Hundreds entered, but only one can triumph: South Korea's "Squid Game" will make a play for Emmys history Monday as it aims to become the first foreign-language television show to win top honors for best drama.
The Netflix show -- in which misfits and criminals compete for cash in barbaric and fatal versions of schoolyard games -- is aiming to follow in the footsteps of Oscar-winning movie "Parasite" with success at TV's top prize gala.
It is already the first non-English-language series to earn a best drama series nomination. To convert that into a trophy at the ceremony in Los Angeles, it will need to overcome a previous winner in HBO's "Succession."
"It's pretty hard to go against that HBO juggernaut," said Deadline awards columnist Pete Hammond, noting that the cutthroat drama about a powerful clan vying to inherit a media empire secured the most overall nominations with 25.
"I do think ['Squid Game'] is going to win best actor," said Hammond -- an outcome that would make Lee Jung-jae the category's first winner whose performance was not in English.
Other shows contending for the night's top drama prizes include Apple TV+ dystopian workplace series "Severance," starring Adam Scott, and the final season of Netflix's much-lauded crime saga "Ozark."
Zendaya, who became the youngest-ever best actress winner two years ago for hard-hitting teen drama "Euphoria," is tipped to repeat with her work on the show's sophomore season.
- Keaton 'lock' -
Given the penchant of Television Academy voters for honoring previous winners, best comedy series looks like an open goal for season two of Apple TV+'s fish-out-of-water soccer coach "Ted Lasso."
But its star Jason Sudeikis will have to fend off another previous winner for best actor in Bill Hader, whose dark hitman comedy "Barry" returns from a three-year, pandemic-prolonged absence.
Jean Smart is also heavily tipped to repeat as best actress for "Hacks," in which she plays an aging Las Vegas diva forced to reinvent her dated stand-up routine.
By definition, offering some fresh blood are the nominees in the limited series section, which honors shows capped at a single season.
Four of the five contenders chronicle real-life scandals.
"Dopesick" looks at the US opioid crisis, "The Dropout" recounts the Theranos fraud, "Pam and Tommy" recalls an infamous celebrity sex tape and "Inventing Anna" is inspired by a Russian con artist who scammed upper-crust New York.
But the pundits' favorite in a tight race is "The White Lotus," a satirical look at hypocrisy and wealth among the guests at a luxury Hawaii hotel.
The show -- which is bending Emmy rules by returning for a second season, albeit with a largely new cast and location -- has a whopping eight acting nominations, including for Jennifer Coolidge.
Actors make up the biggest voting branch in the Academy.
"I think Michael Keaton has got a lock on actor in a limited series" for 'Dopesick'," said Hammond, while Amanda Seyfried's turn as disgraced Theranos boss Elizabeth Holmes in "The Dropout" is likely to prove popular.
- 'The Slap' -
The ceremony will be hosted by "Saturday Night Live" stalwart Kenan Thompson.
It is expected to mark a return to normality, after the Covid-19 crisis forced producers to get creative with recent remote and socially distanced editions.
The show takes place at a downtown Los Angeles theater, where A-listers will gather to walk the red carpet for the first major Hollywood awards ceremony since this year's extraordinary Oscars.
Back in March, Will Smith stunned viewers around the world by slapping Chris Rock live on stage for cracking a joke about his wife.
Emmy organizers have rejected the suggestion that security will need to be beefed up to prevent a repeat.
"I can't imagine that lightning will strike twice," Academy CEO Frank Scherma told Deadline.
"We have smart security. We have people around that make quick decisions... We'll be on the lookout and we'll be smart like we always are."