Emmys: Looking at a Top Heavy Drama Series Race

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With the ballots out, we can officially dive into the Drama Series race! There are many shows that are going to compete for one of the prized seven slots in the category. In fact, there 158 series competing for one of these spots. The question is, who will actually take hold? Let’s dive into our top contenders, breaking them off into tiers.

Tier 1 The No Doubt About It Contenders

Game of Thrones” (HBO)

The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)

There are two shows that stand alone on this mountain. There is a lot you can say about whether or not “Game of Thrones” had a subpar season. Meanwhile “The Handmaid’s Tale” might be the darkest, and toughest, show to watch on TV. Yet there is zero question about whether or not either show is making our Drama Series lineup. “Thrones” is still a feat unlike any in the history of television, and made my personal list last year for the best shows of the last decade. There’s more to it than that though, with HBO’s juggernaut showcasing dozens of moments of technical brilliance. There will be a point in ten to fifteen years when we look back at the age of the TV blockbuster. “Game of Thrones” will be the show that changed the game in that mold.

Meanwhile, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is on a run that is very similar to “Breaking Bad” or “The Sopranoes” before it. There are rarely opportunities to assemble a generational cast to work towards a common goal. What makes “Handmaid’s” stick out in this field is that every performance is Emmy worthy. If we wake up on July 12th and don’t hear at least 5 acting nominations (lead/supporting/guest) for the series, the TV world will turn upside down. Simultaneously, the series’ directors are operating at a very high level, working off of crisp and exciting scripts. Both shows are spectacular, and both shows are generational. They’re in no matter what.

Tier 2: The Very Strong, Likely Nominees

“This is Us” (NBC)

“The Crown” (Netflix)

“Stranger Things” (Netflix)

“The Americans(FX)

“Westworld” (HBO)

Once again, each of these shows comes into the race with what feels like can’t miss buzz. The Emmys like consistency and each of these shows represent an easy box to check off. However, the return of “Thrones” likely means that one of these could miss out. Which one will it be?

There are a few that feel safe. “This is Us” is likely the safest of the pack because of its network pedigree. There is a feeling that these network shows need to be protected, and “This is Us” offered some spectacular moments this year. “Super Bowl Sunday” was a must-watch episode, even for those who only occasionally tune in to the show. The rise of Justin Hartley this season is also a strong storyline. While “This is Us” can revert to melodrama, Hartley, Sterling K. Brown, and Milo Ventimiglia feel like surefire noms.

Meanwhile, “The Americans” finished a spectacular season with a spectacular finale. Yet the series missed last year. Can it return to the dance? Realistically it should not be a problem, as Season 5 was considered a downturn, even for “Americans” lifers like myself. Every episode of the final season was an acting showcase for Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. The miss last year is the only reason this show is in tier 2, because frankly, it could compete for the win if it gets into the dance.

The Crown,” “Stranger Things,” and “Westworld” all seem to be under the same gun. Each was so spectacular in its first season that there was worry they could live up. Each went quieter in some ways, louder in others. “The Crown” got caught up in pay gap controversy, especially given that Claire Foy carries the show this time around. The cast also got smaller and had issues replacing the excitement that John Lithgow brought to the show. It’s still prestige enough to make the cut, and the royal wedding certainly reminded the world we’re all still obsessed by this family. Both “Stranger Things” and “Westworld” are blockbusters” and each seems like it could get knocked out. After all, some of the 1st and 2nd place votes they each got last year will drop to 3rd or 4th place votes with the return of “Thrones” this year.

Tier 3 – Newcomers Looking to Spoil

“The Good Doctor” (ABC)

“Killing Eve” (BBC)

“Ozark” (Netflix)

“Mindhunter” (Netflix)

“9-1-1” (FOX)

“The Deuce” (HBO)

There are a lot of new shows, and new shows inspire passion. This is likely where we’re going to see a show break into the race, the question is which one will it be? The internet has spoken and wants “Killing Eve” to be the new contender. In many ways, it feels similar to “Orphan Black,” beyond its British origin. It’s a scrappy show, coming into its powers at the right time, and ratings steadily built as the show continued. It was almost entirely driven by word of mouth and has performances that earn that praise. The question remains, who is actually watching this show?

That’s where our other contenders come in. Both “The Good Doctor” and “9-1-1 have no issues with writing. They are almost campy in their absurdity, but in many ways make for fascinating TV. They each have a certain dose of guilty pleasure nostalgia and harken back to the Network dominance in this category. The question is, do the voters take these shows seriously? My guess would be yes, with “The Good Doctor” featuring several strong performances that make it go. While “Killing Eve” may win the popular vote, “The Good Doctor” could win the electoral college.

A slew of other new shows have built buzz that could put them in the conversation. “Mindhunter” feels like it should be a nominee, but can Netflix push it into the race? The streaming giant will already have to fight to “The Crown” and “Stranger Things” in the mix, and it might want to push “Ozark,” another freshman show, instead. Both “Mindhunter” and “Ozark” are brilliant crime shows in different ways. Each is one of the most exciting shows on television, and each is extremely dark. Do you see the problem? Which dark, crime, Netflix show do you want to vote for when you’ve already put two other Netflix shows on your ballot?

Finally, there is the potential for HBO to push a 3rd show into the race. Look out for “The Deuce,” which picked up considerable support throughout the year for Maggie Gyllenhaal. However, Gyllenhaal may be able to make the cut without any help from a series push, and given the problematic James Franco‘s Me Too allegations, she might be the only one with a real chance.

Tier 4 – The Been There, Done Thats

“Homeland” (Showtime)

“Mr. Robot” (USA)

“Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)

“The X-Files” (FOX)

Each of these shows has varied in quality from season to season. There are plenty of reasons why some of these shows should be in the conversation, especially “Homeland” and “Orange is the New Black” after a horrific ending. Despite this, there are too many shiny new objects to play with. Yet because each has been nominated for Drama Series before, don’t overlook them. Except maybe “The X-Files,” because the hype train derailed on this one.

Tier 5 – The Fan Favorites

“Billions” (Showtime)

“Outlander” (Starz)

“The Good Fight” (CBS)

It feels wrong that these shows are dropped to the lowest tier, of potential nominees, but realistically its the case. Each is brilliant and fun in their own way. Each has nomination-worthy performances from several of its actors. Yet it feels like this is never going to happen for any of these shows. Once the TV Academy passed on their first season, the hope has gone down the drain. Each of these deserves to be in our top 7. Fingers crossed the passion behind one or all of them puts them into the competition. It feels unlikely though.

What do you think? What are some of the shows you’d like to see enter the race? Let us know in the comments below! 

The official Emmy Predictions have been updated.  Check out the newest predictions and see where Each drama SHow ranks!