Sunday, June 19, 2011

Emmy Musings: Best Drama Series

Now that the 2010-2011 TV season is officially over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s ineligible nominees: Breaking Bad returns this summer, Lost is over

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Though it couldn’t match the show’s John Lithgow-enhanced fourth season, the fifth year of Showtime’s serial killer drama brought in Jonny Lee Miller and Julia Stiles for another strong season. The show continues to be popular enough that it should not have any trouble returning to the list of nominees, but this isn’t the year that it wins (if that ship hasn’t sailed already).

The Good Wife
This show, nominated last year for its freshman season, has only gotten better in year two, and it’s certainly going to repeat and show up here again. If not for some very critically-acclaimed HBO dramas, it might have a decent chance at winning, and it still might, given just how good this year was and how excellent its performers were. It’s at both an advantage and a disadvantage as the only broadcast network show in the mix.

Mad Men
If any returning show is a lock, this is it. The AMC drama, which has won this category the past three years running, shows no signs of letting up as it showcased plenty of impressive installments throughout its fourth season. It was trounced at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards this past year by newcomer “Boardwalk Empire,” so it will have, for the first time, a truly strong opponent to contend with come Emmy night.

True Blood
This show was a huge surprise last year as it made it into this category and very few others, and it’s likely a fluke. Fantasy and science fiction shows rarely get nominated for Emmys, and this show’s third season paled in comparison to its second. That said, Emmy voters sometimes get with the program too late, as evidenced by repeated mentions for “Entourage” well past its prime. Competition is stiff this year, though, so don’t count on this one showing up again.

Past nominees:
Big Love
This HBO drama managed a true surprise nomination in this category for its third season, even more surprising given that it was the show’s only mention that year. After an agreed-upon awful fourth year, the show concluded more strongly with a fifth and could repeat. It’s unlikely, however, due to steep competition and the fact that, aside from that one nod, this show has only managed minor nominations over its other three years, and only seven in total.

New contenders:
Boardwalk Empire
This HBO drama set in the 1920s has Emmy written all over it, and given its recent triumphs at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, it’s probably the frontrunner at this point. Even though “The Sopranos” never dominated the top category as much as it should have – only winning for the first time after season five – this show has a leg up since no other new show should rally strongly enough to defeat it.

Game of Thrones
It’s hard to judge whether this midseason HBO drama will be able to break into the awards circuit for its first season. Some of the network’s more ambitious series, like “Rome,” and even its more critically-acclaimed shows, like “The Wire,” don’t make it onto Emmy voters’ radar. This show will mostly face competition from a few other new shows and an already hefty slate, so it may have to settle for recognition in the technical categories for year one.

The Killing
AMC’s latest show has a lot going for it entering this race. Its reviews have been great, at least for its first half, and AMC has had two shows in this race for the past two years running (one of them, “Breaking Bad,” is not eligible this year). It may be either too dark or dull for some, but it definitely has the gravitas necessary to manage a nomination, and could easily appear here.

I still contend that this show should be submitted as a comedy, but I won’t waste time trying to sway Emmy voters. Showtime’s only entrant in this category has been “Dexter,” and this show is wholly different from that and, truth be told, from the rest of the fare usually nominated here. The show is excellent, but it will much more likely pop up in some of the acting categories only.

The Walking Dead
AMC’s fall series was an enormous hit but has two distinct disadvantages going into the race. Firstly, it aired only six episodes, so it may not be as plentiful as some of the other contenders. Secondly, it’s a zombie show, so voters, who branched out and welcomed in “True Blood” last year, will have to be willing to really think outside the box to include it. Its chances are good if not very good, but by no means guaranteed.

Other possibilities:
This FX series was ignored by Emmy voters last year, and though it was even more astounding in its second season, it may be type of series that never earns awards recognition. I’m hopeful that it won’t be the case, and fortunately “Damages” already set the precedent a few years ago and became the first FX show nominated in the top category. It’s a tough year, but I’m pulling for this one to do well.

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