Awards Tracker: A Drama Series Race Without ‘Game of Thrones’

drama series race

In a first look at the Emmys drama series race, Jalal lays out what shows are competing for top drama series and what shows are falling from grace.

Not even a week after the most significant moment of our lifetime (Moonlight, people. Moonlight.),  and we’re jumping right into Emmy season. For the first time in years, the drama series race is wide open with three new shows competing against popular favorites that have been waiting years for the chance at the top award now that Game of Thrones is in hiatus.

Top Contenders

Stranger Things – After winning the top SAG and Producers Guild awards of the year, Stranger Things seems poised to become the most unlikely Emmy winner in the history of the award. Popular genre hits don’t usually get anywhere close to major Emmy awards, but America has gone crazy for the upside down and Millie Bobby Brown to the point where no one can escape. The show’s only major detractor is how early in the year the first season premiered, but Netflix has done a great job at keeping the show relevant with constant appearances by the actors at awards shows and talk shows as well as updates on the second season.

The Crown – As the first major costume drama to premiere post Downton Abbey, it’s automatically assumed that The Crown will be a major contender, but just how popular will it be? The show is clearly a hit with costume designers, art directors, and actors. The big question is whether or not Netflix will campaign the The Crown to the same extent they will push their other major dramas on the other voters?

WestworldWestworld premiered as HBO’s answer to the eventual end of Game of Thrones. It offered a 10-week first season that seemed to be spiraling into a cultural phenomenon and began the season as a potential front runner in a year without any of the voters’ old favorites. After being nominated by every award group without any major wins, it seems that voters are more likely to admire the show than they are to reward it. That’s similar to Game of Thrones first few seasons.

Possibilities

Mr. Robot – It’s crazy to think that, after a breakout first season where some critics hailed the show as the future of television, that Mr. Robot might be forgotten in a classic sophomore slump. The second season premiered last summer to great reviews, but an usually tepid reaction from fans resulted in the show being virtually shutout from just about every major guild as well as the top award at the Golden Globes which it had won just the year before. Voters typically stick with a show for a few years once they bring it into the club, but in a year with so many more accessible new shows Mr. Robot could get left out of the top award.

Homeland – The one time best drama winner has had a fickle relationship with Emmy voters over the past six years. It went from one time favorite to being left out in a truly awful year to sneaking back into the drama series race. Now with Homeland constantly dwindling in terms of nominations this might be the year where it gets booted for good.

This Is Us – No network drama has been nominated for best series since The Good Wife in 2011 (unless you count Downton Abbey). With television quality at an all time high, it would take a pretty special show to standout to voters. Voter snobbery aside, there seems to be a lot of people in 2017 with a need for a sentimental family drama. However, there is a bigger chance the show shows up in other races like supporting actor, writing, and casting, while still missing out on the top award.

Worth Mentioning

Ray Donovan – The focus has been on the plethora of new dramas this year, but there is a chance that an old favorite might sneak in. Over the years voters have shown that they love Ray Donovan, especially last year when in the third season the show earned three acting nominations as well as a directing nod.

The Young Pope – Oscar winning director Paolo Sorrentino’s first attempt at television is definitely a prestige series starring Jude Law and Diana Keaton about the bizarre inner workings of the Vatican but European pretension doesn’t necessarily translate into a successful Emmy series. My initial impression of the show is that it isn’t provocative enough to excite Emmy voters especially in a drama series race overflowing with pop culture phenomenons and crowd pleasers but if anyone knows how to push a show like The Young Pope it’s HBO. In the end their best bet at a nomination is probably with the show’s cast whether it be Jude Law or Diane Keaton. Note: This show could be submitted in the Limited Series category.

drama series race
(Photo: FX)
Yet to Premiere

Better Call Saul – AMC pushed back the third season of the Breaking Bad spinoff to April, which is probably a good sign for the show’s Emmy chances. Saul has been a constant Emmy player for the past two years and constantly fills up various guild awards including 3/5s of one ACE Eddie category and four WGA nominations.

The Americans – After a breakout year at the Emmys last year, there were some questions on whether or not the Russian spy saga could become a major contender to actually win this year in such a wide open race. Now that the Writers Guild named it the best drama of 2016, there is at least proof that there is enough excitement behind the show. In a year dominated by sci-fi and fantasy shows, The Americans might seem important enough to pull ahead depending on how well-liked the upcoming fifth season is after it premieres next week.

House of Cards – The borderline campy political thriller has had an interesting couple of years at the Emmys, always over-performing in terms of nominations (especially with actors) but almost always failing to actually win an award. Even actors might be moving on from the show after the fourth season was left out of the drama ensemble race at SAG. Netflix isn’t releasing the newest installment of the show until the day before the Emmy eligibility window ends, which might help keep the show at the forefront of Emmy voters minds or not give them enough time to actually watch the show before voting.

Early Predictions

1. Stranger Things
2. The Crown
3. Westworld
4. The Americans
5. Better Call Saul
6. House of Cards
7. Mr. Robot
———————
8. Homeland
9. This Is Us
10. Ray Donovan
11. The Young Pope

The first six seem like obvious Emmy choices. The only unknown is how new seasons of Better Call Saul, The Americans, and House of Cards are received. Underwhelming seasons of Mr. Robot and Homeland will probably be battling it out for the final slot. In the end, even with lukewarm reactions, voters will probably bring Mr. Robot back for the second season simply because the show feels important and voters aren’t so quick to abandon shows they once loved so quickly.

What drama are you predicting to take the top award? Are there any dramas being underestimated right now?

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  • Rodrigo

    I absolutely agree with your top 9.
    The Handmaid’s Tale could be a potential nominee if it’s good.

    The new season of The Americans is getting great reviews. It should be in.

    • Jalal Haddad

      I have a lot of reservations about The Handamid’s Tale. I thought it could have been a contender when everyone thought it was a limited series but I don’t think voters are going to put a Hulu series into the drama series race. There does seem to be a lot of excitement building around the show though and I would love nothing more than it to actually be great and for voters to embrace it.

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