Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Emmy Race: Best Drama Series

The Emmy Award nominations look to be even more competitive in all the major categories than last year when the switch was made from five to six nominees in the regular acting categories and series categories. At this point, I’d like to offer a rundown of the potential nominees. I’ve placed contenders in specific groupings that speak to their history and chances.

Last year’s nominees:

BIG LOVE (1 nomination)
Consider this the wild card. After earning a grand total of four minor nominations in the course of its first two years, this show earned a fifth – and only a fifth – showing up in this and no other category. Chloe Sevigny earned her first Golden Globe nomination and win for her role on the show back in January, but the show doesn’t have much buzz. I think its inclusion is akin to the 2005-2006 nominees, where many unusual players got in because of a new voting system. To me, it seems like a fluke, but more importantly, there are much more popular new contenders this year that should serve to knock it out, regardless of its quality.

BREAKING BAD (1 nomination)
Last year, it was the underdog semi-surprise nominee. This year, it was even more critically-acclaimed and should be considered one of the frontrunners. While I doubt it will actually defeat “Mad Men,” which I incorrectly predicted it would last year, I think it has a fighting chance and is certainly a safe bet for a nomination, along with its two-time-winner star Bryan Cranston. Expanding the field definitely helped it break in, but it’s here to stay.

DAMAGES (2 nominations)
While I thought this season was by far the best yet, this show is actually quite vulnerable of losing its spot. Despite a timely case, the show’s ratings struggled and it is now even in jeopardy of losing its already-commissioned fourth season. While viewers and networks may have turned their backs on it, I’m not so sure Emmy voters will. They still love Glenn Close, and they liked this show even when it wasn’t very good, so my bet is that it will stay.

DEXTER (2 nominations)
It’s been a good year for “Dexter.” Not for the character, necessarily, but certainly for the show. Star Michael C. Hall picked up a Golden Globe and a SAG Award for the first time, and guest star John Lithgow nabbed a Globe as well. This was the strongest season of the show since the first, and its increasing popularity coupled with its continuing quality guarantee it a spot. It’s unlikely that it can dethrone the juggernaut that is “Mad Men,” but it’s a dark horse.

HOUSE (4 nominations)
I’m surprised this show has made it thus far. It first earned a nomination for the show’s second season, and while the show remains popular, many recognize that the quality has gone down (I can’t speak to it, I don’t watch the show). Last year, it became the only procedural left on this list. Even if Hugh Laurie continues to earn nominations long after this show has gone off the air (hyperbole), I think this show’s time is up, especially as another above-average procedural threatens to take its place.

LOST (3 nominations/1 win)
After winning for its first year, this show disappeared until its critical resurgence in season four. Even if many didn’t love the final season and final episode, it will likely be back if only because it’s so damn popular. The fact that it made it in last year for what many considered to be a season of dizzying time travel makes me confident that its uneven sixth year should keep it in the race. To be clear, a snub wouldn’t be due to another show taking its place, but rather backlash from angry fans.

MAD MEN (2 nominations/2 wins)
The reigning champ in this category earned reviews just as excellent as in its first two years for its third season, and it’s easily possible that it will take home this trophy for a third year in a row. It took until season five for “The West Wing” to be dethroned, and that had even fallen out of favor for some before that. It will likely be a long time before that happens for this show, so keep it in your first position at this point.

Past winner primed for a comeback for its final year?

24 (5 nominations/1 win)
This show earned nominations for its first five seasons, winning on its last try, and then found itself absent from the list for the past two seasons. Now, the show is officially over, and there’s always the chance that fans could honor it one last time. A comeback nod for a final season is not something that usually happens in this category, however, and the last time it happened was in 1994 for “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which had never been nominated before. Count this show out.

Second season – will this be the year?

This is more of wishful thinking, but it’s worth including anyway. After Michael Chiklis put FX on the Emmy map with a Best Actor win back in 2001, “Damages” broke through along with Showtime two years ago to become the first non-HBO cable network nominated. This show earned a measly one nomination (for main title theme music) for season one, but buzz for actress Katey Sagal and an extremely strong second season could help place it on some voters’ ballots.

Despite a Golden Globe nod for Best Drama Series and a win for Best Actress Anna Paquin, the show earned only three minor nods last year. Since then, the show has reaped repeat Globe nods as well as a SAG nomination for Best Ensemble in a Drama Series. I still think this show is too far outside of Emmy’s comfort zone, but it could well get nominated, and that would be truly cool.

First-time contenders:

CBS’s procedural starring Julianna Marguiles is the best bet to break into the bunch after winning its star Golden Globe and SAG trophies and earning a SAG nomination for Best Ensemble. CBS had a well-reviewed and high-rated procedural in this category for three years back in the early 2000s (“CSI”) and I think this is the year that it rejoins the list with its new legal drama.

Like “Sons of Anarchy,” this violent FX drama is more of a “for your consideration” entry. Despite strong reviews, it probably won’t make it into any of the top Emmy categories. While “Damages” broke in two years ago, FX has yet to be completely welcomed by Emmy voters, and I think it’s too crowded a year for its shows to really make a splash this time around.

This new NBC comedy got renewed for a second season but likely isn’t strong enough to emerge as a prominent Emmy player. Compared to all the intense dramas in this category, this show may be soon as too light. The similarly-themed “Brothers & Sisters” fared moderately well, but never made it in to the top category. The presence of previous Emmy nominees like Peter Krause and Craig T. Nelson in the cast may help, but I’d consider it a serious longshot.

Excellent reviews and an instant renewal don’t change the fact that “The Wire” and “Rome” were never nominated here and that it took “Deadwood” to season two to get recognized. This show is much more like those than “Six Feet Under” and “The Sopranos,” the HBO shows that did garner immediate accolades. It’s definitely a dark horse though, and its inclusion in the lineup wouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

The rundown:
The problem with this category is that all seven nominees from last year could easily return, and it’s only supposed to hold six. There’s no way that “Mad Men” is going anywhere, and the same should be true of “Dexter” and “Breaking Bad.” The phenomenon of “Lost” could be snubbed, but it probably won’t. That leaves “Big Love,” “Damages,” and “House” vulnerable, and I think “The Good Wife” will take one of the spots. Based on freshness, I think “Damages” is probably a good bet, but its likely cancellation certainly doesn’t bode well. This category could really be interesting, and it also has the potential to be completely boring by offering up the exact same nominees as last year.

Current predictions:

What could win? Probably “Mad Men” again.

Next up: Best Comedy Series


Greg Boyd said...

Not even a cursory mention for "FNL"? I realize it's not going to get nominated (AGAIN), but it should be on the shortlist.

The Emmys are a joke.

Movies with Abe said...

Yeah, my bad. I did predict it for a nomination in this category in its first year, but since then it's seemed less and less likely. Who knows - maybe?