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Continuing a trend that began in the early part of the century, cable is dominating the contenders for the Best Drama Emmy this year. In fact, there are no network dramas to be found anywhere on the ballot. Instead, it’s a mix of basic cable and premium cable shows with a British import on public broadcasting thrown in for good measure. A far cry from the days of the 80s and 90s when the nominations went out to ABC, CBS and NBC and that was it.

So which one will they pick? And which one should they pick? Read on to find out.

Breaking Bad (AMC)

A season that started slowly, but delivered four or five of the most memorable scenes and images in all of television by the end of its fourth season. It’s hard to imagine an Emmy voter not casting their ballot for this series after seeing any of the final five episodes from last season, but its brilliance hasn’t swayed them so far.

That should probably mean we write this show off again, despite a tremendous season, but this year it’s a little different. It just finished airing the first half of its fifth season, so it’s on voter’s minds. Its main competitor, Mad Men, is not as buzzworthy as it once was. A year off for Bryan Cranston may make Emmy voters even more eager to reward this series as a whole.

This is the best drama on television and deserves to win this award. It’s a close call, but it’s still looking like a runner-up in this race.
 

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

When this show was greenlit it seemed like HBO was angling to win the Best Drama Emmy for the rest of time. Martin Scorsese, the second-in-command from The Sopranos, movie star Steve Buscemi in the lead, a mafia setting – this seemed like a slam dunk. Unfortunately, it appears HBO passed on the real period piece slam dunk: Mad Men.

With that show, and its fellow AMC show, as the frontrunners – it’s hard to see Boardwalk making good on its initial Emmy promise this season, but with those two series winding down, there’s hope for the future.
 

Downton Abbey (PBS/BBC)

Last year’s winner for best miniseries makes the transition to its actual category this season. It’s still unclear why it was considered a miniseries in its first season when the show didn’t actually offer any closure to its storylines, but it also doesn’t make any sense why performers on a variety show get nominated for acting in a comedy series. That’s just the Emmys for ya.

Now that it’s in the Drama Series category, Downton has a much tougher battle. Instead of dealing with a few random TV movies, it goes up against some of the heaviest drama series hitters of all time, including a four-time defending champ.

Downton is certainly a contender based on its previous Emmy win, but with a weaker second season and moving into a much tougher category, it doesn’t seem poised to knock anybody out.
 

Game of Thrones (HBO)

Emmy has always had a very hard time with Sci-Fi and Fantasy. After all, Fringe has never been nominated for a single Emmy despite being the best network drama on television.

Even tougher for Thrones is the way the show is structured. Multiple storylines come in and out, making the single-episode Emmy screener a tough swallow for an Emmy voter. Probably why fantasy series Lost was never able to replicate its first-season win.

Submitting the single-storyline episode “Blackwater” is the show’s best bet for a win, but that’s not even a very representative episode.

There’s just too much going against this series to consider it a real contender for victory. Even if Tyrion were leading it into battle.
 

Homeland (SHO) 

The only real rookie on the ballot, this Showtime series was leading the universe in buzz during its freshman run. But that ended almost an entire year ago, so it’s hard to believe that buzz will remain fresh in voter’s minds, especially in such a crowded category

Freshman series (with the exception of super buzz machines like The Sopranos and Mad Men) usually have to earn their stripes with multiple nominations before voters bestow the big prize on them. With its first season such a distant memory, it will most likely have to settle for acting (and maybe writing) wins for its maiden season.
 

Mad Men (HBO)

The four-time defending champion is in a bit of a different spot this season: It’s not currently airing during the Emmy voting period. While it’s not supposed to have an impact (since voters are only supposed to go off their screeners) it’s hard not to think that in year’s past, having this show on the air and at the pinnacle of the zeitgeist just when votes are being cast, didn’t help the show out a little bit.

So while it’s not on the top of everyone’s minds right now, it still has quite a bit going for it. Mostly that it’s the four-time defending champion. Also, that even in its old age, it still delivered a season on par with its previous Emmy-winning efforts. This still looks like Mad Men’s to lose, but it’s under more pressure from its fellow AMC series than it has been in year’s past.
 

What Will Win: Mad Men

What Should Win: Breaking Bad