Emmy 2011 Preview:
Drama Contenders
Comedy Contenders

Three of the biggest perennial Emmy drama contenders (Lost, Breaking Bad, Damages) leave the Emmy stage vacant for a free-for-all in the Drama categories.

Gone are surefire nominees like Bryan Cranston and Glenn Close – but who fills their place? With so many quality dramas on television it’s almost impossible to make sense of this category when so many of the usual contenders either had a down season or are just gone altogether.

Let’s take a look at the contenders series-by-series, with three different categories of Emmy prominence.

HEAVY HITTERS

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
This series may be brand new (normally a death blow to Emmy chances) but this one has such a high pedigree that it appears poised to overcome the first season curse.

Expect nominations for the series and Golden Globe winner Steve Buscemi with supporting nominations in play for just about the entire cast.

If it were up to me, I’d show the series love along with Buscemi, Kelly MacDonald, Michael Stuhlbarg and Michael Shannon – though I suspect Michael Pitt might actually have the best chance at collecting a supporting nomination.
 

The Good Wife (CBS)
With Lost gone, this is the only network series that seems like a real threat for a nomination, so I expect Emmy voters to gobble it up.

Its star, Julianna Marguiles, suffered one of the biggest awards show upsets of all time when she lost last year to Kyra Sedgwick – expect to see her nominated again this year with a strong chance of winning.

The series is also abundant with Supporting Actor candidates. Last year’s winner Archie Panjabi is joined by strong contenders Christine Baranski, Chris Noth and Alan Cumming.

This series has a chance at grabbing the most nominations overall.
 

Mad Men (AMC)
Emmy’s perennial winner will indeed be back this year with most of the usual nominees.

Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss and the series overall appear to be locks, but in more crowded fields Christina Hendricks and John Slattery may miss out this year. Also, the increasing backlash against January Jones as an actress may be too much to ignore.

Even with a few missed acting nominees, Mad Men is still the jewel in the Emmy crown and will pick up several nominations.
 

MID-LEVEL CONTENDERS

The Closer (TNT)
This show doesn’t have much of a chance at awards beyond Kyra Sedgwick’s perennial nomination. But because she’s a perennial nominee it ends up in the mid-level section.
 

Dexter (Showtime)
A lot of people saw this as a down season for the serial killer drama, but that still shouldn’t impact Michael C. Hall’s chances of earning yet another Best Actor nomination.

What will be affected are all the other awards. With a lot of newcomers, Best Drama is suddenly in doubt and any supporting actors looking to break through will probably be left still hoping for their first nomination.

I think this still gets in at Best Drama, but it isn’t a lock by any means. And the series certainly doesn’t deserve to get nominated this season.
 

Friday Night Lights (DirecTV)
After being left out of the Emmy shortlist for so long, Friday Night Lights finally broke through last year with a very deserving pair of nods for its leads, Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton.

This can be attributed to the show’s being DirecTV’s only Emmy contender, allowing the series a full network to support it and only it. Could this lead to a nomination for Best Drama for its final season? Probably not, but Chandler and Britton are still strong contenders.
 

Game of Thrones (HBO)
Here’s the Emmy X-factor. A brand new series that has to overcome biases against both being in its first season and the Emmy’s hatred of fantasy/sci-fi.

It can overcome it based on three factors: The aforementioned Emmy Drama turnover, Overwhelming critical praise/buzz, and very solid ratings.

So it’s all up-for-grabs here. It could very well grab nominations for Best Drama and for its leads – Sean Bean and Lena Hedley. Also look out for Emilia Clarke as Best Supporting Actress and the strongest contender of all – Peter Dinklage as Best Supporting Actor.

This series certainly deserves a Best Drama nod, and it would be almost criminal to rob Clarke and Dinklage (especially Dinklage) of their respective nominations – but it’s got a lot of prejudices to overcome to break through so early on.
 

House (FOX)
Here’s the series past its prime that it’s hard to tell whether or not it’s got one last big Emmy year left or its already had awards possibilities pass it by.

I still think Hugh Laurie is a lock. He gets nominated every year and with Cranston not blocking him, this could actually be the chance for him to win his first Emmy as the series heads for an exit.

Everything else is a little hazy. House missed the Best Drama Series nomination for the first time in four years last year and with a major downturn this year, it seems like it’s doomed to repeat that missed nomination.

Still, with Breaking Bad and Lost leaving two open slots – it just may find a nostalgic trip back to the big show.
 

