It’s hard to look around and not come across an ad for the upcoming fourth season of AMC’s drama Mad Men. There are billboards, promos, reviews, stories, and interviews with the cast and creator Matthew Weiner seemingly everywhere this week, which leads to the Sunday season premiere. This week also happens to be when TV Academy voters receive their ballots for the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. And on Monday, the day after the Mad Men season premiere, they will start receiving the ballots for the categories featured in the main telecast, including best series. Of course, Mad Men will be judged for Season 3, but is all this attention to the new season helping the series’ Emmy chances? Mad Men won multiple awards including the top drama series statuette at the Emmys in the past 2 years. Both times, a new season of the show launched just before the final voting phase, with fresh episodes airing throughout. In the year before Mad Men’s first Emmy appearance, 2007, The Sopranos won best drama series. The series was also fresh in voters’ minds, having concluded its run with the much-talked about finale in June.
In comedy, it’s mostly about the characters, the situations and laughs, but in drama, it’s about the emotional connection with the show. That’s why I think having a series fresh in your mind while voting is important. I think it’s not a coincidence that in the month after the end of Dexter’s much-lauded 4th season, the Showtime drama won major awards at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards. Will Emmy voters be able to reconnect with the series and get excited about it now the way they probably were 8 months ago?
I do believe that if Mad Men’s Season 4 lives up to the hype, having fresh episodes on the air would give the period AMC drama an advantage in the best drama series category. I think fellow AMC best drama contender Breaking Bad has an edge too, having just wrapped the strong third season it is nominated for. And while HBO’s campy vampire drama True Blood is a long shot for a win, I feel its surprising best drama series Emmy nomination was in part influenced by the show launching a solid 3rd season during the nomination voting process.
Over the past several years, cable drama series have largely taken away the cachet from broadcast shows in terms of perception for depth and quality. (There are 4 cable dramas nominated in the best series category this year, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter and True Blood, and only two broadcast series, Lost and The Good Wife.) But have cable series’ non-traditional scheduling patterns additionally boosted their Emmy chances? Well, they say timing is everything, and that certainly applies to awards races too.