Emmys: 11 Dramas That Could Take the 'Game of Thrones' Crown

6:55 AM 5/26/2017

by Michael O'Connell

With HBO's best drama series winner not eligible this year, several new and bridesmaid shows could jump in to grab a bit of Emmy glory.

Game of Thrones' long-delayed seventh season, which premieres after the May 31 close of the Primetime Emmys eligibility window, leaves a gaping hole — a void left by the show's dominant 23 nominations and 12 wins last year. Winner of best drama in 2015 and 2016, Thrones has solidified its standing as TV's reigning series with 106 Emmy noms to date. Voters now have a lot to sift through during its year off, including a surge of new prestige streaming series and a handful of perennial runners-up that could grab the, um, throne.

This story first appeared in the May 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • The Americans

    FX

    Ali Goldstein/FX

    After finally getting Emmy noms for its fourth season, the Cold War drama walked away empty-handed in 2016 (save for a guest win for Margo Martindale). But plenty of dramas don't crack the race until later in their runs (The Sopranos didn't win until its fifth season).

  • Better Call Saul

    AMC

    Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

    The Breaking Bad spinoff may never reach the zeitgeist status of its predecessor, but voters have a proven affection for the Bob Odenkirk character study.

  • The Crown

    Netflix

    Photofest

    The royal family drama could buck the trend of the Emmys not following in the Golden Globes' footsteps. The Crown didn't just win drama series and lead actress Globes but also topped critics' lists and has unanimous buzz not duplicated by any other freshman contender (not even NBC breakout This Is Us).

  • The Good Fight

    CBS All Access

    Patrick Harbron/CBS

    Could the streaming sequel get the series nom The Good Wife couldn't in its last five seasons? It depends on reach. Critics love the show, but it's unclear how many viewers watched its late-premiering first season — which hasn't yet been eligible for other awards.

  • The Handmaid's Tale

    Hulu

    George Kraychyk/Hulu

    Hulu's dystopian drama, based on Margaret Atwood's novel, broke through with its timely theme of a dismantled democracy as well as critical fervor around Elisabeth Moss, who has an unparalleled TV track record (The West Wing, Top of the Lake and Mad Men).

  • Legion

    FX

    Michelle Faye/FX

    Noah Hawley's freshman drama is a welcome superhero alternative to the comic book fare on The CW and ABC. Praised for its weird approach to storytelling and trippy visuals, Legion is a niche bet. But Hawley's name and fans among voters make it a contender.

  • Mr. Robot

    USA

    Courtesy of Michael Parmelee/USA Network

    Yes, the second season had many divided, or just scratching their heads. But Mr. Robot proved itself an Emmy force with Rami Malek's lead actor win in 2016. For that alone, the hacker drama is likely to linger on voters' minds.

  • Queen Sugar

    OWN

    Courtesy of OWN Network

    Adapted by Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey, the family drama didn't make an impression on SAG or Golden Globe voters. But Emmy voting coincides with promos for season two, so things could change.

  • Stranger Things

    Netflix

    Courtesy of Netflix

    The '80s paranormal thriller was the most-talked-about show last summer, minting pop culture darlings out of its young cast and scoring one promising kudo: the TV drama ensemble prize at the SAG Awards. Voters likely won't write it off as genre fluff.

  • This Is Us

    NBC

    Ron Batzdorff/NBC

    A broadcast drama hasn't been nominated for the series prize since 2011. The tearjerker gained momentum in its first season and passed Empire as broadcast's No. 1 drama. It's received modest but steady awards attention, even placing as a finalist for the 2017 Peabody Awards.

  • Westworld

    HBO

    Courtesy of John P. Johnson/HBO

    The trippy dystopian drama isn't an unnatural choice for GoT's Emmy heir. Both hail from HBO, boast sprawling casts and look like they cost $100 million (they do). Westworld averaged a record 12 million viewers an episode, a best for a first-year HBO show. At the very least, expect it to fill GoT's vast creative arts shoes.

  • How the Other Races Stack Up

    Comedy Series

    Unseating Modern Family in 2015 and never looking back, Veep faces its biggest challenge yet: life imitating art. Critics still adore the Beltway farce, but Donald Trump's complicated presidency has many wondering what place HBO's all-too-real satire has in the current climate. ABC's Black-ish continues to gain heat on the broadcast side, while its sibling Modern Family has yet to go a year without a series nom. There's also lingering love for Netflix's Master of None and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, HBO's Silicon Valley and Amazon's Transparent. The biggest threat could be new blood: Donald Glover's Atlanta (FX) heads into voting on a wave of acclaim and affection.

    Variety Talk

    Election aftermath could swing the battle among late-night talkers. John Oliver took the top prize last year, the first without The Colbert Report or The Daily Show among the nominees. Stephen Colbert got shut out in his first run replacing David Letterman, but the past year has seen his ratings and relevance surge as he rails nightly at the Trump administration. Jimmy Fallon, in turn, has lost some steam. Jimmy Kimmel, James Corden and Bill Maher remain in play, as does unexpected 2016 nominee Jerry Seinfeld (for Crackle's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee). Samantha Bee's weekly TBS show was snubbed last year, but praise for late-night's female outlier grows constantly.

    Limited Series

    Before Game of Thrones' unexpected absence, the limited race was on track to becoming the biggest (and most prestigious) wild card category. This year sees no shortage of A-list options, with previous shoo-in anthologies (FX's American Horror Story) no longer guaranteed a slot. The fact that Ryan Murphy doesn't have a follow-up this year to 2016 winner The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story opens things up. HBO's Big Little Lies and The Night Of, FX's Fargo and Feud (also Murphy's), and ABC's American Crime all top critics' and prognosticators' "best of" lists. Also not out of the running: Nat Geo's Albert Einstein bio series Genius and Netflix's Gilmore Girls revival.

  • Gone But Not to Be Forgotten

    The Leftovers (HBO)

    Season one of Damon Lindelof's dark spin on a Rapture-esque event angered a lot of TV types still stewing over the showrunner's Lost finale. Leftovers' sophomore run had most of them singing a friendlier tune. But the creative resurgence yielded zilch when 2016 noms came out. Now about to wrap its third and final season June 4, the series has one last shot at making its first (and last) Emmy impression.

    Girls (HBO)

    Lena Dunham's career-making comedy concluded April 16 after six seasons, 62 episodes and likely a greater number of artistic nude scenes. Emmy love has waned since it got consecutive series nominations for its first two seasons (2012 and 2013), but voter nostalgia and critical acclaim for its final season are enough to put it back in the conversation — and maybe even the acting, directing and writing races.

    Bates Motel (A&E)

    This moody update of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho ended with a bang (and several lethal knife slices) on April 24. Mainstream acclaim always was out of reach, save for a 2013 Emmy nomi­nation for lead actress Vera Farmiga, though strong praise has followed it from the start. Going full Psycho in season five — hello, Rihanna re­imagining Janet Leigh — might be the trick to finally getting TV Academy love. 

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