Unlike most years when there is a clear frontrunner, this year has been primed for an upset to happen with very few clues or indicators as to which show will be awarded the grand prize on Emmys night. Since 2006, there has been an evident frontrunner and much of their status and eventual wins had very much to do with popularity and viewership. When assessing the last 10 years of Emmys wins in this category, 24, The Sopranos, Mad Men and Breaking Bad all managed wins, but what do they have in common? They were fiercely popular shows that were either in their prime when they won or concluded on a superior level, unlike most shows. In the last 10 years, the only definitive upset has been Homeland, whose season 1 win upset Mad Men’s season 5 expectation of a win. The 2015 Emmys could potentially see another upset in this style.
First, the question has to be asked: Who is truly in contention in this category? That brings us to the first hint as to where voters may be leaning, which is to assess which of the nominees have been acknowledged in the direction and writing categories. When observing these categories, it is Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Homeland, and Better Call Saul that have been recognized. This puts Downton Abbey, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black in a disadvantaged position, with voters seemingly hinting that their nomination is their award. However, these shows shouldn’t be ruled out all together because of this. House of Cards remains one of the most talked about shows and could easily steal a win based upon viewership popularity. The same could be said of Orange is the New Black, but its lack of nominations in comparison to its first year success speaks otherwise. What also hurts Orange is the New Black is the release of its third season, which was intended to help boost its second season with its Emmy nominations, but rather had the adverse effect when its third season received mixed reviews. Downton Abbey continues to be the surprise nominee each year in this category, which is always deserved. The historical drama typically grabs more nominations per season, but its fifth season seems to have hit a slump with voters this year with notable Emmy snubs, such as Maggie Smith (the scene-stealer of the show) not getting a nomination for the first time.
This category truly has become the battle of the veteran shows, with two of them in their prime, one concluding flawlessly, and one beginning with a stellar first season. Technically Better Call Saul is not a veteran show, but it is a successful prequel to Breaking Bad, which is an association that may help the freshman show. Better Call Saul wowed fans and critics by being its own entity and not being dependent upon its precursor show. What particularly helped Better Call Saul was its acting, which the Emmys very likely will award this year. Homeland also is finding itself on better standing this year after its Best Drama Series snub last year. The show, after poor reviews last year, strived to reinvent itself and it is clear that such a move proved to be beneficial with the show. If Homeland were to win, it would be considered to be a tremendous upset. However, viewers must remind themselves that Homeland was the upset in 2011 and if any show could effectively pull off an upset, it is Homeland.
Yet it seems the penultimate battle in this category is Mad Men versus Game of Thrones, and quite frankly, either of these shows deserve the win this year. Based upon nominations in the directing and writing categories, Game of Thrones has the advantage with two directing nominations and a single writing nod, opposed to Mad Men’s two writing nominations. This puts Game of Thrones in the best position to win, and justifiably so with its epic fifth season that continues to tie plots and characters together. Game of Thrones also broke its own viewership record with its finale this season with 8.11 million viewers, not to mention fans continually talk and speculate over the season’s tragic conclusion.
However, before Game of Thrones fans start holstering their swords, they should be aware that the show winning isn’t a guarantee based upon nominations. Case in point: Mad Men’s fifth season was poised for yet another win in 2011 after winning the Best Drama Series award for the past 4 years. The season was thrice nominated in the writing category and had a nomination in the direction category as well. On paper, Mad Men was supposed to win, but instead it lost to Homeland. This is a very likely scenario with this year’s Emmys for a variety of different reasons. First, Mad Men’s final season was television perfection with the veteran show concluding beyond expectations, was universally praised, and its series finale got the best ratings the show has ever received. Second, there is a nostalgia with Mad Men that is only appropriate to award the show for its final season. Whether one is a fan of the show or not, viewers cannot deny Mad Men has set a standard of what television excellence ought to be. And third, If Mad Men were to win Best Drama Series, it would become the most decorated drama show of all time. It is currently tied for this title with The West Wing and it might be the 2015 Emmy Awards that this title will be finally bestowed to Mad Men.
Better Call Saul
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Orange is the New Black
Will Win: Mad Men
Could Win: Game of Thrones
Should Win: Mad Men or Game of Thrones
Could Upset: House of Cards