EMMYS: Drama Series Overview

Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

In the “what a difference a year makes” category, consider the case of AMC’s Mad Men. In August 2012, the drama series category chatter was all about whether Mad Men could make Emmy history by winning its fifth top drama trophy in succession. Then the Showtime thriller Homeland stepped up to steal the thunder (and the statuette) in its first season. This time around, the favorites are instead Mad Men’s fellow AMC hour Breaking Bad and Homeland, which looks to repeat. Standing in their way are repeat nominees Game Of Thrones and Downton Abbey as well as newbie House Of Cards, the freshman drama that represents a true wild card for Netflix on its maiden Emmy voyage.

It took The Sopranos until its fifth season to win best drama, too. And this looks to be Breaking Bad’s time. Plus, the show is premiering its final eight episodes just as ballots are starting to hit mailboxes. It’s got the buzz factor going in spades.

Shows simply aren’t supposed to win their first series Emmy on their fourth try, and rarely do. Moreover, too many members of the TV Academy could be turned off by the show’s perpetually dark, gritty, violent tone.

It already won a project Emmy once, though that was in the movie/miniseries category during its first season. Downton remained one of TV’s most beloved watercoolor shows in its third season. The British pedigree helps a lot, too.

There’s been a backlash after the shocking death at the end of the season of character Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), which some perceived as a jump-the-shark moment.

With each passing season, Thrones has gained increasing cred as a quality piece, reaching beyond the restrictive bounds of the fantasy genre. And it’s gained Emmy traction in a way that its HBO stablemate True Blood never has.

Fantasy-themed dramas never end up taking home the trophy because their charms tend to elude too many TV Academy voters. Earning a nomination is one thing for Game Of Thrones; winning is quite another.

Homeland won a year ago against longer odds than it faces here: The bid for a fifth consecutive category Emmy by Mad Men. This time, it only has to knock off another show it’s already beaten in Breaking Bad. It still has hip and cool on its side, if not quite the same freshness and buzz.

A similar thriller with a like pedigree, Fox’s 24, couldn’t win two in a row, and the prevailing wisdom is that a wheel or two came off the Homeland bus during its sophomore campaign. The buzz seems to be that it’s time to honor Breaking Bad, and the buzz often knows best.

House Of Cards has a freshness and vitality that the TV Academy likes to reward, not to mention a smart political theme. It also doesn’t hurt that it stars two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey and has a feature look and feel.

It’s doubtful that the TV Academy is ready to anoint a Netflix series. The streaming service needs to first pay its dues like everyone else. Respect will come, just as it ultimately did for cable projects and performers.

Winning four times in a category means it could win again, even after a sixth season perceived by critics as uneven. The fact the season recently concluded means the series is still fresh in voters’ minds.

The general perception is that this Emmy ship already has sailed off into the sunset. And one gets the feeling that Mad Men guru Matthew Weiner knows it all too well.

  1. Hoping for Game of Thrones to win. Breaking Bad is overrated, as is that terrible, boring has-been show Mad Men.

    Too bad the Americans and Orphan Black were snubbed. Oh well.

    1. Well, if you think poorly about Mad Men and Breaking Bad, there is show just for you…


        1. Sad. Isn’t it?

          China will now take over while you watch this show and eat Little Debbie Snack Cakes along with the other 11.3 million morons.

          Congratulations. The education your parents paid for did not penetrate. Duck Dynasty sure made into your noggin though, didn’t it?

  2. person, if you think BB is overrated and GOT is better and more deserving you have a lot to learn about film making.

    1. BB is overrated. It’s still a good show, I enjoy it & Bryan Cranton deserves every award but it’s most definitely not the best show of all time. All the hyperbole around this show just gets really tiresome & it never lasts (see: LOST, Mad Men, Homeland, Dexter, etc.)

      1. Yes and No. It is different and creative and found it’s place just at the right time. Its 5 year run seems just right and it’s viewership has grown, much due to Netflix. Well, anyway, I’m hooked.

  3. Hands down it should go to GOT. Best written series , and thank God- its original . Now theres a shocker

    1. Adaptations are original now?

      Breaking Bad demolishes Game of Thrones. Thrones is a mediocrity at best.

      1. Two major storylines in second season (Arya/Tywin interactions and Quarth story) wasn’t based on books, but was so carefully constructed that supposedly they don’t affect upcoming events. Plus numerous changes in characters and storylines.