In Treatment (HBO)
This show pretty much dominates the Golden Globes but has never caught on fully at the Emmys. Its daily format means that the series is too hard to submit for the series nomination, so it’s unlikely

Acting is where it’s at with regards to this show’s Emmy chances. Gabriel Byrne is a surefire Best Actor contender and everybody in the supporting cast (including Oscar nominee Amy Ryan) has a good shot.

This is ostensibly the series last season, so Emmy may come calling at last – but I think a few scant acting nominations is all it can expect.
 

True Blood (HBO)
This is a show that seems ready to move into a major Emmy contender. It broke through in the series category last year and Anna Paquin has both an Oscar and a Golden Globe (for this series) on her shelf.

Emmy loves prior gold, but that hasn’t been enough for any of the actors to break through here yet. Could this be the year? Glenn Close is gone so the vacant slot has to be filled by somebody.
 

LONGSHOTS

Big Love (HBO)
This show never quite connected with Emmy voters and there’s real reason to think it will in its last season. It always has a shot at getting nominations for the wives (Ginnifer Goodwin and Jeanne Trippelhorn were particularly worthy this year), but that’s really about it.
 

The Borgias (Showtime)
You may think this seems crazy, but you can’t completely count out a past Oscar winner like Jeremy Irons’ chances of taking down an Emmy nomination.
 

Fringe (FOX)
Ah, Fringe. The curse of the sci-fi bias. It’s been a top-tier show for a couple seasons how and hasn’t really sniffed Emmy glory.

Thinking that it could be nominated for Best Drama is reaching at best and the dynamic Anna Torv doesn’t really have the cache to grab her first nomination, but surely the brilliant John Noble has to get nominated for bringing to life both the most frightening and most lovable (two different people) characters on TV this season. Right?
 

Hawaii: 5-0 (CBS)
Scott Caan got a Golden Globe nomination. Just sayin’.
 

Justified (FX)
This is a show that’s been building critical and ratings heat the last two seasons. It cleaned up at the TCA nominations, but those rarely ever translate to the same haul at the Emmys.

Its best chance is Timothy Olyphant scooting into Bryan Cranston’s vacant Emmy slot. Series seems like a major longshot and the worthy Margo Martindale and Walton Goggins don’t have much of a chance, but Olyphant – a pretty legitimate star – could take his Stetson to Emmy night.
 

The Killing (AMC)
This had some heat, but that ending and the major backlash means it will probably be another Freshman also-ran. Though the sterling Joel Kinnaman certainly deserves a nomination.
 

Men of a Certain Age (TNT)
It seems that if Andre Braugher is on a television show he is going to get nominated for an Emmy, as he proved last year with getting the nod for this little-seen (though brilliant) series.

Another supporting actor nomination should be in the cards for Braugher, but everything (and everybody) else about this series will be left out. No matter how good it is.
 

Parenthood (NBC)
For some bizarre reason this series has been getting a lot of buzz from critics about earning some acting nominations. Yeah…I don’t think so. It’s a fine series, but there’s nothing on here that’s Emmy-worthy.
 

Rubicon (AMC)
This one doesn’t have a chance at anything, but it should get some consideration for Arliss Howard’s and Lauren Hodges’ understated work. Not to mention that it was as whip-smart and patient as any TV drama.
 

Shameless (Showtime)
Emmy loves its movie stars on the small screen and this series has two with William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum in the leads. I don’t know if either has the weight to sneak in, though Rossum is certainly worthy. This show just didn’t catch on.
 

Sons of Anarchy (FX)
This series hasn’t come close to an Emmy nomination (even with Katey Sagal’s devastating work in season 2) and now it just had a season all its fans would like to pretend didn’t happen. I can’t see Emmy using this year as Sons’ first invite to the Emmys.
 

Terriers (FX)
Another great series with no chance at anything. Donal Logue, Michael Raymond-James are both deserving as is the series itself. Alas, most voters probably don’t know what this is. Kind of like anyone who watched the commercials.
 

Treme (HBO)
This is a show that just won’t ever play well for Emmy voters (just like The Wire) meaning a series nomination is virtually impossible. There are a handful of actors that could sneak their way in (including Oscar winner Melissa Leo), but this just show just seems like it’s never going to connect with Emmy.
 

The Walking Dead (AMC)
This was a big hit. A huge it. Arguably the biggest hit in the history of basic cable. Plus it was good. Really good. The best pilot since “Lost”. But, it’s a post-apocalyptic show about Zombies. Doesn’t exactly scream, “Emmy!”. Unfortunately.