Because it’s NBC’s turn to air the Primetime Emmy Awards this year, and because the Peacock would understandably rather air its lucrative Sunday night NFL package in September, the ceremony will take place in late August again. And as an added wrinkle, this year’s ceremony will actually happen on a Monday, August 25 at 8 p.m., with Seth Meyers hosting.
Between now and then, Dan and I will be making our picks for both who should and will win many of the major categories – if you’re wagering, keep in mind that Dan tends to be much better at predicting the winners than I am, but also that he was just as flummoxed as I by last year’s winners like Jeff Daniels, Merritt Wever and Bobby Cannavale – concluding with our predictions for Outstanding Drama Series.
Outstanding Drama Series
“Breaking Bad” (AMC)
“Downton Abbey” (PBS)
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“House of Cards” (Netflix)
“Mad Men” (AMC)
“True Detective” (HBO)
Alan’s pick: “Breaking Bad.” Its final batch of episodes did just about everything you would want in the end of an all-time great drama series, including a clever Choose Your Own Ending approach to the final three episodes that allowed viewers to choose between exactly how bleak they wanted the conclusion to feel, without invalidating the existence of the other two episodes. Rare is a single episode of a season good enough to justify a win, but the apocalyptic “Ozymandias” qualifies, and when you add in all the harrowing moments before and after, there’s no other nominee that operated on this emotional level for as long and as well as “Breaking Bad” did. “Mad Men,” “True Detective” and “Game of Thrones” had scenes and/or episodes that were at least in the neighborhood, but the totality of Walter White’s final journey took place in a different hemisphere from the competition.
Dan’s pick: “Breaking Bad” didn’t deserve to win Outstanding Drama Series last year. Sorry. Those first eight episodes from the elongated-and-split final season were decent, at times thrilling TV, but they were just an appetizer. The last eight episodes were the main attraction, a towering flume ride plunging viewers into devastation at a breathless rate. It was a season that was almost without stumbles and the episode I didn’t love — Sorry, “To’hajiilee” — many other people seem to have adored. So… Yeah. This is easy. I could tolerate arguments for “Mad Men,” “True Detective” and “Game of Thrones” here, but I certainly wouldn’t make them. This is not a hard preference to determine.
Alan’s pick: At the end of its final season, “Breaking Bad” felt like the runaway favorite in this and every other category for which it was nominated. But a long time has passed, and while nothing to air since September has been better, it’s easy to imagine Emmy voters feeling like they paid their respects to the departed show with last year’s win in this category, and that they’d rather move on to something newer and shinier like “True Detective.” In the end, I think the overwhelming quality of the episodes, coupled with various types of “TD” backlash in the last few months, is enough for Gilligan and company to repeat here. But it also wouldn’t be a shock if HBO got its first win in this category since the final season of “The Sopranos.”
Dan’s pick: “Downton Abbey” is silly here. The Emmy moment for “Mad Men” has passed, unless the second half of the season closes so absurdly strong that even those experiencing silly fatigue can’t help but be reenergized. The year for “House of Cards” was last year. And, as “Game of Thrones” fans like to complain, Emmy voters hate genre shows so it’ll never win. [This last statement is blatantly untrue. “Game of Thrones” has consistently been nominated in this category and copious others and it has never been the best show in this category, hence the losing.] That leaves “True Detective” and “Breaking Bad.” As I’ve said many times, “Breaking Bad” sure looked like an iron-clad lock last fall, but then the hype avalanche made “True Detective look difficult to beat in whatever category it chose. But then the backlash ensued, as backlashes always ensue. The starpower and early adulation for “True Detective” burn bright and just because the people you follow on Twitter think the finale sucked doesn’t mean that’s a majority opinion. In fact, when I talk to people who aren’t TV fanatics, I’ve never sensed any discontent. But when you get down to it, “Breaking Bad” puts together a better six-episode highlight reel than “True Detective” does and nearly a year after its finale, almost nobody has trained themselves to think that “Breaking Bad” ended on anything other than a high note.
PREVIOUSLY: Outstanding Movie/Miniseries Outstanding Comedy & Drama Directing Outstanding Comedy & Drama Writing Outstanding Comedy & Drama Supporting Actress Outstanding Comedy & Drama Supporting Actor Outstanding Comedy & Drama Lead Actress Outstanding Comedy & Drama Lead Actor Outstanding Comedy Series
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org