With outstanding drama series being the Powerball/Mega Millions of the Primetime Emmy Awards, any change in this particular competition is bound to cause a certain amount of eyebrow raising in the TV industry. And, sure enough, the Television Academy’s decision this year to let HBO enter True Detective as a drama series, which is how HBO says it always envisioned the program, is being viewed by some rivals as an introduction of a large grain of sand in their spiritual spinach. Non-fans of the decision complain that the program has an unfair advantage and belongs in the miniseries race. True Detective, which will reboot with a new cast and storyline each season, is able to attract Hollywood heavyweights such as Matthew McConaughey because it only asks of them a one-season, eight-episode commitment. Ironically, that also might be the best explanation yet as to why the TV Academy did not balk when HBO submitted it as a drama. The program also stands to benefit from the TV Academy’s loosening of the “2 percent” rule for the drama series competition, which could open up the race to allow for seven nominees.
True Detective is the perfect solution to the Primetime Emmys’ Drama Series Redundancy Problem. Redundancy is epic at the Emmys in both the drama and comedy series competitions—unlike, say, the Academy Awards, which enjoy a new crop of movie contenders every year. Redundancy is toxic to trophy show ratings. Redundancy also might explain why the most recent Emmy broadcast was ranked as the TV season’s 8th most-tweeted TV special—behind the Academy Awards, Grammys, Golden Globes, American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, MTV Movie Awards—heck, it even came in behind President Obama’s State of the Union Address. Allowing True Detective to compete as a drama might be the best Emmy news in years for the broadcast networks that take turns airing the ceremony.
And, speaking of “unfair advantage” in the drama series race—that’s something those broadcast networks know all about. For years they complained their dramas could not compete against cable series that aren’t bound by the same language, content, budget and scheduling restrictions. The last time a broadcast series won the best drama Emmy was Fox’s 24 in 2006. CBS’ The Good Wife is the only commercial broadcast network series even nominated in the category since 2010—and it hasn’t received a nom the past two years. Not coincidentally, in its bid to return to the competition, The Good Wife pointed out the unfair advantage its cable competitors have just in the number of episodes each show must produce in a season. The Good Wife turned out 22 episodes, while other likely nominees, including True Detective, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, House of Cards and Downton Abbey only produced eight, seven, 10, 13 and nine, respectively. The argument made by the producers of The Good Wife drew loads of attention. In a few weeks, we’ll see if it draws a nom for the show.
Most Likely to Be Nominated
Just how much will the TV Academy bless AMC’s Breaking Bad for its final season? The show was last year’s best drama winner, and Bryan Cranston has won three best lead actor Emmys and Aaron Paul two best supporting. The finale was a critical and audience success. As Walter White might say to other nomination contenders, “I am the danger.”
Meanwhile, Netflix’s flagship series House of Cards snagged a historic best drama Emmy nom last year, and is widely expected to repeat again this year. And it’s only the first half of Mad Men’s final season on AMC, so it’s unclear whether TV Academy voters are sentimental yet about this tony period series that won best drama Emmys from ’08 to ’11 but hasn’t received much Emmy love of late.
Public TV’s period drama Downton Abbey continues to grow its audience—and should be nommed for its unchallenged airing as The Second Most Watched TV Program On Super Bowl Sunday this year.
HBO’s Game of Thrones is beloved by TV Academy voters at nominations time, though they can’t bring themselves to award it with a best drama win. Recent debate over an incestuous rape scene that wasn’t in George R.R. Martin’s books probably has not helped its odds of snagging another nom this year. Conversely, Damian Lewis’ Emmy-winning turn as Nicholas Brody on Showtime’s Homeland ended abruptly in season three, when his character was executed in a public square in Tehran—which would seem to argue for a show Emmy nomination.
HBO’s True Detective starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in its first season, which traveled back and forth in time to trace two detectives’ hunt for a serial killer over nearly two decades. Critics showered it with love, and it’s widely assumed to be a cert on Emmy noms morning.
At once sexy and a high-minded history lesson, Showtime’s Masters of Sex also might have just the right mix to appeal to Emmy voters, though explicit content might be a deterrent for conservative voters. Stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan might have created too much buzz to be ignored for acting awards, and Sheen’s status as a crossover from film (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) always counts for extra points with the TV Academy.
And, James Spader is a top contender for a best actor nom for his unctuously menacing portrayal of criminal/FBI consultant “Red” Reddington—a performance that carries NBC’s freshman The Blacklist. In turn, the show is favored to get a nom for the large role it played in NBC’s ratings turnaround.
Fans Are Hoping
The lack of noms to date for BBCA’s Orphan Black is widely considered by TV critics as one of the biggest Emmy disgraces—one they hope will be remedied this season.
AMC’s hit zombie drama The Walking Dead is not expected—except by its most rabid fans—to be so killer in Emmy nominations this year, outside of the makeup and special effects categories. No matter, as eating alive Sunday Night Football as well as some Winter Olympics nights on NBC in the demo has its own rewards.
And some prognosticators and Revolutionary War re-creators are convinced that AMC’s Turn—a crunchy-gravel drama with a patriotic storyline—can’t help but snag a best drama Emmy nom.
CBS’ former Emmy darling The Good Wife was passed over for a nom in ’12 and ’13. Producers took care of that with a well-received reset at the start of this season in which star Julianna Margulies’ character locked horns with her former boss/friend/lover Will Gardner (played by Josh Charles)—who then got knocked off in one of the biggest moments of the TV season.