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Emmy Analysis: Outstanding Drama Series

Photograph by Peter Kramer/HBO

The game is over. Game of Thrones that is. No matter what fans thought of the final season, its impact on the Emmys was indisputable. 160 nominations with 59 of those ending in wins. That’s a lot of Emmy gold. In its absence, eight drama series have stepped up to take their seat in the vacant Outstanding Drama Series throne. Seven of eight nominated shows have been in the hunt before, with only Disney+’s lone gunfighter making its first appearance. Here’s the breakdown of our challengers.

Better Call Saul / AMC
While always well represented in the best-show-on-television conversation, you may find it amazing and a bit disheartening that Better Call Saul has not won a single Emmy in 32 nominations. You read that right, not one! The bridesmaid of the drama categories looks to have a tough go at it again this year. Nominations day certainly did not go as expected. Four-time nominee, Bod Odenkirk, who looked like a shoo-in was skipped over on the Lead Actors nom list. Even more shocking, Rhea Seehorn, who has never been nominated (yikes), was “snubbed” again after one of the most captivating performances of the year. ‘Saul’ fans need to keep their fingers crossed that voters will do a make-good for the seemingly overlooked series. It seems criminal not to.

The Crown / The Netflix 
The series which chronicles the life Queen Elizabeth II has been bestowed plenty of Emmy love over its run. In just 3 seasons it has received an impressive 39 Emmy nominations and 9 wins, but the Outstanding Drama Series statuette continues to elude the show. This season casting needed a revolving door for the ensemble portraying the royals, as they fast-forwarded decades ahead this season. Elizabeth who has been played twice (and nominated twice) by Claire Foy is now portrayed by Oscar-winner, Olivia Colman, who also received a nod (along with co-start Helena Bonham Carter). The show’s top-rate acting and writing along with its impeccable production design continue to keep it in the running. Will The Crown’s thirteen nominations turn out to be lucky this year?

The Handmaid’s Tale / Hulu
The series continues to rack up Emmy nominations, a sensational total of 54 over three seasons, of which 15 led to wins. This year it earned a very respectable 10 nominations but had one major omission that is drawing attention. The series lead, Elisabeth Moss, has been held at bay in the Lead Actress category. Never a good sign, especially after twice earning the honor and a win for previous seasons. Also working against the Hulu series is that was met with more mixed reviews than past seasons. It looks like this Handmaid will need more than a little Emmy luck to beat out some of the categories’ fierce competition.

Killing Eve / BBC America
Killing Eve’s momentum seemed to have slowed this year. While some praised the shift in a direction that had the series taking a closer look at Jodie Comer’s Villanelle, others wanted more of the cat-and-mouse game that had enticed viewers over the first two seasons. The lack of a writing nod may also represent the mixed feeling about the show’s storyline this season. Even so, there is still plenty of love for the series with a total of 9 nominations including Comer and Sandra Oh who both earned Lead Actress nominations, and Fiona Shaw with her second Supporting Actress nom. It may be hard to kill Eve, but this year’s competition may make it tougher for Eve to take home this specific trophy.

The Mandalorian / Disney+
Who doesn’t love themselves a little Baby Yoda? Disney+’s inaugural season was a smash hit with fans, critics, and now Emmy voters, as it pulled in a surprisingly high 15 nominations. Emmy voters have not been shy to express love for Sci-fi/Fantasy in the past, handing out this trophy to Game of Thrones just last year. Could The Madalorian be the heir to Emmys’ geeky graces? As the brightest spot in the Star Wars franchise, after several years of divisive entries in the film series, voters may come out in Force for the series. While I do not expect it to win, it does have some sleeper potential. Never count out Baby Yoda.

Ozark / Netflix 
A nationwide quarantine may be the best thing to happen to Netflix’s Ozark. While we were all locked away in our homes, people flocked to the 3-year-old series. In a similar vein as Breaking Bad, it became streaming comfort food in a time when we needed comfort – dark, lawless comfort. It pulled a rare feat, similar to Outstanding Comedy Series nominee, Schitt’s Creek, waiting several seasons before becoming a household name. Doubling its nominations from the previous season to a whopping 18 (tied with its toughest competition, Succession) it is obvious that voters also took notice. Ozark‘s new found fandom makes it an undeniable threat to take home some gold on Sunday. If it takes home Outstanding Drama, it could be a killing.

Stranger Things / Netflix 
Ozark may be Netflix’s shiny new Emmys toy, but viewers have not forgotten about its the 80’s sci-fi horror favorite. Personally, I cannot think of a stranger thing that could happen on Emmy night than the series taking home Outstanding Drama Series. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Netflix series and have since day one. It is an incredibly fun, nostalgia trip, with a great ensemble. But, after earning a series-low 8 nods with only one in above the line categories, the odds are not looking good. If you are a fan planning to stay up late on Emmy night to see if Stranger Things will walk away with the trophy, I would recommend binging the series again instead. You can’t go wrong there.

Succession / HBO 
Last year HBO’s Succession had a small loyal following but overall did not garner the attention or awards that other series we attracting. What a difference a year can make (as we all unfortunately know). This season the buzz is undeniable. When you leap from 5 nominations (taking home 3 Emmys) to 18 noms a year later you know you have made an impact on the industry. Even though the second season aired way back in the fall of 2019 the series’ 9 acting nominations are all you need to know this series is red hot. Add to that a Golden Globe win for Best Drama and you have yourself a frontrunner. If HBO was worried about the end of Game of Thrones, it looks like they have found its worthy successor.


Prediction: Succession

Preference: Better Call Saul
Sleeper: The Mandaloria
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Predicted ranking:
Succession
Ozark
The Mandalorian
Better Call Saul
The Crown
Handmaid’s Tale
Killing Eve
Stranger Things

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