  4. I think Mad Men should have won it’s 5th consecutive Emmy last year, but Breaking Bad should win this year. I’m not as enthusiastic about it as a lot of people are, but the main competition was weaker than usual to me (especially Homeland, but Mad Men and GoT too, although I think Mad Men’s sixth season was better than a lot of people give it credit for).
    What I don’t understand is how House of Cards got nominated while The Americans and Boardwalk Empire got snubbed. HoC is a good show, but there’s a lot of stuff especially toward the end which is just dumb. I just don’t think it’s anywhere near as good in reality as it should be on paper, and its cynicism turns FU into this cartoon-esque villain by the end of the season. The only categories I think it deserved nominations for are acting and directing.

  5. What is fresh or vital about House of Cards, really? It’s a rehash of a 20-year-old BBC miniseries that was much better.

  6. This is a three-horse race between “Homeland”, “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones”, with GoT playing the big dark horse. It’s definitely the most popular show on the list though and I can see that translating into plenty of votes, especially after Emilia Clarke also got a nomination this year.
    Here are my odds:
    1. Homeland- The second season was dreadful. The show didn’t deserve the nomination, let alone the win. But it got a huge amount of noms and it’s obvious the academy still loves it. I can see it getting another win in an *ugh* moment.
    2. Breaking Bad- It could very well take the statue, but Season 5, although a splendid season, is not as good as the rest of the show. The best seasons, 1 and 4, are just really hard to live up to.
    3. Game of Thrones- A lot of people will be rooting for GoT to win. It’s definitely my personal pick of the litter. I can see it gaining a lot of votes, but not enough to dethrone Homeland.
    4. House of Cards- I think it’s big win will be Spacey as Best Actor, but I can see a lot of people voting for it as Best Series. By helping Netflix win the statuette, they will be boosting opportunities for plenty of web-based platforms to step up.
    5.Mad Men- It’s my runner-up for best show of the year, but you’re right about it losing Emmy traction. I don’t see it winning.
    6. Downton Abbey- Doesn’t deserve to be nominated. Other Emmy favorites, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, and “The Good Wife” had much better seasons. I don’t see much people voting for it, but then again, I didn’t see it getting this many nominations either.

  7. BreakingBad just might do it after all unbelievable hype surrounding the final season. Don’t count on House of Cards. No show released in bulk will ever win. Period. Not in this generation anyway. Mad Men is past its due date. Weiner has to pull off a spectacular final season for it to win again. If this were gymnastics and the award was for all around, I’d have to say GOT. It was great this season. Homeland probably let down too many by becoming preposterous towards the end of the season. Downton who? The novelty has worn off. It got the Mini trophy, which is what it should have stayed-a mini series. I say Breaking Bad in 2013.

  8. The best drama series on the North American continent is not in the lineup, therefore, the Emmys are illegitimate.

    It’s all about Continuum.

  9. Breaking Bad is the only show that drastically changes its main character. The writing is impeccable. It deserves to win as does Bryan Cranston. Game of Thrones is the one I find to be a bit overrated as well as Homeland and Dexter, not Breaking Bad. Have to agree with everyone else here: why Boardwalk Empire gets neglected, I have no idea.

  10. Oh and TBBT, the first three seasons were pretty hilarious. Then they had to go and give everyone a girlfriend and dumb down the show to appeal to the masses. Now it’s basically Friends with people who happen to be scientists. The show was appealing before because it was pretty nerdy. It’s not anymore. Not even worth watching anymore. I only watched the first two seasons of Modern Family, but it was entertaining. However, not nearly as funny as Louie. If the Daily Show wins again… I think it’s time for a change. Give it to Colbert. His segments on SuperPACs, and getting Jeff Bridges, Bryan Cranston, Hugh Laurie, Henry Kissinger, and Matt Damon all to appear in a video to Daft Punk? Come on give the Emmy to the man already.

  11. Breaking Bad has been riveting from episode 1. I have watched it since it debuted. I have never felt so much dread while watching a show, yet still having to watch it. I am so glad the creator had a 5 year plan and he has stuck to it. That is just brave to me in that industry. He said 5 years was the plan and he has been able to be fearless in his story telling. I am enjoying these last episodes so far and I can hardly wait to see how it all ends. I like all the other shows nominated, but this is the year Breaking Bad should win.

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