The 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented on Sunday, Sept. 22, starting at 8 Eastern on CBS, with Neil Patrick Harris as host. From now until Sunday (sometimes multiple times a day), Dan Fienberg and I will be making our usual picks for the major categories – for both what should win and what will (and keep in mind that Dan is much better historically at predictions than I am).
It’s time for our final category: Outstanding Drama Series, which includes reigning winner “Homeland,” four-time champ “Mad Men,” former winner (in the miniseries category) “Downton Abbey”), two shows that seem to be riding a wave of buzz in “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones,” plus “House of Cards,” which may get points both for all the movie people involved (Emmy voters are impressed by movie people) and for the newness of the Netflix model.
“Breaking Bad” (AMC)
“Downton Abbey” (PBS)
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“House of Cards” (Netflix)
“Mad Men” (AMC)
Alan’s pick: As good as so much of “Thrones” season 3 was (even factoring in my mixed feelings about the Red Wedding episode), the two AMC dramas still towered over everything else in the category. If we were discussing the current run of “Breaking Bad” versus the most recent “Mad Men” season, I’d go with Walt, Jesse and friends. But “Breaking Bad” season 5.0 (the one that’s eligible now) had a few narrative hiccups as the show adjusted to the 8-and-8 episode structure, and was mainly working to set things up for this riveting home stretch. So I prefer, ever so slightly, “Mad Men” season 6, and the work it did in showing the slow dissolution of Don Draper.
Dan’s pick: Y’all already know my answer: “Mad Men.” Unlike Alan, I’d bump “Game of Thrones” above “Breaking Bad” for second place, because I preferred Season 3 from Westeros to Season 5a from Albuquerque. It was a very good season of “Downton Abbey,” but it’s still solidly back in fourth. The last two “House of Cards” episodes left me uninvested and irritated, so it would probably rank last for me, since “Homeland” had higher highs in its uneven second season. I don’t put much stock in the “Mad Men” haters. I thought it was another great season of TV, albeit with a small bump or two. The couple shows I’d actually consider as viable competition for “Mad Men” for this nominating period or this year weren’t nominated, so… “Mad Men” it is.
Alan’s pick: There’s a school of thought that the recent “Breaking Bad” episodes and all the hype about the final season will influence voters to finally give the show the big prize for last summer’s episodes. Not sure I buy that, both because the voting deadline was August 30 (meaning voters would have only seen through the third episode, “Confessions,” assuming they watched the new ones at all), and because it still feels to me like the scuzzy Southwestern vibe of the show is too much for the Academy to get past. It’s one thing to honor Cranston or Paul, but to say that this show – with its meth cooks, and murder victims being dissolved in acid – represents the best that TV has to offer? I’m betting on a “Homeland” repeat, because the evaluation process – where separate groups of voters are given two episodes apiece to judge – bodes well for a season that didn’t work as a whole but had a number of very compelling parts.
Dan’s pick: If Emmy voters had been able to watch “Ozymandias” before voting, surely they would have voted for “Breaking Bad” for last season out of respect for the sheer greatness of that episode. I’ve heard people suggest that that’s how this is going to go down, even if Emmy voters really only were able to watch the first three episodes of 5b, which happened to be uniformly top-tier. I don’t buy it. Folks like “Breaking Bad” just fine without bringing seasonal confusion into it and if it wins, it’ll win because Emmy voters liked these eight episodes. I don’t think it wins, though. [I think it wins next year, assuming the landing is stuck over the next two episodes.] I think “Game of Thrones” gets close and the sheer number of nominations that drama received really ought to put an end to the “Emmy voters hate genre shows” articles that pop up every year. I think the increase in nomination total for “Homeland” suggests that just because critics criticized doesn’t mean that the perception of a precipitous decline was universally accepted. But I think Showtime and “Homeland” were last year’s story and I think Netflix and “House of Cards” are this year’s story. A win for a Netflix original makes Emmy voters seem forward-looking and hip, while also honoring a fairly conventional political drama starring a two-time Oscar winner and directed and produced by one of the most powerful directors in Hollywood. “House of Cards” is completely renegade and completely establishment at the same time. I think that’s a winning formula.
Previously: Outstanding Miniseries or Movie | Outstanding Directing for Comedy & Drama | Outstanding Writing for Comedy & Drama | Outstanding Supporting Actress for Comedy & Drama | Outstanding Supporting Actor for Comedy & Drama | Outstanding Lead Actress for Comedy & Drama | Outstanding Lead Actor for Comedy & Drama | Outstanding Comedy Series