A note: For my Emmys 2015 roundup, check out my post here.
On the surface, Mad Men certainly does not need another Best Drama win at the Emmys, since the show picked up four straight wins for its first four seasons.
However, as befitting Mad Men, look beneath the surface and you’ll find another pattern. The show has not won an Emmy since 2011. Its Emmy nominations have fallen steadily from 11 in 2012 to 4 in 2014. It has not won any acting awards at the Emmys.
What, then, are Mad Men‘s chances at this year’s Emmys?
A class of its own…
Mad Men has, for eight seasons, been one of the top three dramas on all of television. Its four Best Drama wins are an achievement only equalled by Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and The West Wing, and was only fair for a show that was head and shoulders above anything else on television.
In recent years, even as competitors like Breaking Bad, Homeland, Game of Thrones, True Detective and House of Cards have competed for the top prize, Mad Men has been consistently brilliant. In fact, I would argue that Mad Men could have won the Best Drama award more than its four times at the Emmys. Indeed, Mad Men‘s past three winless years have been because of an extraordinary first season (Homeland) and an iconic show in its last season (Breaking Bad).
This year, Mad Men stands alone among the Best Drama nominees again as the only repeat winner. Its awards pedigree is impeccable, and its claim for Best Drama solid.
Helped by the absence of Breaking Bad
In the past two years, Breaking Bad came up tops against Mad Men with its gripping final season. (In 2012, both shows lost out to Homeland.) AMC’s decision to split Breaking Bad‘s final season into two parts across two years meant that for these two years, Breaking Bad absolutely dominated the awards scene for two reasons: the final season was just that good, and everybody wanted to honour the show on its parade lap.
This year, with Breaking Bad finally out of the nominees, Mad Men is now the show on its parade lap. And the Emmy voters have responded positively, as Mad Men has received 6 nominations this year, an increase from last year. Would the Emmy voters want to recognise the show’s quality with one final Best Drama win?
But what about the other nominees?
The way I see it, Mad Men‘s strongest competitor for the Best Drama award is Better Call Saul. Which makes Mad Men’s chances of winning the award that much trickier, because of three reasons.
One, Better Call Saul is very, very good. Two, Emmy voters have shown a tendency to reward a newly-minted show for a great first season.
Three, Better Call Saul is the spiritual successor of Breaking Bad.
It is this nostalgia for Breaking Bad that gives Better Call Saul added momentum heading into the voting.
Are there other nominees that can win, realistically?
There’s no other likely nominee to win.
Of the remaining nominees, Orange Is The New Black has had the most consistently good season, filled with the complexities of prison life and anchored by a thrilling feud between Red and Vee.
Game of Thrones has been brilliant at times in its fifth season, but it has also been wobbly and divisive – the controversial Sansa rape scene still fresh in viewers’ minds.
You can possibly, barely, put a case for Homeland, given how its fourth season has rebounded from its disastrous third season and renewed its focus on the Carrie-Saul relationship. Also, it’s a former winner.
House of Cards and Downton Abbey should not and will not win.
So, will Mad Men win the Best Drama award?
It’s likely, but we’ll never be sure. Mad Men is a proven winner and has had a great final season. That would normally guarantee its win, but Better Call Saul could spring a surprise given its quality and its pedigree. I’ll be hoping for Mad Men to win, but it’ll be a closer call than what people would expect.