Only two shows among the very crowded eight Drama Series nominees this season were actually in this race last year—an unusual occurrence. Of course, one of those shows is the seemingly unbeatable Game of Thrones, breaking all nomination records with a remarkable 32 nods this season. What a way to go out. Like Veep, Thrones is a three-time series winner, looking for a fourth and final victory before sailing into TV history. To do that it will have to conquer five shows nominated for the first time here, the only broadcast network entry, and the return of a frequent nominee who was absent last year.
Better Call Saul
Although it wasn’t considered in 2018 since it didn’t air a new season during the eligibility period, Breaking Bad’s spinoff is back in contention this year with nine nominations overall, just as it was in every Emmy season since its 2015 debut. Daring to take on the mantle of Breaking Bad and succeed on its own terms as a prequel, the show is a hit thanks not only to a great cast but also its creators/executive producers Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, who also steered Breaking Bad to Emmy glory. Can they do it again?
One of two shows to represent the streamer here since stalwarts The Crown and Stranger Things weren’t yet eligible in their third seasons, and veteran House of Cards didn’t make the cut in this category (it’s up in a couple of acting slots though). Bodyguard is a bit of a dark horse, since the six-episode series wasn’t really expected to get much more traction other than for its Golden Globe winning star. However, while Richard Madden is surprisingly AWOL in the noms, his show landed as one of the big ones. Go figure. A real longshot though.
Game of Thrones
What more can be said about this show, which landed a record-breaking 32 nominations this season to add to a lifetime total of 160? It looks to be almost impossible to beat in its final season. Despite controversy over how the show ended, with some fans even calling for a complete reshoot of the whole final season, Emmy voters didn’t seem to mind. It is a behemoth if ever there was one.
This BBC series got some real traction last year in its first try, with both acting and writing nominations, but it has really exploded in this second season with nine bids, including its first time in this marquee category. It is a series that definitely has a huge fanbase, and not just with Emmy voters. Still, it seems more likely to score in other categories than this one.
Like Killing Eve, this second-season series upgraded itself into this category after setting the table for success with five nominations last year. Even more than Better Call Saul, this complex and riveting series most evokes the feel of Breaking Bad in brilliantly carrying forward the story of a family careening out of control after being forced to move from the big city into darker times.
This dazzling entry from Ryan Murphy, Steven Canals and Brad Falchuk is set in the Ball Culture world of 1987 New York City. With six total nominations, it impressively landed one of them in this category, despite the fact that it was the first new show eligible for this season, since it debuted just three days after the close of eligibility for last year’s Emmys. Who says Emmy voters don’t have long memories? A win would be a big longshot, but this series is smack in the zeitgeist anyway.
First off, can we say how criminal it is that the actors branch did not recognize this terrific series in key acting categories, especially its star Brian Cox? Nevertheless, it came in under the radar—and in the shadow of HBO stablemate Game of Thrones—with five nominations, including Drama Series. I can’t think of a more deserving show this year. As an almost Shakespearean look at the corporate culture of one family, it truly cannot be beaten. Only the Murdochs would not approve.
This Is Us
As the only broadcast network to make it into this lineup now three years running, and with its other eight cast nominations, voters are clearly saying they are still with this emotional and satisfying drama. However, with no wins here in the last two years, and only actors branch support from the other categories, it would be a shocker to see it actually win.