House of Cards," "Downton Abbey," and the female prisoners of Netflix's "Orange is the New Black," round out the drama series competition. Uzo Aduba, who plays Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren in "Orange" is nominated for her second acting Emmy.
Amazon Studios could be in for a big night with transgender comedy "Transparent," whose star Jeffrey Tambor plays a divorced dad who decides to transition as a woman.
With gay and transgender themes enjoying a boom in Hollywood, "Transparent" is seen as a threat to ABC's "Modern Family," which has won the comedy series Emmy for each of the past five years.
HBO's Washington political comedy "Veep," and its tech series "Silicon Valley," FX's "Louie,", NBC's "Parks and Recreation", and Netflix's "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," are also in the running.
The Emmy Awards have been criticized in the past for rewarding the same shows and actors year after year. But this time more than half of the nominees in the lead acting categories are either first-timers or from new series.
They include Tatiana Maslany for her multiple clone characters in BBC America's "Orphan Black," Anthony Anderson in ABC's African-American family comedy "black-ish," and comedian Amy Schumer for her Comedy Central sketch show "Inside Amy Schumer."
A rule change at the Television Academy that has expanded voting from about 1,000 to some 18,000 members also is expected to shake things up.
Oscar-nominated Viola Davis (ABC's "How to Get Away With Murder") and Taraji P. Henson (Fox's "Empire") are considered front-runners in the drama actress category, which has never been won by an African-American.
"If one of those two don't win, there will be much howling," said Los Angeles Times TV critic Mary McNamara.
Additional reporting by Reuters Television; Editing by Shri Navaratnam