With Breaking Bad and Mad Men finally out of the way in the Outstanding Drama Series category, the field is more fluid and slightly less predictable than it has been. Although the new voting rules allowing a wider field of Academy members to vote in the finals tend to favor popularity, which might explain how Game Of Thrones finally rose to the top last year in its fifth try. Its haul of 12 Emmys—an Academy record for a series in a single season—was so imposing, it seems like everyone else might be an underdog this time around.
But there are different scenarios here, with FX’s The Americans finally making the cut after being passed over for three seasons. There is the House Of Cards factor, a show that has never won despite being nominated each year; and this is a political election year, which could help. There’s Homeland, trying to come back after its only win in 2012, Downton Abbey in its final season, and AMC hoping the Breaking Bad magic rubs off on its spinoff Better Call Saul which has now been nominated two years in a row. Finally, there is the unknown factor of newbie Mr. Robot in its first try.
This critical favorite has been grossly overlooked for its first three seasons, and now suddenly it has received its first ever nomination in this category. What gives? I think the critical fraternity practically shamed the Academy into paying attention to this show. When they finally did, voila! It helps that it had a terrific season. The drawback may be that it only has five nominations, most of them in the acting categories, so its widespread appeal across all branches is still a question mark.
Better Call Saul
After owning this category for six of the past eight years with four wins for Mad Men and two for Breaking Bad, AMC’s only hope to keep its streak is that sophomore nominee Better Call Saul is getting better as it goes on, and pleasing fans and critics who loved Breaking Bad. This isn’t always the case for spinoffs, but this show seems to be firing on all cylinders now and finding its own feet. The fact that it was nominated first time out last season shows Emmy voters are paying attention.
The stalwart British entry has been nominated every year of its run, or at least since Season 2, when it switched from the Miniseries contest (where it won) to Drama Series. It is still searching for its first win here, and this is its last chance. The show ended on an upbeat note, which could only make voters feel good about it, so sentiment could prevail and give it the elusive prize this final time around.
Game Of Thrones
What can you say about this juggernaut? After four consecutive years of playing bridesmaid it finally won on its fifth try. But it didn’t just win: it crushed the competition with 12 Emmys; a gigantic haul for a Drama Series. With 23 nominations this year, it leads the Emmy parade, and there is no reason to believe momentum is not on its side. Since the nominations, HBO has announced the show won’t be an Emmy player next season. That could give it impetus. Plus it was a killer season.
This durable drama series came out of the box with a big win in its first time ever in 2012, but it has failed to repeat, especially after a couple of spotty seasons slowed its momentum. With only four nominations this year, it has a hill to climb to become that rare drama series that could come back and manage a bookend Emmy for that first year’s win.
House Of Cards
A staple here ever since its groundbreaking Netflix debut in 2013. It has never won, but this is an election year, and that could mean voters are in the mood. This, after all, is the first Presidential race that House Of Cards has shared the air with, and that could get the Academy jazzed. Although sometimes sailing over the top, the show has always been true to itself, and that should count for something.
USA has finally cracked this category with the innovative and instantly popular Mr. Robot, a show right in with the times when hacking is in the headlines seemingly every day. Its intriguing lead character, played by Rami Malek—also nominated—makes this must-watch new TV, and as the only first-season series that made the cut here, it is the great mystery entry.
PETE’S PICK: Game Of Thrones is on a roll.
This post was originally published August 24, 2016.