Emmys: Where Does Drama Series Stand Without ‘Game of Thrones’

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The Emmy throne for Drama Series is empty. Countless dramas, old and new, duke it out to win the coveted honor. What makes this year, in particular, such an up in the air battle? The two time most recent consecutive winner, “Game of Thrones” did not air any new episodes this past year. The season HBO is currently promoting will not be eligible until next year’s Emmy awards. With a different winner for the drama series prize guaranteed to be different than it was the past two years, let’s take a look at who is at the front of the pack.

Top Newcomers

thecrownThis year was quite the year for new dramas. Netflix is at the front of the pack with their expensive, prestige show “The Crown.” The recent “Game of Thrones” winning streak illustrates that the Emmys love an expensive epic. On top of that, lead actress Claire Foy and supporting actor John Lithgow are at the top of their respective categories. There is a very real possibility that the show could sweep. Plus, recent wins for “Homeland” in its first season show the Emmys are not averse to shows winning in their first season.

Never to be undone, HBO has their own shiny, new toy. “Westworld” takes place in a futuristic world where people travel to a western-themed immersive park where they can engage in hedonistic actions with the robots there. The show was a huge ratings boom for HBO and dominated internet chatter for the months it was on. Genres shows are usually a hard sell, but HBO was able to get both “Game of Thrones” and “True Blood” into this category. 

On the other side of the television landscape, NBC dominated the broadcast ratings this season thanks to the emotional juggernaut “This is Us.” It’s is NBC’s strongest chance at a nomination, so they will pull out all the stops. However, one has to be cautious about picking a show just because it was well reviewed and earned the highest ratings of the year. Pundits were quite bullish on “Empire” until it fell apart on Emmys morning without even a Drama Series nomination.

Other New Shows

Streaming services have plenty of other buzzy titles hoping to surprise on Emmy morning. Few shows were as much of a phenomenon as Netflix’s ‘80s throwback “Stranger Things.” Genre bias could keep it from the series category, but the fact it may show up in multiple acting categories could propel it to the top. Netflix’s teen adaptation “13 Reasons Why” may prove to be too polarizing and geared towards a young adult audience to sneak in here. Hulu currently dominates TV conversation with “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which will ride the wave of topicality into the race. Unfortunately, the streaming service has yet to get a drama nomination, which could be hard to break. CBS All Access premiered “The Good Fight,” a spin off of Drama Series nominee “The Good Wife.” The show, however, hasn’t galvanized support the way that film did.

Returning Shows

01 161203 07 TWO SHOT 005 v2 copyFive out of seven nominees from last year’s lineup contend again this year. The most consistent of the five has been last year’s surprise nominee “The Americans.” The FX spy thriller was hailed for many years as the best show on television, but it took four seasons for Netflix to embrace it in the drama series category. “Better Call Saul,” AMC’s “Breaking Bad” spinoff, only continues to gain more acclaim and should also make it in here, unless the Emmys fill the category up with new, buzzy shows.

From there, prospects get a bit more dicey. “House of Cards” released its fifth season after much anticipation at the very end of the eligibility period. However, this may not leave enough time for voters to catch up. “Homeland,” the only former winner still on the air, is another show that has stuck around this category before. However, even the Emmys did not reward its maligned third season. Maybe they might not go for it again. Lastly, “Mr. Robot” was last year’s new series entry. However, the second season has gotten quite a bit of flack and came out at the beginning of the eligibility period last year.

The only other previous Drama series nominee is Netflix’s hit show “Orange is the New Black.” The show was snubbed last year for its third season, which was widely known as a step down from the previous season. However, the fourth season has been hailed as its best so far. Perhaps it can make a comeback at the Emmys, much like “Homeland,” and sneak back in.

Previous Snubs

Leftovers 4There are a few returning shows looking to end up like “The Americans” last year. Perhaps the most likely is HBO’s “The Leftovers.” The drama has earned its fair share of praises as possibly the best show on television. Additionally, the show ended for good this season. Raves pour in still for the series finale, as many put it on the same level as Emmy favorites “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.” However, unlike “The Americans,” the show has never received an Emmy nomination before. Additionally, the show is quite a depressing look at the world after 2% of the population vanished. This could be a hard sell, even for HBO.

Other oft nominated shows in other categories may try to slip in. Netflix’s “Bloodline” also has its final season. However, the slow burner show may have to be content with Ben Mendelsohn’s surprise win last year. Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” managed to receive a surprise Best Director nomination last year. Perhaps this translates into series love this year. Lastly, Lifetime’s “Unreal” overcame genre bias to net Screenplay and Supporting Actress nominations last year. However, the show received poor reviews in season two, so it may face an uphill battle this year.

Drama Series Predictions

  1. “The Crown”
  2. “This Is Us”
  3. “The Americans”
  4. “Westworld”
  5. “Better Call Saul”
  6. “House of Cards”
  7. “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Spoiler: “The Leftovers”

Which shows will hear their names called on nomination morning at the Emmys?
Let us know in the comments.



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Written by Christopher James

Christopher James has been an Oscar obsessive ever since watching his first ceremony at age 5 when "Titanic" won Best Picture. He is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with degrees in Screenwriting for Film and Television and Marketing. Christopher currently works in media strategy and planning at Liquid Advertising, based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can find Christopher running on the sunny beach, brunching at trendy restaurants or mostly just sitting in a dark room watching movies and TV in sweatpants. Follow me on Twitter @cwj92movieman


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