Cult ad agency drama Mad Men is pitching for a fourth straight triumph at the Emmy awards on Sunday, as the US television industry hands out its annual glittering prizes.
Mildred Pierce, the mini-series starring British actress Kate Winslet, is also tipped for a clutch of gongs at the Primetime Emmy awards, the Oscars of the small screen.
But pundits say this year's show, hosted at Los Angeles's Nokia Theatre, is among the most difficult to predict. "Some unexpected contenders are shaking up the odds, making this year's Emmys a refreshing break from business as usual," commented the Hollywood Reporter after the nominations were announced in July.
Mad Men, the brilliantly-stylized series set in a 1960s New York advertising agency, is up against new HBO series Game Of Thrones and popular CBS drama The Good Wife for the prized best drama prize.
But Boardwalk Empire is also among the hotly-tipped for the Outstanding Drama category -- which Mad Men has dominated for the last three years -- while Friday Night Lights and Dexter are the other contenders.
While many pundits predict a fourth success for the ad drama, some eyebrows were raised when it only won a single award at last weekend's pre-Emmys Creative Arts Awards, against seven for Boardwalk Empire.
"Personally, I think "Mad Men" will still win. It has class and Emmy voters are snobs," said the Los Angeles Times in an eve-of-Emmys blog on its Awards Tracker web page.
Overall the New York series, shown on US cable network AMC, had among the most nominations, with 19 against 18 for Boardwalk Empire.
But both of them are behind Mildred Pierce, which started the race with 21 nods including for British Titanic co-star Winslet. It won three in last weekend's pre-Emmys show.
The series, about a divorcee struggling during the Great Depression, is favorite for best mini-series, but is also nominated in categories including best director, supporting actors and actresses.
The 35-year-old Winslet, fresh from saving Richard Branson's 90-year-old mother Eve from a fire last month, is in the battle for best actress for the Home Box Office (HBO) drama.
But she is up against a strong field also including Julianna Margulies from The Good Wife; Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men; Connie Britton for Friday Night Lights; Mariska Hargitay for Law and Order: SVU; and Kathy Bates, who stars in Harry's Law.
In the comedy actress race Tina Fey is the standout, but she faces Edie Falco for Nurse Jackie, Amy Poehler for Parks and Recreation; Martha Plimpton for Raising Hope; Melissa McCarthy for Mike & Molly; and Laura Linney for The Big C.
The male drama actor nominees are led by Jon Hamm of Mad Men; Steve Buscemi of Boardwalk Empire; Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights and Timothy Olyphant of Justified.
British actor Hugh Laurie, who has won two Golden Globes but no Emmy despite his long-running performance as Dr. Gregory House on the award-wining House, will be hoping to change that on Sunday.
Among male comedians, Steve Carell is nominated for The Office; Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock; Matt LeBlanc for Episodes; Louis C.K. for Louie; and Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki, both stars of The Big Bang Theory.
In the comedy show category, Fey's 30 Rock will be battling to win back the top prize from Modern Family, which last year ended its three-year reign.
But both programs face stiff competition from the hugely popular Glee, as well as The Big Bang Theory, The Office and the widely acclaimed new series Parks and Recreation.