Emmy Throwback: The 2006 Emmy Drama Race

2006 Emmy Drama
This look at the 2006 Emmy Drama race is the first in a series of new posts exploring past Emmy races and how they have held up over time. Throughout the season we’ll explore various races from over the years including series, acting, and craft categories.

No network drama has competed for the top award since 2011 (unless you count Downton Abbey), so it’s crazy to think that ten years ago – way back in the 2006 Emmy Drama race – the biggest award of the night was between two wildly popular network shows and that network TV represented 80 percent of the nominees in the race. Plus, it’s even more surprising that the one premium cable nominee, The Sopranos, played second fiddle to genre shows and nighttime soaps.

The five nominees in 2006 were 24 (FOX), Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), House (FOX), The Sopranos (HBO), and The West Wing (NBC).  Looking back, 24 seems like an obvious choice, but in 2006 pundits and critics were pretty much split evenly between 24 and Grey’s Anatomy with the final season of The West Wing as the dark horse. 24 led the pack with twelve nominations and Grey’s Anatomy was right on its tail with eleven, although Grey’s actually had more major nominations with eight (compared to 24’s five). Even with the major support for the two frontrunners, there was a lot of room for old Emmy favorites to continue racking up awards.

(Photo: FOX)


After five years of building momentum 24 finally won its first Outstanding Drama statue after years of racking up support in the tech categories. In addition to winning the top award, 24 was nominated in twelve categories including wins for its lead actor Kiefer Sutherland, directing, editing, and music composition. The excitement around the fifth season should come to no surprise after it kicked off the year by shockingly killing off beloved characters like President Palmer, Michelle, and Tony. Personally I remember season five best for its fierce showdown between President and First Lady. To this day, I’m shocked Gregory Itzen and Jean Smart were snubbed in the supporting races.

Grey’s Anatomy

The primetime soap that made Shonda Rhimes a household name was nominated for its second season after a year of endless water cooler moments: the saga of Izzy & Denny, McDreamy, the infamous post-Super Bowl bomb episode (which earned Kyle Chandler his first Emmy nod). After overstaying its welcome and many inconsistent seasons, a lot of fans and critics have forgotten just how good Grey’s Anatomy was in its prime. Long before mainstream America began to notice the lack of diversity on television, Shonda Rhimes created a workplace that reflected what the country actually looks like while giving fans countless twists that rivaled anything cable dishes out today.


Similar to Grey’s Anatomy, House was the other massively popular network medical drama nominated for the first time in its second season. Unfortunately for House, the show seemed to fall into a sophomore slump with voters after receiving only four nominations and a surprising snub of the show’s titular star, Hugh Laurie.

The Sopranos  

In 2004 The Sopranos became the first cable drama to win the top award, but after a near two year hiatus the Television Academy reacted tepidly to the penultimate season of the show critics champion as the start of The Golden Age of TV. A fraction of fans and critics were bored with the short season (for similar reasons they criticized the split final season of Mad Men) and Gandolfini and Falco were even shockingly left out of the lead races, although that could be credited to a change in the nomination process.

West Wing

Unfortunately for the four time Outstanding Drama Series winner, the final season went out with a whimper with voters after the show struggled in its new timeslot. In its final season, The West Wing earned six nominations and even won a sound mixing award and supporting actor win for Alan Alda, proving the final season was satisfying for the fans that stuck around. Voters moving on from the one-time Emmy juggernaut also signaled a change in desire towards what types of political shows voters wanted to root for. Ten years later voters have completely dismissed Sorkin’s political enthusiasm for a more pessimistic and conniving version of D.C. in House of Cards and Veep.

the west wing
(Photo: NBC)

One thing is for sure, we may never see a top race between two massively popular network shows again, but ten years later network executives are still trying to recreate the magic of the 2006 Emmy Drama race. HBO counted on Terence Winter to recreate the success of The Sopranos with Vinyl (to poor results), 24 is once again being revived by FOX, Grey’s Anatomy is still going strong in its 13th season, and Shonda Rhimes is able to get just about any idea greenlit.

Readers, what drama were you rooting for back in 2006? Do the five nominees hold up ten years later?

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